Bobby: Jermain Can Be A Hero

Former Hammers striker Bobby Barnes, now working for the PFA, says that Jermain Defoe can shoot West Ham back into the Premiership at the first attempt - and "become a hero."

Bobby, one of the Boys of '86, is delighted that Jermain got off the mark within minutes of the new season starting at Preston - and reckons there are plenty more where that came from.

"Jermain is a quality player and he is a goalscorer; we are desperately going to need someone like Jermain to score 20 or 25 goals to get us out of this division and I personally very much hope that he stays," he says.

He feels that Jermain's transfer request at the end of last season should be forgotten now and explains: "The West Ham fans have seen that there has been total commitment from Jermain. Nobody could say he hasn't given his all for the cause because I think he has, and I am sure that if he continues to do that this season the incident will soon be forgotten.

"It is a difficult one because we are in a European Championship year and some of the lads that want to establish themselves in the England set-up would probably look at it and be a bit concerned in the first division.

"But that is more about the slightly older players like Trevor Sinclair. I don't think it will do Jermain's value or learning curve any harm at all to have a year in this division, perhaps score a lot of goals, and if he did that he would be a folk hero.

"Jermain is a young lad and a lot of decisions he makes will be guided by his agent so I think he has made a mistake, I think he knows that, and everybody would know that everyone at West Ham was up for sale anyway because everyone has their price.

"I don't think Jermain needed to make the statement that he did and I am sure on reflection he wishes he hadn't."

Jermain used to be represented by the PFA, and Bobby adds: "We provide a facility, whether the player is with an agent or not, that we will advise all of our members - that is always there.

"In terms of directly representing players we tend not to do that too much now, because most of the top players are connected to agents now, but we are always there and there has to be a bit of a co-existence between us and the agents in the sense that, although a lot of the agents do contracts for players, if you look at disciplinary situations and the like it is still the PFA that they come to be represented at the PFA and the Premier League.

"There are some very good agents, there are some indifferent agents, and there are some bad agents.

"Most good agents do a very good job for their clients and mistakes are made. I am sure that Jermain and his agent will say 'this was a mistake' rather than a contrived attempt to get a transfer.

"I'd like to think it was a mistake."

Bobby is well placed to understand only too well that the Hammers are having to cut their cloth according to their change in status this season, and adds: "You look at the problems of debt and it was one of the biggest wage bills in the Premiership, never mind the first division.

"The reduction in the TV money is huge as well and it has been a case of the board looking at which players they can afford to keep and which players wanted to stay, and I am still confident we can mount a challenge to get back.

"The fortunate thing to some degree was that there were so many out of contract in the summer and that made a big difference to the wage bill.

"Obviously there were saleable assets and from a supporter's point of view, you hope that not too many would be sold, but inevitably some had to go.

"Transfer fees have already gone down in general and clubs have realised West Ham were in a market looking to sell; some offers made reflect that.

"Finances have depended very much on TV incomes over the years and I think it would be fair to say TV incomes have reached a plateau now - I don't think we are going to see that heyday of huge TV deals any more.

"Having said that, if you look at the product in general, the gates are up not just in the Premiership but in the Nationwide so the interest is still there.

"But unfortunately the realism is there that there is going to be some sort of reduced income from TV money which has been the driving factor up to now.

"Taking my PFA hat off and speaking purely as a supporter, I would like to think that the nucleus of the squad could have been hung onto at least until December, but there were obviously good reasons why some players had to leave."

Bobby is against the transfer window which was imposed last season and, of course, so hampered Glenn Roeder's attempts at reinforcing the front line last time around when Paolo Di Canio and Fredi Kanoute sustained long term injuries.

"I could fully understand that we needed stability in the game because players were moving around," he admits, "and I think it is fair to say there was an awful lot of cash sloshing around in the game as well.

"But really the timing of the transfer window has come at a bad time because more and more clubs are looking for revenues to keep afloat.

"But now, because they are being cornered into two times when they can buy and sell players, I think what we are seeing is clubs being able to pick up players for less than their actual value, simply because they know the window is going to be closed in two weeks and the selling club is not going to have the opportunity to sell that player.

"I don't think it has been positive, I have to say."

On a more general sense, and the subject of clubs going into administration, he adds: "There has been a lot of controversy about the situation because of Leicester City in the sense that they have got themselves back into the Premiership at the first time.

"It is a difficult one because morally, in an ideal world, I think everyone would feel all the creditors should be paid.

"Our role at the PFA has always been to ensure that if there are creditors our members are number one at the top of that list.

"With the changing rules I think one or two clubs might have to think more carefully about if administration is the right route to take."

A shame then, that Leicester weren't told to stay in the first division and West Ham remain in the Premiership...?

"It would be nice if we could and I would certainly vote for it! But no, it wouldn't be fair to our members at Leicester City who had a fantastic season if you look at the difficulties those lads have had to come through, deferring wages.

"They dug in when there was a lot of financial difficulty at the club and I think the players and manager deserve a lot of credit to come through that."

As the transfer deadline at the end of the month approaches, with many PFA members still looking for work, Bobby adds: "I think the top players will always command the top wages but I think there is going to be a period of reality where new contract negotiations are not going to be as buoyant as they are in the past.

"We are already seeing that now and with players, purely because of the implications of dropping out of the Premiership are so severe, are now starting to have clauses put into their contracts whereby wages are actually reduced if you drop down a division.

"That is going to be very much a feature of new contracts as well in the sense that 'okay, if we are in the Premiership you'll get this' but if clubs are relegated there will be reductions."

It is a point with which Glenn Roeder agrees, and Glenn says: "It is something that all but the top five are thinking about now, putting a relegation clause in to massively reduce a player's wages if the worst happens."

Back to Bobby, who has sympathy for the rebuilding Glenn is having to do on a reduced budget.

"A lot of players have been released by the club but at some stage you have to bring players back into the club to replace them - and you obviously hope that the quality of the players you bring in is sufficient to get us back up that division," he says.

Of West Ham's own relegation, he adds: "I am very disappointed and given the late rally by the boys it is a real shame it was too little too late.

"But you don't get relegated on the last game of the season, you get relegated on your performances throughout the season.

"Even the most one-eyed West Ham supporter would accept that we started the season terribly and it took us into the new year before we won our first home game.

"That was the significant factor; we were always playing catch-up.

"You look in previous years and West Ham has always been a fortress. That is what let us down and you have only got to see the way the lads performed in the last few home games of the season and you think 'if we had had half of that for the rest of the season we wouldn't have been in the situation we were.'"