Even when we don’t have a fixture it seems to be a tough ask for West Ham to stay out of trouble. This week David Gold has been spending his evenings on Twitter and, bafflingly, kicked the hornets nest of disgruntlement of fans towards the board.
It comes after an official statement on Thursday that the board is ready to “begin constructive dialogue” with supporter groups preparing a protest march against Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady, citing perceived lies and inaction from the current leadership. Hopefully the owners are finally ready to engage, listen and learn.
I know I shouldn’t be getting riled about a few tweets, but Gold is the co-owner and co-chairman of the football club I support. If he’s using it at all, he should be using it to engage with the fans on a serious and meaningful level, acknowledging the positive but also listening to and dealing with the negative. But all Gold seems interested in, as this Thursday was just another reminder of, is spam-retweeting praise and regurgitating stock counter-arguments about debt reduction and season ticket waiting lists to any fan who raises a genuine concern. It is not helpful.
Gold’s tweets, as they have done on numerous occasions in the past, show a spectacular and perplexing misunderstanding of the way fans feel about a number of issues at the club, centring around Sullivan’s maniacally disorganised transfer policy, supporter disenfranchisement and, above all, the stadium. Any mention of the move to the Olympic Stadium stirs up a wave of ill-feeling, and turn even the most sedate of characters into Howard Beale in Network in an instant. It is surely a no-go area for a board wanting to stay on its supporters’ good side, given their spectacular failure to deliver on the promises made on the ground. Why is he still stoking the fire when the board is apparently aware of the level of unrest? Worse still, for someone who always boasts about how connected he is with the club, why does Gold not get it?
But here we are, with Mr. Gold retweeting practically every board-friendly reply (some seem genuine, others sycophantic and attention-seeking in the extreme). It’s as though Gold genuinely believes some Twitter replies validate the decisions the board has taken over the last decade and last couple of years specifically.
“It’s not the board’s fault the fans aren’t getting behind it”, read one of Gold’s retweets. “More accessible than Wembley, Emirates, White Hart Lane, Stamford Bridge...” said another. His timeline is a sheer propaganda machine.
Then there were the ones that Gold tweeted himself. “The manager has the final say on player recruitment”, read one – the archetypal West Ham copy-paste job every time our appalling transfer policy is questioned. Not our fault, nothing to see here.
Then in response to one fan complaining that the majority didn’t want the move, the response was delivered from page one of the Gold, Sullivan and Brady stadium party-line manual. Yep, the waiting list:
Mr West Ham you don’t KNOW that the majority of West Ham fans didn’t want to leave Upton Park you are guessing. However we do have 50,000 loyal season ticket holders and circa 50,000 fans on the waiting list. FACT. dg https://t.co/PdWXa8qJkd— David Gold (@davidgold) February 15, 2018
These are the most irritating of all the board’s arguments. And unfortunately Gold reverts to the same slimy, evasive politician’s answers time and time again. Brady is the same. There’s no attempt at all to listen and engage, rather just deliver his own stock counter-argument. Why do we rarely seem to land our primary transfer targets? 50,000 on the waiting list. Why didn’t the board capitalise on the success of 2015/16 and improve the squad that summer? Waiting list. Why do we have the 13th highest wage bill in Europe and nowhere near the squad to match? 50,000 – remember?
Here, we have fans with genuine concerns, genuine grievances and questions and we’re met with Tony Blair and David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions. No attempts to listen, no attempts to engage with the real issue. Just “it was better than the last government” and “we’re making the tough decisions to do what we think is right”. We are completely shut out. The waiting list reference almost even reads as a veiled “if you don’t like it, someone else will take your spot” counter, which is both imprudent in its arrogance and no way to treat a supporter.
This is why it would probably be wise for Gold to get off Twitter. As co-chairman, he should be using it to learn, to listen to fans and to try and make the club better, to attempt to explain and justify the actions they take. But when fans attempt to scrutinise the board’s record – why a team with our resources seems incapable of competing above a relegation battle; why we enter every transfer window with no purpose or plan; why our academy fails to produce; why many of the stadium promises haven’t been delivered – Gold is incapable of producing meaningful dialogue. If he’s just going to wind up fans with ill-judged, propaganda, he’s better off deleting his account.
Here’s a big issue though. Absurdly, Gold’s naive antagonism is actually just about the most useful club discourse we get. This is because disenfranchised fans have no other way of engaging with their club or holding it to account. Admittedly this is an issue for top-tier English football in general, rather than just us. And it would still sit better with me supporting a team owned by Gold and Sullivan than a sheikh from an Emirate using ownership of my club as nothing more than a public vehicle to legitimise their investment in terrorism and their regime’s awful record on human rights. But that’s another story.
This shouldn’t be the case, especially when Gold even goes as far as (surely inadvertently) offending large groups with some of his activity. “The only thing wrong with this is you clowns who work in McDonald’s and think you know better”, read another of Gold’s retweets. Is he agreeing with the writer’s opinion here? Is that what Gold thinks of fans who don’t agree with him?
As an aside, contempt for ordinary supporters is not something new to the current board. Fans are regularly patronised, which is even more laughable when you consider it’s the board who spend most of the time appearing as though they haven’t a clue what they’re doing. There was the BBC interview in 2016 shortly before our first game in the Olympic stadium. Lady Brady was asked by Trevor Sinclair about the importance of retaining the working class identity of West Ham into the new ground and replied “this stadium offers us a different kind of future”.
All this being said, I do feel a bit sorry for Gold on Twitter, primarily because he’s the only one of the three chairs available to even attempt to defend their actions. Sullivan, perhaps wisely, is not on Twitter (although that would probably be a lot of fun for the neutral) and Brady uses it mostly for self-publicity, though she is better at answering questions when she does tweet about football. The two kids at least have learned their lessons – Dave Jnr. seems to have disabled his account, while Jack, wisely, saves most of his activity for the women’s team in his ‘new role’. It doesn’t exactly forgive their prior misuses though, and we shouldn’t forget the way they routinely slagged off Allardyce and Nolan. But it is a lesson to Mr. Gold that it is probably wise to shut up for a bit unless you have something meaningful to say.
Let’s hope the board are genuinely ready to listen and learn. Anyway, it would be a shame to see Gold go. He can be a comedy genius. Gold may not have found the right way of discussing club matters with the fans, but when he stays away from West Ham he is still well-worth a follow, not least for his daylight savings rants. I’ll leave you with some of my favourite Gold tweets:
The First World War ended in 1918. dg— David Gold (@davidgold) October 29, 2016
“@claretatheart: ive got to be honest i would much rather stay at upton park than the olympic.— David Gold (@davidgold) November 3, 2014
There's nothing stoping you doing that. dg
“@StuAus:— David Gold (@davidgold) February 22, 2012
DG, my goldfish just died, can I have a RT lol”
NO. you cant have a RT for such a ridiculous reason PS are you sure it's dead DG
I'm old enough to remember O J Simpson "getting away with murder" dg— David Gold (@davidgold) September 11, 2014