The HamburgHammer Column

Hammers chase Foxes from their den - after tickling their tummy

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WHAT. A. PERFORMANCE!!!
Vardy who ??? (The Leicester striker had fewer touches in the game than our goalkeeper, quite a telling stat.)

You could have hit me over the head with a blunt instrument or spiked my cup of Rosie with bleach, never in my wildest dreams could I have predicted that level of performance from our lads and that kind of result against Leicester of all teams.

We usually don’t do well against Leicester. Vardy tends to enjoy playing through and past our defenders. And the Foxes had started the season really well. But this is why we all love the game so much.

We may THINK we know what’s gonna happen. Every once in a while we simply don’t. Who would have predicted the Hammers to go jolly fox hunting like this on Sunday lunchtime ?

And who could have guessed that even Czech, Italian, French and Paraguayan nationals would be so adept at hunting down good old Vulpes vulpes ?

Due to watching the Concordia U23s earlier I actually missed the first 20 minutes of the game. When I hurried up the staircase to reach Casa HH, I was just hoping the scoreline wouldn’t read as 2:0 to Leicester already, thank God it didn’t. Antonio had given us the lead. New boy Coufal was playing and apparently we were employing the wing back formation again that had worked so well for us before.

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Once more it simply was a complete team performance. I could name you 7 players deserving of MotM credentials (I’ll pick one later anyway). We looked well drilled, perfectly organised, so that Fabianski hardly had any save to make. Leicester had a late effort chalked off by VAR which was brilliant for West Ham obviously, but the neutral fan would have admired the pinball machine style exchange of passes which, frankly, would have deserved a goal.

But we deserved that clean sheet as our fivesome of Coufal, Balbuena, Ogbonna, Cresswell and Masuaku was absolutely fantastic. Cresswell and Masuaku look very comfortable together on the left. Balbuena has slotted back into proceedings nicely again, Ogbonna did his usual impression of a rock with wave upon wave of Leicester rolling towards him to not much avail really. And Coufal ? Apart from the fact the pundits pronounced his name wrong all game (I suppose they didn’t read the instructions posted on here by our own Toddy) he looked as if he was playing his 85th game for West Ham, not his first. And he can even launch a decent long throw which may come in handy this season.

My MotM ? It could have been any of our defenders. It could have been Rice or Soucek. It could have been Antonio. Bowen finished his goal brilliantly too. But I will give the prize to Pablo “Fournails“ Fornals.

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I liked our Spanish chico from the start really. All the while he has been played in a role that’s not his best position really. But he kept on carrying on regardless, running and tackling his calcetines off, always playing with a smile on his face. Always happy like an Iberian pig wallowing in Extremaduran mud when a teammate scores. And here he was, providing excellent passes again. And also scored a Miss Andalucia of a goal himself, controlling the ball well and tucking it away with a cheeky little touch of his left boot. Of course I cheer every single goal we score. This one though was a bit special and I was so happy for Fournails.
He really deserved that one. And his passes seem to find Jarrod Bowen a lot lately, so we got a nice little bit of chemistry going there apparently. Long may it continue.

The only changes we made late on were for the sake of eating up a bit of time really as our starting XI were such a well-oiled machine on the day that substitutions weren’t really necessary. We are now finding ourselves in slighty unfamiliar territory: 10th place in the table, 6 points out of a possible 12 to start the season. Goal difference of +4.

It’s weird, but oh so wonderful to see. Whatever it is Moyes is doing with these players (with a little help from Irvine, Nolan, Pearce and Nevin), it is working out pretty well so far.
The next three games after the international break are still a big ask (Spurs away, Manchester City at home, Liverpool away).

Normally I would predict us to get a big fat ZILCH from this. After our performances against Wolves and Leicester though I will say we will probably win one of those.

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Monday of course is Transfer Deadline Day which is why this article will be superseded by our rolling WHTID transfer business coverage soon enough. At this point it’s hard to predict what’s gonna happen. Apparently we will let Josh Cullen go to Anderlecht. Which personally I feel sad about as I have always been roting for the lad. But for some reason he has never got a shot to properly work himself into the gaffer’s plans at West Ham.

