FA Cup win among the goals for West Ham co-owner David Gold
LONDON -- Modern Premier League owners are not known for having patience with their managers, and fewer still have a desire to fend off the razor-sharp barbs that fly when a touchline tactician comes under pressure, yet West Ham co-chairman David Gold has long been a little different from the rest.
Along with his business partner, David Sullivan, the 77-year-old Gold has never been the type to pull the trigger on a manager whose results dip, with his record as a decision-maker at Birmingham City and now West Ham confirming he is more willing than most to give a manager time to find a winning formula.
So while many chairmen or owners look at the bare facts as they rush to a quick judgment on a coach, the men entrusted with overseeing West Ham's future cherish the idea of financial stability off the pitch being complemented by a similar ethos on it.
Their record for supporting managers may be the primary reason why Sam Allardyce remained in his post at West Ham this summer, despite persistent speculation about his future, and in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC, Gold was eager to emphasize that the edict handed down to his manager ahead of this campaign was a little less blurred than some media reports have suggested.
Allardyce was reportedly told that to hang on to his job at West Ham, he needed to produce a team with a more attack-minded ethos, with Gold eager to clarify the demands that have been made.
"One point I am keen to get across is that at no point was there any conflict of interest between what we as owners want for our football club and what Sam Allardyce wants," he said.
"When we suggested we were looking for more attacking style this season, it essentially meant we want to see more goals from the team. We scored 40 goals in 38 games last season and it is not too much to ask for an improvement on those figures.
"Let me tell you categorically that Sam wants us to score more goals, just as much as I do, and all the club's fans and the players. Those players we have looked to bring to the club this summer will hopefully allow us to offer more of an attacking threat in the weeks and months ahead.
"At one point last season, we were all fearful of losing our status in the Premier League. That fear is terrifying and unless you have been in that situation, you cannot know how you feel when you go to bed every night. At a time like that, it is unrealistic to ask players and managers to have a gung-ho approach to the game and play with freedom, but this is a fresh start.
"Players dictate the kind of style a team displays and the players we have brought to the club -- and may still look to bring -- have been targeted with that in mind. Mauro Zarate, Aaron Cresswell and Enner Valencia have arrived and they are all players with an attacking instinct.
"So we feel our ambitions are realistic and, from what we have seen so far this season, I think Sam and the players are ready to embrace them."
You have to be something of a dreamer to invest a fortune of your own money into a football club, yet Gold dilutes his own dreams with a healthy shot of realism.
In an era when more than half of England's Premier League clubs are owned by wealthy foreign investors, Gold is a blast from the game's more traditional past, with the boy from the East End of London fulfilling his lifetime's ambition by purchasing his beloved Hammers four years ago.
Having played for West Ham is his formative days as a budding footballer, Gold's arrival at the club he always wanted to own was a fairy tale that barely received top billing on a Premier League landscape now dominated by billionaire benefactors.
However, West Ham have a plan to propel them toward the game's elite. A move to London's Olympic Stadium in Stratford in the summer of 2016 is the next major milestone in the club's history and it is quickly evident that Gold will not allow ambition to run wild as long as he is at the helm.
"Is it realistic for West Ham to qualify for Europe in the next few years?" pondered Gold, who has overseen a four-year spell at the helm in which the Hammers were demoted to the Championship, then promoted back to the Premier League via the playoffs, only to flirt with relegation once more last season.
"The answer to the question has to be 'No' and while I take no pleasure in saying that, I can explain why it is not an ambition we can expect of our manager and our players at this moment.
"We inherited a club that was 100 million pounds in debt and the first job was to try and bring order to the finances. During this period, we were relegated from the Premier League and are now looking to establish ourselves in the top division once more ahead of our move to the Olympic Stadium, which offers the club a huge opportunity to move forward.
"The clubs at the top of the Premier League tend to be those with the biggest attendances each week and, as we get a little over 30,000 fans for each home game, it means competing with the top clubs in the country is almost impossible on a variety of levels.
"The hope is the landscape will change considerably for us when we get to the Olympic Stadium. The venue will provide us with a huge scope for additional sponsorship opportunities, an increased capacity and everything that goes with it. At this point, we start looking at the top six and, hopefully one day, something more."
So what is the ultimate dream for the football lover who was cruelly denied the chance to take up the offer to be an apprentice player at West Ham in his youth by a father who insisted he needed to get himself a "proper" job?
"I was fortunate to purchase the oldest version of the FA Cup in existence and it is a dream for me to place the current FA Cup alongside it in the West Ham trophy cabinet," he added.
"Having been present at Wembley when West Ham won the FA Cup in 1964, 1975 and 1980, I would love to be there on the day we win the trophy again. Portsmouth, Stoke and Hull have got to the FA Cup final in recent years so there is no reason why we can't follow their lead. You have to be able to dream in this game."
As so many of Gold's ambitions have been converted into reality throughout his remarkable life, he has every right to believe his fantasy of being an FA Cup-winning West Ham chairman could still become a reality.