Former West Ham striker Carlton Cole has praised his old team for their swift decision to suspend director of player recruitment Tony Henry following claims he told agents the club do not want to sign any more African players.
The Hammers announced on Thursday that Henry had been suspended while an investigation took place into an interview he gave to the Daily Mail.
Henry said West Ham wanted to limit the number of African players because “they have a bad attitude” and “cause mayhem” when they are not in the team.
Henry, it was claimed, suggested it was a policy supported by club management – but insisted West Ham had “nothing against the African race at all”.
Ex-England striker Cole, who spent nine years at West Ham from 2006 to 2015, said it was “disappointing” to hear of the alleged comments, but said he had never experienced discrimination at the club.
He said in a statement to Press Association Sport: “Not many people have played for West Ham United longer than me and African players have always been made most welcome by the fans and club.
“I am of African heritage and am indeed proud of that, I am also proud to have played for my country.
“In my nine years at West Ham United it was fantastic, the fans and club have always judged players on their football ability, work ethic and loyalty.
“West Ham United is a club that is proud of its diversity and has not tolerated discrimination during the whole time I played there and been associated with the club.
“We all have to be completely against any form of prejudice, racism and discrimination, football must be about inclusion and equality.
“I am pleased to see that the club have acted so swiftly to investigate any accusations of discrimination and I’m sure they’ll reach a satisfactory conclusion.”
The Professional Footballers’ Association described West Ham’s “swift action” as “encouraging”, adding in a statement: “We trust they will deal with this in keeping with football’s position on all matters of equality and anti-racism.”
The Football Association is also investigating the matter.
The Mail also reported that Henry sent an email on January 27, in response to an inquiry about a footballer of Cameroonian descent, to another senior West Ham official and an agent.
In the email, Henry allegedly wrote: ‘We don’t want any more Africans and he’s not good enough.”
When asked by the Mail why that was the case, Henry reportedly highlighted “problems” with their former striker Diafra Sakho, who left West Ham to join French club Rennes on Monday.
“We find that when they (Africans) are not in the team they cause mayhem. It’s nothing against the African race at all,” he allegedly said.
“I mean, look, there are top African players. There’s not a problem with them. It’s just sometimes they cause a lot of problems when they are not playing, as we had with Diafra.”
“He’s left, so great. It’s nothing personal at all.”
Asked then if he thought his comments amounted to a slight on African players, Henry apparently replied “no” and praised the efforts of West Ham’s Senegal midfielder Cheikhou Kouyate.
Kouyate posted a picture of himself on Instagram on Thursday morning with the caption “African and proud”.
West Ham manager David Moyes will face the media for the first time since the interview emerged when he previews the weekend trip to Brighton on Friday afternoon.