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Revolution not evolution this time around


Filed: Thursday, 9th August 2018
By: Paul Walker


Well, itís over. The most momentous transfer window in West Hamís history overseen by a Ďnext levelí new manager and a major shareholder and board who have changed fansí perception of them for ever.

Itís been two years in the making in joint chairman David Sullivanís head, from the moment he told soon-to-be boss Manuel Pellegrini that he wanted to fundamentally change West Ham as a club, moving us from poundland to Premier League big spenders.

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Sullivan, previously in the eyes of the fans, has been the penny-pincher, the gambler, the owner who loves a punt. Only Sullivan could try to justify the signing of Mido, for example, because at £1,000 a week he was a gamble worth taking.

However you perceive our major shareholder, and there is much about his style of management that angers many fans, as a businessman he cannot be faulted. I am told by friends in the City who can add up and read a balance sheet, that Sullivan and David Goldís transformation of the club from the basket case they inherited, has been outstanding.

At this point you have to separate the football side of the club from the rest, from the move to Stratford, the loss of our old stadium and ,for some, our legacy and history, and the rented accommodation we now try to call home. The inadequacies of an athletics stadium now masquerading as a football ground. Some, many, will never accept all that.

But it is the football that interests me more than anything. How Sullivan doubled up as director of football trying to be the great wheeler-dealer and overseeing a few disastrous transfer windows. Poor players signed, millions wasted and more relegation battles that is good for our collective health.

This has changed, some feel he has seen the light, others that he has carefully masterminded the clubís finances into a position where we can at last compete with clubs who aim for a place in Europe every year. Credit where credit is due, Sullivan and the board have got a top manager and gone for it in a big, big way.

The man who has brought 78 loans or free transfers to the club in the eight years he has been at the helm, an owner who has seen 94 players come through the door and seen 103 go out, 77 of them free transfers.

But this summer, this blistering hot summer, has produced a red-hot transfer window for West Ham. Ten new players, about £93m gross spent, plus a considerable amount more in wages, agents fees and the obligatory íadd onsí. It puts our expenditure well over £120m.

We did our buying early, broke the clubís transfer record twice, and in the last couple of weeks of the window--when Sullivanís budget was gone--Pellegrini has worked at shifting some of the deadwood plus adding a couple more signings to acquire the balanced squad, with depth, that he has been desperate to achieve.

Lucas Perez at £4m from Arsenal, a talented player who never really had a chance at the Emirates, along with Carlos Sanchez, a somewhat veteran defensive midfielder from Fiorentina on a surprise two-year deal.

He comes with the baggage of a duff spell at Aston Villa and a dismal World Cup that saw him play a big part in that despicable, spiteful, ill-disciplined performance by Columbia against England. But he is massively experienced, over 80 caps and spells in Italy and with two Spanish clubs. He may not the defensive midfielder Pellegrini has been searching for, but he will be a solid squad player.

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He has replaced Cheik Kouyate, sold to Crystal Palace for a cheap £9.5m. Of all the transfers this summer, the decision to sell Kouyate mystifies me. He didnít have a good time last season but was constantly moved out of position - defence and right back - to plug holes in a painfully inept side. I donít see Sanchez as an improvement on Kouyate, so why sell him?

I wonder here how much pressure came from his agent to get a deal done. At the beginning of the summer with Pellegrini in Chile and Sullivan doing the deals, there was a suggestion that the likes of Obiang, Cresswell, Antonio and Kouyate--all controlled by one agent-- could all be sold. Pellegrini has not allowed that.

But I must admit though that I find the attitude of many fans, complaining about the last couple of signings as not good enough, a bit rich. The window had gone so very well, and we are all desperate to see how Jack Wilshere and Felipe Anderson do at Liverpool On Sunday. Not every deal or target can be achieved, so letís give Pellegrini the benefit of the doubt before subjecting him to the accustomed social media slaggings.

Pellegrini has had to multi-task this summer. He has had to contend with the usual serious injuries, losing Manu Lanzini was a big blow, as well as trying to rebuild a badly unbalanced squad while adding depth and cover virtually in every position.

Then, of course, he had to attract the sort of marquee signings to galvanise and excite a West Ham public just a touch sick of the under-achievement in the boardroom as well as on the pitch. To my mind, with Sullivanís support, our new manager has so far achieved all those aims.

