Filed: Friday, 16th August 2013
By: Graeme Howlett
Shortly before the close of the summer transfer window KUMB had the opportunity to sit down with David Sullivan, the co-owner of West Ham United, for a lengthy one-to-one which kicked off with the visit of Cardiff - ironically perhaps, the city where Sullivan was born and spent the first few years of his life.
In what proved to be a frank, honest and open discussion the Chairman answered questions on subjects as varied as his son's involvement with Twitter, the Club's summer transfer policy, his relationship with Sam Allardyce and the imminent move to the Olympic Stadium.
Quizzing Mr Sullivan on behalf of KUMB.com was Graeme Howlett.
KUMB: David - I'd like to start with Twitter, because [your son] Jack's involvement is currently a big issue amongst the fan base. There are those who think it's great because the journos and 'ITKs' have had their noses put out of joint, but there are others who say: "Hold on a minute, this should be the job of the Club's media team". Do you think the criticism is justified in any way, or totally unfair?
DS: No, I think it's unfair. There are two things I want to say. One, Jack is dyslexic and his English is appalling at times, so I do anything I can to encourage him to read and write. Secondly, he takes a great interest in it, he loves it and I think it's nice to give him information as to what's going on - without naming players that damages the club. If it's critical stuff, he does check with me. So I would say no, [it's not justified].
We’ve done some research at the Club that has shown our support among Under-18s grew by 23 per cent last season and the Club believe Jack has a lot to do with that as he offers a link to younger fans. They really like Jack being involved - if it became a problem I would of course step in, but at the moment they really like Jack’s connection with the younger supporters. He's happy doing it so I'm happy.
Regarding the criticism he received about the [Ilombe Mboyo] issue. As a Club, we wanted a quick response on how fans would feel if we signed the player because for football reasons, he was a perfect fit for what we were looking for. We wanted to see how fans felt about it because the previous year we tried to sign El Hadji Diouf and I could not believe the reaction.
Sam [Allardyce] wanted to sign him [El Hadj Diouf] so I said: "Look Sam; if you really, really want to sign him I'll support you but I've never seen a backlash like this in my life and I think it'll be a serious [error]." I've got to say, he came back with Doncaster and he had a hell of a game against us!
KUMB: Yeah - he played us off the park, didn't he! You know where that came from though?
DS: Yeah. But you really want to see how people feel. West Ham is a special Club; you couldn't do that with West Ham without seeing how the fans felt. [On Mboyo] we wanted an immediate, instant response. Maybe we should have done it through David [Gold] but David isn't always easy to get hold of and we wanted a response that night as we had to make a decision the next morning.
I said to Jack: "Do us a favour, put this on and see what the fans say" - and within ten minutes he said:" Dad, we shouldn't sign him!" So maybe it's my fault.
KUMB: Given the response Jack had to that particular tweet, have you thought about creating an account yourself which you could perhaps occasionally use for things like that?
DS: David [Gold] makes statements as the Joint-Chairman so I don’t really feel that I need to.
KUMB: And he's very good at it as well!
DS: He loves doing it, but I would not want to compete with him on a daily basis because you'd get "who's got the most followers?" etc and it'd be ridiculous. So I can't imagine any circumstances under which I'd have my own account. That's the answer to that one.
KUMB: Is it the case that Jack is the only person with access to his account? Many people are aware of Jack's dyslexia, but then you get tweets...
DS: His brother [David]. He's 15, he has access sometimes. Or Jack says to his brother: "Do this for me Dave", as Dave is more articulate than Jack and better at English. So Dave will have access to it.
KUMB: Well that would explain it. Sometimes we see tweets about the Club punctuated correctly where the grammar is...
DS: That's where David has re-written them for him.
KUMB: I was going to ask where Jack's been as since that particular tweet he's not been on, but I noticed he'd posted a message this lunchtime saying we're looking to sign another player!
DS: It's kids, because they are kids. They get very busy and you get 20 [tweets] in a day then they go missing for two days! If you look at his history... It's kids. They get bored easily and that is normal behavioural pattern for kids.
KUMB: Ok. Let's move on to the transfer window, as we're getting towards the business end of it now. We've signed Adrian and Razvan Rat [on free transfers] but also Andy Carroll, Joe Cole and possibly Stewart Downing in 2013 so there seems to be a move towards predominantly signing British players. Is that deliberate, or is it just that these are the players who are becoming available at the right time?
DS: I think the manager has taken the view that the percentage of risk on foreign players is very high. You can sign a superstar but the failure rate can be very high and he's playing safe, he's playing cautious and I can respect him for that. I'm more of a chancer; if I was picking the players there'd be a few more foreigners there but Sam makes the calls, not me!
If you have an expert, you'd think his knowledge is far superior to yours or mine. I get supporters writing to me saying: "Why are we signing this one when we should be signing this one?" Sam's argument would be that if you're hiring a professional you have to take his advice. He picks the players, not us.
I say to him sometimes: "Sam, are you absolutely sure about this, are you sure this is what you want because there isn't any more money when you've spent this money?" He says: "Yes, that's what I want" - and we support it.
KUMB: Have you ever vetoed any signing Sam has suggested? Has it ever come to that?
KUMB: How about when you were at Birmingham?
DS: We had a few at Birmingham, because when the manager signs a few players you don't want him to sign - and you put it in writing that you don't want him to sign them - and you support his signature then there comes a point that if he does it again you say, "well I did tell you about so-and-so, I'm going to veto this one."
Sam accepts it if you haven't got the money. There was a player today; people said to me: "Oh why didn't you go and sign Samuel Eto'o?" He wants £220,000 per week and a £5million signing on fee. We just do not have the money in our wages budget.
But only a club like Chelsea or Man United - I can't see Arsenal paying that money, nor Tottenham - would pay that. Maybe not even Man United would pay that money. But I've never vetoed a signing of Sam's, no.
KUMB: Can you tell us where we are with Stewart Downing?
DS: Very close.
KUMB: You're optimistic it'll go through?
DS: Football never ceases to amaze me. I think it's probably 75 per cent. 50 per cent yesterday, 75 per cent today but you never know until the last minute as things can change.
We've done it ourselves; we had a player who was having a medical at a club and he just walked out to get a drink and never went back, he came to us! So we've done it to other people and you just never know what's going to happen.
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