The HamburgHammer Column

Will Seb be our buffalo in a China shop ? Let's hope so!

Embed from Getty Images

I hope I am not tempting fate here, as the player is not quite ours yet, but early signs are promising that French striker Sébastien Haller (pronounced the French way, Sebastioooh ‘Alleeer, you gotta drop the H like a true Cockney and you’re halfway there…LOL) could indeed be West Ham bound.

If rumours are to be believed we have convinced the player of this exciting little PL project we’ve got going in East London, personal terms have been basically agreed including a release clause while the two clubs have apparently also agreed on a fee of around the €40m mark, according to some sources (other sources claim though that a fee is yet to be agreed).

Once again though, the payment structure of any fee could prove to be a major stumbling block as Eintracht Frankfurt may well be demanding a bigger fee upfront than we are willing or capable of handing over.
If we have to pay 20m upfront, I’d still go for it as preseason is already in full swing and we do need quality first-choice strikers soon, not freebie stopgaps.

As Mario Husillos has surprisingly travelled with our squad to China for the preseason tournament there, the West Ham director of football will have to continue negotiations for Haller by email or telephone conversations which would suggest that the face to face negotiations from now on mainly rest with either club intermediaries or David Sullivan himself. Is that a good or bad thing ? I’m not really sure, so fingers crossed and God be with us!

I’d still like to go ahead regardless and assume we will eventually sign up Haller (after losing out in the quest to sign new Valencia striker Maxi Gomez who may or may not have been used deliberately as an elaborate smokescreen for our real target(s), who knows ?).

I may have told you before about one of my Concordia mates who is also a diehard Frankfurt fan (due to the fact he was born by accident in a local Frankfurt hospital. His heavily pregnant mom and his dad were at that crucial time in a car on their way home from some holiday destination in South Germany when the labour pains kicked in, but he could just as easily have ended up as a Nuremberg or Hannover supporter depending on traffic on the Autobahn, I suppose).

So I know for a fact that like most Frankfurt supporters he isn’t happy at all about potentially losing Haller. Allow me to tell you a thing or three about the player who will hopefully be a Hammer later this week:

He’s 25 years old and grew up on the outskirts of Paris.

He is what is known as a street footballer as he played and breathed football virtually 24/7 when still a wee lad, kicking a ball and doing keepie uppies on the streets and courts of his suburban neighbourhood. So while he joined a proper club at the age of 10, well before that time he had already developed skills and instincts out there on the street you cannot really teach in club football.

Later on he became a member of the Auxerre academy, following in the footsteps of Bacary Sagna and a certain Eric Cantona…

Embed from Getty Images

He was part of a trio of attackers at Frankfurt together with Jovic and Rebic, a group which was affectionately known as “The Buffalo Herd“, due to their physical and robust style of play. And while you wouldn’t want a buffalo herd, same as the proverbial bull, anywhere near your parents’ china shop, buffalo style attackers can be very fearsome in football even in 2019.

Haller and his mates in any case were scoring goals for fun, being one of the highlights and joys to watch in recent Bundesliga history. And the envy of every team in the league.

Haller’s main asset that catches your eye first is obviously his height and build. You won’t brush this guy off the ball easily, at least not by legal means and he can hold up the ball well enough to bring others into play time and time again.

Mark Noble might want to cover his ears now, but Haller is a fantastic penalty taker which could come in useful with VAR being a factor in the PL now.

He is also a great outlet when his team is under pressure as he is capable of winning balls booted high up the pitch as his height gives him tremendous range to control the ball with his head or either foot. Which of course is also a good asset to have when defending against a set piece.

You’d be forgiven for thinking his height might be somewhat hindering him in certain other situations on the pitch, however, his body control and agility is extraordinary for a man of his stature, indeed he quite regularly turns an opponent in astonishing ways, leaving him to snatch at thin air and using great initial acceleration to get away and have a shot on goal or play a pass to a teammate. (Although he is nowhere near as fast as, say, Felipe Anderson who can outrun opponents over half the length of the pitch, Haller doesn’t quite have that kind of pace over distance.)