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So it’s only fair to allow him to join a club where he can actually play and forge a career for himself. I had the pleasure to meet him briefly during West Ham’s preseason in Germany a few years ago and he was a lovely fella to have a chinwag with. So I can only wish Josh all the best at his new club, I hope you find happiness there, mate.
While getting plenty of minutes on the pitch. You show ’em, Josh!

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There’s also word that Robert Snodgrass may be allowed to join boyhood club Celtic in this transfer window. Which would seem strange to me as he is the kind of player Moyes likes to have in a squad. Snodgrass has been the type of midfielder I have always admired at West Ham, the hard grafters who are also genuinely good and funny characters to have around the club. He obviously didn’t play as often recently as he would have liked, but whenever he put on the shirt he gave us 100%.
If indeed he does leave, I wish him every success at his next destination. Thanks Rob, you will be remembered and missed…

As for other business we may or may not do during the day, I am dubious.
I haven’t got a Scooby what’ll happen. We could surely do with some incomings, considering the number of players we let go and the way Moyes seems to want to play these days. We certainly could use another quality CB at least, plus a halfway decent striker (after getting rid of Hugill, Ajeti and potentially Xande Silva going out to Greece on loan).
But I won’t be taking anything for granted.

And of course it’s merely the international window that’s closing later on Monday, we can still do domestic deals with Championship clubs or lower until October 16th. We’ll see.

So I do expect nothing in terms of further arrivals at West Ham in order to preempt disappointment on my part. I shall still happily join the transfer debate throughout the day. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Starting with a very unfortunate 0:1 loss for FC St.Pauli away to Sandhausen on Friday. Sandhausen are very much a nondescript plain Jane outfit in Bundesliga 2, but they are a solid team all around and especially strong at home which showed on the night. Hamburg SV on the other hand had their home game against Erzgebirge Aue virused out after several players and staff members from the east German team tested positive for Covid earlier.

The Concordia first team netted a late 2:1 winner in injury time under the lights on Friday night to keep their perfect record of the young season, two wins in two games, six goals scored, three conceded. Good start to the season. The Cordi Under 23s played out a very entertaining 0:0 away draw Sunday against local rivals Billstedt-Horn on a hard and dry cinder pitch which is very rare at that level, it’s usually 3G artificial pitches throughout the league.

The Cordi Women’s team continued their on-pitch crash course at the top amateur level at home against the girls from Victoria, losing 0:5.
Challenging season ahead for them…


The HamburgHammer Column

Cry, Wolves! Bowen therapy the right remedy for West Ham

NITE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Everton on Wednesday is ready to enter HERE. The deadline for entries is 4pm on Wednesday.

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The Bowen therapy, named after an Aussie bloke (Thomas Ambrose Bowen), a self-taught osteopath who invented a special non-invasive bodywork technique, involves stretching the fascia which is the soft tissue that covers all your muscles and organs in order to provide pain relief.

According to its proponents the technique is also proficient when it comes to healing numerous other kinds of ailments: Head- and tootchaches, back pain, sports injuries, apparently it even helps against bedwetting.
No wonder Bowen called it “a gift from God“.

The therapy itself is a very soft form of massage, using very gentle, yet exact rolling movements of the fingers. The applied pressure is as soft as when touching an eyeball without hurting it.

As with many other alternative therapies it has not actually been proven conclusively if the method is efficient (or even works) or if it’s more like an expensive placebo.

At West Ham, in the game against Wolves yesterday evening, the Bowen therapy involved Englishman Jarrod Bowen making precise and lethal runs into the box, being highly invasive by scoring twice, providing a painful headache for the opposition all game long, gently helping West Ham to a wonderful 4:0 drubbing of one of the better teams in the Premier League, relieving our club of the stinging pain of having no points on the board so far this season.

Bowen was very much working a treat against Wolves, so has to be considered as being a welcome remedy, not a mere placebo for the Hammers on the night. I’m sure West Ham fans everywhere feel a lot better already this morning, thanks to the Bowen technique…

If you do get your first league win of the season against all the odds, you might as well do it in style!

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Winning 4:0 against a side like Wolverhampton is only possible with a complete team performance and it very much was one of those.

