Trevor's Agm View

Trevor Brooking is delighted that the club's AGM on Monday showed continued support of Glenn Roeder and the players - but admits that times are economically tough, not just at West Ham, but across football.

Trevor, a non-executive director of the club, says: "It was a positive meeting and it was no great surprise about some of the frustrations of the fans - but what I thought was very good was that everyone was very supportive of Glenn and the team.

"They have been playing very well in the last couple of games and should have got more points, but the spirit is good.

"Two or three points would have made a big difference, looking at that league table."

Naturally, the main topic of discussion in the meeting was funds and Trevor adds: "The query was about the transfer money, if there was a lot available, and the explanation was that commitments show that without outgoings you are looking at a couple of signings on loan as the option in January.

"Once you see the figures which explain how that has come about then there may still be frustration, but the facts of life are that the current borrowing limits with the banks are pretty stringent, because they are concerned about the transitional period football is going through.

"The bigger transfers are dropping and the wages need to be levelling out after the ITV Digital crisis in the divisions below the Premiership, and that is why everyone is concerned that West Ham can't afford to get relegated.

"We are all conscious of the financial repercussions of that, and we are trying to get a balanced view of what happens in the next five or six months in order to keep the club in the Premiership.

"We went through all the options and everyone listened to the reasons and, I thought, were positive in trying to help the club, the team, and Glenn to achieve what we wanted to - and that is staying up.

"But no one is trying to disguise the fact that it is going to be tough."

One well-worn theory is that it is worth spending money on players to try and avoid the drop but Trevor says: "If you go down having gambled you end up in administration and that is the argument. There will be some fans who say we should gamble and if that ends up the case 'at least we gave it a go.'

"But then at next year's AGM people will say how bad were the board to risk it, knowing that if the club did go down they haven't assessed the repercussions of that.

"It is a balance, and wherever you sit you are going to get a different viewpoint. What, I think, everyone accepted was that the board and the fans are desperate to make sure we stay up."

Trevor says harsh economic realities have swept beyond these shores and across Europe, and adds: "Clubs in other countries are in the same boat, trying to offload their wage bill, and it is just a weird situation.

"But, quite a lot of the time, you are going to get players who are probably not going to improve the team and what you have to do is end up with one, two, three, four, whatever that give Glenn better options to cope with suspensions, injuries, and loss of form.

"At the moment perhaps Glenn doesn't have a real choice in one or two areas and the aim has got to be to try and give better alternatives to try and strengthen the side - rather than bring in people just for the sake of it.

"It is not easy because everyone else is in the same game and those clubs that are prepared to release players are not always the ones you'd have liked."

Trevor sees transfer fees heading steadily south and, according to a conservative figure of risk assessment if the club went down, such a scenario would cost £20m.

Clearly, raising that sort of money by selling players, talented though they may be, would be quite a task.

"When Glenn first got the job and when I came on board," says Trevor, "the money being asked for transfer fees was pretty astronomical, and that was about three weeks before the season.

"The club desperately needed a midfielder and nipped in to get Don Hutchison as well as Tomas Repka from Fiorentina - who were the first club to have financial problems, and to start what is developing increasingly over the last 18 months.

"Those were two signings that cost that cost about £9m. This summer just gone that money would have got you three or four players.

"There is no question after the Rio figure that such a price will be got anywhere near that - I would certainly be surprised anyway, unless it is one or two of the very big clubs worldwide that are getting funded despite the economics of football at the moment.

"So I think transfer fees are going to gradually come down but the key issue is the wages. You can sign three players but if they are on Premiership wages that could be £5m or £6m on the wage budget.

"You could pick up two loan signings that over a year cost you £4m if they are big players - so it is trying to balance what we need and do it within the restrictions we have got with borrowing requirements.

"At present, like many clubs in the Premiership, we are desperate to stay in it but we can't risk administration if we don't succeed - not that we are looking at the negative possibility."

At the meeting it emerged that five players bought at a total cost of £10.2m from the Rio Ferdinand money only played 48 league games between them - and, at around £200,000 a game, such a figure is not acceptable.

"They didn't get the number of appearances I am sure everyone would have liked," says Trevor, detailing other outgoings thus:

"There was a pension fund amount and settlement of £1.5m that the league asked from all clubs, and there was a settlement when Harry Redknapp and his staff left."

The costs when Harry Redknapp left the club amounted to over £3m and, in the season that Harry left, West Ham did not finish in the 10th position that is budgeted for.

At around £500,000 a place, falling below expectations is an expensive business and Trevor adds:

"You work on the league position, and we ended up 15th and five places down from what was predicted - so, again, that was £2.5m not in the budget."

Neither can it be said, as is often written, that the club is 'not spending money on players'.

The fact is that with most transfers involving spread payments, the club is indeed spending on the playing staff at the current time, and Trevor adds: "If you get overseas players such as Tomas Repka you pay part in the first year and part in the next, so, although it doesn't look as if the club has been paying any money this year, there are second instalments from two or three players.

"And even on players that have been here two years you are liable to pay on x number of appearances another sector of that transfer if they achieve certain appearance figures.

