West Ham should pay the price for Ward-Prowse just to offer an illusion of coherence

Ian Watson
James Ward-Prowse and West Ham manager David Moyes.
James Ward-Prowse is wanted by West Ham manager David Moyes.

The absence of a bidding war is no excuse for West Ham low-balling Saints over James Ward-Prowse, especially amid squabbling over a transfer policy that is inhibiting the Irons… 

West Ham remain the only Premier League team without a signing this summer. They have four weeks to remedy that, and doubtless they will. But the situation at the London Stadium is beginning to look more peculiar with each day that passes without a new recruit.

The Hammers may be European Conference League winners, but their inactivity is certainly not because David Moyes is content to stick with what he’s got. As things stand, having sold Declan Rice, West Ham are in acute danger of starting the new campaign demonstrably weaker than how they ended last season. And, domestically, they were p*ss poor then.

Neither is it because they are brassic. A more likely explanation for their failure to recruit is because they do have the money – and everyone knows it.

West Ham ought to have enough expertise running up the hierarchy to tread that particular minefield. When it comes to transfers, the Hammers are taking a five heads are better than one approach, which would be true if they were all aligned in their thinking. Evidently, they are not.

You can bet David Sullivan and Mark Noble will be chirping up, as too will head of recruitment Rob Newman. Whether he is being listened to appears doubtful, while Moyes and Tim Steidten shout loudest.

And that seems to be West Ham’s biggest problem: the manager and the technical director are each championing contrasting methods.

Read more: Arsenal laughing as West Ham overcook Rice and have too many chefs in their own transfer kitchen

Moyes wants proven Premier League quality this summer. Steidten, apparently, wants to be allowed to do his job by realigning the club’s recruitment policy towards a model geared more around younger, European-based talent.

West Ham seem to have forgotten that neither approach has to be exclusive to the other. Indeed, in the Irons’ case, compromise between the two is surely the way forward, especially in the short-term, even if Steidten wants to tip the balance in the medium to long-term.

While, as it appears, Moyes and Steidten continue to dig their heels in, the Premier League season is creeping up on them. Typically, West Ham are threatening to start the new term on the back foot when, after the euphoric conclusion to the last one, they should be experiencing some rare optimism, rather than the now customary weariness at their decision-makers’ ineptitude.

One signing won’t be enough to make everything appear rosy at the London Stadium – but it would go a bloody long way to dissipating the scepticism that has taken hold. Especially if it is James Ward-Prowse crossing his arms for the cameras.

Moyes wants Ward-Prowse on board – he’s never hidden that desire. And West Ham seem content to indulge the manager. Up to a point.

The Irons want you and Southampton to believe that they are moving on to other targets – you don’t know them, they go to a different school – after having an offer worth up to £30million rejected by Saints. West Ham offered £27million up front, with another £3million in add-ons. Saints told them to try harder.

James Ward-Prowse prepares to take a set-piece for Southampton in their draw at Manchester United.

They really should. Steidten can scour Europe all he likes but he would be hard-pushed to find a midfielder with Ward-Prowse’s pedigree combined with such a level of certainty that he will thrive at the London Stadium. If Saints are asking for £40million, it is not an unreasonable demand for an England midfielder, in his peak, with his skillset.

West Ham have to replace not only Rice’s technical talent but also fill the leadership vacuum in his absence. Ward-Prowse may have skippered a sinking ship last season but he was by no means the reason Saints were submerged. Indeed, were it not for him, they would have gone under faster.

The 28-year-old is so obviously the best candidate to take Rice’s place, yet still West Ham are trying to wheel and deal. Which is all a huge waste of time since everyone can smell the £100million burning through their pockets. And Saints see no reason, just because they will kick off in the Championship this weekend, to offer any bargains. Their stance over Romeo Lavia is further proof of that.

West Ham are reaching the point that it is almost worth paying the few million for Ward-Prowse they are so obviously reluctant to if only to offer the illusion of a functioning football club. Until that happens – and with respect to Wolves – the team will restart as the only club considerably worse off than they finished.