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Page last updated at 05:17 GMT, Friday, 9 May 2008 06:17 UK

End of big spending at West Ham

By Simon Austin

Alan Curbishley

West Ham manager Alan Curbishley will be transformed from big spender to penny pincher when the summer transfer window reopens next month.

The Hammers became synonymous with spiralling wages last summer.

Blackburn defender Lucas Neill chose to move to Upton Park instead of Anfield after Liverpool baulked at the salary the Hammers had agreed to pay, while the likes of Freddie Ljungberg, Kieron Dyer and Craig Bellamy all arrived on bumper pay packets.

This recruiting spree has resulted in West Ham boasting one of the biggest first-team squads in the Premier League and a wage bill approaching 50m a year.

When you consider that their turnover for the 2006/7 season was 57.3m, you can see that the Hammers are some distance from achieving chairman Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson's target of being "self sustaining".

So this summer will be very different from those heady days of last year.

A senior source at the club has told BBC Sport that Curbishley, who was appointed in December 2006, will still be in charge at the start of next season.

But the 50-year-old will be charged with trimming the wage bill and selling players before he buys new ones.

We have probably the biggest first-team squad in the Premiership - there is considerable room for manoeuvre

West Ham source
"Mr Gudmundsson is used to looking at long-term factors and knows you don't judge a manager in any business after 18 months," the source said.

"Now is a time to stabilise, because we are convinced that success comes through stability. The ratio between wages and turnover is too high at the moment.

"We have probably the biggest first-team squad in the Premiership and our transfer strategy has to be carefully planned going forward.

"West Ham have a first-team squad of 40, so there is considerable room for manoeuvre. The last thing you should do when you have a problem is to throw money at it."

The source insists this new frugality is not the result of Gudmundsson facing financial difficulties of his own.

The 67-year-old is the owner of Iceland's biggest bank, Landsbanki, and the country is facing severe economic problems, with a collapsing currency, rising inflation, double-digit interest rates and predictions of its first recession since 1992.

"Lansbanki is still running with considerable, healthy profits," the source insisted.

Bjorgolfur Gudmundsson
Gudmundsson is determined to improve medical and training facilities
"Gudmundsson also has interests in several other companies and they are doing well. In the Forbes rich list last April he was the second wealthiest man in Iceland (behind his son) and one of the 1,000 richest men in the world.

"We finalised the financial arrangements of West Ham before the credit crisis hit and the club is on a very stable footing. That financial framework hasn't changed a bit."

The Hammers are now focusing on bringing through their own players, with Freddie Sears and James Tomkins already having impressed for the first team this season.

And Gudmundsson is determined to improve the club's medical and training facilities, after being alarmed at the number of injuries suffered by players like Craig Bellamy, Matthew Upson and Dyer.

"The medical and training facilities are better than those at a lot of other Premier League clubs but not as good as AC Milan's, which is the level we are aiming for," the source said.

Work is expected to start on a new training ground midway through next season, which will replace the ageing facilities at Chadwell Heath.

The club has also changed its management structure, with Gudmundsson taking sole control of the club as chairman following the enforced departure of Eggert Magnusson in December.

Gudmundsson's trusted lieutenant, Asgeir Fridgeirsson, has moved onto the board as vice-chairman, chief executive Scott Duxbury is responsible for the day-to-day running of the club and technical director Gianluca Nani is charged with recruiting the world's best young talent.


When Gudmundsson bought the Hammers, he laid out a five-year plan which, he hoped, would ultimately culminate in qualification for the Champions League.

He believes the club is still on course for that ambition and next season's target will be to challenge for a Uefa Cup spot.

But with his cheque book being put into cold storage, Curbishley has a very different task on his hands than he did at the start of last summer.

see also
West Ham confirm Nani appointment
17 Mar 08 |  West Ham
Neill defends West Ham decision
23 Jan 07 |  West Ham
Magnusson steps down at West Ham
13 Dec 07 |  West Ham

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