| 2.8°C Dublin

John Giles: Hot air in ‘bubbles’ blown by West Ham owners

IT COULD well be that the transformation in Birmingham City's fortunes over the past six months had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that David Gold and David Sullivan sold up and moved on.

But I suspect there's something more than just coincidence at work and events at Upton Park over the past few days have done nothing to dilute that view.

The first thing about the Gold/Sullivan takeover at West Ham which caught my eye was the comment from the new owners claiming that the finances are in a much worse state than they previously realised.

When I hear something like that from men who are supposed to be serious businessmen, my heart sinks. Are they seriously suggesting that they bought something without knowing exactly what it was they were spending their money on?

Most of us will never run a business empire but I know that when I buy a car, I want to know what's under the bonnet and how much it's going to cost me.

I find it astonishing that businessmen walking into a deal with their eyes open and with many years of running a Premier League/Championship club in Birmingham were incapable of doing the proper due diligence on a company previously owned by a man who played a significant enough role in the collapse of the Icelandic economy.

Gold and Sullivan's conclusion after discovering this apparent hidden debt is that they must reduce wages across the board; a position which might be understandable if they hadn't brought three new strikers, Benni McCarthy, Ilan and Mido, to strengthen the squad.

I know the answer I would give if I was a player. It's ridiculous to try to take on a new venture if you don't have the money to pay the costs involved and the excuse that they didn't grasp the full scale of financial problems at a club simply won't wash.

None of this is good and Gianfranco Zola must be very jittery indeed. When your new owner suggests that you might be ‘too nice' for the Premier League, maybe it's time to start examining options.

I remember wondering whether Zola was too weak for the Premier League when he was hired by Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson and shrugged his shoulders at the thought of a Director of Football with some responsibility for squad affairs.

But he surprised me and turned West Ham into a decent side before the world banking collapse pulled the rug out from under his efforts.

Now, it looks like he could have another two Directors of Football to deal with. I don't think Zola had very much input in the signings made by West Ham in January and if that's true, I fear for him.

The surest way to send a club into the Championship from the Premier League is to give the boardroom influence over the shape of the team and in this area, Gold and Sullivan have baggage.

Zola takes West Ham to Birmingham this evening and he will find a club flourishing under new and reasonably discreet ownership – a far cry from the days when a great deal of hot air emanated from St Andrew's.

Sullivan had 18 years to make a go of Birmingham City and couldn't. Steve Bruce gave the club six years and when he finally saw the writing on the wall in 2007 and tried to move on, he was messed around.

I must say, I thought Alex McLeish was walking into a minefield when he gave up the Scotland job to move to Birmingham and was promptly relegated.

He worked hard to win promotion on the bounce against a background of unrest between the fans and the club owners before fate dealt him a good hand and he grabbed the opportunity.

McLeish is building steadily and appears to have full control over transfers. He has done a fine job on limited resources, ferreting out gems like Scott Dann and handing Stephen Carr another chance.

There's no mystery to anything McLeish has done. He has simply been allowed to follow his own instincts and has spent wisely.

Like a good businessman, he has invested well and Birmingham City is reaping the benefits. Time will tell whether Gold and Sullivan ever reach a point where West Ham is successful and stable but I wouldn't hold out much hope.

Zola is a good manager and looks like he can pick a good player out from the herd but I suspect there will be three people picking the team before every game and no matter how comfortable he was with his terms and conditions when he first arrived, I believe he will soon tire of the new situation and move on.


Privacy