Alex McLiesh has hit back at David Sullivan after the new West Ham owner’s recent move to lure Liam Ridgewell and Sebastian Larsson to Upton Park. The Birmingham City manager is unhappy at his former boss for suggesting that the Hammers will trigger a perceived loophole in the pair’s contract situation and prise them away from St Andrews.
The contracts of Ridgewell and Larsson expire at the end of this season but Birmingham hold a further 12-month option on both players. But Sullivan, who actually drew up the contract while he was still chairman at the Blues, believes the extension clause may not be permissible under Fifa regulations, if written confirmation of taking up the 12-month option is not confirmed in writing within a fixed time frame.
McLiesh said: “This in the man that did the contracts in the first place. They used them year-in, year-out at Birmingham. I don’t know why they think they are not recognised by Fifa, but if someone wants to challenge it, it will be four or five years before it is resolved. There will be lawyers and all kinds of paper work. It is not going to be ratified in 24 hours after one call to Fifa. Our contracts are approved by the Premier League and for someone to challenge them it would be a protracted and drawn out affair. So they are welcome to try.”
One would assume that Sullivan must be confident of securing the signatures of the two players without the hassle that McLiesh has predicted if such a move is made. Otherwise it will surely be a situation West Ham could do without in their current financial predicament? Sullivan and his co-owner David Gold are obviously not afraid to fight their corner when needed but it seems as though this case would be asking for trouble if McLiesh is to be believed. And there is also a question as to whether the two players mentioned would actually improve their squad so much to warrant such a pursuit – it is unlikely they would.
Meanwhile, the Birmingham manager, who has had an excellent season in charge of the West Midlands club is not in any hurry to finalise contracts for next season. It is said that Ridgewell and Larsson are both looking for wage hikes after the central part they have played in taking the Blues onto the cusp of European qualification.
McLiesh said: “We have to keep driving people on and I am in no rush to have to deal with things like contracts. We don’t want to discuss anything until the end of the season.”
West Ham will also have to start putting some points on the board to make sure that their talented squad moves away from the relegation zone over the coming weeks. Losing their Premier League status would be disastrous for the Hammers but if they do have a successful end to their campaign it will be interesting to see whether or not Sullivan takes on his old club in the summer.