The two Davids make large promises as West Ham celebrate their big day

Co-owners barely manage to contain their excitement at being handed the keys to the Olympic Stadium, writes Sam Wallace

Sam Wallace
Saturday 12 February 2011 01:00
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No major announcement by West Ham United these days is complete without a story from their co-owner David Gold detailing his youthful exploits growing up in east London, be it playing for the club's youth team or something equally heroic.

Yesterday, on the occasion of the most monumental news for West Ham since the previous owners discovered there was an issue with Carlos Tevez's registration, Gold pulled out all the stops with a tear-jerker about life in the 1950s at Burke Secondary Modern in Plaistow. It ended with him gesturing triumphantly towards the Olympic Stadium framed in the window behind him as if that answered any doubts his sneering careers teacher may have had about him.

It was, in fairness, lost on the local schoolchildren brought in to share the moment. The men from Newham council smiled politely in the manner of those who have heard the story before. Then, Gold's co-owner David Sullivan saved the day by saying something rude about the quality of Amstrad computers in reference to Alan Sugar, a long-term critic of West Ham's bid, and suddenly everyone was back on the same page.

It is not every day that a club of such relatively modest fortunes as West Ham get the keys to a £537m stadium which will transform their future. But they deserved their big day yesterday celebrating in a restaurant overlooking the stadium and making big promises to the local population which will come back to haunt them if they are unfulfilled.

These are exciting times at West Ham, particularly if they can stay in the Premier League this season. Just how exciting was obvious in the giddy mocked-up pictures of a future Hammers team playing in their new home. There was Champions League livery visible on the perimeter advertising.

The club are adamant that their business plan is not predicated on survival and even if they do go down this year they will have three seasons to return before the grand opening in 2014. Of course, three seasons outside the Premier League would be unthinkable especially with the debt of £75m, according to Sullivan yesterday.

Karren Brady, the vice-chairman, predicted optimistically a turnover of £100m by 2014. But even that was less optimistic than the 700,000 fans West Ham claim to have on their database who they hope will throng to this new "multi-use" mecca of football, live music, shopping, athletics and cricket.

There is still the formality of approval from the Mayor of London but already there were grandiose ambitions being outlined yesterday. The mayor of Newham council, Sir Robin Wales, predicted the first 73,000 crowd for a cricket match in this country. "Why not India v Pakistan?" he asked.

It is telling that when Bayern Munich moved into their former Olympic Stadium home after the Games in the city in 1972, they had just three Bundesliga titles. By the time they left in 2005 they were easily the biggest club in Germany with 16 more titles and five European Cups. The stadium, complete with running track, had made them rich and successful. West Ham would settle for a fraction of that.

THE NEW STADIUM

Is an anagram of which club?

a) Tottenham Hotspur b) West Ham United c) Leyton Orient

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