I’ve written several articles on West Ham previously, and while I don’t support the club, I do retain an interest largely thanks to ExWHUemployee. As an outsider, this in a way allows me to possibly see things differently to those with an emotional connection to West Ham. However, these are probably similar views to many who read this piece.
First, I’d like to start by making a quick comment on Ex. If you’re a West Ham supporter, you have the best ITK in the business, in my opinion. He gives you reliable information, first, and he also protects the club by knowing what to share and when, and what to hold back. He also uses his presence to deliver a fantastic podcast with Dave, events which are great value and feature special guests, and more importantly, to help drive fundraising efforts for good causes.
So, onto West Ham. Predominantly, this article is going to be about my thoughts and opinions on the board and how they go about their business when it comes to recruitment. I say, board, in my opinion, David Sullivan is the driving force behind how West Ham currently recruit, and I do think while you may have the odd success along the way, it’s not sustainable and I don’t believe it to be the most professional way to work either.
On David Sullivan, I don’t know the bloke, so, I take my opinions on him from what I see, hear and read. I recall writing a piece on him previously where he was suggesting he will bring this player or that player to the club, spending massive amounts, and then said deals not happening. As many have mentioned previously, I do believe there’s an arrogance to how he goes about things, but also a naivety, and I think it has been his and the club’s downfall at times. And it seems like it will be for a good while to come.
I think David Sullivan likes the thought of being able to associate and do business with the top dogs, but I think they equally enjoy “working” with him. Take Jorge Mendes for example. I can recall a couple of occasions where he has led Sullivan and West Ham down a path where they were always going to come away empty-handed. The first being Paulo Fonseca’s links to the West ham manager’s job, and the second more recently with the Gedson Fernandes saga.
On Fonseca, I understand from sources of mine, at the time this was to secure a new deal at Shakhtar Donetsk, which he went on to sign before leaving for AS Roma. The Gedson Fernandes situation saw West Ham, as well as many other clubs, offered the player. Fernandes was being “pimped out” to most top teams to generate interest, and Mendes, in my opinion, used West Ham to secure the deal with Spurs. Agents regularly play clubs, especially rivals, against each other. And, let’s face it, Mendes usually moves his players to outfits where he already has a significant vested interest, i.e. Jose Mourinho at Spurs.
It’s also clear that West ham’s recruitment is what is often referred to as agent led. But, by agent led, this means friends of David Sullivan. So, for example, Will Salthouse of Unique Sports Management. To my knowledge, the following players at West Ham fall under the USM banner: Darren Randolph, Aaron Cresswell, Ryan Fredricks and Michail Antonio.
In my opinion, and it’s my opinion only, when you are recruiting via agents, they are going to do what makes sense to them and their clients in most instances, rather than the club if that makes sense. If, for example, West Ham suggested they need a goalkeeper, and Sullivan spoke to his agent friends, they are going to present goalkeepers they represent over keepers they don’t represent, as it makes financial sense to do so.
I think this approach can undermine the manager in place at the club. Rather than being able to manage critical areas such as recruitment, or at least play a key role, they can at times revert to just being the coach who selects the team and takes training. I’m not saying that’s the case with David Moyes at West Ham, but surely he wants to bring the players who fit his plans, rather than who an agent suggests because it will provide them with a more significant financial bonus.
In a way, agents are like car salespeople in how they go about their business when presenting players to clubs. They are going to tell you their player is the right choice. They will do all they can to convince you they’re not only the right player but the right personality too, another area neglected by David Sullivan and West Ham’s recruitment process.
As mentioned several times on the West Ham Way podcast, and in articles I’ve written on my club, having players with the right mentality is crucial if you are to be successful in achieving your goals. However, if it’s just a case of leaving it to agents, I don’t think you will find out enough about players, and this can, of course, prove to be detrimental in the long run.
For a traditional club with a rich history, and an academy which has produced a lot of talented footballers over the years, I feel they must act and go back to basics in a sense. Bring in a recruitment team who work for the best of West Ham, not themselves and establish proper scouting networks in the UK and abroad. Focus on bringing the right players and people, and you’ll see the benefits in the long term.