The HamburgHammer Column
Close, but no cigar! Not even an electronic ciggy. Only a faint smell of cold smoke, the whiff of if-only and stench of what-might-have-been. Just a single point then on Tyneside which so easily could, should have been all three! There were a lot of things though I did like about our performance (and I also did my personal bit in terms of wearing my lucky shirt again and drinking from my lucky West Ham mug of our recent-win-against-Chelsea fame!).
We had quite a bit of possession, we created loads of good scoring chances, we attacked Newcastle in their own half when they had the ball, we caused them problems throughout the game.
All importantly, we started on a really positive note with a very early goal, highly unusual for us (I couldn’t believe how open Antonio was, before picking his spot he had ample space and time that would have allowed him to set up a deck chair inside the box and pour himself a longdrink prior to scoring), we actually took the lead twice, but predictably couldn’t hang on. Twice.
No other team this season has lost more points from winning positions in the PL than us (24!!!), so this one didn’t come as a massive surprise, but it’s still frustrating of course. And definitely something to work on with the players.
At least we’re league leaders in one category, although it’s not one to be proud of. Not the kind of stat you want to put on a T-shirt and flog in your club shop, is it ?
Newcastle’s first equaliser I could sort of live with as a fan of the beautiful game, because it was a great passing move, crowned by a masterclass in finishing by Almiron whose positioning was spot on. Made our defending look bad, but still, a quality goal and Newcastle of course can play a bit too, so we were always unlikely to keep a clean sheet against them what with the current run they’re on.
But I haven’t got much sympathy for the way we let the second equaliser happen, a mere 60 seconds or so after we had taken the lead again through Sous Chef, our new Czech mate Tomáš Soucek who really begins to look like a great signing for us. As a team, collectively, we seemed to switch off after his goal – and you can never ever do that in this league. Punishment is never far away from cockiness. Power napping does have its merits in life, scientifically proven and all, but not during a game of football. Or while being behind the wheel on the M25.
Boot the ball unceremoniously into touch. If need be, stick your leg out, stop the Newcastle attack, takethe booking for a professional foul on the chin, but DO NOT concede the equaliser straight away!
I’m convinced if we had kept our calm for five minutes after scoring, we could have held on and brought all three points back to London. As it is, thanks to other results going our way again, we now have a very useful cushion of four points coupled with a superior goal difference.
Looking at our remaining schedule and that of the other teams down there in the doldrums of the PL table, that cushion looks like a valuable asset at this point.
We really only need to equal what our relegation rivals will manage to gain on the pitch, points-wise, in order to stay up. The pressure now is very much on Norwich, Bournemouth, Villa and Watford, far more than us. While we have a run of very winnable games ahead, that certainly is not the case for Watford, Villa or Bournemouth. Plus, we can now pick from an almost fully fit squad.
Of course I want us to win ALL our remaining games, for confidence reasons and in order to create a positive spirit around our club for the coming months in preparation for next season.
This season overall has been a shower of ice cold crap for us, let’s try to finish it on a high at least. What’s lifting my mood somewhat is the fact we are scoring goals again and those goals are coming from different goalscorers and usually involve plenty of players in the build up. When we score it’s a real team effort. That is something to look forward to in the coming matches.
But let’s not party too hard just now, it still was a game we could and maybe should have won. Our turd has been polished a bit, but it doesn’t smell of roses. Our away record is still atrocious.
Plus there is another bit of news I really wasn’t impressed with over the last few days. West Ham (usually spelled incorrectly as Westham) very rarely feature in the sports news section on German teletext.
When we do, it’s usually due to bad news. And indeed it was.
The news involves Sebastien Haller and West Ham missing/delaying a recent payment to his former club Eintracht Frankfurt. A transfer fee instalment to the tune of 6 million Euros was apparently due for payment, on May 18th, to be precise. But West Ham didn’t pay. Frankfurt didn’t get their money. For one reason or another.
We don’t have the full details of the matter at this point of course.
West Ham are saying the delay was due to a legitimate contractual dispute of some kind. What exactly that dispute might have been about and how it could warrant West Ham not paying the €6m on time I do not know.
What I know is that is doesn’t look good. Or professional. Eintracht Frankfurt obviously saw a strong enough case to complain to FIFA and ask for them to intervene. Again, this sort of business doesn’t do you any favours if you’re a professional football club plying your trade in the Premier League. Words travel fast in footballing circles…
It’s things like these that make me feel really uncomfortable with the people running West Ham as of now. As fans we don’t expect our team to be world beaters. We lose a lot more games than we win on average. Our football isn’t always brilliant. But I’m sure as fans we would expect our club to pay their bills on time, to generally act in a professional and honourable manner and to not find ourselves in the news for all the wrong reasons. I suppose we will find out more about this sorry affair in the next few days.
Final bit of news in terms of a very brief Hamburg end of season football update: Once again Hamburg SV have failed to gain promotion back to Bundesliga 1, so it’ll be a third consecutive season for them in Bundesliga 2. As usual they have also sacked their manager and finances may dictate that their goals for next season are more about consolidation and living within their means rather than gunning for promotion again. Looks like modesty and a more realistic approach is going to be the new motto for them now.
Similar really to St.Pauli who only just escaped relegation and as a result they have sacked their manager too.
As for Concordia, the season has been cancelled of course, but transfer dealings in the background have been sorted in a highly efficient fashion to overhaul the squad once more which is now pretty much complete already with about 12 players leaving and 10 replacements coming in. And the Cordi Women’s team (who have been promoted to the top tier of local Hamburg women’s football, their third consecutive promotion by the way) have also announced their first two new signings early on, a new goalkeeper named Lisa and a midfielder called Steffi. You can never really go wrong with a Steffi when it comes to German sports legends…;-))
Let’s hope that by next Monday when my column is out once more we will have made even more significant strides towards PL safety. COYI!!!