19 January ~ Nothing better sums up the total shambles that has been West Ham this past week than the statement the club released on Tuesday. In their first official communication since a senior member of the board took it upon themselves to brief the media that Avram Grant would be replaced by Martin O'Neill on Saturday evening, the short statement began with two paragraphs defending Karren Brady, followed by one sentence explaining that Grant was staying on.
Yet another humiliation for a man who has been so badly treated these past couple of months. And it's more than likely that owners Davids Gold and Sullivan wouldn't have said anything at all had it not been for the fact that Brady was accused by the Daily Mirror of agitating for Grant's removal by texting the club's senior players. It was a sorry end to a demeaning saga which has left the club looking like a laughing stock.
It has also left many West Ham fans in the strange position of supporting a manager who in all likelihood will get the club relegated. And, if this happens, Gold, Sullivan and Brady will be as much to blame as Grant himself. Grant's appointment was never universally popular among West Ham fans and one win by late November suggested that the former Portsmouth manager was not up to the job.
Indeed, if the owners had held their hands up at that point and admitted they'd got it wrong very few people would have argued with the decision to axe Grant. Instead they dithered. They did not make the decision to sack Grant, but neither did they make the decision to give him their full backing. And it's this half-baked solution which directly led to this week's events.
First there was points targets, each helpfully leaked to the media. Seven points from four games we were told, then six from three. Each time Grant came just close enough to meeting them to save himself. Then Brady used her column in the Sun to explain why she had blocked the signing of Steve Sidwell. Her argument, that the club already had too many midfielders, was sound but the decision to air it in public rightly infuriated Grant.
A dismal 5-0 defeat at Newcastle at the start of the year finally made the board act and it appears that Martin O'Neill had been persuaded to join. But again the board got it wrong. They started shouting about it before a deal had been completed with the Ulsterman and O'Neill suddenly had second thoughts. He backed out and Gold and Sullivan were suddenly back to square one – only this time with a manager emboldened, players disgusted and fans bemused.
With just a couple of weeks left in the transfer window the owners will now have to put their hands in their pockets and spend their money on players wanted by a manager they clearly don't rate. They then have to hope he somehow manages to inspire his side to put a run together which would move them clear of the relegation zone.
If they don't, not only could it spell relegation but it could also have serious repercussions in their ultimate dream to move to the Olympic Stadium. And if that goes wrong they will only have themselves to blame. Mark Segal