‘The day after our famous win was not the time to talk about Rice!’

Chairman David Sullivan burst everyone’s bubble after his comments about our captain on the radio

Declan Rice (WHU) at the West Ham United v Chelsea EPL match, at the London Stadium, London, UK on February 11, 2023.

What is he doing?: Those were the four words uttered by virtually every West Ham fan the day after our wonderful Europa Conference League win. Of course, I’m talking about David Sullivan, who decided that it would be a good idea to go onto national radio, not even 24 hours after our trophy lift, to discuss Declan Rice’s future.

Actually, I’m being generous. He didn’t so much as discuss it, as to say, he’s off, and we’re letting him go, because he doesn’t want to stay. So, there you go. Here’s what Sullivan said, in response to a question about whether holding the trophy aloft was his final action as a West Ham United player: ‘I think it has to be. We promised him he could go. He set his heart on going and in due course he has to get on and we have to get a replacement.

‘It is not something we wanted to happen. We offered him £200,000 a week 18 months ago and he turned it down. You can’t keep a player who doesn’t want to be there. I think the offers will start to come. Three or four clubs have shown interest but out of respect to West Ham, while we’re still playing, you don’t make offers for players.’

Well, let me tell you something, Mr. Sullivan. Out of respect for the West Ham supporters – the long-suffering West Ham supporters – you don’t go on national radio the morning after winning the trophy, and tell the fans in an interview that your best player doesn’t want to be here anymore, and we’re looking forward to receiving the offers.

I mean, talk about bursting a bubble, for goodness’ sake. Now, I’m not naïve, and I know which way the wind is blowing here. I have absolutely no doubt that agents are at work, perhaps by the time you read this he’ll have signed for Arsenal or something, and we know that he wants to win big trophies and play in the biggest competitions. 

I get all of that, and whilst every fibre of my being hopes that he stays at the club (notwithstanding that he has a two-year contract), there will have been some sort of gentleman’s agreement that he can move on, and we’d be duty-bound to honour that. Fine. But there is a time and a place to be having these sorts of conversations, to be managing fan expectations, and to be making pronouncements, and the morning after the Europa Conference League win was not it.

I’m not an expert in such matters, but let me just see whether I can knock together a quick response which might placate the fans a little bit. Hang on: ‘well, obviously there’s a massive amount of speculation around at the moment, and we can’t help that.

‘All I can say to you is that Declan Rice is our player, as you’ve seen, he can offer anything to any team in the world, and no doubt other clubs are interested, although I should say we’ve received no offers. I do want to say, we really, really don’t want to lose him.’

I mean, I just made that up, but as far as I’m concerned, we don’t need to talk about how he’s turned down contracts. We don’t need to talk about the clubs who have shown interest. We really don’t need to talk about the offers coming in. We just needed to say, we value him as a player and as a person, we don’t want to lose him, but we appreciate that other clubs may covet him. That’s all. And breathe.

I do want to end on a different note, though. Sullivan did get something absolutely right, and not enough has been made of it. I’ll let him use his own words: ‘The only great sadness for me is that my long-term business partner David Gold and his daughter, lovely Jacqueline, were not there to celebrate.

‘In life you only have so many football seasons, and the seasons ran out for him, you know. I do believe there’s someone who does look down on you sometimes and gives you a bit of good luck. I’ve been praying for winning this game for weeks and thankfully we did.’

David and Jacqueline would have been extremely proud to see us win the trophy, and would have been there to enjoy the parade. It’s terribly sad that this was not to be, but hopefully, they were able to somehow see the celebrations from afar, and share in the joy we all felt.

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