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Premier League

Relegation would cost West Ham owners £40m

West Ham co-owner David Sullivan has warned relegation from the Barclays Premier League would be likely to cost him and David Gold up to £40million more of their own money to keep the debt-riddled club afloat.

The Irons remain at the foot of the Barclays Premier League following the 1-1 draw against fellow strugglers Blackburn, which left them four points adrift of safety after Wolves beat West Brom yesterday.

Avram Grant's men now have just two matches left - away at second-bottom Wigan and then at home to Sunderland - which they must win and hope other results go their way to avoid a return to the Football League.

Sullivan and Gold, both lifelong West Ham supporters, acquired a controlling interested in the Upton Park club during January last year.

With ongoing debt issues in excess of £80million, the board have already warned top-earners like England trio Scott Parker, Robert Green and Matthew Upson would all have to be sold were the club relegated.

Sullivan admits seeing West Ham lose their top-flight status would be a difficult burden to bear, both emotionally and financially.

"The fans should know though this club is in a worse financial position than any other in the country," Sullivan told the London Evening Standard.

"All the debts are football or bank debts secures on the stadium and training ground, so there is no route via administration.

"West Ham really is a club where the football and bank debts exceed the value of the club.

"It's a pretty thankless task and the criticism hurts. Should the worst happen, we will have to inject loans of £20-£40million, depending on circumstances, which will probably never be repaid.

"I don't believe the supporters realise the potential real cost to us.

"Nobody out there wants to take on the burden of West Ham United.

"We do, as we are supporters but our resources don't match foreign-based oligarchs who pay no UK tax."

Sullivan and Gold experienced plenty of highs and lows during their 16 years in charge of Birmingham City, but given their personal ties to West Ham, the current plight is an emotional rollercoaster.

"We are not down yet, but I admit it is not looking good," Sullivan added.

"I have been relegated three times before, on every occasion gaining automatic promotion the following season, but this one will hurt me the most if it happens.

"David and I have taken criticism and, should we be relegated, will accept the responsibility."

West Ham hope key midfielder Parker, set to receive his Footballer of the Year Award on Thursday night, will recover from his niggling Achilles problem to make the Wigan game.

Former Chelsea and Portsmouth Avram Grant has seen his position come under scrutiny for most of the campaign, despite only being appointed in the summer.

However, midfielder Jack Collison - who has just returned after more than a year out with a serious knee injury - maintains everyone is pulling together in a bid to keep the Irons up.

"The boys are working hard, the staff have put the hours in, but it is a matter of going out there now and doing it," Collison said on West Ham TV.

"We have talked all season about how we are good enough to get out of it, but the league table does not lie and we have a cup final next week and the following week.

"We need two wins and hopefully that is enough."