After the constant criticism of David Sullivan and David Gold over the past few weeks on West Ham forums and across social media, from practically everyone, I thought I’d give my perspective in this blog post.
All I’ve heard is that “the owners are tight”, “they have no idea how to run a football club”, “they are killing the club”, “they are a pair of East End wide boys who got lucky” and so on. Lets be honest here – any self made multi millionaire is not stupid. Our move to the London Stadium hasn’t been great but the alternative was Tottenham on our doorstep and that could have had terrible consequences for the club. Hindsight is a wonderful thing but the Olympic Stadium was too good an opportunity to turn down. Whilst I don’t believe we will be in the stadium (as it is) forever, I think in the short to medium term it had to happen to keep us on a level playing field with other clubs. And this stems the moans about the situation at the club as it is. People accepted the move to the stadium on the basis that it would catapult the club forward. We were constantly promised a better class of player yet the signings last year were some of the worst I can remember at the club. Last summer was our big opportunity to challenge the big boys. With Payet, European football and a new stadium it was our chance to kick on. We failed miserably, played some terrible football, our best player left and we regressed as a club. I think it’s obvious the board realise this but this summer is our last opportunity to capitalise on the new stadium. If we don’t start building for the future this summer then any advantage the new stadium brings will have gone. Tottenham, Chelsea and Everton have new stadiums on the way. Liverpool have an increased attendance etc.
The problem I see is that the club always looks short term and never thinks further than two years down the line. Our transfer strategy tends to revolve around buying players at the end of their careers. Allardyce was a short term fix to get us up and keep us up. Recently David Gold effectively said that the Academy is dead as we can’t afford to put young players in to the team anymore. I find that funny when you consider Ajax got to the Europa League final last year with a team of kids, Monaco won Ligue 1 and got to the Semi Finals of the Champions League with a team of kids, and Dortmund got to the Quarter Finals of the Champions League with kids too. Evidence suggests that the best performing ‘smaller clubs’ become successful by building teams of younger players and hiring coaches who can push those players on to being great players. This is how Tottenham were able to grow to what they are now too. You can build a team around young players without the constant need for big investment year after year. Players get used to playing with eachother and even if you sell those players, because of their age you tend to make a profit. West Ham can’t compete for the best players in the world, we’ve proven over the past two years that we can’t even attract ‘good’ players. But we can attract some of the best young talent around with the promise of first team football and top coaching that will make them better players. With West Ham being one of the remaining clubs in the league under English ownership we should be doing all we can to help push the national team on too. We’ve always been a development bed for the national team and this shouldn’t change. It’s one of the things that is synonymous with the club and something the fans cry out for. I agree that playing centre back at a young age is hard and that may be the one position that players need lower league experience for first. (Chamberlain, Anton Ferdinand, Micah Richards etc are examples of centre backs who first got in the team at right back for this reason). But outside of centre back I see no reason why we can’t build a team around young players.
If I were David Sullivan, here is how I would push the club forward in the next 5 weeks before the season starts:
I would hire a Director of Football – this doesn’t have to be anyone famous, just someone appointed in that position. At the moment the perception of fans is that the club don’t have a clue, David Sullivan has too much say over transfers and we are unsuccessful in everything we do. The Director of Football would be brought in to ‘trigger’ changes at the club and to make it seem like there is momentum. They would just be a figurehead in much the same way Joe Kinnear was at Newcastle. This would bring the fans on side and if successful David Sullivan will be praised. If the changes at the club aren’t successful then the club sack the Director of Football and he / she can be blamed for the failings. This is pretty Machiavellian but that’s how the real world works. It gives the club some breathing space for a few weeks which is important with how edgy the fans are getting at the moment.
It’s too late to sack Billic now so the backroom team needs changing instead. Last season we got lucky and if a few decisions didn’t go our way we could now be playing in the Championship. The team looked unfit, they looked demotivated (Billic himself said he can’t motivate them anymore), we had lots of injuries and several players commented on how bad the training is at the club. If the team get off to a bad start in the first 7 or 8 games then the Board will no doubt look to change Billic. Whilst managers come and go we need stability at the club. We need to create a structure whereby managers slot in to the current set up and that doesn’t change.