One distinctive factor in Frankfurt’s attacking brand of football was his constant interchanging of positions on the pitch with Rebic and Jovic, rendering their moves and tactics highly unpredictable…and as a result lethal.

Embed from Getty Images

Moreover Haller is not just a one-trick pony either as his collection of goals clearly showcases: Left foot, right foot, headers, penalties and bicycle kicks, you name it, he scored one just like that.

You can also add playmaking to his weaponry as his flick-ons are another major part of his attacking play, ideal for helping guys like Anderson, Lanzini, Yarmolenko or Antonio to boost their own goal tally.

In short: I think Haller would be ideal for West Ham, after missing out on Maxi Gomez. He is more than just a good finisher, he makes the players around him better and also is a proper team player.

If we get him we would have a very confident young man on our hands, with his peak years still very much ahead of him, but no egotistical diva or disturbing factor in the dressing room. His English at this point is as fluent as his movement on the pitch, so that should also help him settling into London life quickly, again, IF the signing happens of course!

Either way, we should have a decision in the next two or three days I reckon and than we can get in another striker on loan or a reasonably good freebie as backup.

Let’s hope for the best, COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

A quick “Welcome to London!“ goes out to our first new signing for the West Ham women’s team, defender Laura Vetterlein, arriving at West Ham from Bundesliga side SC Sand.

27-year-old Vetterlein (translating as “little cousin”) has also played for German women’s football giants Wolfsburg and she’s won the Champions League with them twice, same as the German league title (twice as well), so you can be certain that Laura will bring experience, skills and solidity to our defence. As a fellow German I am obviously over the moon that West Ham have ramped up their Kraut quota, at least as far as the women’s team is concerned.

Maybe we’ll develop a taste for it and sign a German or two for the first team as well to follow in Hitzlsperger’s footsteps.

In any case, I hope to be able to catch Vetterlein, nicknamed Laurinho, in footballing action whenever I shall be over for my next visit. When I do, I can teach you all a few important German phrases to shout onto the pitch as encouragement, so that Laura may get a bit of extra spring in her step…not that she’d need it, of course!

To give you an idea what she looks and sounds like, here’s a little interview clip from the time at her previous club.

Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV lost a preseason game against Huddersfield, of all clubs. Concordia came runner’s up at a week-long local tournament of eight teams and the Cordi lads looks in decent enough shape now, judging by the preseason performances, to kick off their season in style this Friday with a cup game away to minnows Glinde.

Will they turn out to be Cordi’s Wimbledon and cause a premature cup exit ?

I also watched another preseason test yesterday, this time of the young Concordia women’s team, they got trounced 0:8, albeit against a frighteningly good side playing two levels above Cordi. The class divide truly showed on the pitch…

According to the manager he wanted to keep the girls firmly grounded and focussed for when the new season kicks off four weeks from now. So far the players were used to winning left, right and centre. Next season will be a tougher challenge, against better teams throughout the league and with definitely more defeats on the cards than in the season just gone. No reasons then for illusions of grandeur here…

So probably it wasn’t such a bad idea after all to show the team that there are still plenty of things to work on and improve in training. They make think they are a good team already, but there are sides out there that are far better…and that’s the kind of level where Cordi aim to be one day.


The HamburgHammer Column

Arnie shanghaiing West Ham - And is Maxi snubbing Stratford for Valencia ?

Embed from Getty Images

Those of you who have watched the film “Mutiny on the Bounty” (one of its various versions over the years) will be familiar with the unpleasant practice of shanghaiing, also called crimping, in which unsuspecting folk were kidnapped by press gangs, straight from pubs, markets or street corners, in order to (against their will) serve on ships of the Royal Navy on the Seven Seas en route to faraway shores, hence the Shanghai reference.

