It wasn’t very long ago when a certain Icelandic contingent rocked up in east London.
They proclaimed that the best players would grace the Upton Park turf and that the club would be playing Champions League football within five years. In came expensive has-beens on pumped up salaries and then the wheels fell off.
The Icelandic banks fell foul of the recession and West Ham were left clinging onto the wreckage of a financial disaster. Administration looked likely and the downward spiral of a club in turmoil was very much on the cards, despite a couple of loosely tabled bids from interested parties.
However, in 2016, the club are stabilised and looking further forward than anyone in claret and blue could have dreamt as this season draws to a close.
In January 2010, former Birmingham City owners, David Gold and David Sullivan took control of the club. A 50% holding, which valued the club at £105m then, gave them the final say on all matters at Upton Park. Karren Brady joined as vice-chairman, but although the deal was completed in Sullivan’s name, Gold and Sullivan were named as joint chairman.
Speaking after the announcement, David Sullivan said: “We’re taking on a huge task at a club with enormous problems. It will take time for us to turn it around. We have short and long term goals,” he added. “In the short term we want to stay in the Premier League, in the long term, we would like to be challenging for the top four and the champions league.” It was made known by Sullivan that the club’s debts added up to an unbelievable £110m at the time.
What they’ve done since is incredible. Not only was there the immediate crisis left by the Icelanders, but also the legacy of continuing payments over the Carlos Tevez affair to Sheffield United.
The improving finances, the move to the new stadium and West Ham’s location will be of interest to foreign investors, but the pair are adamant that selling the club is not an option. They welcome investment, but it seems as though they will hand over the club to their children once they step aside and keep it within West Ham people.
The club are one of only eight in the Premier League with English owners and owners that have seen their initial £85.7m investment more than double in value since 2010.
Whilst debts remain, the club’s owners were optimistic that all external debt would be cleared prior to the Olympic Stadium move. Great strides have been taken in the past six years to turn a financially bereft and struggling club into one today that has fought for Champions League football and wants to sign world-class players this summer.
West Ham fans tweeted the board last summer, after a number of new signings joined the club, with admiration and thanks. That grateful affection has paid dividends on the field and will no doubt have encouraging financial advantages over the coming years, if success can be maintained and built upon.
The two David’s are true footballing alchemists.