With the identity of the first club to fall through the relegation trapdoor finally confirmed, the already widespread whispering and speculating about what may become of West Ham United has gathered pace. Although they were tipped to struggle at the beginning of the season, few could have predicted the despairing nature of their demise in a campaign in which they are now guaranteed to finish bottom of the Premier League. Relegation is more and more proving to be a tough obstacle for clubs to overcome, with the financial hit often dealing a crippling blow in their bids for recovery. Leeds United, Charlton Athletic, Sheffield United and Southampton amongst others were subsequently relegated again soon after, while clubs like Middlesbrough and Derby County have also not as yet threatened a return to the top flight. Were a similar fate to befall West Ham, it would not particularly come as a shock.
The obligatory player exodus that a relegated club seems to suffer should hit West Ham just as hard as previous clubs. The impressive Demba Ba, Rob Green and particularly Scott Parker have been the best of a rather bad bunch this season, and should not be short of suitors this summer. Fellow England internationals Carlton Cole, Keiron Dyer and Matthew Upson also look likely to depart. Financial director Nick Igoe had warned that relegation would lead to necessary squad trimming, with a huge decrease in TV money meaning the Londoners, who last year reported over £20million losses, will need to balance the books.
However Chairman David Gold insisted that the club were not desperate to sell their star names: “We are not in any hurry. We must receive the proper amount of compensation for any player that we sell. If we don’t then the player will stay with us in the Championship,” despite admitting last week that he and co-owner David Sullivan may have to plough a significant chunk of money into the coffers that they may never see again.
The Hammers bosses also face the painstaking task of appointing a successor to Avram Grant, the Israeli having been relieved of his duties promptly after the club’s relegation was confirmed at Wigan on Sunday. Gold has stressed the importance of picking the right man amid rumours that Grant, who had also been relegated with Portsmouth last season, had lost the support of his players. Early reports suggesting Steve McLaren was a front-runner for the post were quashed as the Yorkshireman ruled himself out of the running.
On a more positive note for Hammers fans, Gold was confident that relegation would not prove a stumbling block in the club’s proposed move to the Olympic Stadium in 2012. Having prepared for a worst case scenario, the former Birmingham Chairman said that the financial hit of dropping into the Championship would not prevent the move from going ahead as scheduled. “In fact we were budgeting last year for relegation and fortunately we managed to survive under [Gianfranco] Zola. So there is absolutely no financial issues at all, we had always budgeted for relegation.” Whether the stadium will be hosting Premier League football when it is eventually ready remains to be seen.