In the wake of the biggest financial collapse in our lifetimes, governments, oppositions and football club chairmen the world over are wrestling with a fundamental dilemma: do we cut back and live within our means or try to spend our way back to prosperity?
West Ham United provides a neat parallel for the fate of our government. The Icelandics, like Labour, spent like there was no tomorrow, building up our debts while times were good and leaving us obscenely exposed when the global financial system imploded around us in 2008. The Hammers were left on the edge of collapse and, despite a new regime taking over and promising to steady the ship and claw our way out of debt, sank ultimately into recession (or the Championship, as it is also known).
Now we are back but the recovery is fragile and the two Davids faced a choice. Do they borrow and spend on big signings and sky Feature The two Davids, Andy Carroll and John Maynard Keynes Words: Phil Reilly The big man’s signing is classic economic stimulus, but will it bring the Hammers recovery or collapse? high wages in the hope that Premiership survival will mean we can pay our way in future, but at the risk that another collapse could lead to Rangers/Pompey style cuts in future? Or do they play it safe, spend only what we can afford, accept that it means potentially years of pain but ultimately guarantee the club’s long term survival? As displayed by the signing of Andy Carroll on wages that would make even Gordon Brown blush, the Davids have chosen the former.
The big man is, for all intents and purposes, a massive Keynsian economic stimulus. A gamble that we can spend our way out of recession. Of course, as the economists among you will know, that description is the sort of bastardisation of Keynsian economics that would make Ed Balls proud, but I’m painting in broad brush strokes here.
We are betting the house on Premier League survival, just as we did on promotion last year, knowing that if the bet doesn’t pay off we could be screwed for years to come. We have watched other clubs make this bet and lose. Leeds United have not made it back to the top flight since they lost this bet. Pompey are a basket case. Rangers went under.
It is the sort of gamble the Coalition Government has chosen not to make, arguing that we cannot as a country risk the pain of the enormous economic collapse that would take place if the bet didn’t pay off. The two Davids are clearly betting men. Fair enough. The stimulus is in large part funded from their own pockets. Unlike the government it is not the taxpayers livelihoods they would be gambling with.
But all we West Ham fans can do is hope that the Andy Carroll stimulus triggers the recovery we need to survive. After 68 minutes against Fulham the confidence it was bringing to the markets was already evident. But 68 minutes against Fulham do not a season make.