Why is it that some football club owners simply cannot help but interfere with on-field matters? It seldom has a positive outcome, yet they continue to insist upon undermining the position of the manager they employ, whose job it is to work with the players. Milan Mandaric used to be one of the worst offenders, and Roman Abramovich lost Jose Mourinho because of it. Flavio Briatore was the king of interference and his spell at QPR was almost laughable due to the endless stream of managers who passed through Loftus Road under his tenure. And now the two Davids, Sullivan and Gold are highlighting just how foolish meddling with team affairs is, as they go about things in the wrong manner at West Ham.
The open letter sent out by Sullivan after the loss to Wolves last week could only act to further severe relationships between everybody involved at the club, despite the co-owners insisting they are fully behind Gianfranco Zola. It may have been a rant that demonstrated passion, but it was badly thought out and, far from being supportive of their manager, with this action they hung him out to dry. As I said last week, they needed to either support Zola, or sack him, and they chose to do neither. It came across as attention-seeking nonsense – another attempt to get in the public eye. Since the former Birmingham owners took charge at Upton Park they haven’t stopped making noise and getting in the way of any progress Zola has been trying to make on the pitch.
The two Davids nattered on in public about Zola, his coaching staff and the players being paid too much. They probably are – just like most involved with the game – but how could they think it was a good idea to openly discuss such personal matters? Add to that the fact that they talked about the possibility of paying £100,000 per week for the ‘right player’ in the January transfer window and it just doesn’t add up.
Back in February Sullivan told the BBC: “I can’t believe the contracts I’ve inherited. The club is in a mess and we all have to pull together. If we go down, I can’t even consider the situation. It’ll be Armageddon if we go down. It’ll be worse than what’s gone on at Newcastle.”
Piling such pressure on with three months left of the season still to play was another poor decision. That stress could now make Upton Park almost unbearable as the ‘Armageddon’ situation becomes closer to reality. I just feel they’ve made a bad situation a whole lot worse and all of these matters should have been handled behind closed doors. It seems as though they have done quite the opposite of ‘all pulling together’ as they suggested was necessary.
Newcastle United were a very good example last year of how off-field problems can de-rail a team’s performance on the pitch. If West Ham are to avoid going the same way and end up in the Championship then I think it would be a good idea for Gold and Sullivan to keep quiet for the next six games and support Zola properly as they said they would. The Italian boss has returned from Sardinia and will be looking for a reaction from his players at Everton on Sunday. Of course it will be a tough ask, and if they lose the corrosive atmosphere in East London will probably worsen, especially if the Hammers’ owners continue with their very public tirade.