There are few more people in football burdening a similar portion of loathing, mistrust and infamy as the current West Ham double-act David Gold and David Sullivan. Their takeover in January was supposed to manifest an impetus for resurgence for the struggling club, but results continued to deteriorate, culminating in a six game losing streak starting at the end of February.
As results worsened, so did morale.
The frustrated Sullivan launched himself into a tumultuous tirade against his own players at a training session, proclaiming them all ‘fat, lazy and useless,’ and followed that by dubbing the team as ‘pathetic’ following the clubs 3-1 defeat to Wolves.
Meanwhile, as relegation began to appear increasingly likely, Gold produced a desperate jibe at Fulham’s team selection against Hull as Roy Hodgson fielded a blunted side with the Wolfsburg Europa League tie in mind.
It’s certainly been far from smooth sailing for the outspoken oafs. And it’s not surprising the two sacked their amiable Italian manager, Gianfranco Zola, last week. Or rather, they gave permission to Karren Brady – who, incidentally, was also with the pair at Birmingham City, and was questioned and later cleared on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud and false accounting – to finally break the news to the former Chelsea front-man. The noose, however, was prepared long in advance of May 11th; Zola often cut a sullen figure on the touch-line and took a small break in Italy in April as speculation around his future mounted.
Prior to their successes at Birmingham, Sullivan and Gold also had businesses in the pornographic industry.
Coming from fairly humble backgrounds, Sullivan, who pumped petrol for a living until he was 21, and Gold, who helped is mother sell buttons from a small market stall, soon found that a lot of money could be made from producing risqué photography and literature.
Gold eventually went on to become the head-honcho of Anne Summers, before gifting the brand to his daughters. Sullivan, meanwhile, made his millions through his hold on the adult magazine market and went on to produce several adult films all of which starred his late then-girlfriend Mary Millington.
The pair later bought Birmingham together in 1993.
Sixteen years later, Gold and Sullivan relinquished their ownership of Birmingham to Hong Kong billionaire Carson Yeung, allowing them to buy a 50% controlling stake in West Ham, their boyhood club.
It’s perhaps safe to say that the growing unease at the club will multiply with Sullivan donning the executioners gown and placing uncertainty over everyone’s head, except the talent of Scott Parker – though what exactly will keep the on-form midfielder at the club following a mass exodus or a big club bid is anyone’s guess.
Hammers fans can only hope that the experience the duo earned at Birmingham begins to ring true and that the upheaval – if indeed that is what Sullivan, be it his jurisdiction or not, is after – is dealt with quickly and delicately to allow new, stable management to get on with the job in hand without being heckled by the very people who employed him and who are expected to support him.
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