The end of West Ham?

Duo’s arrival is tip of the iceberg,16368,2483_1573708,00.html

TEAMtalk feels the unsettling arrivals of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano at West Ham are part of a much bigger picture.

It was touted in some quarters as West Ham’s answer to the coup which brought Ricky Villa and Ossie Ardiles to Spurs back in the late 1970s.

Five weeks on, the arrival of Argentinians Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano threatens to break one of football’s proudest clubs.

West Ham have lost their last five games, including two in the UEFA Cup against Palermo.

They have not scored while Tevez has been on the field and Mascherano was dropped last weekend.

The club lurches from defeat to board meetings as takeover speculation mounts.

Like a good old pro, and the decent person he is, manager Alan Pardew attempts to steady the ship.

Then comes the ultimate proof of West Ham’s folly in the words of Argentina coach Alfio Basile, who said: “I hope they leave the club as soon as possible. They are half-hearted and I’m worried about that.”

If Tevez and Mascherano are ‘half-hearted’ – and Basile knows them better than most – then the decision to bring them to the Premiership in the first place was half-baked.

It is football’s ultimate marriage of inconvenience.

And a salutary lesson of what can happen when clubs are tempted by the lure of foreign money and the promise of opportunists who know the price of everything to do with land and location and nothing about the value of an old and revered football institution.

After all, the Israeli businessman linked with the bid to buy the Hammers, Eli Papouchado, admits he knows nothing about football.

“I don’t even know how many players there are in each team,” he says. “But I do understand that in every business transaction there is a real estate opportunity.”

It was as honest and direct as it was scary for English football.

Whatever you say about Roman Abramovich, he has thrown himself into the running and the tradition of Chelsea. He turns up at just about every match, his delight at his huge investment obvious in his pumping fists and broad grin.

For Abramovich, Chelsea is a whim which turned into a hobby which turned into a passion.

For the men at the gates of Upton Park football is a business vehicle, pure and simple. It is there, not to swell their hearts, but their bank accounts. They do not care about tradition but the pounds that roll in. They do not see fans among the Upton Park faithful, they only see potential clients.

Tevez and Mascherano did not arrive at West Ham from Brazilian club Corinthians because Pardew saw the need for a flamboyant striker and an accomplished defensive midfielder. Pardew had built a balanced squad, one which had reached last season’s FA Cup final and qualified for Europe. Pardew certainly did not need them but just caved into the temptation of having at his disposal two World-class stars.

The Argentinians came in a move apparently engineered by prospective buyer Kia Joorabchian.

Rather than the excitement and kudos which accompanied Keith Burkinshaw’s capture of Villa and Ardiles all those years ago, these Argentinians brought with them bewilderment.

How exactly do you get two World Cup stars for nothing?

There is an old adage that if things seem to be too good to be true then they usually are and at no time has anyone been convinced that they actually wanted to play for West Ham.

The suspicion is that they were part of a grander plan, the catalysts in the takeover shenanigans, West Ham merely a stepping stone on their path elsewhere.

Meanwhile, their presence does as much for West Ham harmony in the dressing room as a grenade with the pin taken out.

For now Pardew battles on, maintaining he has never threatened to quit, insisting his priority is “getting West Ham up the Premiership table”.

West Ham has flourished under Pardew. It was the ideal example of an English club; traditional and produced its own set of players from an academy among the best in the game itself. It played an attacking 4-4-2 and Pardew’s idea was to make West Ham play entertaining football for the fans. But make no mistake, as long as the current predators are around, the threat to a club rooted in the community, with an academy system the envy of the game and a history boasting Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Sir Geoff Hurst, as well as Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand, is real.

English football should ignore it at its peril.


~ by badkow on October 6, 2006.

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