Spectre of relegation makes takeover suitors rethink

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The Independent Online

Any more results like this and talk of a takeover at West Ham United will become redundant. None of the prospective buyers will want to acquire a relegation battle as well as a football club now West Ham have slipped into the bottom three.

Indeed, the consortium led by the Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson has told The Independent on Sunday that it could be simply far too risky a proposition to countenance. How can they spend £70m - and take on debts of £23.5m - when they could be buying a team that will be in the Championship?

If they do go down then the financial implications for West Ham will be frightening and next week already appears to be one in which either Magnusson or Kia Joorabchian, who is fronting another consortium, will make a decisive move.

But a sixth consecutive defeat, without a goal being scored, is simply shocking for a team with West Ham's aspirations and will not help the chairman, Terence Brown, in his negotiations, especially as he does not want to dip below his asking price.

It is also hardly an aid to manager Alan Pardew. He has conducted himself with great dignity and honesty throughout this whole saga and has won support for it. Pardew also signalled, early on, his fears that takeover talk could destabilise his plans but, again yesterday, he insisted it was not going to be used as mitigation. "We have said all along that we cannot use that as an excuse," Pardew said.

He has also made plain that whatever the machinations, and the passing of another deadline set for the Joorabchian consortium, he simply had to get on with the business of winning.

But it is a business West Ham have failed in again. Despite their efforts, their bright start - "up until the first goal if it had been two boxers in a ring you would have said as a neutral that West Ham are going to win it," Pardew, not unreasonably, said - confidence has crumbled.

It is his job to rebuild it and his belief remains. He talked of "grains of confidence" returning, the need for a little "bit of genius" - the simple need for a break. He also doesn't believe in "second season-itis" - the affliction that affects many clubs after reaching the Premiership - but West Ham have certainly been laid low by a variety of increasingly damaging ills.

As well as the takeover business there has been the arrival of Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano, facilitated by Joorabchian, on the August deadline day - with the manager only being informed the day before - and the continuing problems of their acclimatisation. Tevez, injured, was not even on the bench. Mascherano was brought on with just four minutes to go with the contest already lost.

Joorabchian has also, apparently, tried to state what he wants in terms of team selection - and has been given short shrift - while injuries have bit hard. Dean Ashton's broken ankle also fractured Pardew's plans to build his attack around the striker.

More recently there was Anton Ferdinand's arrest outside a night-club and the emergence of Nigel Reo-Coker's unhappiness at being denied a move. The captain was undoubtedly more focused yesterday. On the eve of the game Peter Grant, Pardew's assistant, was appointed Norwich City's new manager. Although a good move for him it caused further disruption.

Little of this would matter if results had been right. There has been the steady disintegration of belief - a vital commodity in a young team. "If there's one thing that's missing," Pardew acknowledged, "it's belief".

He encroached onto the pitch on 14 minutes to offer words of advice to Ferdinand. Unfortunately, soon after, the defender failed to communicate with his goalkeeper Roy Carroll and allowed Kanu to head Portsmouth in front. It was a soft goal for a team having such a hard time, but also rather symptomatic.

"Our fans are patient," Pardew said for what is now the worst run he has experienced as a manager, and with Portsmouth supporters chanting "you'll be sacked in the morning". But he added honestly: "And that patience will not last much longer if we don't get a win."

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