The HamburgHammer Column

Look Man, West Ham do get lucky sometimes!

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That was not for the faint of heart! Maybe it’s because I spent too much time recently following television coverage of election day, no, election week in the USA, way into the wee hours, day after day.
Or rather night after night.
So I was a bit bleary-eyed. A bit on edge.

How often can you honestly say you’re watching history being made in real time ? And strictly speaking that one still is not quite over yet, unlike our game against Fulham. Unless Scott Parker intends to appeal to the United States Supreme Court over Haller’s offside position seconds before our goal, but I doubt they are in charge of PL jurisdiction.

The Fulham game looked like being over going into injury time still goalless.
And I thought that goalless the game would remain.
Then we scored…and it looked like game over again. Then the 4 minutes of injury time had ticked away …and surely this time it was over. The final whistle would blow and that would be it. I could put the screwdriver down and relax.

But no, too close to call, in fact there was a call, a late VAR call…PENALTY to Fulham! Oh, bugger! As my fluffy friend Winnie the Pooh might have said, if he was a West Ham fan. We know he’s a bear of very little brains, so who knows ? Maybe he watches baseball. ;-))

So, a late equaliser then, with the last kick of the game. Football can be cruel. I’m sure the football gods must be giggling to themselves a lot, watching down on us overly emotional supporters.

And then young Ademola Lookman must have had a brainfart of epic proportions. I can’t remember seeing a penalty taken in that cocky manner by a player this young in a long time. Not in a competitive game anyway.
I was too flabbergasted to celebrate initially. Or pity the guy.

Doing a Panenka with the last kick of the game that could, should, no, simply HAD TO give Fulham a late and probably deserved equaliser:
REALLY ??? They look so cheeky and cool when they come off, when they don’t there isn’t a hole on this planet big enough to hide the shame.

The name Ademola has Yoruba origins and means “King/Crown along with wealth”.
Good luck with all that, son, if you keep doing things like that!

To be fair though, the lad is young and looking at his tweet directed at his teammates he has already learned his lesson and held his hands up.
Lookman will get over this and develop into a very decent PL player (not quite sure about king status though) and I reckon he will not try a Panenka penalty in a competitive game again anytime soon…

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So, no crown for Lookman. Certainly no cigar! But consolation from our general, Fabian Balbuena who showed himself to not only being a very good defender, but also a good sportsman.He was one of the first to give the young lad some words of encouragement. Which was lovely to see.
My stream had been very erratic and jumpy throughout, a bit like our performance.

Did we underestimate Fulham ? Were they playing with a new spring in their step after their recent win ? It was end to end stuff. And exciting to watch for a neutral.
Which I am not.

So quite often I couldn’t quite believe how clueless we were at times with the ball, trying to figure out a way to breach the Lilywhite’s wall. (Forgive me, after watching days of US election week coverage I have fallen in love with the Game of Thrones-style vernacular they were using on the telly…the Blue Wall, doesn’t that just sound like something being crushed by dragons or undead creatures from the North ?)

Even Moyes said afterwards our crossing was terrible. We didn’t play that bad really, surely the effort was clear to see for the entire game, we looked just a bit unfortunate or puzzled at times, bereft of ideas against a quite impressive Fulham side. I didn’t quite expect the Cottagers to be such a handful.

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Let’s quickly deal with Seb Haller. I thought he wasn’t brilliant. But neither was the rest of the team, attacking wise. Haller brought down the ball in fantastic fashion several times, only to see his teammates failing to do anything of consequence with the opportunity. Haller surely showed more fight, got stuck in more, helped out defensively too. He looked like he wanted to be there.

But it was also clear to me that Moyes still wasn’t prepared to tweak the system for Haller. It’s a separate question if Moyes should do so and why.

As things stand I don’t see Haller being able to show us his best which is down to a combination of West Ham not playing in a way that is conducive to showcasing and utilising Haller’s strengths and the player getting frustrated because of that fact. I can see a parting of ways in January which will hopefully suit all parties concerned.

I have argued before how Haller could be a very good striker for us, lethal even. But as the club/manager is unlikely to go down that route there isn’t much point of keeping Haller, as much as it pains me to say it.

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I didn’t expect us to score, it just felt like one of those days. Then Benrahma and Lanzini came on and we got a very late opportunity. Yes, Haller was offside and in other games we have seen similar situations being deemed offside by the referee. Then again, due to the referees’ being very inconsistent when making those calls, we have also seen instances where play was allowed to carry on.

Benrahma unselfishly played a brilliant pass to Soucek who was in perfect position to slot the ball into the net. Wonderful team goal.
The penalty was controversial because it was very soft and because the incidence happened after injury time had actually passed (although it’s in the discretion of the ref to add some additional time on top as we all know).

But this time we were the lucky ones and it sends us into the international break with a smile and a decent position in the league table. Antonio should be available again when we face our dear friends at Sheffield United in just under two weeks. Ogbonna left the game due to what looked like a groin issue. Early reports seem to point towards a minor know which could see him missing out on joining his Italian teammates, but he should be good to start against Sheffield United in 13 days.

