My football team, West Ham United, were today relegated from the English Premier League. A year ago West Ham chairmen David Gold and David Sullivan issued a ten-point pledge to fans. The byline is perhaps the best bit:
Ten Point Pledge - The chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold say there are many positives for the 2010/11 season.
So, what’s happened this year that’s positive? Beating Tottenham early in the season and the 4-0 against Manchester United in the Cup. I’m really struggling for any others in a WHOLE SEASON. It has been even worse than last year, and that was painful enough.
Ok, so let’s look at the points one year on:
1 Appoint the right manager
Our efforts are focused on recruiting a high-calibre manager with the necessary experience to deliver good football and, most importantly, results. A shortlist of candidates has been identified and the appointment will be made with enough time to prepare for pre-season.
This is the biggie. I’ll admit I wasn’t against Avram Grant’s appointment, but there was an element of the unknown about him. It was definitely a risk at a time when a safe pair of hands was required.
At Chelsea there’s an argument that the team knew what they were doing and it was Mourinho’s side, so full of quality it didn’t even need a coach, even to get to within a penalty of the Champions League.
If we ignore his extensive knowledge of Israeli football that leaves his experience as Portsmouth manager for most of the 2009/2010 season to fill his CV. Loved by Portsmouth fans for steering a much troubled club (financially) through difficult times, he took them to the FA Cup Final. They lost that match though. Oh yeah, they were also relegated. RELEGATED.
Hindsight’s a wonderful thing but West Ham managed to employ a manager who had a worse record than his predecessor, Zola. It didn’t work. Martin Samuel in the Mail nailed it in December. Everything he said then made absolute sense to everybody. Everybody it seems except Gold, Sullivan and Brady a month later.
If “appointing the right manager”, was a pledge the Gollivan brothers failed here abysmally with the Martin O’Neill fiasco in January.
After fluffing that so badly, they compounded the problem by keeping Grant. West Ham were doomed from that moment.
As Jacob Steinberg brilliantly puts it in The Guardian Grant became “a dead man walking...a cruel twist of fate for a man who has the general demeanour of a zombie.”
The Wally Downes appointment worked out well too. The defence has been water tight since he came along.
2 Sign new players
For too long, the focus has been on players leaving rather than arriving. We will strengthen in the right areas to ensure an exciting and balanced squad that is well placed to cope with the rigours of a Premier League season. Our main aim will be to bring in players hungry to do well who share our ambitions and aspirations.
Wrong. There wasn’t enough focus on the players leaving bit. Players who should have gone, didn’t. Boa Morte and Kovac in particular should have been shown the door. Both were out of contract.
Diamanti should have stayed. Since leaving West Ham he has been called up to the Italian national squad.
The only real successes have been an ageing Piquionne, and the inconsistent performances of Obinna and January signing Ba, but they have been no better than Ilan and Franco, discarded last summer.
Barrera and Keane have been useless. Reid has hardly played.
Bridge and Jacobsen have been largely ok, and they had to be seeing as there were no other full backs in the squad.
Bridge won’t stay now we are relegated. Neither will Keane, who might have been ok in the Championship, where he belongs these days.
3 More investment in the Academy
Tony Carr remains at the heart of the club and his work in developing future first-team players remains essential for the long-term success of this club. We will make sure homegrown talent nurtured in the 'West Ham way' will always be given the chance to complement established players brought in from elsewhere.
This is now a bit overplayed. Collison has been injured and Tomkins, Noble and Sears are just about the only ‘Academy’ players who played more than a few games this season. We’ll need a lot more next year. I'm not sure they'll be up to it.
4 Continue to clear the debt
We have a responsibility to ensure this club is never again placed in a perilous position. Great strides have been taken to get us on a sound financial footing but there is still a way to go. Difficult decisions have had to be made - and that will continue to be the case - but our bottom line on the bottom line is to ensure the club survives.
I’m sure relegation helps a lot.
