It is five years since David Gold and David Sullivan saved West Ham from financial meltdown.
The club was on the brink of administration, staring the down the barrel of a long, painful route towards oblivion, not too dissimilar to the road Portsmouth have travelled on recently.
It hasn’t been the smoothest of rides, though. Three managers, relegation from the Premier League, a long battle for the Olympic Stadium and a fight to inject stability both on and off the pitch.
The £120million debt Gold and Sullivan inherited says all you need to know about the job they opted to take responsibility for, and they have both openly admitted that the club was in such a mess financially that, if it wasn’t their beloved West Ham, they would’ve given it a wide berth. That alone deserves the utmost respect from fans.
In the early years of their reign, particularly during the Avram Grant era that led to relegation to the Championship and the very public bid for the right to move in to the Olympic Stadium, some fans accused the owners of being ‘only interested in the money’ and therefore not doing anything for the love of the club. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
They both claim to have never taken a penny out of the club, whilst they have spent a great deal of their own cash to steady the proverbial ship. The simple fact that they agreed to clean up the mess left by the previous regime without taking a penny for themselves suggest it is actually their love for the club that drives them on, not the other way around.
In the past some fans have dismissed the notion that, had it not been for Gold and Sullivan, the club would no longer exist. “Someone else would’ve saved us.” Well the other person interested in buying the club was Tony Fernandes, and we all know how he’s getting on bankrolling a yo-yoing, struggling, hopeless QPR side.
To mark the five year anniversary of them taking on West Ham’s mess, Gold and Sullivan have released a 10 point plan. A blueprint for success, a platform upon which they want to build and grow the club.
They’ve already done the hard part. The £120million debt now stands at £40m to external creditor, and they insist West Ham will be in the black by the time the first ball is kicked at the Olympic Stadium in August 2016.
On the pitch, the team finally appears to be going in the right direction. After the set-back of relegation in 2011, we’re now sitting pretty in the top eight of the Premier League and are serious contenders for European qualification. So surely the only way forward is to aim for the next step up, the next achievement physically available?
The 10 point plan is an ambitious one. Premier League and Champions League glory in five years, the promise of world class players signing for the club, exciting and affordable football for fans. A statement of intent to finally realise dreams we sing about fading and dying every single week, to find the fortunes we claim are always hiding.
Fans of other clubs are currently laughing at Gold and Sullivan’s claims that West Ham can win the Premier League within five years. Some West Ham fans may also be laughing at what many people believe is the impossible dream. But were the same people laughing at Manchester City when they were bought by a major investor and announced their plans for domestic and european domination? No.
The dream is the same. Financial Fair Play perhaps makes our dream a lot less likely than City’s, but it’s still the same dream.
It took City three years to win their first Premier League title since the Abu Dhabi United Group started chucking their money at the club. They had the stadium in place, the bottomless pit of money and the ambition.
West Ham will have the same platform, albeit without the bottomless pit of money. Adding an iconic, world class sporting arena to a London club with a great history only adds to it’s attractiveness to major investors – and there’s undoubtedly no shortage of those waiting for the right opportunity in the Premier League.
West Ham might just be that opportunity. It may never happen and even if it doesn’t West Ham will still be a team competing in the top half of the Premier League table each year, perhaps winning domestic trophies and occasionally competing in Europe, which is a far cry from the years when simply staying in the Premier League was see as a success.
What Gold and Sullivan have done is inject some much needed purpose to West Ham United. For the first time in a very long time there really seems to be a genuine direction in which the club is heading, and it’s the way in which every football fan wants to see their beloved team going. Forwards.
You can laugh at David Gold and David Sullivan all you like, but their ambitious plans are a breath of fresh air. They would be criticised from all corners of the footballing world if they publicly stated they were content with where West Ham are now, so why should they be ridiculed for outlining their plans to turn West Ham in to one of the biggest clubs in England?