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Diop, of course, is a very decent replacement to have available, but that would then mean that Dawson will be on the West Ham bench after all!
And who knows ? He might turn out a solid enough player for us, should we ever be in a situation where we need him to come on and step up.

It’s a pity though that there is an international break again. I don’t care much for national team football outside the tournaments themselves and we are in partial lockdown,
so I really would love another West Ham game next weekend.

Guess I will have to find myself another book to provide weekend thrills. A West Ham equivalent of a page turner. We’ll see about that…COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Starting with St.Pauli who played Bilic’s former club Karlsruhe yesterday. The “Boys in brown” were in urgent need of a win to climb the table. Not happening. They lost 0:3 which puts them in 17th place for now, one place from the bottom. Then again, only three points below 7th place, so tight margins in Bundesliga 2.

Hamburg SV will face Kiel away in a North German derby game later this evening and again, if you have BT Sport 2 and fancy it, you can watch that game live, kick-off is 7:30pm.
HSV are fun to watch so far this season, for a change, and games against Kiel are always feisty affairs, so I would recommend you have a butcher’s!


The HamburgHammer Column

Collapsing Mo says AH!!! Liverpool win by being Liverpool

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Early admission here on my part: When I was a kid I was a massive Beatles fan. My classmates in contrast were ecstatic about whoever was top of the pop charts in 1982 or 1983, having a crush on or wanting to be like Nena, Paul Young, Rod Stewart or Kajagoogoo.

I, meanwhile, basically got most of my early understanding of English from listening to Beatles songs on cassette (children, if you don’t know what a cassette is, ask your parents or grandparents) rather than during boring English lessons at school, reading about the bog standard Clark family and their exploits in Epping for the umpteenth time. The course book contained exciting dialogue under evocative headers such as “Do you like rice pudding ?“, “Let’s swap!“ or “At the department store“.

I learned the difference between there, their and they’re this way, granted.

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The music and words of The Beatles were more appealing, though.
“The Fool on the Hill“ was lyrics wise a bit deep for a 10-year old just starting to learn English. Still, I could have listened to those songs eight days a week and although I wasn’t living at Penny Lane and didn’t have a Ticket to Ride either, I still built myself a very impressive drum kit out of my mom’s discarded boxes of washing powder plus some other household leftovers. I even arduously painted the Beatles logo on the front in big black felt pen letters, just as I had seen on several of the 15 posters or so which were gracing my room’s walls. And then I tried to drum along to the songs like a German amateur Ringo Starr, struggling to keep up at times.
Especially after “playing“ for more than an hour.

I obviously knew The Beatles were from Liverpool, that they had started their career in the music clubs of the St.Pauli area in my hometown and that they were musical icons still a decade after their break-up.

So I figured that Liverpool must be the best place in Britain, if not the world. Hallowed ground. The inofficial capital of cool.

Now, after more than 25 years of being a Hammer I don’t really like Liverpool anymore. They may eat Labskaus (or Lobscouse) as us Hamburgers are quite fond of doing, but in footballing terms Liverpool are seriously getting on my nerves.

It’s not just their sense of entitlement either. Or their tendency to assume a role of the forever victimised outsiders. It’s more their unnecessary resorting to cheap tricks and downright cheating when their players have more than enough quality to beat an opponent fair and square.

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Should I be more sympathetic just because they’re being managed by a fellow countryman, the walking toothpaste advert Jürgen Klopp ?
Should Jennifer Lawrence be seductively soaking herself with a loofah in my bathtub just because I can offer plenty of hot water with some top notch Lavender & Rosewood-scented bath foam in it ?

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Answer: Probably yes, but, in reality, NO, get real!!! :-))

I think West Ham did cope well with Liverpool, all things considered.
Say what you like about the reigning champions, their injury list, their weakened defence: They still have a ridiculously dangerous forward line and midfielders providing plenty of attacking prowess plus the ability to keep the ball.

72% possession and 828 passes tell their own story.
Still, they only just secured all three points.

The penalty was always going to go their way though as Masuaku did actually make clear contact with Salah in the box and most PL strikers these days will automatically hit the ground like a wet bag of turnips as players have been conditioned, like Pavlov’s dog, to heed the basic equation that goes Contact with defender in the box + heavy fall + loud scream in agony = penalty.

Nine times out of ten. The tenth time is usually a West Ham striker seeing his very reasonable penalty shout waived off a la Antonio against Man City.

I do even sympathise with Salah to a degree as when I was a kid and wanted my bigger and stronger brother to get in trouble after giving me an almighty Chinese Burn I also sometimes resorted to playacting by pretending to be very hurt, rather overdoing it with my anguished yells bellowed out in shameful pain, just to get my parents’ attention and put them on the case. Pathetic really, I know, but it did work occasionally.

