Agents column: West Ham to be sold within three years, Chelsea at the last chance saloon with Maresca and more

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In his fortnightly exclusive column for CaughtOffside, Jon Smith, one of football’s first-ever agents and a man who was an integral figure in the forming of the Premier League, discusses why Chelsea are at the last chance saloon with Enzo Maresca, why West Ham will be sold within three years, why VAR won’t be scrapped – and more! 

Chelsea at the last chance saloon with Enzo Maresca

Hiring Enzo Maresca is a really brave decision you have to say from Paul Winstanley, who’s the sporting director at Chelsea, and it’s probably the last chance saloon.

I like Paul, he did a great job at Brighton and he has a highly intellectual footballing brain, but it is definitely a risky proposition.

Having said all of that, the fashionable and loud voices all say that you need young, new, innovative coaches from the Pep school of how to do things in 2024 and that’s where he comes from.

In terms of his managerial ability, he was bit poor at Parma, Leicester fans don’t seem overly upset, which is a slight concern, but when you look at what’s happened at Brighton, and it’s where Paul came from, they pick people out that they’ve done their research on and they’ve worked.

So, being bold and brave might not be the worst thing in the world… fingers crossed.

West Ham’s new set-up a pre-cursor to sale within three years

West Ham, as was over the last couple of years, have got away with their way of working because they didn’t have an obvious striker but they did have a decent coach.

Now it looks as if things will work slightly differently at the club with Tim Steidten driving transfers, and I think it’s a path that they have to tread to become a modern club.

I’ve grown up with a lot of the people running our game and have had good relationships with most of them, and I’m fond of David Sullivan who has been very kind to me.

I’ve watched him operate and he’s bloody good at what he does – but he’s in his 70s. He’s not ill at all, but he’s had medical issues and I just feel that he’s possibly setting the club up for the future.

When you look around the corner, the David Gold shareholding that’s for sale… the price has gone up and up and up, and the obvious taker was originally Daniel Kretinsky but he’s gone and bought the Post Office now, so he’s obviously not going to buy West Ham at the same time.

He’s still a major shareholder, however, so put all those computations together, and you get a club that needs to set itself up for a potential sale in the coming 36 months.

So for me, the new way of working is an obvious step for West Ham to take. It’s modern, it’s cool, it’s doing the things that the likes of Man United are going to have to do in future and I think it’s a bold move, but a necessary one.

I think there’s a real chance that West Ham will be sold in the next 36 months but it does depend, by the way, on who comes in and takes the Gold shareholding.

There’s some big players in that mix, and I think when you see the outcome of that, whoever comes in may be the prelude to what happens next.

EPL and EFL must evolve in complete harmony

I think everything has to evolve.

When I was there at the beginning of the Premier League with Rupert Murdoch, David Dein et al, people said to us, ‘what’s the necessity?’

The guys at the top of the English footballing pyramid were having to fund everyone at the bottom, and we’re not a million miles from that same position now, where the Premier League have offered sizeable sums of money to the Football League. The Football League in turn has said, ‘No, we want more.’

The government have got slightly more important things to do right now, so a regulator would need to sort it out.

The Football League is saying, well, when Labour get in, they’ll support us. The Premier League owners that I know are saying, ‘well, no one can tell us what to do with our money. They can try and regulate us but we’ll put it all on hold in a legal process for two years and see where that goes.’

So they need to try and be a bit creative, rather than litigious.

Ideally, League One and League Two need to be sustained, and there’s enough monies in the system to achieve that without negotiating much further than we are now. In other words, I think a deal between the Premier League and Leagues One and Two is probably not a million miles away.

I think the issue is the Championship, because what may work better, ultimately, is a Premier League One and Two.

The thing is, parachute payments – and I understand why they’re there – give the three relegated clubs an unfair advantage, because the EPL don’t do anything for the rest of the clubs.

I think what has to happen is if you just separate Leagues One and Two, and there were additional payments to the Championship for all the other clubs, that would make it all a little more balanced.

Effectively, the major financial reconstruction is in the Championship to allow everyone to compete with the clubs coming down.

Russians needed to keep Everton afloat as new buyer hunt begins

I think I said previously that if Everton went down, they would have to go into administration.

If 777 pulled out, which has now happened, and there was nobody else, then the Russians would have to step up and keep the club alive during the process.

There was a there was a rumour, and it is just rumour that 777 allegedly hadn’t loaned Everton money and that the Russians were allegedly continuing to fund the club.

At the moment, the only obvious potential buyer that I see is John Textor, but he has to get rid of his 45% share in Crystal Palace.

Now, I know he’s talking to the Premier League about becoming a silent partner, so he’ll have no voice and won’t be a part of the decision making process at Palace.

His plea to the Premier League, therefore, will be on the basis that he could be allowed to have conversations with Everton? I think that he’s waiting for that as a response.

It makes no sense for the very wealthy Russians behind Moshiri to let this go, because they’ll lose everything. They might as well keep it going and wait for a Textor or someone else – and there will be a someone else at some point.

If the Russians can’t, for whatever reason – politically or otherwise – keep it together, then they will have to seek some sort of administrative support, which would be disastrous for Everton Football Club.

VAR shouldn’t be scrapped… but the officials need to up their game

VAR has divided opinion since its introduction

I don’t think VAR will be scrapped because I think there’s enough positive sentiment towards it.

I think the problem is all in the presentation, and the whole issue is the timeframe that it takes to make a decision.

In the World Cup it was a lot faster, and that’s the system that should be followed. The officials absolutely need to present what is happening on screen in the grounds, so that the fans become part of it rather than just a waiting audience.

They actually need to change it a bit where the lines that are drawn for the tightest decisions don’t determine whether the player is onside or offside.

I like that expression ‘clear and obvious,’ which was the entire premise of VAR in the first place.

Leicester could be hit with 15 point deduction… and they’d the first club of many

It looks like Leicester may possibly be hit with a 15-point deduction before the season starts, and things are certainly beginning to shape up that way.

What I’m hearing now may not happen, however, the news is coming from very good sources.

Forest have breached Financial Fair Play again whilst Chelsea may have also done so, therefore we could also see both clubs facing more charges.

Villa are another team to have breached FFP regulations and they too are facing punishment, whilst Man City’s 115 charges will be heard before Christmas.

So I think it’s worth noting that, of course, you have to regulate in the game, but let’s not forget that it’s supporters who are the lifeblood of the game as well as the players.

For both parties it’s all about what happens on the pitch, and that shouldn’t be determined sizeably by what happens off it.

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