The press gangs used trickery, intimidation, violence or the element of sheer surprise in order to reach their targets and it’s quite ironic that Marko Arnautovic is apparently going to play for Shanghai of all places next season, in this case reversing the shanghaiing tactics somewhat in order to force West Ham to sell him to China.

As I don’t intend to focus my entire article on Arnautovic, I’ll try to keep this short.Once again we are likely to lose one of our best players/goalscorers for nowhere near his true market value due to some incredibly selfish and gutless stance employed by Marko Arnautovic and his scheming agent/brother.
They managed to get a contract extension and a payrise out of West Ham just a few months ago which didn’t really improve the player’s desire to remain at West Ham though.
Players these days have basically all the power when it comes to switching clubs, if they want to move elsewhere, chances are they will.

But even in this day and age there are different ways how to engineer your dream move: You can play by the book and also show some respect and professionalism to your current employer, making sure the selling club gets a decent and fair fee out of the transfer.

Or you don’t give a hoot about anyone else and antagonise teammates, managers and fanbase to a degree that they want you out at almost all costs, thereby playing into the hands of the primadonna player. This is pretty much what happened with Arnautovic here and I agree that it’s certainly best for West Ham to get rid quickly.
It’ll be interesting in the near future to hear a few more honest comments on Arnautovic’s time as a Hammer from his team mates.

I think Mark Noble in his diplomatic way has already confirmed that Arnautovic wasn’t exactly a team-player in the dressing room when things didn’t go his way. I’m sure a local East End boy like Mark Noble would have chosen a few expletives if talking about the Austrian in a corner of a Plaistow pub rather than to the journo of a national media outlet.

Be that as it may, good riddance and time to move on – we are a bit low on strikers, so that’s where our transfer business needs to be focused now.

Embed from Getty Images

Over the weekend several rumours unfortunately seem to have pointed towards our Number One target, Maxi Gomez, allegedly choosing Valencia over West Ham after all.
Apparently our offer was better in financial terms, however, the lure of CL football and playing under a sunny Valencia sky rather than an overcast version in Stratford seems to have done the trick. (Other rumours suggest we are willing to pay the full release fee, but would want to pay in instalments.
If and how this may change the player’s preference I don’t know. Other rumours late last evening also suggested that Gomez had decided to sign for West Ham, so all that follows may obviously be old news already when you read this.)

Of course Gomez not joining us would be disappointing on various levels. Both Pellegrini and Husillos were really keen on getting the lad into a West Ham shirt, being convinced he’d be the perfect forward for our footballing style next season. I have no doubt that Maxi Gomez is a very good striker. I am pretty certain he would do really well in England.

But I am even more convinced it’s better for him to play in Valencia if that is the club of his true personal choice. I don’t want players coming to West Ham only half-convinced of the job in hand or being lured/forced into signing for us reluctantly just because of a massive wage offer or because his greedy agent tells him to sign on the dotted line, earning himself a hefty commission fee in the process.

If Gomez does indeed sign for Valencia, Pellegrini and Husillos need to be quick on their feet and work down their list of transfer targets to sign an alternative or two.

Embed from Getty Images

Surely we need new strikers in as, frankly, with Carroll, Arnautovic, Perez and possibly Hernandez gone, we do need reinforcements. At this point we still have Jordan Hugill (is he good enough even as No.3 or 4 striker at PL level ?) and young Xande Silva (is he ready yet ?). Not enough firepower.

I remember us playing the odd game in the recent past without a nominal striker in the starting XI, picking a winger like Antonio to play upfront or relying on one of the regular midfielders to score goals by going into more attacking positions during certain situations in the game.

Yarmolenko of course started out as a striker before being moved onto the wing later in his career.
So if push came to shove, not only would VAR most certainly give a penalty, but Yarmolenko could also surely play as a striker again, with passes being provided by Anderson, Lanzini and Fornals this might work really well actually.

Then again, I still trust that Pellegrini and Husillos will earn their corn and find us a few more decent signings yet.

