Antonio - our summer of discontent

We all knew this was coming, West Ham always have a transfer saga to while away the summer months - and this year, itís going to be Michail Antonio.

He wants more money, he wants out and he is seriously upset by others getting paid more than him, and now has the sort of injury problem that has finished his season and he is blaming us. His England career is clearly not going the way he and his advisors had planned, seemingly!

I am sure you can all hear his agent mouthing those words for him, supplemented by the usual 'no quotes' piece in the national press - this time the Times, not a paper known for inventing stories.

And one with a bit of unexplained previous with us this season over that infamous 'letter' that Andy Carroll's former agent Mark Curtis had. The one that allegedly gave Big Sam's man the go-ahead to negotiate a deal with a Chinese club, any Chinese club, to get Carroll off our hands.

Nobody at the club actually knocked that story down, and why should the Times make it up? Even if you can bet your bottom dollar that Carroll, by then being represented by the Stellar group, knew nothing about it and, surprise surprise, he has got the hump and acquired even more injuries since then.

But enough of our soon-to-be departed perma-injured top wage earner, let's ponder just what has got Antonio to this stage.

His agent, the last time I looked, was one Will Salthouse, who also represented Darren Randolph, Cheikhou Kouyate and Aaron Cresswell, all of whom have negotiated and signed new long-term contracts since last year.

Antonio got a new deal, too, last July. Keeping him with us, on paper at least, until 2020 and with a wage rise after his one full season with us since the ?8m move from Nottingham Forest. A pretty good season as well, even if asked to play out of position but very capable of causing havoc down the right with his power, running and brute-like fitness.

He'd probably signed that deal from Forest for peanuts by modern standards, much depending as far as David Sullivan was concerned, with the lad proving he could cut the mustard in the Premier League before any further wonga passed the way of the former Tooting man, who had come up the very unusual hard way from non-league to the top flight.

And you could tell, too. There was no Academy system fine tuning about Antonio, he was all rough edges, very unpredictable and a bloody nightmare to face. Just ask Spurs!

But back to Mr.Salthouse, famous more for the Cheltenham 'box' antics with a load of no-mark lower division scufflers who proved that players at that level do have a pot to piss in. Trouble was, the contents were then tipped over a balcony onto race goers. Not clever. Walt had his hospitality box withdrawn double quick for that sort of behaviour on his patch, so to speak.

Salthouse was once described to me by someone inside the football industry -- favourite expression this week after the HMRC raids -- as a 'new boy wheeler dealer'. In agents' talk that would be considered a compliment. It wasn't meant that way.

We have seen something of a preview to the tactics now being deployed over Antonio, primarily when Cresswell acquired a couple of updated contracts. He, no doubt, was also signed from the Championship for buttons but every time a transfer window came around you will all recall the clinical regularly of talk that Liverpool -- or in fact anyone on Merseyside -- wanted to bring young Cressie back home.

Agents find that sort of thing very quickly concentrates the minds of club owners. Now we are getting it from Antonio. His new deal last summer took him up to about ?35,000 a week, huge money to you and me but nothing compared to his peers in the Premier League.

And then comes all the stuff agents love to muddy the waters. We sign Jose Fonte and Robert Snodgrass, both supposedly on the thick end of ?70,000 a week. Our club argue that is not quite accurate and the wages fall within the parameters of the first-team squad figures.

But Salthouse would be well aware of all the 'add ons' that would boost the basic wages, much like Dimi Payet getting about ?80,000 a week, but around ?120,000 with bonuses. You get my point, and certainly Antonio's agent will have done.

So it is being suggested that in initial contract talks, Antonio was not chuffed at all to find his offer below that of the two new guys, whose contribution to the cause has not been up to scratch, suggested some folk.

Then earlier this week we see Antonio doing interviews suggesting we need a new right-back, centre-back and two strikers to get to European challenging level. Some might suggest he should mind his own business on that one, others would suggest he has a point, if not made with much tact.

And now the latest accusation, that his hamstring injury has not been handled at all well by the club. You can, actually, see his point here, but I wonder if the outrage is more that he has lost out on England caps, earlier this season and probably over the coming months, rather than anything else.

He is not, despite constantly being described as, an England international. Not yet. But I bet there is some clause in his contract that gets him a rise when he finally steps over the white line in an England shirt. And it would certainly give his negotiators another bargaining tool.

It hasn't help that our board members have not been slow to tell everyone that nobody will have contract talks while we are still in the mire. Frankly I don't see this point. Is everyone being treated like naughty schoolboys, or does Antonio's perceived worth change because our season has been crap?

Best, I would say, to continue talks in a professional manner without blabbing off to the media. But then we don't do it like that, do we. The' no talks' stuff came out in the Sun on the same day as Karren Brady's column appeared. What a coincidence.

The injury has really muddied the water. The last time I saw Antonio play properly was at Watford, where he led the line brilliantly and got kicked about by the home side's big defenders all afternoon. He gave a bit back and got sent off and banned for the Chelsea game, He scored in the next match against Bournemouth and then played through the Leicester game, clearly carrying an injury.

It looked like he had come back too early at Arsenal, bizarrely being subbed at the break because of sickness. The next game at home to Swansea, when Slaven had no fit proper striker in a crisis match, Antonio lasted barely 20 minutes. Since then he has been out for the season with a "significant injury".

Obviously Antonio is now angry that he was rushed back too quickly, and everyone has the hump about the loss of more England chances. Big Sam called him up but left him on the bench against Slovenia, and then when Gareth Southgate took over and also called him into the squad, the hamstring injury meant he withdrew from the Germany and Lithuania squad, where there was every chance he would have got some sort of run-out.

The argument about whether Fonte and Snodgrass are getting too much cash is interesting. Antonio has played 69 Premier League games for West Ham and scored 18 goals. Fonte, now 33, was Southampton's captain and a Euro' winner with Portugal.

But he has only played 116 top flight games, as well as over 200 in the lower divisions for Palace and the Saints. Snodgrass has over 400 senior games to his credit, but just 113 in the Premier League for Norwich and Hull. So maybe you can see Antonio's point at the sort of money being thrown at our latest signings.

There is an argument that players should not use the wages of others to argue for their own bank balances to be improved. But I doubt Mr. Salthouse subscribes to this argument.
So we have a summer of discontent coming. Our owners will say he's going nowhere and has a long-term contract. They will try to get him to sign a new, enhanced deal, I bet around ?70,000.

But we will have to brace ourselves for weeks of speculation now. Chelsea wanted him in the last 'window' and others will be interested. All of whom will pay far more than we would want to go too.

And the injury, plus the delay in England recognition have just made the situation more difficult. We have seen Payet force his way out of the club, brace yourselves for more nonsense like that.

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