When Karren Brady sold the dream of moving to the old Olympic Stadium to sceptical West Ham fans, she was unequivocal.
The new ground would simply have to be ‘World Class’ gushed the Hammers’ vice-chair.
Uprooting from the raucous but rickety and outdated bear pit of Upton Park to a modern, revamped 60,000 plus home would then trigger a steady flow of equally high-end players to grace such grand surroundings in the east end of London.
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Big players, big games, big occasions, big ideas.
Seven years on and in a way Lady Brady was spot on. This Sunday, the biggest game of West Ham’s turbulent tenancy at their tax-payer subsidised stadium will take place.
Not quite what the triumvirate of Brady and the two controlling owners David Sullivan and David Gold had in mind with a crucial relegation six-pointer against Southampton.
West Ham are third from bottom, Southampton in last place. Just a point between them.
If Saints are relegated it will be a shame but for West Ham an utter disaster with massive ramifications that will linger for years.
More than £120 million spent last summer on new players is bad enough. But sitting in the heart of the team and wondering what on earth is going on around him is the jewel in the crown, Declan Rice.
The West Ham captain will be England captain too one day. Anchorman for club and country. A genuine world class midfielder. Being home grown sends his value skyrocketing to boot.
At 24 he has seen enough already and knows his current club cannot match his ambition. He will be gone in the summer. Any fan with an ounce of awareness knows that and should accept it with good grace.
It’s not a question of ‘if’ he goes, or ‘when’ but for ‘how much?’ this summer with Manchester United, Arsenal, even some of Europe’s giants watching with close interest.
West Ham’s beleaguered manager David Moyes has just 12 Premier League games left to keep that price tag as inflated as possible.
Should they get relegated, and that is a serious risk on current form, in addition to his own job, Moyes can kiss goodbye to the outlandish £150 million he claims Rice’s signature would demand from any buying club.
Sink into the Championship and Brady and her cohort will be lucky to get a quarter of that.
Barely £40m to finance the massive rebuild that will be required to get back up.
Rice will be just the first out of the door too. Jarrod Bowen, Lucas Pacqueta, Nayef Aguerd, Gianluca Scamacca, Said Benrahma and others will be on their way at massive financial cost - three words every board of directors fears more than any others.
Flynn Downes and Danny Ings will be leading the big promotion push when next season kicks off at home to Rotherham.
Every club takes a hit when it gets relegated but none have painted themselves into a corner quite like West Ham in recent years.
Last season, the London Stadium as it is now known, was electrified during the latter stages of the Europa League. Knockout matches at home to Lyon, Seville and Eintracht Frankfurt were memorable nights.
But it takes huge success to make a vacuous bowl set in urban parkland work for football.
West Ham’s monstrosity of a home ground will echo to grumpy Cockney voices at barely a third full.
Cosy Upton Park could maintain a semblance of atmosphere with its proximity to the pitch and compact construction even in the bleakest times.
But letting a valuable asset like Rice slip through your fingers would surely go down as one of the most inept pieces of management even by West Ham’s extraordinary standards of cock ups.
Bear in mind this is a club which once lost a match it had already won by fielding a cup-tied player in the League Cup against Aston Villa and was fined a record £5.5million for playing ineligible Carlos Tevez during a previous battle against the drop.
More recently, Brady and her pals took on Moyes to dig them out of relegation trouble, ditched him at the end of the season only to go back cap in hand 18 months later when it all went t**s up with Manuel Pellegrini. So there’s history here.
Ask most people in football about West Ham this season and they’ll say ‘too good to go down’ just as they did in 2003 with a record 42 points.
Ask anyone with any knowledge of West Ham and they’ll agree that the team is doomed, making it as easy as possible for Rice to walk away for peanuts with the double whammy of making it that much harder for whoever takes over from Moyes to get them back up.
*18+ | BeGambleAware