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Football: You're art of order! FURY AS WEST HAM SPLASH THOUSANDS ON MODEL BOAT.

Byline: Neil SILVER

WEST HAM have splashed out on a piece of art valued at pounds 250,000 - despite selling their top players.

The Hammers last week proudly unveiled a model of HMS Warrior in their Upton Park reception area, which has an insurance valuation of pounds 250,000.

HMS Warrior was the world's first iron clad ship and was built in 1860 by workers of the Thames Iron Works and Shipbuilding Company, which later became West Ham United FC.

But the historical connection is lost on furious fans.

Simon Smith, who runs fans' website 'In-The-Brown-Stuff.co.uk' told The SP: "This shows that West Ham have got their priorities all wrong.

"Having sold the likes of Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Jermain Defoe, we don't really need to spend our money on a model for the reception - pounds 250,000 is a player in this division."

Since West Ham were relegated from the Premiership in 2003 they have parted company with more than pounds 32million-worth of talent and spent just over pounds 3million on new players. They have also laid-off matchday staff.

Reverend William Mowll, the craftsman who spent five years building the model, said: "I wouldn't be able to comment on what this cost the club but it's insured for pounds 250,000 which is the replacement cost.

"I got to know West Ham's Chairman Terry Brown when I repaired a couple of other pieces of art West Ham own.

"There is a larger model of HMS Warrior on display at the dockyard museum in Portsmouth. That took 16 years to make and after Mr Brown saw it I was commissioned to make a smaller version for West Ham.''

West Ham this week announced a pre-tax profit of pounds 11.8million, based largely on the sale of players and reduction of the wage bill by pounds 10million.

West Ham spokesman Peter Stewart said: "I'm not commenting. I know what you're about and I'm not commenting."

Hammers fan Paul Wasmuth of Stratford, London said: "It's a joke. The fans couldn't care less about some model boat - we want cash for players, not toys for the board.''

CAPTION(S):

ALL AT SEA: West Ham have forked out a fortune for this model ship; Rio Ferdinand; Frank Lampard; Jermain Defoe; Joe Cole; David James; Michael Carrick
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The People (London, England)
Date:Oct 31, 2004
Words:385
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