Sullivan targets Champions League with West Ham

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The Independent Football

New West Ham owner David Sullivan has a seven-year plan to get the Hammers into the Champions League after completing a takeover at Upton Park.

Lifelong Hammers fan Sullivan has taken control after acquiring 50% of the club in a deal which values the club at £105million with David Gold joining as joint chairman and Karren Brady becoming vice-chairman.

Former Birmingham City owner Sullivan, who reassured manager Gianfranco Zola that his job is safe, unveiled plans to transform the club from Premier League strugglers into an outfit capable of qualifying for the Champions League.

Sullivan also revealed that part of that plan would be a bid to persuade the government to let the Hammers move into the Olympic Stadium after London 2012.

"We have a seven-year plan to get them into the Champions League and turn them into a big club and over the seven-year period we do plan to spend a lot of money," Sullivan told Sky Sports News.

"The short-term plan is all about survival and getting behind the team."

It is also about getting behind the manager.

"Categorically he (Zola) is staying," said Sullivan. "We will be sitting down with him tonight to work on some transfer targets as we realise, as fans, that the team needs a few additions."

Sullivan stressed that taking over West Ham was the fulfilment of a lifelong football ambition.

"We've got the club that we've always wanted," he said. "We are West Ham fans and I don't think we would have bought West Ham if we hadn't been fans as, from a business point of view, it is in a serious mess.

"But we are deeply and passionately involved with West Ham. David was brought up opposite the West Ham ground.

"I was never popular with Birmingham fans because I admitted I was doing a job there to the best of my ability. West Ham is a club we've always wanted to own and we've come back.

"It is nice to get the club back in the hands of east Londoners and these are exciting times. We hope to persuade the government to let us move into the new Olympic Stadium and I believe the people of east London would support that move."

Sullivan also revealed that he, Gold and Brady will welcome other investors going forwards.

"We have bought 50 per cent and I have an option to buy the other 50 per cent. But if they (wealthy West Ham fans) want to get involved with West Ham they will be very welcome," he said.

"Anyone who wants to be put £10m or £15m into club they can buy 10 or 15 per cent of the club and come along and join us. We will welcome other investors."

Sullivan and Gold became the favourites to buy the Hammers after rival Tony Fernandes, chief executive of AirAsia and team principal of the new Lotus F1 team, pulled out of the race.

But Sullivan is hoping Fernandes can be persuaded to join forces with him and Gold in the future.

"We will be approaching Tony (Fernandes) in the hope that he will join us in a kind of national unity purchase of West Ham."

Sullivan, who along with Gold sold Birmingham to Carson Yeung earlier this season, claimed in an interview with BBC Radio Five Live that he had inherited severe financial problems at Upton Park.

"We will spell out the book we are taking over - the imbalance in the squad and the crazy wages the Icelandics were paying out that brought the club to its knees," he said.

Sullivan, who was brought up in Hornchurch, added: "I have been interested in running West Ham United for 20 years and I can't wait to start work.

"I enjoyed running Birmingham City for 16 and a half years, but everyone there knew my true love was always West Ham United.

"It will be an immense privilege to lead this great football club and more importantly its supporters.

"Our first priority has to be securing the Premier League status of West Ham. I believe the players at this club have shown great commitment in trying circumstances and the new board and I will get behind them in every way we can.

"Our long-term aim will be to put the club on a stronger financial footing. I believe with our new board we have the expertise and experience to do just that and bring the good times back to this great football club.

"West Ham United need stability after all the recent upheavals. We appointed four managers and parted company with two at Birmingham in 16 years. We believe in our managers and give them the time and support they need.

"The club is now back in the hands of East Enders, people who understand the community and its passion for the Hammers. I believe that depth of feeling will also bring us through what has been a difficult period."

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