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Jack’s the lad to turn West Ham ladies into Super League team

PUBLISHED: 11:30 02 November 2017

Jack Sullivan and Karren Brady

Jack Sullivan and Karren Brady

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Co-owners son Jack Sullivan is leading the pitch to get West Ham Ladies accepted into the Super League and he means business

West Ham ladies v QPR ladies, at West Ham training ground Rush Green Road, Rush Green. West Ham ladies v QPR ladies, at West Ham training ground Rush Green Road, Rush Green.

West Ham United will be one of the top six football clubs in the world in the next three years!

That was the bold claim that I heard from managing director Jack Sullivan and general manager Karen Ray when I went to see them this week.

Not the men’s team of course, that may be too much to ask for, but it is West Ham ladies they are talking about and it is clear that they mean business.

At the moment, the Ladies are in the third tier of the game, but next week they will send off an ambitious application to become one of the elite teams in the Women’s Super League.

West Ham ladies Karen Ray with Michail Antonio West Ham ladies Karen Ray with Michail Antonio

Jack, son of West Ham co-owner David Sullivan, is at the head of the project and it is clear that he is not along for the ride, nor is the Ladies team merely a plaything for the teenager.

“The plans are very ambitious, but that is what we are all here for,” he says. “The whole club have been massively supportive. The marketing and media team have been great, the retail side and even up to my father and Karren Brady, we have all sat down together and thought of the best way for the club to be sustainable.

“We all believe we can do it and we can become one of the best women’s sides. We know it will take time, but we felt this was an opportunity that we could not afford to miss.”

General manager and former player both here and in the United States, Ray believes that everything is in place at the club.

West Ham ladies Karen Ray and Jack Sullivan with Jose Fonte West Ham ladies Karen Ray and Jack Sullivan with Jose Fonte

“The idea is for teams to get there and stay there,” she says. “For us we are in a very fortunate position with our infrastructure.

“Having Jack as a managing director has helped push us on and alighned us with the club.

“We are now the club which is massively important and it is not in a fake way. It is very genuine.

“We will have a girls’ academy for the 16-19 age group and we want to push to become one of the top six clubs in the country and probably the world – we have the ability to do that.”

West Ham ladies v QPR ladies, at West Ham training ground Rush Green Road, Rush Green. West Ham ladies v QPR ladies, at West Ham training ground Rush Green Road, Rush Green.

As many as 14 teams will be accepted into the WSL One for next season, so is Ray confident that they will be chosen?

A slight smile comes to her face. “I think our application is going to blow the others out of the water,” she said. “It is not just smoke. It is not the club saying they will put their name to an application, it is genuine.

“I think we are in a unique position. The fact that we are one club is important, because it shows that we are not going to fold in the first year. The fact that we have Baroness Brady as our ambassador shows that we mean business.

“We have had Jack’s dad at every home game and he was interacting with the fans. I have never seen him smile so much.”

Karen Ray, Dave Evans and Jack Sullivanof West Ham ladies Karen Ray, Dave Evans and Jack Sullivanof West Ham ladies

So what about Jack? How did he get involved?

“I had helped them with promotion before, but after seeing them play Tottenham at White Hart Lane, I said to may dad after I did all my work experience, what a great opportunity it would be to come in here and at the same time be able to do my own project and make it a great asset for the club, which I believe it is becoming,” he explains.

“Dad thought it was a great idea. You have all the problems you have at a big football club, but on a smaller scale.”

So is this just a stepping stone for Sullivan junior? He shakes his head: “No, I want to be here for the long haul and make sure the job is done to a high standard and really grow a sport that I think has massive potential.

West Ham ladies v QPR ladies, at West Ham training ground Rush Green Road, Rush Green.
Face Painting, Charlie Daltrey, age 6 with Cathrine Frost. West Ham ladies v QPR ladies, at West Ham training ground Rush Green Road, Rush Green. Face Painting, Charlie Daltrey, age 6 with Cathrine Frost.

“Of course, eventually I would love to run the men’s team, but I can only see this getting bigger and bigger and be a part of that.”

On social media there has been some vitriolic comments about David and his son Jack, but the youngster seems to be genuine.

“We love the football club,” insists Jack. “We want to be here as long as possible and we want the football club to grow with us.

“Dad has always been pretty open and has said that if a Saudi prince comes along and says that he wants to spend £5billion on the club, we are not going to stand in his way, but I think Dad will still want to be a part of it.

“We are all here for as long as possible and we want what is best for the football club and we see the Ladies as the last piece of the puzzle to make us world class.”

Lofty ambitions indeed, so where does Ray see West Ham ladies in three years time?

“The ambition is to be in the top six in the world, that is doable in the next three years and we are aiming for Champions League in the next one or two seasons,” she says.

“Having played football both here and in America, we are already not far off from them in terms of infrastructure.

“The good thing is that we are on a steady slope up, we have momentum now and I see us having a squad that is full of international players and pushing to be one of the top teams in the world.”

Things are happening in the women’s game and if Jack Sullivan has anything to do with it, then West Ham Ladies will be at the forefront of a new revolution.

Meanwhile, a crowd of over a thousand went down to Rush Green on Sunday as West Ham Ladies held a special family fun day.

It proved to be a great success with face painting, inflatables and a live DJ on hand, as well as the match itself where West Ham beat QPR 3-1.

A Chloe Burr header and an Amber Stobbs wonder strike put them in control at the break, before Rangers hit back early in the second half.

However, Chenise Austin secured the win from the penalty spot and the whole day delighted general manager Karen Ray.

“It was fantastic,” she said. “We ended up with 1,057 fans which was our biggest crowd by a long shot. We aimed for 5-600 so the fact that we smashed that was brilliant.

“A lot of the people I saw were young teenagers who had got themselves there because it is such an accessible ground.

“The girls rose to the occasion having that many people supporting them.”

West Ham ladies plan to play home games in the Women’s Super League there.

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