West Ham look to South America and Africa as Sullivan aims slash wages

With the news that West Ham’s new owners want to cut players and coaches wages by 25% in the summer, many think that asking modern footballers to take wage cuts will surely mean only one thing, that no-one of note will want to join the Hammers in the future and others may want to leave. However David Sullivan has given an interesting window into his mind as to where he sees the future of the club…and surprisingly the East End “boy done good” is actually looking towards South America and Africa, rather than the Seven Sisters Road.

Sullivan said in a radio interview that he has “scouts in South America and Africa” with “a strategy of bringing in young players from overseas on 12 month contracts, with an option to buy on a longer contract if they prove themselves”. It’s worked with Arsene Wenger in the past with the likes of Kolo Toure and we’ve also seen the impetus brought to Man Utd with the signings of Fabio and Rafael, but West Ham’s record of bringing in foreign youngsters isn’t all that great at present; need I bring up Savio Nsereko’s short stint at the club.

Could it also though come as a detriment to the existing and flourishing youth set-up at West Ham? At Upton Park youngsters have historically been given their chances in the first team; with many like the New England captain Rio Ferdinand as well as Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Jermain Defoe and Frank Lampard, using that opportunity to propel themselves into the footballing big time. It’s hugely important that the club keeps its English contingent and its heritage; partly as the crowd love their local stars like Mark Noble and will support them whatever, and because relying too much on foreign talent has often not worked from a pragmatic point of view in the past. As exciting as the prospect of talented Brazilian or Ghanaian players may be, the thought of any over-reliance on these youngsters in the Premier League would make the Hammers appear an even weaker proposition than they already are now; hardly a team who could, as the new owners said, achieve Champions League football in just 7 years.

Even if they could find the new Robinho or Michael Essien hidden away in a village near Sao Paulo or Accra somewhere, hugely unlikely nowadays with the amount of worldwide scouting already; it would still be a huge task to turn round a team starting from such a weak position. To be honest it sounds like a scrimp and save tactic that will cut down the millions leaking out of the club and may or may not work from the playing point of view.

As far as the cutting of existing players wages, the fact that an England international like Robert Green is thought to be on a relatively small 20k a week to begin with, might suggest Gold and Sullivan don’t have too much room for manoeuvre in the coming months. Yet Green is only the 3rd best paid of West Ham’s playing squad, suggesting the days of the ridiculous wages are largely gone already. That is apart of course from the two glaring exceptions who are thought to be on well over 50k a week; Scott Parker and Kieron Dyer. Parker was kept as he is one of West Ham’s best players and has been viewed as pivotal for preserving their surprising solidity in midfield; while Dyer is now almost unsellable with his injuries.

Sullivan frustrations are evident in his voice, saying “it’s difficult when you’re lumbered by contracts”. While he accepted that he can’t force people to take a pay cut, he added that “gradually we will run these contracts down anyway”, which certainly doesn’t say much for the belief the owners have in their current playing squad. With no-one else willing however to offer players like Dyer the huge wages West Ham are, why wouldn’t he just sit on his contract and build up an even greater nest egg for a very long retirement.

The main reason this wage cutting talk makes little sense for West Ham though and could easily force players away, is that the young stars who have kept the side afloat this season like Carlton Cole, Jack Collison, Mark Noble, Matthew Upson and Robert Green are already on wages substantially below what they could earn from making a switch to a more financially settled club. With the Hammers also unlikely to offer any real hope of trophies or success for a good many years with the weakness of the current side and the lack of money to replace them, why then would they all stay? Would you decide to stay on a weak ship that may be about to sink, as a multi-million pound yacht came sailing past?

Written By Daniel Grigg