After a stellar 2021, Joint-Chairman David Gold has told Blowing Bubbles of his hopes and excitement for what 2022 could bring for West Ham.
In a wide-ranging interview with Blowing Bubbles, Mr Gold beamed as he reflected on our outstanding 2021 but what are his hopes for the rest of this season?
‘My aim is to be in the top six again, my hope is to be in the top four, and my dream is to win the title.’ Mr Gold told us. ‘Most of all, though, it is simply to continue to progress in the right direction as a football club. There’s still plenty to go for this season and I believe we’ve given ourselves a chance to succeed. I don’t think anybody can under-estimate the size of the achievement already when it comes to our Europa League campaign.
‘To have won our group with a game to spare before the end of November, reaching the last 16, while sitting fourth in the Premier League having beaten the likes of Liverpool, Tottenham, and Everton – along with Manchester United and Manchester City to get to the Carabao Cup quarter-final, is a magnificent feat.
‘We have given ourselves a wonderful platform to hopefully go on and enjoy another positive and successful season. There is still a long way to go, a lot of matches to play, a lot of twists and turns. But to have the prospect of a Europa League last 16 tie to look forward to in March is a truly fantastic thought for our supporters and everyone connected with the club.’
The club recently confirmed that planning permission has been granted to increase the matchday capacity at London Stadium to 62,500 – giving another 2,500 Hammers fans the opportunity to watch David Moyes’ team continue to evolve and impress.
‘This is another positive step for us,’ Mr Gold continued. ‘Since the return of fans this season, the demand for tickets has been tremendous. We have sold out every Premier League fixture, and we also sold out a Carabao Cup tie against Manchester City on a Wednesday night, which really does illustrate the loyalty and depth of our fanbase. For many years we’ve been behind Chelsea, Spurs, and Arsenal and now we are no longer the Cinderella at the bottom of that group. Last year we finished above Spurs and Arsenal and Chelsea only snuck ahead of us towards the end of the season but we challenged them on a weekly basis and it was wonderful. This is what I’ve been hoping for since 2010.
‘We’ve also made a lot of positive steps to improve the overall experience at London Stadium, including the naming of the Billy Bonds stand, reconfiguring the lower tiers behind the goals, and now unveiling the new statue of Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, which has had a fantastic response. As some people may know, the original plan was to bring the 1966 World Cup statue over to London Stadium, which would have meant purely an England context to it, with Ray Wilson included. Once that was no longer an option, we immediately commissioned a new statue – and it gave us an opportunity to bring a West Ham United theme into the design.
‘The overwhelming view from our fans was that it still had to be Moore, Hurst and Peters – the three players from our Academy who reached the absolute pinnacle of the game, and stand unrivalled in that sense. But the fact that we have also been able to honour their finest victory with their West Ham team-mates – the 1965 European Cup Winners’ Cup final – is a wonderful thing. It was fantastic to be at the unveiling ceremony with some of those guys – Sir Geoff, Brian Dear, Ronnie Boyce, Ken Brown, Jack Burkett, and the families of Ron Greenwood, Alan Sealey, Martin Peters and Bobby Moore. It was a very proud day for the Club and I think you can see from the reaction how much it means to everyone. Now we have a permanent and glorious reminder of the greatest period in our history, there for future generations of supporters to cherish, and future generations of players to be inspired by.’
As for the recruitment of the current generation of players, Mr Gold says the club is always working hard to bring in new talent. ‘With COVID and the world we are living in now, you could argue that when it comes to transfers everything has changed but actually nothing really has changed.
‘We are still doing everything we can to get the players that the manager wants and there is a really good balance between the board and manager – it’s a positive, comfortable relationship right now. We all have the same desire to bring in the right players, and we’ve already seen the benefits of that and certainly you could argue that last season was partly due to this approach to transfers.’
Mr Gold continued: ‘And we have now added further experience and strength to our recruitment department with the appointment of Rob Newman as Head of Recruitment. Rob has a terrific track record and expertise after 12 years at Manchester City, and he will work closely with the manager to ensure we continue to identify and recruit the best players to fit our club model and strategy, both short and long-term.
‘I think we have had an absolutely tremendous record with our player recruitment since David came back, and I’m sure Rob will only help to enhance that further. The manager deserves great credit for building the squad we have now. All of the signings since January 2020 have been successful, including Kurt Zouma, who really does typify the quality of player we are looking to sign now.
‘A Champions League winner who has great experience and pedigree at the top level, yet still many great years – hopefully his best years – in front of him. The manager was relentless in pursuing him in the summer, and I think we can all see what he has brought to the squad and the club.’
As for the recent investment by Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky, Mr Gold welcomed it as another positive step forward for West Ham United. ‘Everyone at West Ham is very pleased that Daniel Kretinsky, Pavel Horsky and their colleagues at 1890s holdings have come on board, and we have found them very impressive in our initial meetings.
‘The new investment has enabled us to put the club on a firmer financial footing and will help to give the football club more strength and potential for further growth. We have always been very clear about our willingness to welcome the right investors who can help the club to move forward and progress. Daniel is clearly a very astute businessman with experience in football, and we are all very much looking forward to working with him.’
Turning back to matters on the pitch, Mr Gold says another huge positive from the last few months has been to see fans returning to London Stadium after so long away. ‘We really do have the best fans. I know all owners will say that their fans are the best but we’ve got proof of that with the numbers that travel to away games.
‘Wherever I go, people want to talk about their football club. Right from day one when we arrived, that’s been absolutely apparent. Our fans are so passionate. When the idea was mooted to go to London Stadium, what became very clear early on was that we could absolutely fill the stadium.
‘People were claiming that we couldn’t fill it and that we would be rattling around in the stadium but our surveys showed those fans couldn’t wait. Those fans who couldn’t get a season ticket or couldn’t get in for a game at Upton Park. Fans and fanbase still have a big role to play in the fortunes of a football club and this all bodes well for the future of West Ham United.’
Moving on, and when we last spoke with Mr Gold, he was adamant that Pablo Fornals would become a key player for West Ham. Today, Mr Gold still believes he can become even better. ‘What I saw from him when he first joined was an incredible energy and I think sometimes you watch a match and you don’t always see it.
‘He had an energy I’d never seen – well, until Tomas Soucek signed. But I still think there’s more to come from him. I believe he will score more goals this season. And I feel like the energy of our players is a trait of a David Moyes team.’
Also during our previous conversation, Mr Gold had spoken of his continued admiration for David Moyes – an admiration that has only grown following the achievements of the past 12 months.
‘I’ve been in this business for over 25 years, and I like David Moyes. He is football, football, football. If you ask him a personal question, he brings it straight back to football. I like that and I liked everything about him. I don’t think any of us could have predicted the season we had last campaign. But you have to applaud Moyes for what he has achieved. He’s taken good players, nurtured them and brought in players that have balanced the side.’
As for Mark Noble, Mr Gold says the fans and the club have been lucky to have him. ‘We’ve been lucky to have such a man that joined West Ham at such a young age and played with us right through his career – he has done all the things that I wanted to do.
‘He’s up there with Billy Bonds as one of the best players not to get an England cap having been so close on numerous occasions. What an ambassador he has been for us. Off the pitch, he just knows where to be, he knows who needs an arm around the shoulder, he realises the club is his life and he gives everything to the football club.
‘He doesn’t leave anything out on the pitch, he doesn’t leave anything out anywhere. He is there for everybody. He is great with the youngsters too. Some clubs do have a Mark Noble but most don’t, and we are lucky because of that.’