I have to hold my hands up and say: When I saw our lineup before the game I was slightly perturbed, feeling that Moyes must be suffering rather severe symptoms of Covid-19 adversely affecting his tactical thinking.
But what do I know…;-))

Moyes had the formation and the application levels of the eleven starters spot on – Wolves looked very ordinary, almost shell-shocked at what we threw at them for 95 minutes.

Our first crucial goal came courtesy of something very un-West Ham-like: Awareness of a game situation and exploiting it as quick as a rat might escape up a drainpipe.

With a freekick given to West Ham at the halfway line after a rugby tackle against Antonio, the brilliant Pablo Fornals saw Bowen sprint into action and immediately played a neat ball into his path out on the right while the Wolves players were still trying to have a chinwag with the ref about something. Maybe to do with a horse. Or the spot where the freekick should be taken from.

Bowen, cool as a cucumber, struck the ball oh so sweetly into the far corner to score the first goal of the game which was always going to make a massive difference.

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In the first half we did create plenty of other opportunities, but were rather wasteful with some of them (yes, I’m looking at you, Mr. Antonio and Mr. Fornals!), but somehow we kept scoring in the second half.

And so the confidence and swagger kept building for West Ham, on and on and on, with every successful pass, move and tackle. If you want to get the best out of players like Fredericks, Cresswell and Masuaku, play them like this. They even put in some tantalisingly dangerous crosses into the box.
Fantastic!

When Fredericks pulled up shortly after the restart, we could have missed a beat with young Ben Johnson coming on in an unwanted switch of personnel, but we just didn’t. After some initial nervous play, Johnson found his feet and did his job as part of a well drilled Hammers team.
Special kudos to Balbuena who was excellent. As a pure defender with an experienced head I like him a lot. He may not be worth £35m, but I would gladly see him start again regularly for us.

As for Fredericks hopefully he won’t be out for too long. In the meantime I trust Johnson to grow even more into the RB (or wing back) role in the coming weeks. Soucek and Haller added two great headed goals to round off a wonderful evening in a game where no West Ham player had a stinker.
I know they ruled our third as an own goal by the Wolverine striker, but I’m not having that – glorious goal by Sous Chef! ;-)

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The entire team was working incredibly hard for each other on the night, but also for the gaffer stuck in isolation, surely also for the fans watching at home all over the world. It was simply a very impressive performance, there’s no denying that.

We looked like a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts and that must be down to the coaching staff.
I think the Wolves game showed that a lot of work must have been done on the training ground in the last few days to get a performance like that out of the lads. That didn’t look like luck or a happy accident. That looked like the fruits of guts, sweat and tears down Rush Green.

We obviously have a lot of nightmare fixtures coming up, but if the effort and application of our players remains at a similar level from now on, well, then we are unlikely to come out of the next four or five games with zero points. We can play some bloody decent (and winning) football after all.
We can even keep a clean sheet. And that bodes well.
Let me say a bit about the transfer window now. (Tin hat on!)

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I get the message that we don’t have much money for signings, despite already selling the likes of Hugill, Ajeti and Diangana. We also let players like Sanchez, Zabaleta and Roberto go, saving quite a bit of wages that way. So I do appreciate that we won’t be seeing a massive influx of new arrivals at West Ham in the coming days.
On the other hand I don’t consider us skint to a degree that we HAVE to sell Rice this window. We don’t. We shouldn’t. A good owner wouldn’t.

I would also expect our chairman to act like a professional club would by not weakening our squad any further than he did already by selling all those players I mentioned.

Letting Declan Rice go now, on top of the others, cheap or otherwise, would render our team weaker, more vulnerable, more likely to end up in another relegation battle. I haven’t yet seen a clear statement from Rice that he wants out this window by hook or by crook.

I don’t begrudge Declan a move to a bigger club eventually, in order to enjoy regular Champions League football and the sweet whiff of actually winning a trophy occasionally.

But Declan is still very young, there is plenty of time for him to experience all that and as we are still in a deflated transfer market due to the pandemic, what we are likely to get for him this window in terms of a transfer fee would in no way reflect his value to our team and this club as a whole. I don’t give a hoot how small a bid Chelsea may think they can get away with submitting for him just because he did support them as a kid.
Or because his mate Mason Mount is playing for them.
That’s all very touching, but I want what’s best for West Ham, not what might suit Roman Abramovich, Frank Lampard or Mason Mount!
Screw them, with bells on!

