2013 - We have a problem

Way back in 1970, the Apollo 13 commander, James Lovell spawned the famous "Houston, we have a problem" when his spacecraft was hit by an explosion. Everybody got back to the States OK, but it was touch and go for a while.

It's a quote that springs to mind as West Ham and Sam Allardyce, somewhat ironically, approach 2013 with more than a few problems. Our survival in the top flight might also be touch and go unless there is a quick return to form.

The first problem is amassing the 17 more points that will take us to the accepted 40 point mark and Premier League survival. Yes I know we have bitter memories of acquiring 42 in 2003 and still going down, but hopefully that was a freak!

After Saturday's dismal defeat at Reading, we reached the half way mark of our season with 23 points. So there's 19 more games to go and 17 points needed. We are now just six points above third from bottom Southampton, when I can recall us having more than a ten point gap at one stage this season.

But getting to our 40 point target is not as simple as that, is it? What we have learned about our squad is that it is not big enough and does not have the genuine pace, quality and attacking guile to live with the big boys. Nine points from our last 11 games underlines that.

And we have been beaten by Arsenal, Manchester United, Spurs, Everton and Liverpool which suggests we are not good enough to take much from the division's giants.

Wins against Chelsea and Newcastle and a point against champions Manchester City have been rare beacons of light recently as our season has slowly gone down hill. It's a harsh statement because we did so well at the start of the campaign, but our current form is not good enough and if it stays this way, we will almost certainly go down.

And from our recent run, we have not got what we hoped for against the likes of Reading, West Brom , Wigan and Stoke.

From now until the last game on May 19 at home to Reading, we have still to go to Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool, Everton, and Manchester City, while Spurs and Manchester United still have to visit the Boleyn. Frankly I would be surprised if we got much against any of them on current form, so that means that 17 points we need must be acquired from the 12 other matches. I sincerely hope I am wrong on that, prophet of doom that I am at times.

And that means big Sam has to win the battle for decent money for the January transfer window from the Davids. We need a left-back, midfielder and striker for sure.

He has decided not to extend the loan of injury-prone Yossi Benayoun, who will return to Chelsea, so he will definitely need to sign an attacking midfielder to replace him. His large wages have been saved and will be put to better use.

What is obvious is that we cannot carry high-wage players on loan who do not make a real contribution. The injured Andy Carroll, obviously, is the exception, and the fact that Liverpool are about to sign Daniel Sturridge surely means they will not be recalling Carroll, unless they want to sell him.

And with him not likely to be fit enough to get through a medical until February, we have clearly decided to stick with him, That's good because with the big Geordie having been out since November 28, and Carlton Cole having played well in his absence, some people are suggesting we can do without Carroll.

That's nonsense. Don't forget the wonderful impact his signing produced in the opening months of the season, and the feel-good-factor that swept the club when he arrived, a genuine England international. Get him fit and firing and we will stay up, it's as simple as that.

We have also got rid of coach Wally Downes, interestingly I believe he is handled by the same agent as Benayoun. When Downes arrived during the Avram Grant reign, I recall one of our owners saying that Barry Silkman had been involved. Now Silkman was Grant's agent in the UK and had a working relationship with Pini Zahavi, who also looks after Benayoun.

So two of Zahavi's people have been shown the door, while we will move heaven and earth to keep Mark Curtis' boy, Carroll...and we all know that Curtis represents big Sam, Kevin Nolan, Matt Jarvis, Jack Collison and James Tompkins. Of course I am sure this is all just co-incidence.

We can only hope, also, that Sam's working relationship with Willie McKay also means that we keep hold of Mo Diame. He has the same sort of buy-out clause that Demba Ba has, and one which Chelsea are now exploiting.

A lot of people want to do the same with Diame, including Harry Redknapp, another who knows McKay well.

McKay is Diame's agent - and he does not represent Ba, before you ask. McKay recently went into print to defend the buy-out clause in contracts, saying it gives the buying club a better deal on initial wages and only causes problems for them further down the line. Some players would just not join a lesser club without such a clause in place.

We have missed Diame badly, picking up one point and one goal since he was injured. Our owners insist they are working on a new contract as we speak to ward off other clubs, but you can be sure agents keep such situations buzzing along in the media until everyone gets a better deal.

David Sullivan was quoted recently, when the partnership between Sam and Curtis was being scrutinised, that we have paid more cash in agents fees to McKay than Curtis of late. Ok, well get on with it then, we all want this concluded quickly and not on the last day of the transfer window!

There is also a growing rumour that Darren Bent is on Sam's list. Whether we can afford a player who cost almost ?20m a year or so ago is open to debate. And why would Aston Villa let him go on loan to a club who could be competing against them in a relegation battle?

Bent, though, has the same agent - Stellar group's Jonathan Barnett - as James Collins, Carlton Cole, Matt Taylor and Gary O'Neil, so we are used to dealing with him, an agent with a vast list of clients including Gareth Bale, Ashley Cole and Joe Hart.

We are also being linked by Nicholas Anelka, Karren Brady having admitted she met him in Dubai recently. Again, that's big, big money on wages.

But the Davids know we must stay in this division at all costs. Their whole business plan depends on it, so they are going to have to gamble now rather than risk the prospect of going down. How rich they are and how capable of raising capital we will soon see. Just don't blow it all now gentlemen.

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