The biggest fire sale in Premier League history was underway tonight as West Ham United duly crashed out of the Premiership following their 3-2 away defeat at Wigan.
The club’s joint-owners – David Gold and David Sullivan – wasted little time in dispensing with the services of their hapless manager Avram Grant.
Given the depth of the club’s financial woes – Gold claimed the club was £110 million in debt when the pair bought a 50% stake in the club 17 months ago – the stricken Hammers are unlikely to waste much time in likewise bundling as many of their top flight stars out of the ‘Exit!’ door as possible.
All of which might spark a little interest in Norfolk where the newly-promoted Canaries are heading for the summer sales with £40 million ear-marked for Paul Lambert’s transfer kitty in fees and wages.
After all, three of West Ham’s biggest, home-grown assets have Norfolk connections – keeper Robert Green was once of Norwich, Matthew Upson was born and bred in the borderlands of Diss, while Sports Writers Player of the Year Scott Parker once enjoyed a memorable loan spell at Carrow Road.
Alongside fellow England international Carlton Cole, all four are expected to make a sharp exit out of the East End this summer.
Gold was clearing the decks last week – before the Latics’ sensational second-half comeback this afternoon banged a final nail into the Hammers coffin.
“It’s unrealistic to ask an England player to come down and play in the Championship,” said Gold, speaking to BBC’s Football Focus earlier this month as the trap door started to open.
“It impacts on his career. Would I try [to stop them]? Of course, I would try but you would have a one in 10 chance.”
Which – if any – would spark Lambert’s interest is another matter.
Given the levels of Parker’s performances this season, he is likely to have his pick of the Premiership’s finest. Aston Villa have already been mooted as a destination for Green, while Cole may well be tempted to find employment in the capital. A Fulham, for example.
Upson, 32, may fit Lambert’s needs for a fourth centre-half to pair up alongside an Elliott Ward, a Zak Whitbread or a Leon Barnett but again if the Hammers skipper thinks he will be able to command Hammers-style wages in Norfolk, he will have to think again.
Lambert has already made it very clear that he will not be moving in that £50,000-£60,000-a-week wages bracket which have become the norm at Upton Park. Little wonder why Sullivan was busily describing his own club as the ‘worst off’ club in the country the other week – and that was before this afternoon’s disaster unfolded at the JJB.
”The fans should know though this club is in a worse financial position than any other in the country,” Sullivan told the London Evening Standard.
”All the debts are football or bank debts secures on the stadium and training ground, so there is no route via administration. West Ham really is a club where the football and bank debts exceed the value of the club.”
That Norwich might be in the market for another keeper is hardly a state secret. Lambert will shy away from heading into Premiership battle with just John Ruddy and the two ‘kids’, in the shape of the home-grown talents of Declan Rudd and Jed Steer, on the books. Competition for places will extend to that No1 jersey next season.
Hence why much attention has already been paid to the intentions of Fraser Forster and Newcastle next season once the one-time Norwich loanee ends his latest year out at Celtic next weekend.
Less experienced at Premiership level than Green, he is likewise likely to demand far less in wages – unless the one-time Canary Youth product opted to slash his salary in return for the quiet life of the Norfolk countryside.
He has, apparently, been pondering long and hard about whether to retire from international football.
Speaking 24-hours ahead of his final in charge of the Hammers, Grant paid tribute to Green’s strength of character. Wigan’s eventual winner might not have done him too many favours, but he had all-but kept the Hammers in the contest before that with a string of top-class stops.
The 30-year-old – alongside Parker – has been one of West Ham’s few success stories this season.
“Rob is a very intelligent person with good character,” Grant told the Press, urging Green to think twice before exiting the international stage. Alas that moment in South Africa will forever haunt him – that’s just the nature of the goalkeeping beast. Particularly on that sort of stage.
“Not many goalkeepers can do what he did after the World Cup and start the season not good [with] everybody criticising him, and now nobody is talking about his quality.
“Since then [the World Cup] he didn’t get any chance [with England], so I understand why he is thinking of this if [he is]. My advice is for him to keep fighting for his place.”
The other point to the whole Green saga is his legendary ‘sell-on’ clause.
Inserted into his summer of 2006 switch, the Canaries could be guilty of biting a hand that could have fed them should that clause have survived his five-year spell at Upton Park.