The breakdown of the transfer activity under Sullivan and the current board shows a slow progression over eight years towards the very different ownership style we have witnessed these past few months.

Sullivan and Gold took over in January 2010, and itís fair to say it has been a roller coaster ever since, forever in the media spotlight and constantly having their style of control questioned.

The have acquired, both at West Ham and Birmingham City, a reputation as owners who spend low and stacked Ďem high.

But to try to understand Sullivanís dealings and policy, you must try to accept the financial mess West Ham were in when Sullivan took over. There have been a remarkable 94 players arriving at the club these past eight years, and the gross expenditure has been around £346m. Their net spend is averaging out at £25m a year.

Leaving the club there have been 101 players, and the income has been £140m. That sees Sullivan and Gold just over £200m in the red on transfer dealings.

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Itís a stark figure and suggests that the theory that they are tight-fisted is over-stated. For the sake of balance, I have not included in these figures Academy players and the youngsters who are released each year, and I have not considered the many loan transfers who have left the club, the vast majority being youngsters sent out on loan to gain experience and first team football.

Way back in January 2010, the finances were in such a mess that Sullivan and the board were just not able to scramble the money together to embark on any kind of spending spree.

For the first six years of Sullivan and Goldís control, West Ham signed only four players for more that £10m: Matt Jarvis, Andy Carroll, Enner Valencia and Dmitri Payet. This summer has been so, so different and Sullivan and the board should be praised for changing the whole clubís perspective, prompted by the arrival of Pellegrini.

In fact, Sullivanís tenacity and determination to bring Pellegrini to the club, has been praiseworthy. It was TWO years ago that he started the pursuit of the Chilean. A long, long time before the grim days of fansĎ anger last winter.

Sullivan had wanted to change the clubís level of ambition the moment that Pellegrini left Manchester City in June 2016. Pellegrini admitted as much this week at the Premier League launch in Manchester.

Pellegrini said: "I received a lot of calls from the owners when I finished at Manchester City and when I was in China. It was a couple of years they wanted me to manage the club and bring my style of football."

In fact, Sullivan was planning the biggest change, management-wise and financially, from midway through Slaven Bilicís reign and way before David Moyes had even been thought of.

It is, in effect, a remarkable show of Sullivanís determination to get his man and the obvious willingness to pay what it costs in terms of Pellegriniís wages and the transfer budget. I can only praise Sullivan for his forethought and determination.

Now thatís shocked a few of you! There are many who think I canít begin to say anything nice about Sullivan and our board. Well credit where credit is due.

We have no agenda here in KUMB land. We're neither pro board or against the board. The only thing we are pro is our fans, and the whole point of all this is that we try to hold the club and board to account and assess what they do from day to day. Itís as simple as that.

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But despite all the stick that gets handed out - yes, from me too - Sullivan clearly has had a desire to improve the club and employ a manager and players capable of giving the fans entertainment, even the next level.

Now we have seen that in operation. Ten new players arriving, including teenager Xande Silva, and all with a decent pedigree. In those eight years West Ham have employed 44 players on free transfers and another 34 on loan. The change this season says it all.

That, frankly, was the image that Sullivan and Gold had. But you canít spend what isnít there, you canít spend money that regulations do not allow you to. FFP is a yoke around many clubsí necks. Sullivan is worth about £1.5 billion. Even if he had ten times that, he is not allowed to pump money into the club.

Somehow it is hard to get this fact across to some of our fans who constantly flood social media with abuse of Sullivan and Co for not spending their own money on players. Either fans donĎt want to understand or are unable to grasp what FFP is.

Our owners have taken on loans, they have once again signed up for one those posh pay-day-loans, the sort the authorities tried to stamp out. That worked, didnít it?

But there is still a way to go. On the outgoing list, we have received fees for only 23 of 101 players who have departed the club, and only two players we have produced ourselves these past eight years has given us a transfer fee. James Tomkins and Reece Burke.

Some 78 players have left on free transfers, such has been the obvious failure of our youth set-up to produce a flow of young players that can be sold on. You only have to look at the amount of home produced players the likes of Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea are able to get money for to know that somewhere, somehow, that side of our club is not working.

But the times they are aíchanging, we have employed a very good, well respected and connected manager. The chairmen have bought into this, and the players have arrived. Donít worry too much if we donít get anything at Liverpool, thatís a tough ask. Just be happy that there is a real difference now at our club.

Good luck everyone, you are going to need it.


Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.







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