West Ham co-owner David Sullivan tells David Blackmore about his plans to stay put and how the Hammers nailed the transfer window
David Sullivan says he has no plans to sell West Ham United when the club moves to the Olympic Stadium. The Hammers’ majority shareholder insists he is in for the long haul and is desperate to establish the club as one of the best teams in the country before eventually handing over to his sons. In an exclusive and wide-ranging interview with Blowing Bubbles Monthly, the 66-year-old claimed he would only ever consider selling up if the deal would allow a huge injection of cash into the club’s playing squad.
If the King of Saudi Arabia or a multi, multi-billionaire — like the owners of Manchester City — wanted to take over and I felt it was for the good of the club, I would step aside but I really don’t think that will ever happen. ‘There aren’t many multi, multi-billionaires left out there that are interested in football and haven’t already got a club. In fact I don’t think there is one that exists!
The move to Stratford, combined with the Premier League’s latest TV deal, has seen West Ham’s value rocket since he bought the club with lifelong friend and business partner David Gold in January 2010. But Sullivan says there was never a masterplan to move the club away from the Boleyn Ground before making a huge profit by offloading the Irons to an overseas investor. ‘This is something that comes up all the time but we are not looking for anybody to take over. I don’t think we will sell in our lifetime. I’m certainly not here to make a quick buck — I don’t need the money.
‘We’ve been very honest and open with the supporters about how we’ve gone about everything since we came and we will continue to do so for a long time to come. ‘People forget we were at Birmingham for 17 years. We did, at one stage, have a 28 per cent stake in West Ham. We really wanted to buy West Ham, it was our preferred option, but we eventually sold those shares and went to Birmingham. ‘The only club we have ever wanted to own was West Ham and now we’ve got it, we’ve got absolutely no desire to sell.
However, even without a huge takeover similar to the ones experienced by Manchester City and Chelsea, Sullivan believes a glorious future is already on the horizon. ‘I always believe the best times are ahead,’ he added. ‘It’s great to have heritage and history but for me, the best times are always in front of you. ‘It’s never been a tougher time to be in the Premier League and every season the gap between the top four and the rest of the league gets bigger because of the wealth of those clubs. But if we get some luck with injuries and transfers, our long-term aim is to break into that top four and to be challenging for the title.
‘Why can’t we have these aims? It’s surely got to be the aim of all Premier League clubs? You can’t start the season, and plan for future seasons, with the aim of finishing 17th and being happy with that. We want to go into every season and every match thinking we can beat anyone put in front of us. ‘It’s a very exciting time for us. We are a club in transition and we are changing our style, and it will take time to adapt to a new system, but I think over time we will see us getting better and better results.’ Our conversation turns to his sons, Jack and Dave, and what they might do when they are older — will they follow in their dad’s footsteps?
‘I hope they do what they want to do and have a really good life,’ Sullivan replied. ‘I just want them to be happy. ‘What I will say is that they absolutely love their football — you can hear their passion whenever they appear on a podcast. ‘They’ve got a great passion for the club and hopefully they will learn a few things from me and keep learning as they get older. We all make mistakes and I hope they always learn from them.’ The sound of the transfer window slamming shut is still ringing in Sullivan’s ears as our discussion continued and he spoke of his highs and lows in the days leading up to September 1 ‘If you’d asked me how I felt a week or two before the transfer window shut, I would’ve said I felt p***ed off, depressed, worn out, and worn out from the criticism of the supporters because we had been really working hard,’ he explained.
‘If you’d asked me how I felt a week or two before the transfer window shut, I would’ve said I felt p***ed off, depressed, worn out, and worn out from the criticism of the supporters because we had been really working hard,’ he explained. West Ham signed four players on transfer deadline day — Alex Song, Victor Moses, Nikica Jelavic and Michail Antonio — which came on top of big money deals for Dimitri Payet and Angelo Ogbonna earlier in the summer.
‘We already know what Alex Song can do. We knew when we signed him that he wouldn’t be able to play until November but we still went for him and he was the number one choice for the manager. ‘Victor Moses is a Premier League player and a hardened pro, and Nikica Jelavic is a proven Premier League performer.’
However, Sullivan revealed he is most excited about the arrival of Antonio, who came in a £7million deal from Nottingham Forest. ‘He got 15 goals and 15 assists last season and already has four goals to his name this term. ‘He came up the hard way from Tooting and Mitcham and up the leagues. ‘The manager thinks he is still a raw talent but he feels in 12 months he can turn him into a really top player. His raw talent, however, will still be more than enough to score goals in the Premier League.’
West Ham were also reportedly close to signing Tottenham Hotspur striker Emmanuel Adebayor on transfer deadline day but, while Sullivan admits a deal was close, nothing came of it. ‘It was a choice between Adebayor and Jelavic and the manager chose Jelavic,’ he explained. ‘We had agreed a deal with Spurs but for reasons I can’t go into, it didn’t happen.’ Looking to the month ahead, Sullivan was looking forward to one fixture in particular.
‘It’s going to be interesting to see how we get on against Manchester City who have humiliated us a few times recently but we go up there on the back of two outstanding away victories at Arsenal and Liverpool,’ he added ‘What made both those victories even better, in my opinion, was that Liverpool were unbeaten and hadn’t conceded a goal before we played them and Arsenal have not lost since our win at the Emirates.
‘Yet we lost at home to Bournemouth and Leicester. I still look back at these games and ask myself how we lost. Neither of these sides are particularly special but it has been a strange start in the Premier League with very few home wins. ‘That’s why we signed the players, because the manager wanted real pace in the team to be able to breakdown defences. If we get everyone back fit, there will be some great players sitting on the bench, which is a great position for us to be in. There is going to be serious competition for places.