23 January 2007

January in East London

It’s amazed me how many times I’ve seen West Ham’s name come up in transfer dealings and speculation. Eggert Magnusson will seemingly sign anyone in the hopes of staying in the Premier League for next year’s television money bonanza. West Ham is spending money hand over fist so far, and the transfer window still has a week to go.

Luis Boa Morte - ~£5m (undisclosed)
Calum Davenport - ~£3m (undisclosed)
Lucas Neill - ~£1.5m (undisclosed)
Nigel Quashie - £1.5m
Kepa Blanco – loan, option to buy in June

In addition, Ashley Young turned down an £8m+ move, and West Ham has had bids of £4m and £6m rejected for Matty Upson. Including the money for those two players, West Ham’s spending would have totaled somewhere near £25 million, not including wages. As it stands, it’s closer to £11m. Still no small change, especially after you've already dropped over £85m to purchase the club.

Curbishley has identified where he sees weaknesses in West Ham, but will it do them any good? On paper, Boa Morte should bring goals, Neill solves the right back problem, Davenport will be cover for Ferdinand and Gabbidon, and Quashie is a veteran of relegation struggles (a backhanded compliment if I’ve ever written one), but will they settle, will they fit with the rest of the squad?

The biggest fear is West Ham will dole out this money in fees and wages, and still go down in May. It would leave the club in a far worse situation than when they were relegated in 2003. Not only due to the loss of TV revenue (this year the winning club will get £30m, next year’s last-placed side will earn that), but I don’t know if they have the assets of the 2003 squad. Money lost through relegation was recouped by the sales of Cole, Defoe, James, and Carrick among others. Ashton, Reo-Coker, Benayoun and Anton Ferdinand may garner the same, but it would severely deplete the club and squash their promotion hopes for at least a season.

The Hammers currently sit in 18th among the relegation places, and look at the games they still have to play. They are still to face all the top-five sides, although they’re only away to Arsenal and United. Against direct relegation competition, they have to travel to Sheffield, Wigan and Charlton; the only home game against a team with a similar league position is against Watford.

But what are their options? It all comes down to Magnusson. To make a difference, it has to be silly money; the January transfer market almost always brings inflated costs and second-choice signings. He made the first step in firing Pardew and shelling out for Curbishley, and since he’s already started down the road, it makes sense to continue.

His other option was to sit back and hope for the best. Pray that the talent already in the side would be enough to see the season out. Start saving money and selling assets now, also known as the Watford method. Hammers fans would have never accepted that, not to mention how ridiculous it would make his original investment in the club look.

So really, the point of this wasn’t to question spending. Magnusson has to spend for the sake of the club, there’s no other choice thanks to West Ham’s start to the season. I don’t know if I would spend in a similar manner; I can pick flaws in each of the signings, but as has been said, you make the most out of what’s available in January, as you don’t always have the pick of the player.

I just don’t know if it will turn their season around. That's the $64,000 question. Watford, Wigan, and Charlton seem more likely prospects for the drop, especially with their play of late, but West Ham has been contravening expectations all season.

We will, however, get to see if Curbishley is the miracle worker he was made out to be at Charlton.

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