Yesterday we said:
West Ham’s new owners are playing two hands. If they stay in the Premiership, fine and dandy, but if not there’s the possibility of moving into the Olympic stadium in a few years which might allow the lucrative sale of their existing ground.
Only a few hours afterwards, faced with relegation and ejection from the Premiership "spaceship bound for Planet Megabucks", they showed the first of their cards in ruthlessly dismissing manager Alan Pardew just days after new chairman Eggert Magnusson claimed he had faith in him. Everyone would acknowledge that the Hammers' form had nosedived since May's last gasp cup final defeat, but the new board have given Pardew virtually no time to put things right now that off the field turmoil, which has so disturbed the club, has finally subsided.
It was not exactly a shock given recent results, but many fans are still stunned by the board's action in the face of recent public backing for Pardew. Journalists close to the Hammers are divided into those who feel he'd lost touch with his own players and those who believe he was let down by them. In the Daily Mail alone Neil Ashton criticises what he sees as Pardew's ill-judged arrogance and claims "Some of the squad felt that he was operating the team by remote control," while Lee Clayton recalls a face to face meeting with Pardew that changed him from critic to believer and suggests that the manager may not have been the one suffering delusions:
One player was overheard telling his team-mates: "I should be at Manchester United or Arsenal." A senior colleague mockingly replied: "Do you know what it takes to play for Manchester United, son? You want to take a look at yourself."
Whoever's right, there's little doubt that the sudden arrival of Argentinian world cup stars Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano caused waves that eventually saw Pardew washed overboard. Cutting an underperforming manager adrift is, of course, the textbook act for any aspiring no-nonsense chairman, but we hope there's a credible replacement lined up. The talk since the takeover has been of moving to the next level and challenging for honours and regular European football. A little surprising, then, that bookmakers have been inundated with backing for Charlton stalwart Alan Curbishley. At any subsequent talks we can imagine both sides quietly thinking, "Well, they weren't exactly what we'd hoped for, but they are close to home and we should be safe enough." Curbishley surely had his eye on the top half of the table rather than a team more callow in the Premiership than the one he's just left while if West Ham really want to put down a marker about their future intentions shouldn't they be looking amongst the likes of Claudio Ranieri, and good old Sven?
Even with a handsome war chest on offer at Upton Park, international calibre managers will find it hard to stop themselves looking at least twice at Eggert's encouraging smile having seen Pardew helped over the side so readily. Just along the river HMS Charlton is still listing heavily to port despite master Iain Dowie being marched hastily off the plank. Along with Mr Clayton of the Mail we fear that in a few months' time the erstwhile gaffers might not be the only ones blowing briney bubbles.
Picture via Aphonos' Flickr stream.