A few days ago, Iain Dale of West Ham blog westhamtilidie.com and I agreed to answer each other's question about George John and the Hammers, since fans of both clubs didn't seem to know much about the other. He published my answers about Mr. John, and it's generated quite a few comments.
One note: from what I've read, their best defender according to Iain, James Tomkins, is rumored to be a target of a couple EPL clubs, but West Ham management has stated that he's not for sale. Take that for what it's worth, and I hope you find the following exchange interesting:
Which players will George John likely be competing with for playing time, and how do you rate them?
There are currently three central defenders on the books. James Tomkins will always be the first name on the team sheet. He is a young, agile and skilful central defender who many of us believe will play for England one day. He loves bringing the ball out of defence and is the antithesis of a clogger. The place alongside Tomkins is usually taken by Abdelaye Faye, a massive mountain of a man who, at the age of 33 is a very experienced Senegalese international. He has played for many years in the Premier League, for Bolton, Newcastle and Stoke. He is surprisingly quick, but is also very injury prone. When he is not fit, young New Zealand international Winston Reid plays. He had a difficult start at the club but has played well this season and scored a couple of goals.
We're a bit puzzled by the apparent cheapness of this loan-to-buy approach. After relegation last season, how are the Hammers doing financially, and do you think the board is hedging in case promotion and/or player sales don't go their way?
I think it is a very sensible thing for the club to do. If George John proves himself and plays well we’ll buy him permanently, if he doesn’t we won’t. We can’t afford to take huge risks on players who might not make it. It’s not a reflection on the financial state of the club, it is a sensible business strategy. The club’s debt has gradually been reduced. At one point it was around $180 million. It’s now more like $120 million. Of course there’s a certain amount of ‘hedging’. There are no certainties in a promotion push. At the moment it looks a good bet, but you always have to plan for the worst.
Concerning the promotion race: How worried are most West Ham supporters and how worried are you?
I wouldn’t say I am worried. We are joint top, half way through a season in which we haven’t actually really hit our stride yet. I think the best is yet to come. No one can take anything for granted but it would be both disappointing and surprising if we didn’t make the top two. But if we don’t then there are always the playoffs. But having gone down that route twice in recent memory, I hope it doesn’t come to that. We have some excellent players. If they play to their potential, we’ll be OK. I hope!