5 Freeze season ticket prices for renewals
We are delighted we have been able to freeze season ticket prices, save for the VAT increase, but we will not stop there. We are looking at more ways of rewarding those fans who make such a long-term commitment and have excellent offers for younger supporters, who are the lifeblood of this club. Member benefits will also improve.
For the first time in recent memory, there have been loads of empty spaces for the majority of Premier League games this year. Despite the official attendances my eyes don’t deceive me. There were so many reduced price games this year. I’m sure it would have been cheaper to buy tickets individually instead of having a season ticket. It’s not supposed to work like that.
Attendances next year will be interesting.
6 Build the status and image of the club
Our standing at home and abroad is rightly built on our proud history and our commitment to young talent. The values of the Academy of Football developed since the days of Bobby Moore define what we are all about. With the world's spotlight set to shine on this part of London, the time is right to spread the word further.
The club is owned by a couple of porn barons.
7 Make it enjoyable to come and watch
We want to bring the fun back. It is a serious business but we know you work hard all week and want to kick back at the weekend and enjoy yourselves. We want you to be excited on a matchday, and not just about the style of football. We are looking at ways to improve our pre-match and half-time entertainment and will welcome suggestions.
Zola’s last season was painful. This year under Grant, the first full year of the Gold and Sullivan era has been worse.
It’s not fun at all.
Gimmicky nonsense like the ‘Best of British’ match with flags “celebrating” with tenuous and opportunistic linkage of a football match to a Royal Wedding and St George’s Day was hugely embarrassing.
Having a sponsored man of the match announced in the last five minutes of a game really grates with me. Not only is it tacky commercialism it’s just provokes anger. When the team is 3-0 down to Arsenal, having capitulated without a fight, I don’t want to hear that a player on that losing team is worthy of a champagne magnum.
8 Get closer to the community
This club does excellent work in the local area already but we want to move even closer to schools and businesses on our doorstep. We can extend our commitment to multi-sports, education and healthy living and show there is more to this club than just first-team football. We take our social responsibility very seriously.
A community they want to leave behind. See 9…
9 Go for the Olympic Stadium
Leaving the Boleyn Ground will be a wrench but the Olympic Stadium is an amazing once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in a financial and football sense. Our potential partnership with Newham Council promises to take this club to a new level, while protecting our history and traditions. To move forward, we have to move - but always with an eye on the past.
The club is far bigger than many outside of East London and Essex realise. The fanbase and catchment area is enormous. A 60,000 capacity stadium could easily be filled. If the team wasn’t so shite. It will be tough to create an atmosphere when full. Even less if we drop to League One (which I don’t rule out).
I like the idea of the Olympic Stadium but, unlike say Eastlands, it was not designed with football in mind. Proof will be in the pudding on this one but I’m really sceptical about the running track business.
10 Listen to the supporters
Arguably the most important of all is our commitment to listen to what you have to say. We know we are just the custodians of this club. You who follow us every week, whether near or far, are the true owners. Whether talking to you online or in print, or face to face at fan forums, we will be open, transparent and available.
This is just bullshit management speak.
This entire 10 point plan list is a hideous combination of sub-Alan Sugar business language and stating the bleeding obvious.
Aside from the Olympic Stadium the list is everything that the club should be trying to do without the need to 'pledge' to the fans.
Disclosure: As I said above, I wasn’t against Grant coming in. Furthermore I wanted Gold and Sullivan at a time when the club was owned by a (bankrupt) Icelandic bank.
I just thought they would do better. That they would manage. That even after ballsing up the Martin O’Neill business at Christmas they would at least sack the manager that everyone knew they wanted to.
I knew the board and Sullivan in particular wouldn’t be classy but when they did eventually sack Grant today it was done within minutes of him giving his post match interviews, apparently in the tunnel at Wigan, then letting him ride back on the team bus.
I wonder if the board realise how much they are blamed by the fans for this mess.
I now see what what the Birmingham fans were warning us about.
I just hope things don't get worse before they get better.