West Ham have been presented with a very real dilemma this transfer window after club captain and England international Matthew Upson stated he won’t discuss the issue over signing a new deal at the club until the end of the season when it is due to expire. Do the club now stick or twist? Do they sell one of their most prized assets while they can still command a fee for him or stick with him until the end of the season and just accept the possibility that he’ll walk for nothing?
The club have had a topsy turvy season yet again this term as they continue to surpass even the most embittered Hammers’ fans expectations for the unpredictable. Current manager Avram Grant’s job looks to be hanging by a thread and a potential ready-made successor in the weighty form of Sam Allardyce is rumoured to have been lined up in his place.
Upson has gone on record as saying: “Nothing has been done and we’ll just see how it plays out this season. Obviously a lot depends on the club’s Premier League status. You can’t possibly say what will happen. We spoke, but it is a position that is on hold and we will see how it plays out.” Sounds ominous.
Upson hasn’t enjoyed his best campaign in a West Ham shirt as the side have leaked goals all too easily at the back, and while not up to the standard required at international level in my opinion, Upson is a solid Premiership performer and would attract a lot of interest especially considering he’s available on a free transfer at the end of the season.
The 31-year old centre half is currently in his fifth season at Upton Park and so his commitment, while in the short-term at least, may be called into question, he has still given the club a decent proportion of his career and this has to be taken into account when discussing issues over his loyalty to the cause.
By my reckoning at least, I can imagine Spurs, Liverpool, Everton and a handful of other clubs in the top flight would be interested in securing his services come May. Upson provides valuable leadership on the pitch and is the only vocal voice among a quiet West Ham back line. James Tomkins has shown considerable promise this term, and his development has been helped by having a seasoned campaigner next to him in the form of Upson.
From Upson’s perspective, I think he is well within his rights to keep his options open for the time being. Should he sign a new contract now and West Ham go down, there’s no guarantee he’ll be sold in the summer back to a Premiership club as West Ham would seek to retain his services to precipitate a promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt. He has his own career to think about and while I think that it may be a tad unrealistic considering his horror show this summer, he may still harbour international ambitions.
I can’t imagine Upson would command a very large fee at all if he was to be sold on in January, and although I think if he gets a decent offer in the summer he’ll be packing his bags, he still has a lot to offer in the immediate future and it’s hardly like West Ham are blessed with defensive options if they do decide to let him leave.
For now at least, he should stay, and if there are any doubts lingering over the manager’s future, he needs to be replaced with someone that the club think is capable of getting them out of the relegation dogfight they currently find themselves in, because until that happens, the dressing room at Upton Park can hardly be a nice environment to work in. The players must wonder at the start of each week whether Grant will be the man in charge of them come match day, and at the top flight, that is no way to operate.
This is no time for uncertainty and indecision, for while there is, this feeling will only filter through to the players, starting with the issue of Upson’s contract.
So what does everyone think? Is this an example of player power at work with Upson choosing to run his contract down? Would you be glad to see him leave in January?