"So it is not always black or white that we have signed somebody and the money has gone over, or we have sold somebody and we have got the money straight in - it is sometimes spread over a period of time, and that is what, I think, is interesting to come out in a meeting like we had.

"Shareholders and fans start to realise that, although to all intents and purposes there doesn't seem to be that money coming in, you are still paying for past signings."

As far as incomings in January are concerned, Trevor says: "The priority is obviously in the striking department with Paolo out until February, and Fredi having been absent for 10 weeks - that has created a significant gap.

"It is areas like that that you are looking to fill, but the gamble is if you get injuries after the window closes in a position you weren't expecting to, and haven't got cover for, it creates a problem.

"That is a gamble all clubs will have to take for February, March, April, and May.

"Defensively we have conceded too many goals and there have been too many games, especially at home, when we haven't scored too many goals, so those are the two areas you are focusing on.

"But the attacking area is a key one, because history will show you that any side that is relegated hasn't scored that many goals, and that means you haven't picked up enough three points.

"You might grind out a draw to get a point, but, in the position we have started to show ourselves, sometimes that will not be enough.

"That is why it is a great shame that having gone ahead against Middlesbrough twice and played so well the performance warranted three points - but we have only ended up with one.

"It is important that the team don't get deflated on account of that because if they play like they did against Middlesbrough more often that not they will get enough three pointers to get us out of trouble.

"But you have to face facts. We all believe that there is the ability but you can keep saying that until the 38th game when you have gone down - at some stage you have to transfer that into results.

"I saw Steve McLaren at the Sports Personality Of The Year Awards and he couldn't believe how well our side played, and said if they keep playing like that they will never go down.

"We keep saying that - but if you are not picking up the points you will.

"But there is enough ability and the Middlesbrough game shows that is the case even without additions in January - though you don't know what injuries are going to occur.

"The key is the home form, because the away form has not been bad this year, with us having won as many away games as we did all last year.

"It is the home form that is just desperate - and it is such a great shame for the 20,000 season ticket holders that they have not seen us win yet."

As well as the AGM showing support for Glenn, Trevor is glad that the players are, too.

"I thought the lads over the last week or two have been quite vociferous in their support of Glenn, which is good," he says.

"The shareholders at the AGM were very positive about Glenn as a coach and were focusing more on trying to give him the chance to bring in a couple of players, because they have seen enough of the performances to think there is reason for optimism.

"Let's be frank, against Southampton we should have scored and even at Aston Villa the 4-1 scoreline was amazing when you looked at the game.

"Certainly three of the goals at Villa were poor defensive goals and yet we could have scored five or six ourselves - but you can't keep saying that.

"Again, Middlesbrough was excellent and we could have scored more goals there, though at least we did score two.

"But at 1-0 up and 2-1 up at some stage you have got to be good enough to hold on to that, which is the frustration."

As for Saturday, he says: "Manchester United is a big challenge and you need to keep the level of performance up in that game because I think we are all conscious of the flurry of four matches over the holiday period where we have got Bolton, Fulham, Charlton, and Blackburn - and it is absolutely crucial that we have to emerge from the new year with an upturn and a bit of momentum going.

"There is no great time to go to Old Trafford, and at the moment with them running into their best form of the season it looks a bad time.

"But having said that they have got Deportivo on Wednesday night in the Champions' League and I hope Deportivo play as well as I know they can and stretch them.

"Then West Ham have to capitalise on the fact that they have had a tough midweek game - and they have one or two, possibly Rio and David Beckham, back for that.

"But they don't have too many options to rest or rotate players though, to be honest, the ones that have come in where you think it might have weakened the side, have done extremely well.

"The dilemma for Alex is that he will certainly be aware that West Ham have won there on a couple of occasions in the last two seasons with the FA Cup and a league match, and he will emphasise to his players that they mustn't drop points against West Ham after beating Arsenal because they think it is going to be easy - because most sides know that on their day we are quite capable of causing problems.

"It is a tough game and I think going into the Middlesbrough and the Manchester United games most fans would have said anything was going to be a bonus.

"What you want is a level of performance that we had against Middlesbrough, and, with the bit of luck you always need there, I think the side is capable of getting something at Old Trafford.

"We have shown there is not a fear factor and hopefully a lot of those players who have gone up there and won those two games will be playing.

"The manner of the performance is going to be important because we are then kicking in to the four matches in 12 days, which is going to have a big bearing on how we go in the relegation struggle.

"So, more than anything, I think we want to emerge from the game with that little bit of improvement that is occurring, still in place."

Talking of Rio, it was suggested at the AGM that, in the light of his subsequent transfer to Manchester United for an even higher fee than the £18m he was sold to Leeds for, that perhaps he should have commanded an even higher figure than he did when he left Upton Park - though you would have struggled to find anyone saying at the time he was undersold in what was a world record fee for a defender.

The answer was that, had he moved abroad, it was unlikely anyone would have paid more than £10m for him and that the 'headline' figure of £30m so often quoted as being his fee to Manchester United was dependent on many criteria which would be very difficult to meet and that the actual figure was probably nearer £26m - and that a substantial amount of that would have gone to agents.