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If Rice were to stay for one more year, developing further at West Ham, taking on the captain’s armband while also playing for England regularly, his value will shoot up even more and should things improve in terms of the pandemic one year from now, West Ham could add another 25-30m to the asking price, if we can keep him just a bit longer and don’t go for the quick end of window transfer cash injection from Chelsea. It’d be easy money, granted, but there’s no way we could find a halfway decent replacement now.

In my book, selling Rice now would represent bad business, terrible timing and weak custodianship of the club.

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If Rice is reading this, I would hope he knows exactly how much us fans would love him to stay and that we would immensely appreciate if he stuck around even if it’s for just one more season – for the benefit of our club and his own development as well. Time surely is very much on Rice’s side.

There have been other players before him, young prospects with sky-high ceilings who made that move to a bigger club just that little bit too early maybe.

Timing sometimes is everything. Personally, I think the timing isn’t quite right (yet) for Rice to leave. West Ham is good for him for another season or two. And if he doesn’t believe me, he should ask his midfield partner Soucek. That might help…

But maybe that’s just wishful thinking on my part.

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As for our transfer business, considering our financial state, I’d be perfectly happy making 1-2 loan signings (FB and CB), keep Rice and be done with it. Is that going to happen ? Probably not. But one can hope. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Starting with St.Pauli who surprisingly won in style against a very decent team (Heidenheim) by a scoreline of 4:2 at home, in front of 2.226 cheerful fans inside the stadium. Don’t ask me about the odd figure, apparently that’s the exact number of supporters who were allowed to watch by the local authorities, must be a percentage of the full capacity I guess. The Kiezkicker are in a very impressive second place in the table, with 4 points after the first two games.

Their rivals Hamburg SV can overtake them with an away win at Paderborn later this evening, live on BT Sport 2 at 7:30pm. Paderborn have just been relegated from Bundesliga 1 this summer.

Concordia’s first team didn’t play. Their away game was called off due to an opposition player having tested positive for Covid-19.
The U23s started their season in style with a 4:1 home win while the women’s team suffered a first league defeat in their debut performance at the highest local amateur level, a 0:4 thrashing which is likely to be merely the first of a few more footballing lessons the girls will have to take on board this season.

After three consecutive promotions they are now at a level where ALL the other teams, at least on paper, are stronger than Concordia. No more 6:1 wins this season, I’m afraid…all part of the learning curve.


The HamburgHammer Column

Close, but no cigar! Gunners with lucky escape as Hammers dominate

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Hull City tomorrow is open and you can register a team until 4pm HERE. If you haven’t created a profile, please do so HERE.

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Guys and gals, what did we learn on Saurday then ? I guess it’s that NEARLY is the posh cousin of YOU LOST, GET OVER IT!
I’m beginning to type this down straight after the final whistle of our game against Arsenal.
I don’t feel like over-analysing this game, I also don’t feel the need to moan too much (okay, I’m still shaking my fist at the clouds with the football gods in them and a fairly angry expression on my boat) because, frankly, it was a near flawless performance from West Ham under the circumstances.

If we could only have played half as good as this against Newcastle we’d already have points on the board. If we can somehow bottle up the effort, endeavour, guts and desire from this one and uncork it all again for our upcoming league games, I will be nowhere near as worried as just a few days ago. Our team really worked their socks off on Saturday. The stats will back this up, we gave Arsenal an almighty scare, we played some tidy football, we created numerous opportunities (but weren’t ruthless enough) and at least the first of Arsenal’s two goals was borderline offside, the little-toe-might-have-been-offside variety, but still. We deserved a point out of this, maybe even more. When your team is on a good run, things tend to fall into place for you. Right now we just don’t seem to be getting the rub of the green. That’ll hopefully come if we continue to fight and play hard.

