Now West Ham need to go from big to massive
THE CLARET and blue confetti is still being swept away and fuzzy heads have just about cleared.
Yes, the joy was palpable in the East End this past week.
The Europa Conference League might be the continent’s third-most important trophy. But, hey, it’s a pot.
Manager David Moyes, departing skipper Declan Rice and hundreds of thousands of supporters – who have been serial onlookers for generations – all deserved their day in the sun.
However, it is difficult to escape the nagging feeling that this feels like the end of an era at West Ham.
And, equally, for owner David Sullivan (below with Rice), who lost his friend and business partner David Gold this year, there was no sting in the tail.
But the question must be asked: Is this the time when West
Ham United should grow up
– or rather, grow bigger?
The trend over the past few years, as if anyone could have missed it, has been for football to shift towards a quasi-franchise model. Big clubs are expanding, leaving the smaller ones behind.
There is an obvious link between money spent on talent and success. Both Chelsea and Manchester City have proved that during the past 20 years.
One by one the strong brands – I mean, are they ‘clubs’ any longer? – have been bought off the shelf.
Valuations have sky-rocketed as billionaires have queued up to jump on board an asset class that shows no signs of weakening.
The Glazers are asking £6billion for Manchester United. Chelsea were bought for £4.25bn – plus a £1.5bn upgrade promise on Stamford Bridge. Liverpool are worth £3.6bn.
Newcastle United are armed to the teeth with Saudi riches. Aston Villa’s owners are worth £12bn between them. I mean, Luton Town is a great story but they won’t survive in the Premier League much beyond a season. Eventually, the magic will wear off at Brentford. And Brighton, too, most probably.
Natural selection will dictate who competes for the riches.
And the Hammers really do have the raw ingredients.
There is the pull of the nation’s capital for the players and staff, a monstrous fanbase and a 60,000-capacity stadium that they can fill despite a lack of success.
Sullivan is a better owner than many – including yours truly – gave him credit for. Supporters will moan and point to the price paid and the valuation realised if he does sell out to Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, who owns a minority stake in the club. But that fails to take into consideration the god-awful state the club was in when Sullivan and Gold took over – and the fact that its future has never since been in jeopardy like it was when the failed Icelandic consortium was left as exposed as their rotten financial system during the 2008 crash.
Sullivan, who has just celebrated his 74th birthday, must be wondering whether football club ownership (he’s been in it for almost three decades) is still worth pursuing.
Maybe it’s time to step aside. To cash in those chips and see if West Ham can attract the kind of investor who can build on this success and elbow their way into the pack.
It’s a beautiful game, as the Hammers found out this week. But it’s also relentless and brutal. If you stand still, you get left behind.
It would be a terrible shame if it was another 40-odd years before the club’s next big knees-up.