Not always. Sometimes it backfired, with my dad being the strictest of refs at times who just gave the both of us a clip round the ears, usually on Saturday, early evening, telling us to knock it off as he wanted to watch the Sportschau in peace. Oh, the inconsistency of parents and their punishment. Like bloody PL referees they were.

And of course no VAR allowed back then!

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Four Nails had given us an early lead. Lovely worked goal, but scored waaaaaaaayyyyy too early to really bother Liverpool much. The Scousers always have a penalty and a late winner in them, you know. It’s just what they do. They are also loved to bits by pundits up and down the country, almost cheering them on even during what should be impartial commentary. It’s not Liverpool TV. If you want to be part of their club channel, feel free to apply for a role there. BT and Sky are watched by other fans as well, you know ?

I’m sometimes surprised the commentators don’t get caught waving little Liverpool flags emphatically in their little commentary booths when the camera is zooming in on them. It makes my toenails curl up in loathing despair.

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But the media of course got the result they all wanted and craved for.
A draw or, God forbid, a West Ham win was never in the script on Saturday evening. But make no mistake, folks. We were in it.

Even when Haller came off after almost 75 minutes, we were still level. We weren’t cruising at that stage, of course we weren’t. Liverpool were sending wave upon wave of attack at us and when they do that, more often than not, a late winner arrives. Again, it’s what Liverpool do. Especially at Anfield. With fans in the Kop or not.

Let me give you a “Best Of” of my recent comments on Seb Haller, a player I still have high hopes for in a West Ham shirt. He didn’t set the world alight on Saturday against Liverpool, but in a game with not a lot of possession for the Hammers he frankly was always unlikely to be MotM material.

I added the clip above to remind us all of what Haller can do in that area of the pitch which is basically his natural place of work, his office as it were. That’s the opposition’s box. That’s where his strengths come to the fore.
That’s where we need to see him more often with teammates in close proximity to get the best out of him.

Look, I get it. He often looks like a lazy, French sulker extraordinaire out there. You sometimes even saw that gloomy expression on his boat in Frankfurt goal celebrations. Like others, I am also prone to sometimes reading too much into body language of players.

I know he doesn’t run a lot in the centre area of the pitch, he doesn’t close down defenders, sprinting from one to the other for 90 minutes in the faint hope of nicking the ball off them.
(By the way, nicking the ball is only half the trick, you’d also need a teammate close by to make the move count and score.)

There are other strikers out there who are very good at running around for 90 minutes, harassing defenders. However, most of them then can’t do with the ball what Haller is capable of once the attacking move arrives in the penalty box.

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Moreover, Haller actually DOES track back and help out in defence occasionally. He sometimes puts a feisty tackle in. But not often. Why ? Because that’s not his bloody role to play on the pitch! He is not suited as a lone striker. He is not suited to chasing Liverpool defenders all over the park with no support from his teammates to make the most of the situation should Haller actually win the ball.

Yes, we probably bought the wrong player here. If we intend to further cultivate a style of counter attacking football with pace, with limited possession of the ball throughout games, then Haller is not your ideal focal point upfront.

I can only tell you what my mate, the Frankfurt diehard, told me when we signed Haller and he does know a thing or two because before the pandemic he used to travel to Frankfurt games regularly, home and away, being on first name terms with some of the hardcore local supporters.

And he said that Haller’s nonchalant way of running, or rather jogging, around the pitch can be misleading. He said Haller was a proper team player, working his socks off to bring teammates into play and that he was the most unselfish player any manager could ever want in his team.

If it so far hasn’t worked out for him at West Ham I put that down to our tactics not bringing out the best in our record signing which in return has fuelled Haller’s frustration. It may even have affected his love for the game.

It can’t be fun to be asked to adapt to a role that simply isn’t yours. I doubt that any record signing at any club would expect to be asked upon arrival to be something they are not or play a role they haven’t done before. Call me old fashioned, but I reckon if you make someone your record signing then you bloody well scout him several times in person before signing him, you watch hours of tape and if you then decide this is the guy you want, you try to make it as comfortable and straightforward as possible for the geezer to settle in, on and off the pitch.
You treat your record signing with respect and dignity. Have we done that with Haller ? Or have we been negligent as a club ?

Please don’t complain about his apparent laziness when running, he’s never done much of that at Frankfurt and still scored plenty of goals (33) while assisting some more (19) in the 77 games he featured in for Eintracht.
That’s pretty good numbers for a lazy minger.

You don’t hire Lewis Hamilton and then ask him to drive the Nissan Micra to the corner shop to buy a newspaper and a can of Tango. I know many on here will shake their heads at this point and disagree mightily.
Fair enough. I say: Give Haller the next two games at least, against teams that don’t have 70% possession. And judge him after that.

If he hasn’t scored or provided any assists in those two games, by all means get the wheels in motion for a January sale at a knockdown price.
But please: Give the chap a fair crack of the whip here. It took a while to find the right position for Antonio who has been with us for ages now.
He wasn’t scoring for fun in his first two seasons with us either. Keep that in mind, folks!