For the backroom team I would hire:
Matthias Sammer – whilst Billic is a nice guy, Sammer is a winner and this is a mentality we need to bring to the club. As a player he won the Ballon d’Or. As a manager he won the Bundesliga with Dortmund. He spent years in his role at the German FA working out ways how to improve younger players and did the same at Bayern Munich. He had a brain disorder which made him leave Bayern but he has said he wants to get back in to football but not in a management capity. By hiring Sammer the players would play for someone they respect rather than someone they class as a friend, like they do with Billic. His coaching skills and experience will allow us to make our players better, which is the only way we will be able to grow as a club.
First team coach: Again we need a ‘proper’ coach here who can progress our players. Gary White is the most qualified English coach in the world and currently without a club. Dan Micciche revolutonised the youth team at MK Dons and his training has led to a series a top players like Dele Alli coming through. Michel Bruyninckx is one of the pioneers of differential learning which some of the top coaches in the world such as Thomas Tuchel use to train there players. Any of those coaches would suffice in helping us actually improve our players.
Fitness Coach: Oliver Bartlett. Hes just joined a football team in China to reunite with Roger Schmidt but this is football. As Oliver Bartlett was born in London I’m sure he could be persuaded home. Effectively Oliver Bartlett is the best fitness trainer in the world. He pushes players so hard that he normally only stays at a club a few years before the players rebel and he gets sacked but if we already know this we can have plans in place for this. Better the devil you know… One of the main reasons Dortmund were so successful was due to their fitness levels and after Bartlett left the club went in to decline. The same with Leverkusen. After Bartlett left the club, the club went in to decline. It’s a correlation that teams over-perform when Bartlett is there. This is exactly what West Ham need. We don’t have the money to buy the best players so we need to find other ways to gets that extra 10%.
Head of Performance: Dave Brailsford – he has said several times he would like to work in football and that his methods could transfer over. He’s one of the most successful ‘backroom’ staff in world sport.
Psychiatrist: Steve Peters – he worked with Dave Brailsford before so this could help entice him to the club. When Liverpool finished second in the league, several of their players came out and said Steve Peters was the man behind this.
Nutritionist: Antonio Escribano Zafra – used by all the big clubs in world football. When Ramos went to Tottenham, Antonio Escribano Zafra was the first person he brought with him as he believes he has that much influence on a team.
Match Analysis: Dr. Stephan Nopp – Germany are lightyears ahead of the rest of the world in Match Analysis and Dr. Stephan Nopp is the person leading the way for the German FA.
It’s a fact that West Ham can’t compete with the big clubs for transfer fees or wages. We need to be the best in the world where we can, and coaches can be that area. If we can’t buy the best players then we need to develop them. And along with developing them we then need to ensure they are at the top of their game and that we can get 100% out of them. The above staff would help do this.
We now move on to the team. Here is who I would bring in / how I would like the squad to look next season:
Adrian – he’s been a great goalkeeper for West Ham and it’s obvious he loves the club. His declining performances coincided with when he had a baby. This is obviously due to a lack of sleep and reduced concentration. At the end of last season he seemed to be back to his best
Freddie Woodman – hes by far the best young English keeper and I include Jordan Pickford in that. At the Under 17 Euros a few years ago he stood out as a potential star. Since then he has excelled on loan at Kilmarnock and recently shone at the Under 20 World Cup. Hes a huge West Ham fan and his dad used to be the goalkeeping coach at the club under Pardew. Put him in the starting line up for a few games and I’m sure he would suddenly be valued at £30 million in the same way Pickford is.
Zabaleta – we’ve already bought him this summer and he will bring experience.
Dujon-Sterling – has been one of Chelsea’s best youth players this year. He is insanely quick, can cross, can dribble and most importantly he can defend. Although he’s a right back he has also played centre back at Chelsea. He should make the England team within a few years and with some good coaching he has the potential to be the best right back in the world. There is no chance he will get anywhere near the Chelsea first team for about 5 years so its the perfect time for us to swoop.
Cresswell & Masuaku : Both already at the club and are very decent players
Reid, Fonte, Collins, Burke & Kouyote. These are already at the club. Kouyote’s best performances at the club have been at centre back and I feel this is his best position. I feel his attributes really compliment both Reid and Fonte. Burke has been out on loan and now needs to break in to the team. I would loan out Rice to get experience. If we want extra cover there I would sign Sean Raggett. He is tall and Lincoln fans believe he will go on to play for England. As he would be cheap, he would be worth a punt as fifth or sixth back up.
