LONDON (The Guardian) - West Ham United's deadline day ended in acrimony and frustration after their director of player recruitment was reportedly accused of racism and unlawful discrimination, and their hopes of signing a midfielder were dashed by Anderlecht refusing to sell Leander Dendoncker last night.
A report by the Daily Mail alleged Tony Henry, who was heavily involved in West Ham's attempts to sign Dendoncker, told agents the club did not want to sign any African players in the transfer window. Asked for a response by the paper, Henry is reported to have explained West Ham wanted to limit their number of African players because "they have a bad attitude" and "cause mayhem" when they are not in the team.
Lord Ouseley, the chairman of Kick It Out, described an email that Henry allegedly sent to another West Ham official and an agent regarding an inquiry about a player of Cameroonian descent as potentially unlawful. Henry is thought to have written that West Ham did not want any more Africans in their squad. Pressed by the paper, he suggested the policy was supported by senior management.
West Ham, who did manage to complete the £8m (S$14.9 m) signing of Jordan Hugill from Preston North End before the window shut, have seven players of African descent in their first team. However, they experienced problems with Diafra Sakho before selling the Senegalese striker to Rennes this week and felt they had no option but to allow Andre Ayew to return to Swansea City for an initial £18m on Wednesday after the Ghanaian forward made it clear he wanted to leave.
Sakho had not played since 16 December because of a knee injury and Ayew, who joined West Ham from Swansea for £20m 18 months ago, had been out since 16 January with a hamstring problem. West Ham questioned the seriousness of those injuries after both players passed medicals at their new clubs.
The furore capped off a messy end to the window for West Ham, who are four points above the bottom three. David Moyes had made the acquisition of a top midfielder a priority and there were hopes Dendoncker would arrive for £20m.
Having allowed Reece Oxford to return to Borussia Mönchengladbach on loan, West Ham were cautiously optimistic about signing Dendoncker, the 22-year-old Belgian international. They knew the player wanted to join. But while initial talks were positive, talks broke down when Anderlecht pulled out.
This leaves West Ham with only two fit, senior central midfielders. Pedro Obiang is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury and Edimilson Fernandes is out with an ankle injury.
Despite bringing in Joao Mario on loan from Internazionale last week, West Ham also found it hard to improve their options in attack. Attempts to sign Islam Slimani on loan ended when Leicester City's owners refused to negotiate with them and FC Krasnodar's Fyodor Smolov turned them down. But their search for a striker led them to Hugill, who has scored 10 goals in all competitions for Preston this season.