Getting your Number One target is something that a club like ours cannot count on as a mere formality – we currently are still a midtable PL team, with no European football, nevermind CL, to offer. It seems we did push Valencia really hard for Gomez though – and they can offer CL football.

But we should be able to find and attract different options if need be – and while Pellegrini and Husillos may be disappointed with the Gomez deal not coming off (or will it, maybe ?), both are professional enough to have considered a possible negative outcome in advance.

I am not even going to try and guess who we might sign instead. It could be some under-the-radar signing like Fornals who nobody really expected to join us until the deal was practically announced in public. Don’t underestimate the network and expertise that Pellegrini and Husillos have in terms of Spanish and South American football.
If they sign a player from the Spanish League or maybe from Peru, Paraguay or Ecuador I would trust them to have done their homework and pick a good one.

Other mothers have beautiful daughters too…as they say in Germany…LOL

With the Arnautovic/Gomez developments, I’d expect our transfer business to pick up some pace this week, it should be exciting, annoying at times, maybe disappointing also, but ultimately still bring us a few more good players, putting on the claret and blue shirt with the crossed hammers…COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Not that much happening really. Saw the Cordi first team lose a preseason encounter 1:2 and the women’s team drawing their first test fixture by a 3:3 scoreline, albeit with several players away on vacation still or out injured. So a bit early really to draw conclusions how the new season is going to shape up for good old Concordia Hamburg…


The HamburgHammer Column

Summertime - and the living are waiting for transfer business to kick off

Embed from Getty Images

This will be a slightly shorter column than usual as there hasn’t been that much happening on the West Ham front really. Our new boy, Pablo Fornals, has managed to score twice, playing for the Spain U21s, giving a good account of himself being pitched against other top prospects from all over Europe in the U21 Euro Championships.
What I’ve seen from him so far fills me with confidence. Fornals looks really comfortable on the ball, with an eye for a pass or even a fierce shot on goal.

He may not be the quickest, but he moves about constantly, making himself an outlet for teammates to pass to and he seems to read games well too. A decent player with a football brain who is still young enough to develop further under the careful guidance of Manuel Pellegrini.
Fornals, surely, will need a bit of time to get adjusted to his new surroundings, teammates and the Premier League, but I reckon as West Ham fans we have a good one on our hands here. 1:0 to Pellegrini/Husillos in the transfer business.

Embed from Getty Images

The thing with the transfer business is that it’s not happening in some sort of echo chamber. In order to do their business every club is relying on movement and deals elsewhere.

Sometimes you need to sell before you can buy which may also apply to clubs willing to buy one of your players. So patience really is a virtue when it comes to waiting for your marquee signing to arrive. I have an inkling Fornals will not be our top signing this summer and at this point I wouldn’t even rule out Maxi Gomez ending up in a claret and blue shirt – and I don’t mean the Aston Villa or Trabzonspor kit.

By all accounts he knows that he won’t be playing in another relegation scrap with Celta Vigo again this season, Gomez is destined to try his hand, or rather feet, at a bigger club next, either playing CL football with Valencia (who, however, seem to be struggling with the financial side of things, frustrating Celta Vigo in the process), trying his luck in the Premier League with West Ham or move to another club in another country with better credentials and ambition than Celta.

Embed from Getty Images

I have also read rumours that we might be looking at Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson as an alternative, but it’s a “No, thanks!” from me. I like Wilson as a very decent striker and consistent scorer. However, his recent injury record gives me the shivers and heavy convulsions of déjà vu. Let’s face it, whenever a club like ours takes a gamble on a decent player with a dodgy injury record, what are his chances to play a full season for us, unscathed by knocks, muscle injuries or torn ligaments ?

West Ham is not the right environment really for injury-prone players to resurrect their careers – cue Jack Wilshere hopefully proving me wrong next season!
For a transfer fee of £45-60m (which is apparently what Bournemouth are asking for Wilson) one of the key criteria I would be looking for is durability. So for that kind of money, Wilson surely would be a gamble with far too much risk attached to it, regardless of the potential winnings – Wilson is a fantastic striker after all, used to playing in the PL, but I can’t see us signing Wilson at that price.

