The last 24 hours has generated some interesting comments and news to come out of West Ham. You would not mind being a fly on the wall inside the boardroom at Upton Park. Ahead of a massive game against Birmingham City, West Ham’s co-owner David Sullivan seems to have shot his mouth off at the wrong time.
West Ham manager Gianfranco Zola, who comes across as a softly spoken gentleman when speaking to the media, is aggravated by the fact that the owners have spoken publicly about the playing and coaching team having to take pay cuts. Sullivan warned of a financial “Armageddon” at West Ham and promised pay cuts this summer for all staff, including the players and Zola. The Hammers boss seems to have been upset by one of the owners going public with the plans. He is quoted, in the Guardian, as saying: “I think that article should have been done maybe at another time. Before a match like this it would have been better to say that at another time and maybe to talk to us first before talking to a newspaper.”
What is sad about a situation like this is that the club is fighting for survival, but the manager and the owners are fighting with each other. There is no doubt that, to use a school playground expression, “he started it” should be directed at Sullivan. Zola is well within his rights to be upset with the owners because they have made his task harder. Just how much effect this has had on the squad remains to be seen; probably the result and performance against Birmingham will give clues as to how badly the morale has been affected.
As ever with owners, they are incredibly ruthless people. Zola’s job could be on the line with his reaction to Sullivan’s warning, and even though it was Sullivan who created the drama, nothing is likely to affect him or the other owner, David Gold. It seems that the off-the-field events been weakening Zola’s grip as a manager for some time. If the owners were to follow the path that normally maps itself out in these types of matters, then they could be looking for a new manager, preferably someone with a lot of experience. The flip side to this is the fact that Zola is a young manager with lots of potential, so by developing the youngsters he can grow as a manager. It remains to be seen whether the owners go against ownership trends and have the patience.
Whilst the team’s primary concern is how to beat Birmingham, and then how to beat the drop, they will always listen to their manager first. The way Sullivan has spoken regarding the wage cut will make the players performance different. It might boost their levels of effort and show the owners that not money, but keeping the club in the Premiership, is their main goal. Zola would welcome the opportunity to discuss the statements made by Sullivan, face to face, but needs to concentrate on the football matters first. It remains to be seen whether or not he will be given the time to do this.
Incidentally, Sullivan gave an interview to Sky Sports News, saying that it is likely to be his last one this season. His honesty in revealing the problems at Upton Park might be refreshing in terms of his approach, but try telling Gianfranco Zola that.