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A quick word on Covid-19. Starting today, Germany is going into another (partial) lockdown. Most shops, sports facilities, fitness clubs, swimming pools, bars and restaurants will be closed for the entire month. All lower level football has been suspended. Bundesliga games will be played behind closed doors again. People are being told to keep contacts to others to a minimum. Meaning that you basically move in a fairly small circle around your humble abode, only getting out when you really have to, for the weekly shop, to buy medicine or in order to get some exercise in the local park.

I managed to buy a dozen toilet rolls and other essentials on Saturday which should see me through the month. I still vividly remember how empty most shelves were in my local Aldi or Lidl during the first lockdown, so I made sure this time that I wouldn’t be caught in an offside position by my dear neighbours clearing the shelves before I could get there.

This now means a return to reading plenty of books (there is still a stack of must-read-if-I-find-the-time material on my bedside table) and of course watching the USA Election Night coverage on Tuesday night. Shall I buy some popcorn for that ? Or should I stack up on tissues and schnapps to face the music ? We’ll see.
At least there will also still be PL football. For the time being that is. And after West Ham’s difficult early fixtures I am now curious to see what our lads can do against teams who are not Liverpool, Manchester City or Arsenal. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Short one this time. NO lower league football, which means NO Concordia, NO Cordi U23s and certainly NO game for the Cordi Women’s team.
Only the little business of another Hamburg derby on Friday evening which ended in a 2:2 draw in front of 1000 fans inside the 57K stadium.

The point keeps Hamburg SV at the top of the table while St.Pauli not only lose their inner-city bragging rights after winning the previous two derby games, the club from Hamburg’s sinful mile (Reeperbahn and the surrounding red light district), are now also languishing in the midtable section on 7 points. They are at a crossroads at this point and could still get sucked into another relegation battle this season.


The HamburgHammer Column

Hammers continue to impress - and remain above Manchester clubs in table!

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Another great point against very strong opposition!

This was another strange matchday experience for me. The Cordi away game was taking place at the same time as our game against City, more of that further down below.
I had promised to write a match report for that one, so I was obliged to go and watch really. I started driving back from Dassendorf (apple and potato peasant country on the southeastern fringes of Hamburg) when our game had just finished.

My phone was switched off to be on the safe side, even though I had instructed my mates not to tell me anything about the West Ham game, in case they had heard scorelines beforehand. I rushed up the stairs to my flat with my index fingers placed firmly inside my earholes to watch the recording of our performance.

Despite the Cordi result I was in a good mood because it had so far been a beautiful day, stunning in fact, cold as October days can be, but sunny. And driving back home to the city along those lovely country roads, the foliage of the forest trees on the side of the road was showing off in all alluring colours and tones under the sun, green, red, brown, yellow and everything in between. Think Indian Summer in New Hampshire or the Scottish Highlands and you’re getting the idea.

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In times of once again lurking lockdowns and Covid I sometimes need these little offerings of joy and beauty to feast my eyes and senses upon – the ones we tend to take for granted, allowing them to pass us by unnoticed – and that achingly beautiful autumnal drive through the countryside was just what the doctor ordered. Magnificent!

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When I sat down in my comfy chair with my mug of Rosie, watching our game, I had an inkling that Man City would have most of the possession.
I knew we’d have to give a top all-round team performance to get a result.
In recent times, we have conceded 4 or 5 goals on average against City. Not this time though.

Great effort and desire from the boys all around. Tactics spot on. Disciplined at the back. Not to mention our irresistible counter attacking football which caused City the odd headache.

None bigger than our opening gambit. The bicycle kick by Antonio after great play by Sous Chef and a pinpoint cross from Czech Mate was a sight to behold!

It’ll give Lanzini’s effort a run for its money for Goal of the Month.

Fantastic play from scorer and provider. As far as the excitement factor goes, Carroll’s overhead kick against Palace was more emotional as there was a full stadium to appreciate and applaud the goal when that one hit the back of the net.

Antonio’s effort though was much better in terms of sheer technique as the defender was all over him and Antonio had to get his balance, positioning and execution spot on in order to pull it off. Which, thankfully, he did with aplomb!

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Just WOW!!! Now we had something to defend or rather protect.
Because City were getting better, seeing more of the ball, putting West Ham under the cosh for a while, yet we still were creating opportunities of our own.

We had managed to mark Aguero out of the game in the first half, but even taking into account Manchester’s injury list, it is ridiculously impressive to see whom City can still bring on when they take off the likes of Aguero, Silva or Walker.

One of the new arrivals, Foden, put City level. An equaliser was always likely to happen because they are spoilt rotten with quality footballers from top to bottom, the lucky barstewards! One might argue that their bottom half of the squad could still win trophies competing in most European leagues as things stand.

All it takes for them in order to score a goal from nowhere is just one quick pass, one mesmerising touch, one moment of brilliance. And Foden’s effort was just that. A top class finish. But I wasn’t overly concerned. Or worried. West Ham were playing well. As well as we haven’t seen them perform in many years.