The Women’s World Cup has now entered the most interesting phase, the knockout stage. Germany have already progressed by way of winning comfortably against Nigeria.
England are through as well which should keep plenty of Brits interested for at least one more game.

The Germany team have produced a wonderful TV advert prior to the World Cup, filled with sarcasm and fantastic humour (some of it hard to translate as it’s based on some clever German puns and double entendres, but the translators for the English subtitles in the clip linked above have done a fine job with it anyway I think).

I do like the spirit of that advert, that mentality of cheekily giving the finger, metaphorically, to those who continue to mock the women’s game (despite probably not even having watched a single game in their lives), but doing it all in a highly entertaining and jocular, tongue in cheek-style manner.

Although I have to admit that the scene where the young woman holds up her hand, showing eight fingers, still gives me the creeps, I think there are some remote valleys down in Bavaria where having eight fingers on one hand is quite common even to this day, but certainly not in my neck of the woods! ;-))

Embed from Getty Images

As for Hamburg football, all teams have started their busy training schedules now, after a very brief break, including both big clubs, Hamburg SV and St.Pauli, but also the different teams playing with the big C for Concordia on their chest. The Cordi U23s even played their first preseason game yesterday, in difficult conditions as it was incredibly hot out there with hardly any shadows on the pitch to give the players a bit of relief from the sweltering heat.
The Cordi boys still won 5:3. Promising start!

The Concordia first team will play their second preseason fixture on Friday at Voran Ohe which is convenient as their ground is only a mile and a half away from my brother’s house, so weather-permitting it looks like my brother and nephew will be joining me for this one. It’ll be almost a completely new Concordia team, (I think only six players or so remain from the previous squad), so time to get familiar with a lot of new faces and names there…

COYI!!!


The HamburgHammer Column

Four nails or four candles ? As a new signing Fornals is formidable

Embed from Getty Images

Finally another new signing to get excited about – and finally a reason to write something, allowing me to put out my column again. Bringing in Pablo Fornals is fantastic on many levels. The way it happened was, by the looks of it, straightforward, without ITKs discussing the move weeks on end. I suppose rumours only really started to bubble up to the surface once the deal was pretty much done and dusted. It’s refreshing to see business at our club being done in such a professional and efficient manner.

It’s also encouraging that our Director of Football, Mario Husillos, obviously knows exactly what we’re getting with Fornals. He used to work with the player at Malaga and both Husillos and Pellegrini apparently have monitored the progress of Fornals closely in recent times.

Fornals, by all accounts, is a highly promising prospect, with age very much on his side, but also, according to Pellegrini, a good person to have in the dressing room which obviously is another crucial factor when picking your targets.

Looking at his interview below, Fornals seems certainly like a young man with ambition and skill, but also with his head firmly screwed on, more interested in helping the team rather than just boosting his own goals and assists tally, that will surely take pretty much care of itself, once he has started to develop some chemistry with his teammates.

Of course I have watched highlight reels of him, but frankly they don’t mean a lot. I could watch ten hours worth of material on him on Youtube, and still be none the wiser.

These clips can be very cleverly edited, with fancy hip-hop beats added for dramatic effect, still they can be somewhat misleading (even Julien Faubert looked the nuts on Youtube). I doubt though that Husillos and Pellegrini have chosen Fornals on the strength of a few clips they found online, their scouting will have been thorough and regular, so if they have given the deal the thumbs up, I’m all for it.

So, what are we likely to get then ? An attacking midfielder whose best position is in central midfield, in the #10 role ideally, but he can also switch to the wing, if need be.
He’s a great dribbler apparently, strong on the ball, but also not afraid to win back the ball either in his own half, putting in a tackle, or by pressing the opposition in theirs by chasing them relentlessly.

