U-turn or simply speculation rearing its head over Upton Park?

Since FootballFanCast reported on the breaking news last week that West Ham co-owner David Sullivan had unilaterally blocked Tottenham Hotspurs’ reported approach for Scott Parker, the story has continued unabated. Rumours and press reports have duly circulated, suggesting that Liverpool may now be interested, that the player wishes to hear Spurs’ offer and that the Lilywhites may have received some form of encouragement from West Ham prior to their bid. David Sullivan’s fervent remarks were widely welcomed by Hammers fans but is there any substance to these reports? Is the colourful co-owner reassessing his stance or is media speculation simply rearing its head over Upton Park?

The new Irons boss Avram Grant has echoed the comments of David Sullivan in the past week regarding the sought after midfielder. “We want to plan to improve for the next few seasons and Scott Parker is a big part of this process.” For West Ham fans the hope was such comments would put this unwanted story to bed. The club’s evident displeasure at Spurs’ bid for Parker was counteracted by Harry Redknapp’s criticism of Sullivan’s decision to make the bid public. “I’m sure the chairman got some form of encouragement or he wouldn’t have made the offer.” In scenes reminiscent of a school slanging match, Grant hit back claiming that there was no truth in this suggestion. It is worth recalling that relations between the two London clubs have not been amicable in the recent past. West Ham’s former chief executive Scott Duxbury stated that under his watch the club would not do any transfer business with Spurs and the new owners remain bitter at their rivals’ late and successful attempt to sign Eidur Gudjohnson earlier this year. However, do Redknapp’s comments allude to a conscious decision by West Ham to unsettle Parker and increase his price tag?

Sullivan is not averse to saying one thing when meaning another. Shortly after his takeover of the east London club with partner David Gold, he made a series of comments about Gianfranco Zola’s affability and the need for players to take a sizeable pay cut before a home clash against Birmingham. When West Ham came through that contest Karen Brady portrayed Sullivan as a ‘smart old bird’ as he had purportedly united the dressing room and took the pressure off the players. It was a tactic he had employed before but had it gone the other way it would have been less of the wily old fox and more of the old man in the fanciful claret smoking jacket.

Does this raise the prospect of Sullivan attempting to be double-handed by unsettling Parker whilst securing the best possible price for him? West Ham fans would not welcome such a strategy but there are a few reasons why media outlets, including talkSPORT are intimating a potential U-turn. The co-owners were not reticent to outline the size of the club’s debts following their takeover which they estimated at over £100 million. Player sales are the most efficient way of raising revenue and despite saying the best players would not be sold, the top performers at a club will attract the most attention. The Hammers have signed four players this summer but the only players who have left have done so on free transfers. With twelve senior midfielders on their books this is the area where player sales are most likely. Following the signing of Thomas Hitzlsperger and the improvement of academy graduate Mark Noble, are the club hierarchy reviewing the stance adopted last week?

The West Ham faithful will hope not and the duration of this story will depend on Parker who has given no concrete indication that he is seeking a move away from the Boleyn Ground. His commitment and passion on the pitch have made him a revered figure at West Ham. The fans may just be starting to realise, however, that Sullivan’s comments should always be taken with a pinch of salt.


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