Yes, the pundits were waxing lyrical about the Mancunians putting the squeeze on West Ham. Especially when Antonio had to come off, with what appeared to be a hamstring issue or just cramp. We saw the introduction of Yarmolenko and Haller. Who weren’t overly efficient, but put in a shift nonetheless.

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We still were dangerous on the break and with a bit of luck might even have nicked this one. I’ll say this again: We could have beaten Manchester City!

That’s against the team that had put 22 goals past us on their previous 5 visits to the London Stadium. To put that into context for you: Manchester City needed all of their their last 20 away games at Upton Park to get to the 22 goal mark.

It goes to show how far City have come as a team over the last 15 years and how much we have struggled in terms of results at the new gaff so far.

A point against City was not to be expected. And is something to be proud of and respected.

We continue our impressive points haul throughout this incredibly testing early list of fixtures. Oh, I didn’t actually get to watch the final 7 minutes as somehow my stream had downed tools at that stage. So I had to check out the final result old school style, on teletext. Rarely have I been this nervous pushing the numbers 530 on my remote control to check the PL scores…

Another point in the bag, we are sitting very comfortably in midtable still, above both Manchester clubs, bless them, with another big game approaching fast next Saturday, away at Anfield. Liverpool without VVD are not their usual confident/arrogant self. I reckon we can give them an almighty scare and cause them a few problems as well.

Things are looking good for Moyes and the players at the moment and the mood around the training sessions must be positively buzzing at this point. Long may it continue! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Good weekend for the big Hamburg clubs. Hamburg SV came back from 0:1 down against bottom club Würzburger Kickers to win 3:1. That’s 15 points from a possible 15, folks! A perfect start to the season. Top spot in the league table and already an impressive five-point cushion between themselves and Kiel in 2nd place.

St.Pauli did a bit of a West Ham, coming back from a two-goal deficit in the final ten minutes to draw 2:2 away to Darmstadt, equalising with a last-gasp penalty. They’re sitting comfortably in a heavily crowded middle section of the league table.

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Concordia lost 0:4 away to Dassendorf which sounds like a brutal and humiliating surrender. It really wasn’t. Several television crews were present as Martin Harnik was making his Dassendorf debut as a starter. Until recently the 33-year-old striker had been playing for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. On Saturday he was no longer playing against Dortmund or Mönchengladbach in front of a 50k capacity crowd but against lowly Concordia with a mere 300 souls watching from the sidelines (that was the maximum capacity allowed due to Covid) – how the mighty fall…;-))

It was goalless at halftime. Cordi had plenty of opportunities, but wasn’t effective enough with the final ball. Once Dassendorf had scored their first (through Harnik of course, putting the ball over the line with a backheeler, like the experienced old trooper he is) there was only ever going to be one winner. Both teams were still playing attacking, football but only the home side were putting their chances away. It wasn’t a 4:0 performance at all. I am not happy of course when my team loses by four goals, but this one was just down to a very unlucky second half. It could have been a 2:2 really. or a 4:4. Games like these happen. Better luck next time, Cordi are in 4th place now.

Sunday football was being played out in relentless rain: Cats, dogs, hares and badgers, not nice. The Cordi U23s won anyway, away to Stapelfeld, 5:0, easy one that. After that I had a bit of driving to do from that stadium to Cordi’s home ground in order to just catch the start of the second half of the Cordi Women’s team’s home game against Tornesch and, BOOM, another win, 3:2! The girls are sitting midtable now after winning their last two games in a row. Looks like they might be able to avoid a relegation struggle after all…

BREAKING NEWS: Due to the current spikes in new cases of Covid in and around Hamburg the local FA has just announced that ALL lower league football will be suspended until further notice.
Which means no more Concordia games for the time being…:-(


The HamburgHammer Column

Must be a trick of the Saïd! - After a cruel summer, are West Ham a solid midtable team ?

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Manchester City on Saturday is now open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 10am on Saturday.*

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Rarely in recent years did I check my mobile for West Ham news more frequently during a Concordia game under the lights than on Friday evening (which strangely enough seems like it happened a week ago already).

Would we get the Benrahmadrama deal over the line with the clock ticking away ? And on what terms ?

Would the deal sheet get stuck in the fax machine ? Would we miss the deadline by 30 seconds ? No. And no again.

Robert de Niro is no longer waiting, Saïd Benrahma is a West Ham player. Na Na Hey Hey to that!

All of the transfer window shenanigans are behind us now and it has been debated at length here by numerous WHTIDers what the club has actually achieved in terms of transfer dealings in the past few weeks and what squad weaknesses it has failed to address properly m

Overall my critical verdict for this window is a 6/10, and only just.

The biggest factor actually is not a player we brought in, but one we didn’t lose, at least for the time being. To still have Rice here makes a massive difference. That’s a big plus. Rice and Soucek are currently developing a symbiotic partnership, it would have been terrible to see that one being torn apart prematurely.

