Daniel Kretinsky exclusive: New West Ham shareholder on January plans, long-term strategy and Czech connection

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he historical bond between West Ham United and the Czech Republic is stronger than many fans in the wider football world fully appreciate. It was a connection which began when Czech goalkeeping legend Ludek Miklosko signed for the Hammers in 1990.

Since then, Ludek has been followed by several other players from his homeland, including the current Claret and Blue trio, Tomas Soucek, Vladimir Coufal and Alex Kral. I am just the latest Czech to follow this well-trodden path.

Our investment will bring a positive improvement to the club’s capital structure, initially enabling a reduction of its long-term debt and increasing the ability to further direct funds generated into key areas. I hope our business acumen and experience of football will also prove beneficial to West Ham United.

We have come to support the club but — so as to manage supporters’ expectations — that doesn’t mean big spending in the January transfer window. I’m hugely impressed by the work of David Moyes and his team who have improved results over a long period of time. This gradual evolution is, in my opinion, the most healthy way to build a strong club on a firm basis and with the right attitudes and culture.

I speak from experience. We tried to rush the development of Sparta Prague a couple of years ago and the results were disappointing. Improving the quality of the squad is great, of course, but we prefer a gradual way that preserves and protects the ethos of the club and its values, including team spirit.

Success demands that the focus should be just as much on the academy as on the first-team squad. Again, the world-renowned academy was a great attraction of West Ham.

Work with young players, as well as engagement with local communities and other social initiatives, are integral to football today. We have to use the power of our sport for the benefit of society. The ability of football to influence those from deprived or difficult backgrounds is unique. We have a duty to use that ability so I look forward to helping to expanding the good work in place at the club.

The unique strength of football comes not only from its sheer appeal, but also from its welcoming environment. You don’t need much to play football and, therefore, everyone has a chance to succeed. I remember a former Sparta Prague player who didn’t possess a proper pair of boots until high school and had been playing barefoot yet he built a career and performed brilliantly for us in the Europa League as well as domestically.

Your nationality or economic background do not count on the pitch. Only your skills, mental strength, character and hard work. On the day, anyone with the right determination can win. This key principle must be protected. This is why football can inspire so much.

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