News that Gianfranco Zola has had to 'go to war' with the new owners David's Gold and Sullivan will surely be of no surprise to anyone, barring those who take no interest in football or know little of the two's history at Birmingham.
David Gold's statement of threat that the financial situation at Upton Park is so bad that all staff will have to take a 25% pay cut, may be true, but it was badly timed and, in any case, should be spoken of behind closed doors and not waved like a petulant child in front of playing and coaching staff.
Some may say I know little of football management, my previous stint at Mooro's FC providing one win, one draw and a helluva lot of losses, but I have always maintained that my one season in charge of the God-like genius's Sunday League side gave me a better insight into managing people than any number of years in a City office. This statement from the Chairman served no useful purpose other than to continue the weeks long charade that G&S are some sort of saviours returning like prophets to the east end to save the club from foreign infidels. It is dishonest as it is puerile.
If my football management skills aren't up to scratch though, I do have experience of becoming unmotivated. The last contract I had with a client ended with the parent company closing the Head Office of the subsidiary company and moving all the positions to the North East leaving the London based staff facing redundancy at best. Ok some people worked at it and tried to help the smooth operation of moving everything up North but most, faced with losing a job many of them had had for years, simply whiled away the days until the severance payment came. It was a depressing and demeaning experience and there wasn't even the offer of a pay cut or a chance of a transfer to Arsenal at the end of it.
Nobody is pretending that the situation at West Ham is anything less than dire; most West Ham fans can look at Portsmouth FC and think 'there by the grace of God' and the new ownership of Gold and Sullivan was most welcome even if there were some of us who thought other potential buyers offered a better basis on which to build. But it was the G&S empire that won and nobody doubts they are adept at building businesses at a profit and that there are things going on at West Ham that made little financial sense. The fact that former MD Scott Duxbury drove an Aston Martin and the Stadium store has a surplus of 26,000 unsold home kits that they were looking to add too are the type of issues that many fans won't be surprised about but also the type of thing they would like to see owners investigating.
On the playing side, West Ham insistence on signing and paying players who spend most of their time on the treatment table is something that has long been questioned. Situations like that of the former striker Dean Ashton cannot be accounted for obviously, but the signings of Kieron Dyer and Freddie Ljungberg always looked dubious at best and that's even before you factor in the cost to the club of the Carlos Tevez affair. In short, we all understand that the new owners are going to look at the outgoings and ask pertinent questions and it's right and proper that they do.
But let's also be honest; nobody of any note in the current West Ham team is going to take a pay cut. OK the odd Noble or Collison may think it a worthwhile short-term decision to stay but seasoned pro's and England prospects are going to move on because that is the way business, as well as football, works. West Ham's prime concern - and I don't just mean the Management, team and coaching staff but the whole of the club - is to ensure that relegation is avoided because, if West Ham become a Championship team, any cost cutting is going to include the loss of premiership payments and TV rights, if the Hammers remain in the top flight then the financial situations eases a little. So, if what goes on at the stadiums on a Saturday or whenever is what drives the whole financial ethos then what is the point of undermining it? Tell the players that they are the best, pat them on the back, encourage them, berate them - do whatever you have to do to get the best out of that player and then send them out. Then, if you decide in the summer they are too expensive to pay, then is the time to offer them a pay cut or sell them.
I support Gianfranco Zola because he is the manager of the club. I support him anyway but, even if I didn't, then I still support him (if you get my drift). That is the right way to do things and it will only change if the manager leaves or is sacked; then I will support the new manager (providing it is not Neil Warnock as was rumoured on www.westhamonline.net this week!).
David Gold's involvement only underlines what I feared from the off; this duo are going to be in print every week expressing their every concern and opinion, wanted or not. If a man like Zola can get angered then you can just imagine what will happen with others. Alex McLeish hinted in rather gentle terms that he was glad to see the back of them and I can imagine why. My guess is that, long term at least, this is the beginning of a large crack that will probably ensure Gianfranco Zola has no opportunity to become a managerial legend at Upton Park, as I suspect if he wants to stay he will either have to live with these type of pronouncements or get out and I think he will choose the latter option.
Some Zola doubters may not see this as much of an issue but I think this is an indicator that West Ham have owners that are going to running to the media at every opportunity and that is going to have an impact on the type of coaching staff we can acquire and, by definition, the type of future player.
If Gold and Sullivan really think they have 'come home' then perhaps they could be a bit more circumspect with their pronouncements and think about things like team morale, but I suspect they think that as 'real east enders' most of us will be happy if they 'mouth off' and 'give it large'. Sadly, I don't think that translates too well into Italian.