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I have to congratulate our team and manager for a very decent performance (at least until Arsenal scored their late winner), it was a great game to watch with plenty of goalmouth action, so I really don’t see a strong case for complaining furiously about this one. Two quick points though:

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This formation worked really well for us – I have to admit, I didn’t understand our line up at the start of the game, however, after watching our performance and the shift put in by the players, it totally made sense. Even players that had their cards marked as potential weak spots in our team, Fredericks, Cresswell, Masuaku, actually looked alright in their adapted roles, all doing their bit on the day for the cause.

What I still fail to grasp is Moyes’s unwillingness to make changes before the 78th minute. I get it that you sometimes keep your starters on if either your team is playing REALLY well or you simply don’t have options on the bench. I am not saying we wouldn’t have conceded again if only we had made some substitutions around the hour mark.

What I’m saying though is that it’s borderline insulting to put on players like Yarmolenko, Haller and Anderson for 10 minutes or less and expect them to magically have an impact. I would have thrown Anderson, Haller and Yarmolenko on much earlier. If only because Arsenal looked fairly shaky at the back as our stats for shots on and off target would illustrate.

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All we needed was someone to tuck these opportunities away and in that respect I would have loved to see Haller from the start (or at least for 45 minutes) whose confidence should have been boosted by his goals in the Charlton game. But it wasn’t to be and we are still on zero points. Hard to take and the games are not only flying in thick and fast now, they are also not exactly getting any easier, maybe with the exception of Hull tomorrow in the Carabao Cup.

Whatever may or may not happen with regard to a potential sale and takeover of the club, well, that’s out of the hands of our fanbase really and certainly out of the hands of our staff of writers here on WHTID.
Whatever will be will be, as the famous football anthem by Doris Day goes.

All the players and the manager can do right now is to work hard on the training pitches and prepare for the next games. And then start to earn themselves a bit of good fortune on the pitch, their fair share of the rub of the green. Maybe even get the odd unexpected draw or win in the upcoming fixtures.

Try to stay positive, try to run, sweat and fight for your teammates out there and get some confidence back into your bones and brains.

It’s still early in the season and our team is good enough to eventually win games. We could do with a bit of help from the transfer market. But that’s one for another article closer to Deadline Day. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: The Bundesliga season is back! Including Bundesliga 2 of course with the two Hamburg clubs hoisting the footballing colours of my beloved hometown.
Hamburg SV managed a hard fought 2:1 victory in their home opener against Fortuna Düsseldorf who got relegated from the top division in the summer. So a positive start for Kevin Keegan’s former club! Their local rivals from the red light/harbour district St.Pauli kick off their season this evening with a tough away fixture at Ruhrpott club Bochum, the slightly poorer and less successful neighbours of Dortmund and Schalke, who also count plenty of (former) miners and steelworkers amongst their fanbase.

My lovely lower league love, Concordia Hamburg, started their campaign on Friday evening with a 5:2 home win (after being 0:2 down after 30 minutes), in front of 80 socially distanced paying customers. You can sense that a lot of people are still skeptical about going back to watch football, hence the low numbers. For the time being there seem to be different rules for different clubs, in accordance with the facilities on offer at the individual grounds.

Cordi will be able to welcome a maximum of 200 fans, some clubs may not allow away fans in at all while other teams may be able to play in front of 500 fans. It sure felt good to meet some of the regular Cordi faces again and chew the fat about football. They were even selling stylish Cordi facemasks with the club crest and in the red and black team colours!

Also on Friday evening the Under 23s won their cup game 1:0 away to Wentorf (just around the corner from where my brother lives). The Cordi Women’s team also had a cup fixture to maneuver, against the previous season’s cup winners Walddörfer SV who also play another level above the league the Cordi girls have just been promoted to.
So it was always going to be a big ask, considering Cordi’s best player Michelle Hille was out of the game after doing the ligaments in her ankle in the final preseason game last weekend. She was already smiling again before the game, as is her usual habit.
That smile unfortunately turned into a rather frosty expression quickly as a stunned Cordi team lost the game 1:8. Yes, EIGHT! Terrible game to watch, men against boys, sorry, this should maybe read women against girls.
A gulf in quality, Cordi with a 90 minute blooper reel of passes going straight to the opposition with the away side gratefully playing themselves into a attacking frenzy, like sharks feeding on a shoal of sardines.
Lovely weather though. At least the girls can focus on the league now…


The HamburgHammer Column

Mountains, molehills and magpies: Defeat in first game, once again!

