Moore Than A Club

EXCLUSIVE interview with Tony Cottee (Part 1)


In part one of our exclusive interview with the West Ham legend, Forever West Ham’s Tim Holland speaks with Tony Cottee about being frozen out by the Icelanders and also gives his views on David Gold & David Sullivan and the Olympic Stadium.


Q. You released your autobiography back in 1995. What’s lead to you to release your new book?


Well my first book was released 17 years ago so a lot’s happened since then. Plus I just wanted to set the record straight on a few things.


Q. In the book you discuss your role in the takeover in 2006. Can you give us a background to that?


Well it was borne out of the frustration of losing the 2004 Play-Off Final to Crystal Palace and I felt the club had lost its direction since Harry Redknapp left in 2001. I thought Harry did a good job and was never really replaced. I know the fans were a bit split on him but I always got on well with him as a manager and I thought the club was moving in the right direction. After his departure we went downhill. Glenn Roeder came in and didn’t perform, everyone wanted Trevor Brooking to take over but unfortunately he didn’t. Then Alan Pardew came in and had a difficult job on his hands.

Q. So you were frustrated and wanted to help the club move forward?


I’m a massive West Ham fan first and foremost. Yes, I did play for the club but I’m much more of a supporter. I wasn’t happy with what was going on and I thought the club needed a new direction. It seemed as though the club was rudderless and after the Play-off defeat I thought something needed to be done and that’s where the takeover came from. As I explain in the book, I had no money to put in myself but I just tried to do something to make it work and it was a massive task. I managed it but unfortunately it didn’t work out in the end.

Q. Did you receive any recognition from the Icelandic consortium when they took over?


When they came in then the project went in a different direction. I put in a lot of the background work and the business plans but I didn’t get any recognition but I never did it for that purpose – I did it for the love of the club. I got frozen out by the Icelandic owners in the end and along with others at the club took all the glory. Unfortunately after they came on board it all went wrong. They made a lot of plans, spent a lot of money but ultimately didn’t work out.


Could you see that it wasn’t going to work out?


I had my doubts and the problem stemmed from bankers running a football club. It’s the same as if I turned up at a bank and told them I was going to run the place – I’d be laughed out of the there. So why did we think that bankers could run a football club? Its two completely different types of businesses and for me it was doomed to disaster because they didn’t have that involvement in football.


Do you think it would have been different had you stayed in a consultancy role?


I’d like to think so, but who knows? There were much bigger issues but I think I would have advised against a number of the signings, Freddie Ljungberg and other expensive, injury prone players. They spent an awful lot of money that they didn’t have – it was paper money from Gudmundsson and Landsbanki and we’re still picking up the pieces from that. We’re still massively in debt and the legacy is still there.


Where do you stand on the current West Ham regime – David Gold and David Sullivan?


I think Gold and Sullivan are doing a good job. When they took over they were shooting from the hip. I think there was too much media coverage and then there was the nightmare of Avram Grant and subsequent relegation. However I think that when we went down to the Championship it was a bit more low key and since we’ve been promoted I think the owners have shown a more diplomatic approach. I know David Gold is on Twitter but it’s more subtle and there’s not the paper talk that there was. It’s more hands off with the media and I think that’s the way forward. Perhaps they’ve learnt their lesson of 2 years ago and they’re doing things a bit differently. It’s important to have leadership at a club. I always thought Terry Brown was a quiet and impersonal man – if he walked into a room no one would know who he was and you compare that to the situation now. It’s a difficult balancing act but they’re doing well.


Q. What’s your view on the Olympic stadium?


I’ve always been in favour of it. I want the team to go forward, progress and compete at the top level and to do that we need a larger stadium. Do I want to leave the Boleyn Ground? Of course not, no one does but in my lifetime I want to see the club progress. I have been privileged to see the club’s plans for the stadium – I can’t say much due to the confidentiality agreement but I can say that they’re fantastic and most fans will agree when they see the plans.

Q. Do you think we’ll fill a bigger stadium?


I think so. We’ve sold out at home a few times this season and looking back at last season’s Play-off final we could have sold out Wembley with just West Ham fans. The simple answer to the stadium question is successful football – look at Arsenal they went from Highbury to the Emirates, from 38,000 to 60,000. I know they haven’t won anything for a few seasons but they play good football and compete at the top level. Chelsea want to move, as do Tottenham and we can’t be left behind. We’ll easily fill the big games and also gain a new generation of fans and not just from the South East. You can get on a train in Europe and get off at Stratford so it’s on Europe’s door step. Transport for everyone is going to be easier from trains and the queues at the tube station to cars and the difficulty parking in East Ham on match days. I think it can work but it’s got to work financially and with the right conditions for the fans.



Part Two of this interview will be uploaded shortly. In the next part Tony gives his views on his West Ham career, West Ham’s strikers and his predictions for the season.


West Ham: The Inside Story by Tony Cottee is available now in all good book stores.


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