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We signed a proper RB in Soucek’s mate Vladimir Coufal.
Would we have still signed him if Fredericks hadn’t gone down with a hamstring injury at a crucial time ? Maybe, maybe not. I’m really glad Coufal is here. Our right side is now no longer something to worry about constantly but a genuine weapon.

Coufal and Bowen could form a formidable partnership on the right, with Masuaku and Benrahma doing likewise on the other wing. It certainly makes us less predictable for any opposition.

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I welcome Saïd Benrahma to West Ham as, frankly, how could anyone not want a player like him at our club ? Not only do we now have an array of lovely Bananarama song title puns to play with, we’re also getting flicks and tricks in the mould of Payet or DiCanio, the kind of football that will make supporters rise from their seats in awe and expectant delight.

Although they’ll be rising from armchairs and sofas initially rather than seats at any stadium for the time being. Boooh Covid!

Saïd “The Happy One“ Benrahma is a young, enthusiastic trickster and also seems to be a bloody nice person as indicated by the generous donation of a huge chunk of his loyalty bonus from Brentford to circa 100 staff members at his previous club. Kitman, tea lady, chef, youth coaches etc. will get a decent share of an amount rumoured to be in the region of £500k.

From what I could gather about Benrahma, watching games, videos, reading scouting reports etc. the winger/attacking midfielder really does have a full locker of weaponry at his disposal, making him a lethal finisher as well as a regular provider of scoring opportunities for his teammates.

A player who has a knack for winning free kicks in dangerous positions and the ability to score from those set pieces too. Shooting from outside the box, being a fox in the box, sniffing out instinctively where to lurk in anticipation of a bounce or deflection within his reach, in the attacking third he is a nuisance for opposing defenders. You get the picture.
I reckon we have a great prospect here.

Can he be Payet’s successor or is he only a poor cousin ? We’ll find out soon enough.

As for the rest of the window, I can’t really be overly impressed. We didn’t bring in ANY of the top quality CB targets Moyes wanted, either from Britain or overseas.

We ended up with another loan signing, Watford’s Craig Dawson. If you are looking at Watford fan blogs, many among their fanbase apparently are still giggling themselves to sleep when thinking about the fact that another club has taken Dawson off them. Maybe that’s a harsh reaction as Dawson could actually turn out better than the mockery would suggest.

Watford’s defence looks suspect, so I would imagine Dawson will find it easier to play next to players like Ogbonna and Balbuena than what he was used to at Watford.

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Can he be more than a halfway adequate safety blanket for us ?
Unfortunately we also failed to add another striker after selling two.
We sold, loaned out and paid off far more players than we brought in.
So we have gone from an unbalanced PL squad to a smaller, yet still unbalanced PL squad. All we can hope is that we don’t suffer too many injuries this season or things might get awkward again.

I do have complete faith in our coaching staff though as our players look as lean, fit and full of stamina as any West Ham squad I can remember in the last decade. That will hopefully contribute with regard to keeping injuries within our team to a minimum.

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My matchday experience on Sunday was vastly different from my usual routine as my fellow Concordia supporter and mate Michael (the Eintracht Frankfurt fan) had invited me to an afternoon of armchair football at his place. I had suggested to him a few weeks ago we should be looking out for a day on which Frankfurt and West Ham would have their respective fixtures scheduled for the same afternoon.

He has German Sky at home (including the Bundesliga and PL package), so we decided that this was a perfect opportunity for watching each other’s favourite club for a change while chewing the fat, not to mention a nice jalapeño burger with fries on the side as well.

The footballing fare on offer was enticing, with Frankfurt playing out the curtain raiser away at Cologne to be followed by the main drama of Spurs against West Ham straight after. So I drove some 20 miles south, crossing the river in the process and we experienced a quite remarkable afternoon.

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I was dead jealous when seeing my mate’s flat for the first time as he must have a collection of about 7k CDs and 4k vinyl records gracing his walls and cabinets, easily a bigger music collection than mine. The first game was a dampener as Frankfurt only managed a 1:1 draw against Cologne who were shockingly bad, but somehow managed to score. A draw that felt like a defeat…

So, West Ham next. In a derby against our fiercest local rival. I had forgotten to bring my matchday screwdriver as initially planned. Maybe that’s why things went all Pete Tong in the first half.

I always feel nervous when watching a West Ham game with a friend who doesn’t follow them regularly or even has a soft spot for them.

I am even more desperate for West Ham to win and play well on the occasions when a mate (or my brother) is watching with me as I somehow feel my association with the club is a reflection of or at the very least an important part of my life and personality. So in a weird and symbiotic kind of way, I was convinced at kick-off that West Ham were representing me and I was representing them.

