Magnusson: 'I had to act quickly before damage was done'

Team's poor attitude and lack of motivation shocked owners into ruthless decision
Click to follow
The Independent Online

During 111 years of West Ham United's existence, the few incomers into the tight-knit East End football community have tended to find life difficult, as Alan Pardew would doubtless testify. Eggert Magnusson, the first outsider of any kind to break into the family firm at boardroom level, might have been ruthless in dispensing with Pardew after four games, but he was shrewd enough to have turned to a couple of popular, long-lost sons almost before the outgoing manager had left the building.

Alan Curbishley and his assistant, Mervyn Day, both count the Hammers as their local and first professional club. "We have two guys now who grew up here and their first love was West Ham," Magnusson said in a long interview, in which he also revealed how shocked he had been by all four games under Pardew and how Curbishley, whose credentials he was well aware of, will not be sacked even if the worst happens and relegation ensues come May.

Magnusson's mistake, unusual in a man with such a deep background in football as a Uefa exec-utive member and president of the Icelandic Football Association, was to give Pardew such an extravagant vote of confidence. Magnusson has now confessed that for all his initial scarf-waving on the pitch and back-slapping in the directors' box, doubts crept in early on.

"When I came here, I said the future of this club was with Alan Pardew. I'm sorry to say how quickly that changed. Sheffield United was my first game here and to be honest we were lucky to win that game [1-0]. At Everton [0-2] we had a very good first half and were unlucky not to score a goal, but that Everton side had a lot of injuries and were not very strong, so I thought before the game that was probably a chance for us to do something.

"Then came the Wigan game [a 2-0 home defeat] that was very disappointing, and the Bolton game [0-4], that was indeed shocking. I think many of you saw my expression on the television, I am like this [grimaces]. I never hide my feelings at a football game."

That made four games, one goal and three points, achieved only because Sheffield United had a late goal wrongly disallowed. Unfortunately for Pardew, Magnusson's main financial backer, Bjorgolfur Gudmondsson, had also been forced to sit through the Wigan and Bolton matches. "I've been in this situation before with the national team of Iceland," Magnusson said, "and after the Bolton game I felt it was my responsibility to act. We have five very important games until the new year and the January transfer window coming up, so I felt it was my responsibility as chairman to make this decision. It was very tough, but sometimes you have to take tough decisions."

The team's attitude and apparent lack of motivation also shocked him. "The games I saw last season, the strength of the team was they were fighting all the time, running all the time. That's not what I saw in the last few games. The earlier you face problems like this the better. If you just sit and wait there may be no turning back."

So last Monday morning Pardew received the summons he had been secretly dreading. "It was a personal meeting, of course. You can only do this personally and eye to eye. It was after training on Monday and he was asked to come and meet me."

And how did Pardew take the news? "On a human level I think he understood what was happening. I can't say anything else."

Magnusson insists there was no prior contact with the new manager, and also scoffs at suggestions that he would not have known enough about Curbishley to appoint him, preferring an established foreign coach like his friend Sven Goran Eriksson - which really would have caused a revolt in E13.

"You think I come here and don't know anything about English football? I've been following English football for 50 years. One of my former national team players, [Charlton's] Hermann Hreidarsson, has told me a lot about Alan. I knew he was the right man for us.

"It was never in my mind to get a manager from abroad. Also the problem there, be it [Marcello] Lippi or [Luiz Felipe] Scolari, they don't speak the language. I've seen it in our dressing room, where you have two Argentinian players and an interpreter and they don't under-stand one thing that's being said."

A long, long era had already come to an end when the previous chairman, Terence Brown, took the Icelandic shilling. The West Ham family now have an unlikely-looking godfather, firmly rooted in reality rather than romance and pretty bubbles.

"I respect it if some fans feel I acted too quickly with Alan Pardew, because he had a lot of success here and I respect that, but I honestly tell you only how I saw things and that I had to act. If you wait and wait, the damage is done."

Comments