Early Doors

Wrong time to Hammer your players

Early Doors

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Imagine the scenario. You are chairman of a football club which is bottom of the Premier League, two points from safety with four matches left to play.

The team has taken one point from its last five games, your star player is struggling with injury and your next fixture is a long away trip to a star-studded side on course to reach the Champions League. Do you:

a) Avoid the press, keep your heads down to better create a siege mentality which may help instil some belief in your beleaguered squad?

b) Issue a good old 'rallying cry', calling upon fans and players to unite for the final few games of the campaign with some Rosie the Riveter-style "We Can Do It!" rhetoric?

c) Brand your players "spoilt", question their commitment to the cause and declare your chances of survival to be "25-30 per cent"?

Well, if you were West Ham joint-chairman David Sullivan, then you would of course make a beeline straight for option C.

In an interview published today, Sullivan has decided that two days before the Hammers' trip to Eastlands to play Manchester City is the perfect time to lay into his players and manager.

Sullivan told the Daily Telegraph's Jason Burt: "I think some players are spoilt, I don't say just with our players, I'm saying with all clubs. How do you motivate millionaires? It's a problem all managers have.

"Alex Ferguson has got that fear factor and I do think that a manager needs that fear factor. You look at Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Jose Mourinho. The players are a little bit frightened of them.

"But I'm sure a few of the players are already looking at where they will be next season - their contracts are up, they'll be off."

It is interesting to note that Sullivan doesn't include his own manager, Avram Grant, in that list of bosses with the "fear factor". He, along with cohorts David Gold and Karren Brady, dawdled over sacking the Israeli at the turn of the year before sticking with him as all other options evaporated.

Sullivan now paints a picture of a dressing room full of disinterested mercenaries who couldn't care less about the funny bloke standing in front of them drawing arrows on a whiteboard.

"It's a very difficult decision," Sullivan added. "(Does Grant) go for players who are committed to the club? If you look at that last game and someone is on a Bosman, will that player risk injury? Some will, some won't. It depends on the mentality of the player."

Whatever the truth of that image may be, being portrayed in such a manner is hardly likely to inspire the squad. This does not read like a canny ploy from Sullivan to get his players to prove him wrong.

In all fairness it is clear that Sullivan and Gold - both life-long West Ham fans - care deeply about the club. Sullivan reveals that he wakes up "10 times a night thinking about the state of the club", and he is at pains to express his regret at seeing fellow supporters suffer through the club's ongoing malaise.

But it is just that passion for the club which is making it just so irresistible to interfere and speak out when not required.

Sullivan has form in this area. In March of last year, he posted an extraordinary open letter on the club's website following a 3-1 defeat at home to Wolves which he branded "shambolic" and "pathetic". West Ham survived that season, but manager Gianfranco Zola didn't.

At the time, Hammers defender Matthew Upson dismissed his chairman's comments as "irrelevant", but Sullivan has picked up the bad habit, believing the tactic worked last time because he is trying it again now. This time, the club's more extreme circumstances require more extreme words.   

In that same open letter, Sullivan admitted: "It's hard being an owner. I'm finding it's harder being an owner who is a supporter." For his beloved club's sake, he needs to strike the right balance between the two.

- - -

West Ham's Danny Gabbidon has been hit by an FA improper conduct charge for a sweary post on his Twitter feed earlier this month. Having seemingly sustained a torrent of abuse from fans following his side's 2-1 defeat to Aston Villa, the Wales international tweeted: "U know what, f*** the lot of you, u will never get another tweet from me again, you just don't get it do you. Bye bye."

If only the 31-year-old could have waited a couple of weeks before replying, he would have been fine. If there was ever a time to vent your spleen in 140 characters without fear of reprisal, it is at around 11am this morning when Twitter will no doubt crash under the weight of snidey comments about Kate Middleton's dress. (Obligatory royal wedding reference? Check!)

Elsewhere in the Twittersphere, Wayne Rooney yesterday revealed that he had been visited by the police as part of their investigations into the News Of The World phone-hacking case.

Rooney sarcastically added the hashtag '#bigsurprise', and he's right. It seems inconceivable that Andy Gray and Sienna Miller are the most famous people into whose lives the tabloid lurked via their mobile phones. Any footballer of even slight note must have had his phone hacked. Upon them receiving call-ups to the England squad, quick delves into the voicemails of Matt Jarvis and Jordan Henderson were probably standard procedure had it not been for the case blowing up.

Still, it does make ED wonder what sort of stuff a red-top hack would hear were he to get access to Rooney's voicemails:

"Easy Wayne, it's Rio. I've been thinking of nicknames we can give Javier Hernandez. 'Chicharito' is a bit too long and hard to pronounce. What about 'Ernie'?"

"Alright Wazza? It's Darron here. Rio tells me you've just joined that Twitter thingy. Looks like a good laugh. How do I sign up?"

"Hello? Wayne? It's (FOOTBALLER A). Looks like I might be in a bit of bother. Do you know any good lawyers?"

- - -

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "If you sit back and look at the big picture, effectively they are hitting a swift kick to the team that they supposedly love, right where it hurts. It's not good. I don't know what it's going to take... Is it going to take the police going in and arresting fans? I don't know, it might be. It certainly has to stop but me sitting here saying that is not going to stop it because people, unfortunately, don't listen." - Rangers assistant manager Ally McCoist is at a loss over how to stop the sectarian chanting which has led to UEFA fining the club £35,000 and banning their fans from attending their next away Europa League match.

FOREIGN VIEW: "The toddler's favourite position has not yet been determined. However, we can speak of a right-footed player with a very good kicking technique, perseverance and, importantly, football genes via his grandfather." - Dutch club VVV-Venlo announce the 'signing' 18-month-old Baerke van der Meij after seeing him kick footballs with amazing accuracy into his toy box on YouTube.

COMING UP: We will have video previews and team news for every one of Saturday's Premier League fixtures, plus team news for all the other major leagues around Europe. The final part of our exclusive interview with Neil Warnock sees him talk about taking QPR back up to the Premier League, his unfinished business as a top-flight boss and how he manages the mercurial Adel Taarabt. 

Jim White and Paul Parker will be filing their latest blogs on all things football, while The Fantasist will be dropping in for the latest Yahoo! Fantasy Football webchat.

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