Is it worth the financial risk at West Ham?

West Ham striker Andy Carroll and West Ham manager Sam Allardyce

On Saturday afternoon, Andy Carroll embarked on his new East London adventure with a performance that drew both a smile and a tear from Sam Allardyce. Having escaped the intrinsic triangles of Brendan Rodgers’ ‘tiki-taka’ regime, the pony-tailed assassin fled down route one to Upton Park where he tormented the Fulham rearguard with his aerial prowess and impressive link-up play. However, despite being hailed as the vital component in Big Sam’s master plan, is the former Geordie talisman worth jeopardising the club’s financial well-being?

Just a fortnight ago, in the wake of West Ham’s first failed attempt to secure the services of Carroll, co-owner David Sullivan revealed the worrying implications of a potential move.

It was a terribly expensive deal with the loan fee and with his wages, which were enormous – too much for a club like ours.

Then there was a huge transfer fee which would have blown our budget for several years.” (Daily Mail)

Is this a wise move for a football club in today’s unstable economic climate, especially one that is still recovering from the debts accumulated since their previous departure from the Premier League? It was only 15 months ago that Sullivan admitted, “this club is in a worse financial position than any other in the country”. (Guardian)

If nothing else this transfer highlights the extreme measures employed by clubs as they desperately seek to avoid relegation. With the ever-increasing financial rewards from sponsors and broadcasting deals, maintaining status in the Premier League is becoming an achieve-at-all-costs philosophy. However, significant investment in player acquisitions doesn’t immediately equal success, as highlighted by the contrasting fortunes of QPR and Swansea last season.

There is no questioning that Carroll’s debut in the claret-and-blue was a revelation, not just for the player but also for the team as whole. He played a key role in each of the goals and was perhaps only denied a place on the score sheet himself thanks to an injury picked up in the 68th minute. David Gold announced on Twitter that he thought Carroll would be sidelined for three weeks but reports today suggest he will be on the treatment table for between five and six weeks, which is a huge blow for both club and country.

Throughout this period West Ham will continue to subsidise his wage packet, which is believed to total a six-figure sum. Should the team revert to their previous uninspiring performances in his absence then the pressure will once again fall on his young shoulders to revive a club’s ailing fortunes. It’s hardly an ideal situation for a man who’s spent the last 18 months trying to satisfy the expectations of The Kop.

Let’s presume Carroll returns from injury and fires The Hammers to safety, even if he plays a small part the owners will feel compelled to sign him. They may even have to tie up a deal before January as rumours continue to circulate that Liverpool will attempt to recall him at the earliest opportunity. The club is then faced with a huge financial burden and will be unable to strengthen the squad in other areas unless a number of individuals are shown the door. As I gaze at the current squad I fear there isn’t a single name that would generate even half of the amount needed to purchase Carroll on a permanent deal.

Life in the top-flight is worth a reported 40 million pounds in additional revenue (Deloitte LLP), but the minimum guaranteed payments in the following four seasons – if they drop down – is 48 million. So even if West Ham were to suffer the heartbreak of relegation, the continued financial income coupled with the number of experienced Championship members of their squad should see them bounce straight back up. Portsmouth proved that spending beyond your means can bring you short-term success, but I think the supporters would gladly hand back their FA Cup trophy in order to bring stability and hope back to the current League One dwellers.

West Ham’s chances of survival have been boosted by the arrival of Carroll but they’re playing a very dangerous game if they depend solely on his ability to score goals. Afonso Alves was meant to lead Middlesborough to the promised land and look what happened there.

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