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Hammers in need of a saviour

The credit crunch is biting deep at Upton Park. All credit to Franco Zola's team for fighting back to earn a valiant point against Arsenal, but speculation is mounting that the club's value is rapidly declining.

• West Ham 2-2 Arsenal: Hammers comeback

Still without a win at home this season in the Premier League, the fightback from two down might have felt like a victory, but the reality is that the one point leaves the unhappy Hammers second from bottom of the table. And while their Premier League status remains in doubt, the value of the club might be plummeting to a new low, at least that's how those stalking the club view it.

ESPN Soccernet has been informed that West Ham will need to drop their asking price to as low as £15m to find a buyer for the stricken east London club, because the new owner would need to take on debts of £85m.

That shock figure is revealed by an intermediary seeking a buyer to rescue the club. The insider told ESPN Soccernet: "The clubs debts are £85 million and a realistic price would be £100 million including that debt. The price for West Ham started at £150 million but they are going to have to drastically re-adjust their thinking. They could come down to £100 million, but no one is going to pay even that price unless it includes their £85 million worth of debt."

There is once again speculation of a fire sale of talent in January, and Carlton Cole, who would have impressed the on-looking Fabio Capello with his man of the match display, is one of the few players who might raise a reasonable transfer sum.

But my insider is sceptical that even that would resolve the problem. He tells me: "They have a few good players left, like Carlton Cole, Matthew Upson, but while Cole is young Upson is not. You will not get crazy money for these players.

"Worse still is the football side. They are in danger of going down unless someone steps in, so the they need to bring down their final figure. I would say £100 million all in, including the debt, is rapidly becoming more of a realistic price, but as yet the banks who effectively own the club are trying to get a much as they can, understandably. They are going to have to compromise."

West Ham's tradition deserves the right kind of investor to come to the club's aid, and Zola has the makings of a promising management team alongside Steve Clarke.

When the Gunners cruised into a two-goal lead with little effort and even less resistance from the Hammers, co-commentator and ex-Gunner Alan Smith ventured that the home team "look like a beaten team already".

It felt as if Arsenal would roll out a bag full of goals, but in yet another unexpected turn around West Ham fought back and ended up deserving a point, while Arsene Wenger will be furious that the Gunners' title chances took such a knock in a game that should have waltzed through.

The Hammers are fighting a relegation battle, much as I predicted two months ago, and while they fight for survival they are vulnerable to a cheap takeover bid.

Early indications are that West Ham are attracting potential investors, seeking a bargain. David Sullivan says West Ham's "huge debts" have deterred him from mounting a takeover bid following his preliminary discussions with the club.

Sullivan and former Birmingham co-owner David Gold are seeking another club after selling their stake in City to the Hong Kong businessman Carson Yeung. West Ham are the club Sullivan supported as a boy, but he was put off by a possible £100 million asking price.

Sullivan said: "The debts that appear to be at West Ham seem huge. I'm not sure I could face what is going on there, but West Ham do need help and quickly. I hope someone gets involved in the next week or next month or two; otherwise they could be in the Championship or bust, or both."

West Ham are currently controlled by CB Holdings who, in turn, are owned largely by the Icelandic investment bank Straumur-Burdaras.

Initial talks revolved around a cash injection, but a complete takeover is still a possibility. "As one door shuts another one opens," said Sullivan. "West Ham is a club close to my heart, and I would love to be involved with them."

Jim Bowe claims that the Intermarket Group is going to rescue West Ham was greeted with derision within City circles. Worse, it was being described as a blatant publicity stunt. A City expert on Premier League club takeover deals told ESPN Soccernet: "As far as I can make it this is a company with a £1,000 share capital started only recently. I suppose its better than internet advertising to say your going to mount a £100 million takeover of a club like West Ham!"

Bowe was once a Wall Street financier, now turned chief executive of Intermarket of a mere one month standing.

Intermarket is actually a Canary Wharf-based financial analysis company. Their link with the Hammers gained them a sack full of free publicity and they were quite content to talk openly about their plans for the unhappy Hammers.

A spokesman for West Ham's owner, Straumur, hinted that there was nothing in Bowe's claims. But it won't do Intermarket's two director-shareholders, David Byrne and Iain Mortley, any harm to be talked about as £100 million bidders. Little to nothing has been heard of them since they enjoyed the limelight, their 15 minutes of fame.

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