So, essentially a winner of the ball, a keeper of the ball and also a distributor of the ball. The latter seems to be his strongest selling point really, finding the lethal pass, either to the wing or as a through ball to the striker, just seconds before the ball bulges the net.

He doesn’t score many himself, but that’s not really his role. He sounds like the kind of player I love though, a player who feels at his best when he makes his teammates shine and perform better. Someone who will not rake in the plaudits for his goalscoring but who will happily have a hand (or rather foot) in most moves leading to goals for his side.
I cannot wait to see what he can do for us, our little Spaniard (Pablo is Spanish for Paul or Paulus, meaning “little”).

But where does that leave Manuel Lanzini ? There are only so many shirts available for central midfielders in our starting XI, but Pellegrini has already confirmed he wants to see both on the pitch at the same time if possible – and the prospect of seeing both of them terrorising opposition defenders with their tricks and flicks is mouth-watering.

Embed from Getty Images

Apparently Lanzini wants a new deal, with better terms, paritiy even with the highest earners at the club, if you believe certain sources. Which is perfectly understandable from Lanzini’s standpoint. He’s just returning from a potentially career-threatening injury, his contract is coming to an end soon, and he obviously wants the best in terms of financial security for his family.

For the club, on the other hand, you don’t want to run the risk of dishing out a new five year deal on high-wages when you cannot quite be sure how his knee will be holding up when playing more games in succession again. Make no mistake, Lanzini in top form is a player you want on the pitch, playing for your colours, period!
I can see a compromise solution being found here, a deal with better terms and certain incentives or contract extensions kicking in if Lanzini has proven he can play and perform regularly again.

Saying that though, every player can be replaced and should Lanzini overplay his hand, starting to hurl toys out of his pram left, right and center, then I’d reluctantly sell him.

Either way, the transfer business will now begin to pick up pace, with players like Obiang, Hernandez, Oxford, Hugill, Ogbonna and Byram likely to depart while we will surely sign at least one striker, another defensive midfielder and probably another CB. Exciting times, folks!

I have heard that we will monitor several players during the Copa America and that’s where Husillos and Pellegrini will come in handy again. We are certainly picking up some great players at bargain prices from the Spanish-speaking world. As we already have some Spanish-speakers in our squad this will also help any new arrivals during the process of settling into their new surroundings in London. I expect Fornals not needing a lot of time to adjust really and he might just surprise us all by hitting the ground running.

Talking briefly about women’s football again, while the World Cup is still on, I wanted to post some highlight clips from the internet, yes, the ones that can be misleading at times.

In this case I do not put up them clips in order to push certain people to like or appreciate the women’s game against their will, that’s not even possible, not by linking a few online videos anyway.
But what it hopefully will do is prove that women can essentially do everything with a football that their male counterparts can do as well.
There are more great male players out there simply because currently more men play football than women, but the best women footballers are a joy to watch for any connoisseur of the beautiful game, same as the top players doing their thing in the men’s game.

The above highlights are from Dzsenifer Marozsan who is currently the best German player (with Hungarian roots) and I would hazard a guess that she could even teach some of the West Ham first team a thing or two in training.
The other clip below shows skills from various players, skills that even the likes of Messi and Ronaldo would applaud.
I am a football fan first and foremost – and if I see a great move, crowned by a fantastic goal, I don’t care if the player in question has a womb or not, I appreciate the skill to shoot or pass a ball, that’s it.

If football fans cannot praise a footballing skill only because it comes from a woman, I can only shake my head in disbelief and move on. They showed some interview excerpts recently on German telly from the Seventies, with really famous German players and managers at the time, not being shy to voice their opposition and disdain over women playing football.

One even said there were so many lovely different sports for women to choose from, so they shouldn’t pick football and leave that up to the men.
Not the strongest of arguments methinks.

Ah well, they used to say the same about women’s right to vote, to drive a car or run a business, I presume…and look where we are now in that respect.

