We love a moan at West Ham. There’s always something to complain about; the stadium, the owners. Most often it seems the players get the brunt of the negativity. Our most recent scapegoat was disgraced talisman Dimitri Payet. The hero of last season suddenly transformed into pantomime villain for refusing to play. It was all good until Marseille swopped in and destabilised the player. Disgraceful!
But didn’t West Ham’s failed Scott Hogan transfer have the same impact on Brentford?
West Ham made an initial bid of £10 million for Hogan on 4th January; Brentford rejected this offer as they felt their player was worth closer to £15 million.
Bilic was quick to praise Hogan to the press:
“He’s a good player. I watched him a few times. He is very sharp, quick – a good finisher, doing it in Championship. He’s young and a good prospect.”
Brentford went on to reject a further two bids for Hogan and withdrew the player from first team action for rest of January. Manager, Dean Smith admitted to the press that Hogan had had his “head turned” by the transfer speculation:
"It's very difficult when I think a player is getting starved of football when he wants to play, but speculation and phone calls are turning his head. I can understand the player. I'm not hanging him out to dry at all.”
Eventually, on transfer deadline day, West Ham pulled out of the transfer. Supposedly this was Bilic’s decision due to the wealth of striking options already at the club. He told the press:
“He [Hogan] is a good player, of course he is a good player. We watched him for many, many games. But I believe that we have really good strikers in our squad and that's why we won't have a Hogan deal.
Definitely a good player, good age and scoring goals in the Championship. It's not a question of him, it's a question of what we've already got in the squad."
Which begs the question, why go through an entire month of negotiations just to turn the deal down at the last moment? Enlightening quotes from a talkSPORT interview with co-chairman David Sullivan reveal more:
“We have a policy at West Ham where myself, my head of recruitment Tony Henry and our manager sit down and discuss things.
In a perfect world we all have to agree before we sign anybody and we don’t break that rule very often. So you cannot bring in players that the manager doesn’t particularly fancy, particularly in January.
We have a good manager who gives everyone a chance but if he doesn’t feel he wants somebody, he doesn’t feel he is going to add to the team, then you cannot bring that player in. You have to support the manager.”
To me, this suggests Bilic was never keen on Hogan and the board may have tried to force the player on the Croatian. It’s important for our managers to have a strong role in transfer policy, or else we risk another Curbishley situation.
Crucially, the negotiations with Brentford started before Andy Carroll came into form. By the time the deal was ready to be agreed, Carroll had scored three league goals in three games. These factors likely combined to give Bilic cold feet and veto the transfer.
@CNNFC Andy Carroll [@WestHamUtd vs. Crystal Palace] @AndyTCarroll pic.twitter.com/kwRvz8b4jG— Henry Young (@Henryoung) January 18, 2017
Meanwhile, the effect of the Hogan transfer on the Brentford team was damaging. The team kept their top scorer out of the team for four weeks, and lost three in a row while the deal was hammered out. Brentford fan blog Beesotted openly questioned the player’s commitment to the team:
“Were Brentford not the club to pluck him out of 2nd division Rochdale. Put faith in him. Paid for 18 months of expensive treatment. Nurtured him and paid his salary for 18 months while he was out of work. Stuck with him even though many teams would have written him off after two pretty horrendous injuries?
Don’t get me wrong. Hogan is a quality player. But I find it really sad when a player can go from hero to zero in the eyes of a fair few fans we have spoken to in such a short space of time due to the way he has mismanaged his impending exit from the club.
But what’s the point in putting him in the side if he really can’t be bothered?”
The situation ended with Hogan moving to fellow Championship side, Aston Villa, for a fee that could reach £12 million. At least he’ll get to play in claret and blue next season.
Hogan later tweeted an apology to the Brentford fans:
Message from Scott Hogan. pic.twitter.com/soVSyKmRFK— Harlee Dean (@OfficialHDean) February 1, 2017
Meanwhile, West Ham were dealing with the Payet situation. Fans were quick to turn on the 2016 Hammer of the Year for his refusal to play until a transfer away from London could be agreed.
At one point, West Ham considered complaining to FIFA about Marseille ‘tapping up’ Payet (where a club tries to sign another team’s player behind his parent club’s back). Payet and Marseille were the bad guys. How dare they unsettle one of our best players? But is this any worse than what we did with Scott Hogan?
Payet was publically and privately shamed for his behaviour. He had his car vandalised, was shunned by his teammates and even worse, the players kicked him out of the team WhatsApp group. A dark time for the Frenchman.
ICYMI: Interesting video from Marseille to welcome Dimitri Payet... pic.twitter.com/pZhV3DMEx3— Paddy Power (@paddypower) January 30, 2017
Unlike in Brentford, this saga appeared to bond the West Ham players together. After the behind-the-scenes drama screamed into public view, the Hammers went on to win back-to-back games.
It’s very easy to blame Marseille for their role in the Payet drama. But it would be hypocritical for us to blame Marseille for acting in a disruptive manner, when West Ham were doing the exact same thing. This is football, players leave.
Some departures are more graceful than others; the key is holding on to the players who want to play
Read more from Jack Kavanagh at Culture Hash