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When Son scored after 45 seconds Michael looked at me and said “Seriously ?”.
When the second goal went in, I was getting ready for an almighty drubbing.
When it was 3:0 to Spurs after 16 minutes, Michael was compassionate enough to offer up some hard booze as consolation.
(I couldn’t accept as I had to drive back home later, but it was tempting at that point.)
Michael also suggested to change channels and watch the German equivalent of Top Gear instead. Or listen to some heavy metal classics on his monster CD changer which holds up to 400 discs at once…

I told him that I had seen worse from the Hammers before (that was a porky, I didn’t really remember at that point when I had seen worse), but I also explained that supporting West Ham was a 24/7 never-ending test of character and endurance. A lifetime challenge. Or maybe it was just karma for sins committed in a previous life…

You all know what happened next.

WHAT. A. COMEBACK!!!
3 unanswered goals in just 12 minutes (better than what Spurs did in the first half!).

Never say die! Never give up! Keep going until the final whistle! A team worthy of the name. Pure character, an iron will and burning desire.

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The Lanzini goal ? One hell of a belter, smack right into the top right corner, shaking the crossbar and post mightily in the process. If Lloris had got more of his hand behind that shot he might have kept the ball out, but broken his wrist!

I remember madly celebrating that goal, sliding around the floor of my mate’s flat on my knees, shouting YES again and again. And some more. Michael only grinned at me like a Cheshire cat after a prawn-munching bonanza. Partly because of my bonkers behaviour, but also because he was genuinely enjoying the turn of events and entertainment provided by the game.

That draw came out of nowhere.
It was a very welcome point I would have gladly taken at the start of the game. A draw that felt like a win. One of those rare draws that will still give us bragging rights over Spurs for a long while as that comeback of ours will have hurt them deeply and profoundly.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer club and manager…;-))

The upcoming games will be exciting as we should now have a fully fit squad to pick from, including new boy Benrahma. Man City and Liverpool will still be almighty challenges.

But after watching THAT comeback against Spurs we shouldn’t fear anyone. I doubt any team would fancy playing us right now.
We might want to try though NOT to concede three goals again within 20 minutes. It does make getting a result against strong teams a lot harder…COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Starting with Hamburg SV who showed composure and guts winning 1:0 away at Fürth, playing for 40 minutes or so with ten men after Leistner stopped his opponent by way of a professional foul and unfortunately he was the last man as well. So kudos to HSV for maintaining their lead. Three wins out of three, perfect start to the league season, 2nd place, one game in hand to go top.
St.Pauli will play legendary club Nürnberg (that’s Nuremberg to you foreigners!) later this evening and you can watch at 7:30pm on BT Sport 1 if you fancy it.

Concordia have something in common with Hamburg SV: And that’s a perfect league record so far. Another win on Friday evening, a 4:3 thriller against Lohbrügge.
So that’s 12 points from 4 games, top of the table, game in hand. Lovely jubbly. Unfortunately due to the pandemic the Hamburg FA has decided to change the format for the local league competitions this season in such a ridiculous way that almost every club and supporter is opposed to it.
It works like this: After 17 games, the league gets split into a promotional round (for the teams finishing between 1st and 8th place) and the remaining 11 clubs fighting for survival in a relegation round.
The problem is that every point won in the previous 17 games gets chalked off, it’s a clean slate for everyone when the battle for promotion or relegation starts in all seriousness. With all the implication this brings.

As soon as teams have their “qualification” for the promotion round confirmed mathematically, they will begin to field B teams with lots of subs and youth players as those will effectively become meaningless games at some stage. While other clubs of course would hope for fellow teams fielding their best sides at all times in order to see certain results go in their favour. It means that the first 17 performances of each team are no longer relevant when the league splits in two. The positive thing is of course that once the promotion/relegation round starts EVERY game means something, no team is ahead of the pack with a 12 point cushion. Still, people already hate this format and long for the day the old league rules apply again. Bloody Covid!

The Cordi Women’s team surprisingly won their first game of the season, 4:2 away to Harburg, not far away from the place where I spent the afternoon. But I gave the game a miss as I fancied a bit of a Sunday morning lie-in. As the girls won, I reckon they won’t have missed me much…LOL


The HamburgHammer Column

Saïd and done ? Is Benrahma West Ham-bound ?

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What the heck! I hadn’t planned on writing anything for today, due to the international weekend (boring!), no West Ham game (humdrum) and not much else to report about West Ham, other than rumours about our new boy Coufal maybe having tested positive for Covid-19 – or then again not.

But then yesterday two things happened: My beloved Cordi team won a breathtaking away game 4:2 (more of that further down) and I saw more and more Twitter messages popping up on my dog and bone about Saïd Benrahma being on the verge of signing for West Ham. Or the club having agreed terms with the player. Or Brentford having agreed a fee with West Ham.

So, I thought “Hold my paper cup of coffee for a second, this at the very least does seem to have some legs! Maybe this one is happening.“
Which meant that I did see some merit to type out a paragraph or two on the Algerian wing wizard anyway. In case you didn’t know, Saïd is an Arabic name which means “The Happy One“. You’re welcome. ;-)

Now, Benrahma of course is very much a hot ticket these days. One of the most talked about players in the Championship. When you go and watch some of the goals he scored or assisted (and there is a fair bit of choice in that regard) you can easily understand why. He looks a very exciting player. He was in fact voted this summer by fans/readers of football monthly FourFourTwo as the Top 3 choice out of all the Football League players in England. Impressive.

