Staff dig deep to finance transfer

AFTER missing out on the signatures of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Mancini, Mario Balotelli and Luca Toni, it seems that West Ham s desperation to sign a new striker reached bizarre lengths with the capture of Mexican international Guillermo Franco, writes DAVE EVA

AFTER missing out on the signatures of Eidur Gudjohnsen, Mancini, Mario Balotelli and Luca Toni, it seems that West Ham's desperation to sign a new striker reached bizarre lengths with the capture of Mexican international Guillermo Franco, writes DAVE EVANS.

The international striker is still waiting to make his Hammers debut, despite travelling with the squad to Manchester City, but it seems that without the sacrifices of two of West Ham's staff, his chance would never have arrived.

Times are undoubtedly hard at Upton Park these days, despite their claims that they have stability in their finances, but the news that chief executive Scott Duxbury and technical director Gianluca Nani decided to forego part of their salary in order to bring Franco to the club, is as worrying as it is heartening to hear.

Manager Gianfranco Zola was certainly in the dark about the situation: "No, I didn't know about it - are you sure about it?" he told journalists at Friday's weekly press conference.


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"If they have done that, it means they have a lot of passion for what they're doing and they are committed, they believe in what we're doing and it would be a great gesture if they've done so."

It is certainly an incident unheard of in the realms of Premier League football.

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After the frustrations of missing out on their top targets through the summer because of the problem of huge salary demands and signing-on fees, they thought they had finally got their man in free-agent Franco, who had been released by Villarreal in the summer.

However, it would appear that both the Mexican and his agent were keen to secure lucrative payments and when West Ham owners CB Holding were unwilling to meet their demands, both Duxbury and Nani decided to step in.

It seems like a strange move from a club that prides itself on bringing youngsters through the system and introducing them to the first team. Since Zola's arrival a year ago, he has overseen the emergence of Jack Collison, James Tomkins, Josh Pay-ne, Junior Stanislas, Zavon Hines and most recently Bondz N'Gala.

"That is the job I've been employed for and that is the job I like to do," said Zola when asked about bringing youngsters into his first-team squad.

"I like to work with the player and make them better and get a bunch of players and make a team, that is my ultimate task and I like it. But I wouldn't mind also if I got some money to spend on a good player - I think that would make the whole process a bit quicker."

Perhaps that is the plan with Franco, but it is a gamble. The striker may well have scored four goals in his last six internationals for Mexico, but he was released by his Spanish employers during the summer.

West Ham fans remember the disaster that was Diego Tristan last season, after the free agent failed to make any impression during his time at Upton Park, scoring just three goals in 17 disappointing appearances in claret and blue.

Time will tell whether Franco will prove a shrewder acquisition, but perhaps the most worrying thing about the whole episode is the precarious financial position that West Ham appear to be in.

The club had to call on sponsors SBOBET to help secure the signing of Italian star Alessandro Diamanti, and though that appears to have been a mere bridging loan until West Ham managed to sell James Collins to Aston Villa, it shows that West Ham's finances are a real balancing act.

"I don't think it's as bad as they're trying to say," insisted Zola. "Obviously we're not a club that can spend �20m to buy a player right now, but we are a club that is solid and we can look forward with positiveness."

You have to admire the Italian's optimism, but when members of staff are having to raid their own piggy banks to help secure the signature of players, then you have to worry.

It appears apparent that CB Holding are not prepared to stump up any cash to help out the club come January, and though Duxbury and the rest of the board are battling hard to balance the books as independently as they can, whether that means selling some of the prized assets come the New Year, remains to be seen.

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