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Football is back!!! I meant to start the new season and the first paragraph of my debut article with a barrage of witty banter, puns and hopeful observations. Because that’s what you usually do as a football fan whenever a new season comes around, don’t you ? No matter if you support a club in the PL, a second division club in Hungary or a local amateur side in Iceland: You hold great expectations, you feel like a kid the night before Christmas, you hope.

You start the new season on 0 points, with a goal difference of Zero, like everyone else. Clean slate. Fresh start. New beginnings. For a brief moment you’re on a par with the big clubs in your division. You are excited about the new signings your club has made, looking forward to seeing the new recruits run out in your club’s colours for the first time.

You are positive the next season will be better than the previous one. You may even be reasonably confident. Some are foolish enough and dare to dream. Why wouldn’t you ?

Then the first whistle blows and 90 minutes later reality gives you a big sobering smack right on your kisser. Welcome back to a new season of PL football indeed! 0:2 against Newcastle in what on paper looked like our only truly winnable game among our first eight fixtures. Of course that irritating twat Wilson had to score for them! If only Repka was still around to teach that complete nincompoop some humility. For our beloved team on the other hand it is backs to the wall stuff right from the sound of the starting gun fading away.

That’s the fifth time in a row, by the way, we have lost our first game of the season. Who says we’re not consistent ?

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I didn’t go into this game with any expectations of getting even ONE point out of it. Not after the recent shenanigans. This time there was no excitement for me, no hope. I felt like the kid whose christmas present was already broken after just 90 minutes of playtime.

My matchday routine throughout was lacklustre to mirror the current mood at West Ham London. And the performance. Our club right now is in a frighteningly challenging position on and off the pitch…and it showed!

I can’t single out any player for us worthy of extended praise because our performance on the whole was flat. Reasonably early on I stopped counting how often we had given possession away carelessly. Or passed backwards to a player who didn’t really want the ball. Upfront we looked bereft of ideas, bite and confidence. We hit the crossbar twice, but no team has ever preserved league status by winning crossbar challenges.

To be brutally honest, I was looking forward to seeing Diangana cut into the opposition’s box a bit more often against Newcastle and our new £35m star CB Tarkowski was almost invisible for us throughout the entire game.

If you find that the last sentence appears to be dripping with bitter sarcasm that’s because it is. Sarcasm, my dear readers, is one of the few mechanism I have left within my metabolism to cope with what’s happening at West Ham at the moment.

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you reach the top. Then you will see how low it was.”

Dag Hammarskjold said that. No, he was not a pontificating sweeper playing for much loved Swedish side IFK Norrköping in the Seventies. He was a Swedish economist and diplomat. A pretty smart fella.
And also the second ever Secretary-General of the United Nations. There are several ways this quote can be set in relation to what’s currently happening at West Ham.

Right from the start, thanks to losing to Newcastle and an incredibly unkind fixture calendar early on, West Ham will have a mountain to climb in order to not be firmly rooted near the bottom of the table after eight games. And probably the rest of the season. We’ll be lucky to even have 5 points in the bag out of a possible 24 to start the season.

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill here. Maybe we will be welcoming some signings before the transfer deadline to shore up our defence after all. Maybe we will sign a pacy striker (to replace Hugill and Ajeti) who can do a decent job for us upfront in whatever role Moyes wants our striker(s) to play. Maybe we can even keep Rice for another season.
Maybe we’ll be alright after all, whatever alright means for us these days.
Alright for the board is not necessarily what’s alright for the fans. Or the manager and players.

Once we get our usual 3-4 injury-related lengthy absences of key players this season though, that mountain we need to climb in order to fend off relegation might as well be located on Mars.
And I mean the planet, not the chocolate bar…

The top of the mountain the ultimate goal for West Ham’s endeavours in 2020 seems to be, once again, just staying up, somehow, someway, on a wing and a prayer, on the never-never, by hook or by crook. That’s why we moved stadium, folks! That’s why we are West Ham London now which of course sounds so much cooler than West Ham United. Who wants unity in a football club anyway ?
Only those pesky keyboard warriors and malcontents would want that, so screw ’em !