Football in Hamburg is still in its summer break, so just two brief mentions. The Cordi U23s have managed to switch divisions. They are still at the same league level, but will now face more local teams in Hamburg’s East End neighbourhood, rather than venturing out far into the south-eastern suburbs as they had to do last season. So this is nice and it will provide plenty of derbies, highly attractive for both players and fans.

And on a personal level I have positives to report from my brother: His most recent blood tests came back with very positive results as ALL markers and parameters are how they should be, at levels comparable to your average, healthy person. Which, of course, has been a total relief to me.

I cheer any new signing that arrives at West Ham, obviously, but it’s still quite a different reaction compared to what I felt when my brother was telling me his good news.

COYI!!!


The HamburgHammer Column

Missing a Cup Final and welcoming "The Wall" to West Ham

Embed from Getty Images

Last week I had nothing to fill my column, this week quite a bit has happened, both at West Ham and in my crazy, little world. On Friday it was really all happening, literally at the same time – and I’m not even talking about the deadline for season ticket renewals officially expiring.

After all, I had renewed mine the week before already.

They say that you can’t juggle too many balls at once and I found that out the hard way on Friday, the day of my brother’s birthday.
He had invited the small band which is our family for a nice meal at his local Greek restaurant (Mediterranean cuisine is always a hit with me).

When my brother announced earlier in the week he’d be having the meal late afternoon on the day of his birthday I of course told him there was a bit of a clash with the Cordi U23 team playing in the local Cup Final, a big occasion for the players and fans, but also the club as a whole as it would bring some much needed money, prestige and feelgood factor to Concordia – and maybe even a shiny new trophy!

But I obviously knew I had to get my priorities right here – so family first it was, Cordi second – and before you mention it, no, it wasn’t (just) because of the food I opted for the family dinner.

If I had picked a game of football over my brother’s big day, considering that not too long ago we couldn’t even be sure he’d be able to celebrate another birthday party in the first place, well, then my brother would probably have stopped talking to me for quite a while and rightly so.

It was a lovely meal of course (involving plenty of garlic) and when we parted I had one eye on the clock – it was still reasonably early and if I was lucky with traffic I could maybe make it to the football ground just in time to still catch the second half.

Embed from Getty Images

But when I got there it was nigh on impossible to find a parking spot (as the ground was smack in the middle of a residential area) and once I had eventually discovered a gap nearby, I heard the cruel sound of the final whistle while on my way to the ground. I quickly learned that the Cordi boys had lost 1:5, but the game apparently was much closer than the scoreline would suggest and their opponents were heavy favourites to begin with, playing two levels above Cordi.

The lads still celebrated as if they had won the Cup anyway, long into the night and they were happy enough to celebrate and mingle with the fans, including myself.

Every single player was sociable, we were discussing the highlights and setbacks of the season just gone, already looking ahead to the next. And highly entertaining and educational it was too, with one of the players’ WAGs desperate to finally get to the bottom of the offside rule, with four different players trying to explain the finer details, with varying degrees of success, using bottles, plastic cups and lighters to recreate offside situations. Such fun!

West Ham, meanwhile, have made their first signing of the summer, out of the claret and blue, with no social media ITK getting a sniff before the player was doing the crossed hammers on the OS announcement article. Well done!

That’s how I want this club to conduct their transfer business. No leaks, no polls, just sit down with the gaffer, identify the targets and go after them without announcing our intentions to every John, Paul and Ringo who has a blog or podcast to fill.

Roberto Jimenez Gago, or simply Roberto for his friends, is a veteran goalkeeper, arriving on a free transfer from Espanyol. 33 years old, nicknamed The Wall (promising moniker, but I hope he can also move a bit when required), the guy has been around the block a few times, notching up over 500 games in his professional career so far, winning the Europa League with Atletico and also spending time at Malaga and Olympiakos.

The Malaga link is crucial as obviously Husillos very much knew what he’d be getting, bringing Roberto to East London. Not so much buying the cat in the bag, but having a solid wall made of Spanish brick, 1.92m high.
Roberto is also fluent in English already which should help him massively with settling into his new life in London in next to no time.