Ryan Woods – this is a player I emailed David Sullivan about a few years ago. At the time he said the club were scouting him but they weren’t sure if he could make the step up to the Premier League. He ended up going to Brentford and won their Players Player of the Year award last year. If you read any forum about who the best opposition player Championship fans saw last year, most say Woods. Staff at the club say he is the most consistent player they have and he is eager to learn. We desperately need someone for this position. Coming from the Championship it won’t take Woods time to adjust to the English culture and he should be able to fit straight in to the team.
Ryan Ledson – he really stood out for me at the Under 17 Euros a few seasons ago. He looked like a young Steven Gerrard. I’ve kept an eye on his career ever since and Oxford fans believe he will go on to captain England. As such he was nominated for the EFL Young Player of the Season award.
If we couldn’t get one of those I’d look at Santiago Colombatto. Aside from Lookman he was the player of the Under 20 World Cup for me. He just has everything in his game and I’ll be absolutely shocked if he doesn’t end up at either Barcelona or Real Madrid in 5 years. He can tackle, pass, shoot and has tremendous technique.
Attacking Midfield / Centre Midfield:
Loftus-Cheek – wasted at Chelsea. He needs to play games. He’s strong, fast and skillful. These are attributes West Ham lacked last year. With regular football under his belt he could be like Paul Pogba. Like Pogba he just needs to play. Unfortunately from youth football onwards he has seemed lazy – something having a coach like Sammer could kick out of him.
Gionvinco – forgotten about because he plays in America. He’s one of the best players in the league over there and was a great player for Juventus too. He’s only 30 and is in his prime. He’s skillful and exciting – exactly what West Ham fans love to watch. He could be just the man to replace the gap left by Payet. The fans are crying out for a player like this. To get in the Italian World Cup team he needs to come back to Europe.
Lewis Baker – had a terrible Under 21 Euros which should help keep his value down. Before he went to Vitesse he was the best youth player at Chelsea. Ray Wilkins believes he is a future star and Mourinho said it’s his fault if he doesn’t go on to play for England. He played 64 games in Holland, so hes not inexperienced. He has own numerous individual awards.
Noble / Fernandes / Obiang – already at the club.
Lanzini – whilst most people class him as a centre midfielder, his best games for West Ham have been on the left and we play better as a team when he is there too.
Jadon Sancho – the star of Manchester City’s youth team and ran the show at the recent Under 17 European Championships. He’s incredibly fast but incredibly skillful as well. He is going to be a superstar. Like most youngsters, he will struggle to get in the Manchester City team for years and its been reported that he’s homesick and wants to come back to London.
Antonio – already at the club.
Patrick Roberts – a player I begged David Sullivan to buy when he was 16. He was the best player on the pitch for England and Fulham in every youth game I ever saw him in and is still the best youth player I’ve ever seen. He had a great season at Celtic and the fans on their forum say that he will be world class. If he plays in England this season it will be his break out year and it will be similar to Dele Alli’s first year at Tottenham. If we can sign just one player I want it to be Roberts.
Demele from Celtic – although the Scottish league is not great he scored a huge amount of goals over there last season and won the French Under 21 player of the year – quite an achievement when you consider the players they have. He’s also scored goals in the Championship. He will be like Lukaku whereby whoever buys him now will see his value rise massively in the years to come.
Gignac – scored goals for Marseilles, scored goals for France and has been the top scorer in Mexico the last few years. Has the right stature to be a success in England.
Martinez – already at the club.
Josh Sargent – Can’t sign for a European club until February but this boy is going to be a superstar. His movement is incredible and he is a great finisher. He reminds me of Van Persie.
I believe the above would all be achievable for West Ham. Valencia is apparently of interest to Tigres, so he could be used in any deal for Gignac, we have Doneil Henry who could be used in any deal for Gionvinco seeing as it is his former club, Chelsea play a back three and have got rid of several centre backs in the past 12 months so need to add players there – Ogbonna could be used to bring in the Chelsea players and Snodgrass is a Celtic fan so could be used in any deal for Dembele.