Staying up should not even represent a mountain for us anymore, after the most successful move ever to the London Stadium. The days of squeaky bum relegation scraps were supposed to be behind us, not to mention next level and Champions League football waiting just around the corner, just behind one of those Stop/Go! signs, right next to The Orbit.

Staying up should have been our leisurely Sunday hike, our casual stroll up the local hill with the kids and the family canine, back home for tea and scones in an hour and a half. No sweat!

Instead it’s going to be another painful slog of a relegation battle straightaway – with every game this season taking on the significance of a Cup Final for us.
Can anyone think of a single other PL team we can realistically expect to dominate on the pitch and beat convincingly ? Right now I really can’t.
And I don’t have to tell you who has to carry the can here, you all know!

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God, how I hate writing down musings like this, it’s depressing even for me – and I am the chap typing away here! If there were positives, I’d be waxing lyrical in one paragraph after another. It’s more fun to write about winning football.

So I really hope we get some positive news soon, ANY news, related to West Ham, with the power and capacity to lift our collective spirits. For many of us it’s a crap time anyway, for a variety of reasons including the pandemic.

Football was supposed to be an outlet, a distraction. West Ham right now aren’t helping in this regard. It’s not even the question if our team is crap. It’s not. At least not on paper.

We have some really good players who on any given day can perform and get fans out of their seats at the stadium if they were in them seats to begin with of course.

It’s just that all the other teams in the PL have been strengthening. Some quite massively. Right now I would even rank West Brom and Leeds as stronger than us. We’re probably on a par with Fulham.

West Ham are treading water and we are not even treading with conviction, taking a huge gamble by trying to stay up with minimal spending and in general struggling to be an attractive proposition for talented footballers at the moment. If I was Tarkowski I think I wouldn’t even bother answering the phone if West Ham were calling. Like it or not, right now you can’t really recommend any halfway decent players to join this club.
That appealing image of the likeable underdog, everybody’s second team from East London has gone for good. If we got relegated now I don’t think the PL would actually miss us.

West Ham have always been a bit like a soap opera, right now it’s gone up a notch, we’re like Eastenders on a bad cocktail of valium LSD and ecstasy, washed down with a bottle of cheap wodka from Lidl and some apple-flavoured Tango. No, I’ll retract that: The Eastenders writers would probably return the current West Ham storyline back to the club with the words Too much drama, too bonkers, even by our standards!“ scribbled on the back of the envelope.

To finish the West Ham bit on a positive note: I am looking forward to seeing the new edition of WHTID up and running soon and hopefully I will be able to continue writing as well, preferably after the occasional West Ham win. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Starting with the cup fixtures, yesterday St.Pauli lost their first round fixture 2:4 against minnows Elversberg (equivalent of a League Two side). Hamburg SV play later this afternoon against traditional East German club Dynamo Dresden.

As for Concordia football it’s all gonna start for real next Friday, with the league game for the first team, then on Sunday the cup game for the women’s team against the reigning cup winners.
Due to the pandemic every club needs to establish a health and safety routine for home games in accordance with the local circumstances and requirements, consisting of limiting the number of fans allowed at the games, deciding on where people have to wear masks on the premises and how to enforce social distancing rules for the fans who are allowed to watch, taking contact details of everyone at the turnstiles etc.

Those rules may slightly differ from club to club, it’s entirely possible that some clubs due to their facilities may initially not allow away fans into the ground at all – which would be tricky for me as I am supposed to write the match reports for Cordi’s away fixtures for their matchday programme again this season. Being able to watch the game is crucial for obvious reasons.

In Concordia’s case, for instance, they will stop selling beer at the ground for the time being as that will allow them to sell more tickets. 200 per game instead of 100 with booze readily available.

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Talking of beer: In order to quench my thirst for live football (after having to live almost five months without) I watched a total of FOUR preseason games over the weekend at Cordi’s home ground which now features a spanking new set of state-of-the-art LED floodlights which will be great for those Friday home games under the lights in October and November.
(Finally the lads will be able to actually see the ball after 7pm no matter where on the pitch it may bounce.)

