West Ham party fracas sparked by supporter's 'racist' insult, says Ba

West Ham United striker Demba Ba described yesterday how a supporter screamed at him and issued racist insults during Monday night's end-of-season dinner at a London hotel.

Police officers were called to the Grosvenor House Hotel on Monday evening after a scuffle broke out at the club's Gala Dinner, a day after the club had been relegated to the Championship following their 3-2 defeat at Wigan Athletic.

The flashpoint came after Ba had signed an autograph for the fan, who was one of 750 supporters to have paid £250 to attend the party. Ba said: "It was a crazy situation. This guy came to me when we were sitting at the table. This guy came and asked for an autograph so I gave him his autograph. Then he asked me nicely how I was feeling so I just said I was tired from the game yesterday and that it was a tough game. And then he just replied, 'Oh, we're tired watching you play every weekend'.

"Then the guy all of a sudden started screaming at me like crazy. I tried to calm him down but he didn't want to. He kept on screaming, then some players came and pushed me out of there. They just told me to walk away and tried to calm this guy but he didn't want to calm down and started smashing some tables and glasses.

"When he talked to me I didn't understand everything that he said but the people next to me said he was saying racist things and stuff. When [Danny] Gabbidon heard these words he came and tried to talk to him but this guy didn't want to listen and started insulting Gabbidon as well. Nobody punched anybody, like I read in the newspaper today. It was just one guy screaming and smashing tables. No one touched me."

A spokesman for the Metropolitan Police said yesterday: "We were called at 9.15pm to reports of a disturbance at the Grosvenor House Hotel in Park Lane. Officers attended. There were no offences alleged and no arrests."

West Ham co-owner David Sullivan yesterday said the club wanted a British manager to replace Avram Grant, who was sacked following the club's relegation on Sunday.

Sullivan said: "I think we will definitely get an English manager, or a British manager. We do need someone who understands the culture and if you get someone with a knowledge of the East End, that's so much better."

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