West Ham United v Tottenham Hotspur - Premier League

Lose Upton Park and you lose a gem of English football


For some ridiculous reason – likely that 5 letter word that begins with ‘m’ and rhymes with ‘funny’ – West Ham United have gone ahead and agreed to a 99 year deal with the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) to become the primary tenants of Olympic Stadium.

The agreement is a major step towards resolving seven mind-numbing years of negotiations. The deal means the East End club will get a sparkly new, 60,000 seat stadium at a marginal upfront cost. Hammers majority owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, will invest at least $228 million (the majority of which will come from the public’s pockets) to convert the stadium and make it suitable for football and other sports. Part of the plans include retractable seats and a new cantilevered roof, so that supporters won’t get their heads wet when they’re chucking coins at John Terry.

Sounds like a pretty sexy setup for West Ham but there are still some snags that need to be worked out.

First, West Ham is required to pay off its $106 million in debt by the the 2016-17 season when the club moves into its new digs. This shouldn’t be too difficult as Gold & Sully plan on using the proceeds from the sale of Upton Park (for redevelopment) to keep the banks happy.

Second, Leyton Orient’s owner, Barry Hearn, is making a stink about seeing out judicial review of the decision to award the Olympic Stadium to West Ham. Without a hint of irony, Hearn claims that awarding the Stadium to just one club will “crush” his club and that sharing the palace would be a much better idea. Hearn concedes, however, that his appeal is unlikely to be successful.

Whereas the first two issues are unlikely to hold up the deal, the final concern – that West Ham still needs to sell the supporters on the plan – could prove tricky. And damn right it should! Tearing down Upton Park would be a disaster for English football.

What would a West Ham match be without without a shady, adrenaline-pumping, stroll down Green Street?

How are fans supposed to enjoy pitch invaders – drunk on London Pride and the claret and sky blue – when they won’t even be able to make it across the track before being tackled by the Yellow Jackets?

And what if bubbles don’t travel as well in the Stratford air?

These are just a few of the questions West Ham fans must ask themselves before they cozy up to the swanky new Olympic Stadium.

The electric atmosphere surrounding Upton Park is one of the few remaining glories that defines English football. I, for one, will be bummed if it disappears.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.