For me this signing does tick a lot of boxes. It’s a free transfer to begin with which is always a hit with our notoriously thrifty owners. Roberto apparently will be on lower wages than Adrian was too which will free up further wages for a more spectacular and expensive new arrival this summer. Of course we no longer need to bring in a marquee signing for the purpose of pushing season ticket renewal figures, that ship has sailed. But Pellegrini surely will not be able to improve the squad by signing freebies and loan players only.

So saving some dosh while replacing Adrian is smart business. Having read up on Roberto and also watching some footage on Youtube he looks like a very decent backup.

Experienced, with a penchant for reaction saves plus the ability to start a quick counter attack with a precise long kick to an outfield player. I am not quite sure yet at this stage if he will be quite good enough to give Fabianski a run for his money, if he will seriously challenge our Polish Number One for the starting spot or if it’ll strictly be backup and Cup duties he’ll be performing.

We shall see. I have read comments from some supporters at his previous clubs claiming Roberto has moments of butterfingeritis resulting in a tendency to drop some balls occasionally, so we should expect a number of heart-stopping rebounds which should keep our defenders on their toes at least.

Embed from Getty Images

Like every summer there are also players of course who will be off, in some cases we already know they’re gone, in other cases there are strong rumours of deals being prepared. Andy Carroll not getting a new contract surely doesn’t surprise anyone and it’s a telling irony that he is out injured as his career at West Ham is drawing to a close.
His time with us was constantly blighted by injury, when you consider he wasn’t even available for selection for about half of the games it’s staggering evidence of a transfer gone pear-shaped.

Yes, I know that he scored some bloody nice goals for us, his bicycle kick surely still ranking as probably the best goal scored at London Stadium so far. But when you contrast his wages with the games he played and the goals he scored it simply wasn’t enough. A transfer that never really took off and simply didn’t really work out, neither for the club nor the player, apart from the financial package. But I’m convinced that footballers want to play the game rather than just cash their cheques and mow the lawn in their back garden.

Nasri will not get a contract extension either, again, not surprising really and another nice wad of wages saved for other potential incomings. Which apparently also applies to both Hernandez and Perez (whose transfer by all accounts is imminent).

Both of them were high on wages and low on gametime which is both unfortunate and unsustainable long-term, so selling them to Spain makes a lot of sense. It’d leave us very short on the offensive side of the ball for the time being, but there is enough time to fix that. With Arnautovic likely to stay and Silva potentially playing a bigger role next season, we still need another striker or two though and I fully trust Pellegrini and Husillos to be right there on the case.

Embed from Getty Images

I don’t know what it is about this time of year. Maybe it’s to do with all clubs having a blank canvas at this stage. Failures of the season just gone are slowly fading away from memory. Fans at this stage can instead focus on dreaming about their clubs making some fantastic signings over the summer, improving the squad further. There are no West Ham games at the weekend with strikers shamefully missing sitters, with woeful defending or shocking refereeing calls to dampen any unexplainable outpourings of optimism among a fanbase that is already looking forward to the new season.
Maybe the lovely weather does play a part as well. I cannot help but, maybe foolishly and against better judgment, feel positive about next season.

At this point I am 100% we will have a better squad at West Ham two months from now, suffering fewer injuries, we will score more goals and concede nowhere near as many as last season, opponents will struggle to beat us at London Stadium, no matter if they’re Liverpool, Burnley, Brighton or Aston Villa.

Let’s hope the feeling/delusion lasts a bit longer. Thank God the summer will not be without football altogether as there still is the Women’s World Cup looming large where we can keep an eye on Germany and England – and don’t forget Scotland who will have West Ham forward Jane Ross hoisting the claret and blue colours, metaphorically, in France.

Could be interesting. As surely West Ham’s transfer business will continue to be over the coming weeks. COYI!!!


Copyright © 2019 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.