Tony Cottee, the West Ham legend, hopes Zabeel Investments' decision to pursue Charlton rather than the Hammers does not spell the end of UAE interest in the club.
Cottee keen on Emirates investment
DUBAI // Tony Cottee, the West Ham legend, hopes Zabeel Investments' decision to pursue Charlton rather than the Hammers does not spell the end of UAE interest in the club. The Dubai-based company are currently in the due diligence phase of assuming control of Charlton, West Ham's London rivals. Zabeel Investments rejected reports last week that their bid had been derailed after they had suddenly decided to switch their interest in the Hammers.
Cottee, who is one of West Ham's greatest goalscorers, believes the club is crying out for investment from the abroad, as the global credit crunch bites at Upton Park. "I would welcome investment from anywhere, provided they have the club's best interest at heart," said Cottee, who is in Dubai as a pundit for Showtime Arabia. "You can't get away from the fact the Premier League is a massive brand now. There is a huge interest in it all round the world.
"West Ham, to me, is a very, very special football club. There is a special heritage there. "What I would not like to see is, for example, someone from Dubai buying the club, then all of a sudden the manager is from Dubai, and the players. That would mean West Ham would lose their affiliation with the fans. As long as whoever comes in looks after the club, I have no problem at all. They have to keep the traditions of the club in mind."
The Hammers are thought to be ripe for a takeover as the current owner Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson's financial assets have been compromised by the financial crisis in Iceland. Gudmundsson was a major shareholder in Iceland's second largest bank, Landsbanki, which was nationalised last week, provoking suggestions he would have to sell West Ham. The club have played down the fears, but Cottee said: "It is a huge worry. All the fans are concerned. When they took over two years ago, everyone thought, 'Great, we have at last got people who will throw money into the club'.
"They did - they bought the likes of Matthew Upson, Kieron Dyer, Craig Bellamy and Lucas Neill, big name players for big wages. "Of course, the credit crunch has affected everyone around the world. I don't know if it has quite got here yet, but I am sure it will do eventually. Iceland has been particularly badly hit. Landsbanki went under and Mr Gudmundsson was the chairman of that, so it is definitely a concern.
"The club are saying all the right things, but the person we haven't heard from is Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson, the owner and chairman. He really needs to clarify the position. Until then, everyone fears for the future of the club. What we want to hear from the chairman is that everything is fine, money is available, and that the club is moving forward. "We need to know if the club is going to be sold again or if Gudmundsson is the man to take the club forward."