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The Algeria international has acclimatised well in Blighty and it didn’t take him long to find his feet on the pitch as well. And when you watch him play, ball at feet, there are indeed not many things he can’t do when he’s running at the opposition’s goal.

And he does it in quite mesmerising fashion too: Dribbling, key passes, shooting, taking set-pieces, finishing, crossing the ball for others, you name it, he does it. One thing which isn’t really his forte, we have to admit it, is his defensive contribution, but that is probably something that could be worked on by Moyes. Or even neglected if he counterbalances that one weakness with his attacking prowess.

If he were to sign for West Ham and help us to score 3 goals per game on a more regular basis I might be more inclined to ignore his not tracking back as much as Fornals probably would. Having a front four of Antonio, Bowen, Benrahma and Fornals running at you sounds like the stuff nightmares of PL defenders are made of.

It’d be somewhat weird of course if we did indeed sold Diangana only to buy Benrahma in the same window, especially as Diangana despite his younger years still has more PL minutes under his belt than Benrahma.
It all defies logic or strategic planning unless you bring a certain football agent into the equation.

We obviously need to make a few more signings this week anyway to bolster what looks like a very wafer -thin squad as of now.

I am aware that the winter transfer window is not too far away, but we certainly need to cater for injuries and players missing out due to being tested positive for Covid.

As much as we would all be hoping for the same starting XI to play eight games in a row it’s simply not realistic to count on it. So you need to prepare and fill up the ranks before closing them for the upcoming games.

Josh King was/is still in the mix apparently (as an alternative option in case the Benrahma deal goes Pete Tong), same as defensive reinforcements in the form of Watford CB Craig Dawson. We could certainly do with another defender. Although I would probably prefer a slightly younger version of Dawson to be honest.

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As I alluded to before in my more recent comments I am actually growing more confident by the day that we will have new owners later this season, probably even before January. There is quite a lot of smoke drifting in from social media and blogs. And while there is always a good chance that some of those musings need to be taken with a generous tablespoon of salt at the very least, I have in recent days seen too many hints from too many people to think that there is no spark, flame or fire there whatsoever.

I can’t put my finger on one particular piece of evidence here, it’s more a combination of several factors, including our very thrifty approach to the transfer window so far, that makes me think that our board are just getting busy brushing up our finances to make a presentable case for any parties interested in a takeover. And I reckon there are currently more than just one. The stars could be aligning.

Once we get to the stage where those parties will be providing actual proof of funds (showing GSB the money basically), then things could get very interesting fairly sharpish. Fingers and toes crossed!

If we do indeed sign Benrahma and Dawson, well, both are Salthouse clients, so no big surprise there. There were rumours that Benrahma just recently has switched allegiance to a new agent, but this still very much looks like Will Salthouse has been involved heavily here, earning him a decent (and maybe final) cut from the deal. Sullivan’s and Salthouse’s last hoorah enjoyed together at PL level.

Consider it as a grateful gesture by Sullivan of compensating Salthouse one last time in case a takeover really happens. One final pay-day for the agent before West Ham will begin, hopefully under new ownership, to rely on club scouts rather than agents when picking and choosing players.

We’ll see. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Both Hamburg SV and St.Pauli were idle due to the international break. So were the Cordi girls. Sunday was still busy, with the U23s drawing 2:2 at home against St.Pauli’s fourth string, with one Cordi player unfortunately receiving a red card for violent conduct in the process, after kicking out at his opponent after the ball was long gone in retaliation. Silly boy!

And the Cordi first team won a cracker of a game 4:2 away to Union Tornesch (30 mile drive each way). We nearly missed the start of the game as my Cordi mate (who was driving on this occasion) thought it a clever ploy to take a detour in order to avoid traffic on the Autobahn, so we ended up on the western outskirts of town in a place called Wedel which was full of roadworks and diversions, so we couldn’t actually use the glorious short cut as planned. We made it onto the premises in the end just in time as the ref was blowing his whistle to start the game.

The Cordi boys ran into a pleasant 3:0 halftime lead. Hattrick by midfielder Onur Saglam. One scored directly from a corner kick. One scored with a direct free kick. One penalty chipped into the net cool as a cucumber.
Then our striker got sent off after 60 minutes which was unfortunate. His knee ended up in the opposition player’s back when both were jumping for the ball. The ref thought it was deliberate when it was probably more clumsy than nasty on the Cordi lad’s part. The home side quickly pulled two goals back and the Cordi fans were in for more than 30 minutes of squeaky bum time.

One of the substitutes, a young lad, only 19 years old, who just got promoted to the first team this summer from the U18s, scored the fourth in injury time to settle this hugely entertaining contest. 6€ well spent for a ticket. Plus 2.50€ for a chicken sausage roll with mustard and ketchup. Yummo!
I love my football! ;-))


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