Gale: We're In Good Hands

Tony Gale says there is every reason for optimism next season - both on and off the pitch.

A recent Deloitte and Touche report into the finances of football clubs has got supporters across the land debating their own clubs' particular fiscal fortunes, and Tony reckons the Hammers are in a healthier state than most.

"I think it is sometimes difficult for fans who saw that we got to seventh place last season and are thinking how will we progress from there," he says.

"Obviously the way to do that is have a bigger squad, better players, and get into the Champions' League, which is the only way of pushing on to the next step.

"That will take a huge investment while at the same time we have the redevelopment of the ground going on."

Work on the east stand has not been 'halted' - as has been reported - but merely postponed, and Tony sees the rebuilding at Upton Park as crucial to the club's future success.

"Three sides are finished and the big new stand is one of the best in Britain - and I know because I am lucky enough to travel around with Capital Radio.

"We have great facilities, and the hotel; but you can understand the fans' frustrations in the sense of them wanting to kick on from here.

"But what I think they have to realise is the answer to the famous old chant 'where's the money gone?'.

"If you are the sixth highest wage payers in the Premiership with wages going out of £25m a year, that is exactly where their money has gone.

"The sale of Frank Lampard helped bring in Tomas Repka, David James, and Don Hutchison - that is business.

"But to get someone involved in the club who is going to give you £100 with no questions asked would be a sugar daddy in the Jack Walker mould, and I don't think that really happens now.

"When the fans look at the debts of West Ham they are not looking at the overall situation, in that we are one of the most solvent clubs.

"When the poop hits the fan, as I think it is going to do when the next TV deal is up, I think you will find that West Ham will be one of the better clubs in place to survive what is going to be a very difficult time, with wage capping and things like that going on.

"I understand fans sometimes wanting a say on the board but there are times when that can't be - off the pitch things are being run very well and it is in capable hands."

Tony feels that last season exceeded expectations, and adds:

"Seventh place last season was a wonderful feat, and all you might have asked for was a better cup run - and I thought we were very unfortunate to go out to Chelsea who were second best on the evening.

"For me it was a great campaign and it is not a time to be complaining - though obviously we would like our first trophy since 1980, apart from the InterToto!

"There are some super players on the pitch to watch, so I am with fans and not with some of them; it is a very difficult one.

"The fans are gagging for success; they really want it and West Ham fans in particular feel deprived from the last 20 years or so.

"But you have to look at the larger scale; it is big business and the clubs have to be run properly."

Tony's personal opinion is that some of the 'bigger' clubs may struggle, and says:

"Leeds are suffering; they qualified for the Champions' League the year before and went to the semi-finals, thinking success was a guaranteed thing now, but it hasn't been.

"Now, all of a sudden, they have to put £16m back in the bank according to the PLC, I believe, so they are going to have to sell some of their players.

"It is a really difficult situation and there aren't too many clubs spending, even amongst the big clubs."

Tony feels it is important that the club holds on to its assets, as is the case this summer, and says:

"The main criterion for me is that the young talent we are blessed with stays; we all want to see them stay and relate to those players in the team.

"The foreign involvement in the game now is huge but West Ham's success has been based on home based players like Sinclair, Carrick, Cole, Jermain's wonderful.

"I think there will be a definite improvement next season as well; you are looking at more experience for the youngsters, Tomas Repka will improve after his first season in English football, Trevor Sinclair will be buoyed by his World Cup success and be more confident - I just think it is going to be an exciting season."