The first team won 5:0 (every goal a stunner), the second team/U23s drew 2:2, the third team (last season’s U18s) won 3:0.

My special favourites, the women’s team, beat St.Pauli’s second string 4:1 on Saturday in their final preseason “friendly“, however, the game won’t be remembered for the winning scoreline but unfortunately for a rather nasty and ill-timed scissor tackle in what looked like a totally innocuous situation near the touchline that led to Cordi’s most skilled player, speedy and resilient winger Michelle “Mini“ Hille, lying still on the ground, crying in pain for three minutes solid (when even Hille cries, something is seriously wrong), grabbing her foot before being carried off the field with an ice pack wrapped around her ankle. Still, it apparently swelled up overnight, big time, going dark blue. Her educated guess (coming from a player who has been tackled and injured regularly in her young career) is that she may have done her ligaments which would keep her out of contention for a significant number of games.
She’ll do a scan later today and hopefully we will see her kick a ball in a game again in 2020. Fingers crossed, Mini!


The HamburgHammer Column

The price of Rice - why keeping Declan is the best transfer business we could do this summer

Let me start by thanking you all for reading my column throughout this weird and bewildering season just gone and bearing with my endless musings, puns and rants at our board. There was (still is, of course) a pandemic running wild which led to the PL calendar and football all over the world (except Belarus) grinding to an unexpected halt for several months, then there was the little matter of Supergrassgate on here (which kept Daz and me away for a short while), but then, thankfully, football finally returned and West Ham very belatedly turned on some style and swagger to secure league status for another season, especially important in these unpredictable times. I hope that I will be able to continue with my column again next season/when the new site is up and running. Let’s hope it will provide us with more wins, better football (maybe even fans returning to the stands) and plenty of inspiration for me to find some more jolly puns for my headlines. COYI!!!

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Thank God this season has finally run its course, I don’t need a repeat of all this either. If you had predicted that kind of season to happen, putting a tenner on it in your local betting shop last summer, you might consider yourself well minted now.

Who would have thought Pellegrini would be sacked halfway in ? Who would have thought that the backup goalkeeper we had brought in for Adrian should turn out to be a textbook example of “How not to come out for the ball when you’re a goalkeeper in the Premier League” ? Who could have predicted that a pandemic would stun the world and almost lead to the football season being voided altogether ?

And who would have thought we’d make two January signings destined to turn our season around with a gusto and impact reminding Hammers fans of the arrival of John Hartson and Paul Kitson midseason in February 1997 ?
Jarrod Bowen and Tomas Soucek were key factors in making sure we will still see PL football at West Ham (at least on the telly) in the 2020/21 season.

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Our final league game wasn’t much to write home about. We didn’t really need a result and it showed. In the end a 1:1 draw was a fair result maybe, but the longer Villa managed to get away with dirty little fouls without getting booked, the more I was wishing for us to beat them and send them down. Luckily for Villa, goal-line technology enjoyed a refreshment break in their game against Sheffield United, helping the Villa(i)ns to a crucial point.
I bet lawyers are rubbing their hands in greedy expectation already with the prospect of a court case or two coming up…

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It’s the first Monday after the end of the season and the transfer window is now open again. I’ll just say that again: THE TRANSFER WINDOW IS OPEN AGAIN!
It will be a very short break now, next season will start in seven weeks already and that now means hectic wheeling and dealing in the world of football, with a plethora of phone calls ensuing between agents, clubs and players, maybe the odd fax machine will get a recall too and clubs all over the country will try to get rid of their deadwood while bringng in new and exciting players, finding targets according to current team weaknesses – and all of this in a financial climate of most clubs struggling to find money, some probably to a degree they will be very reluctant to water their training pitches out of fear of rising water utility bills.

The thing here is this: I can and will name you a few players I would be prepared to let go, trying to generate some funds to invest in new players. But my musings will be largely irrelevant. Does the club want to sell these players ? Are there other clubs willing to make an offer, paying the wages in full ? (Which in our case sometimes veer towards ridiculous levels when put in relation to contributions of said player on the pitch.)
Does the player agree to the move or prefer to see out his contract ?

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I wouldn’t mind allowing Lanzini to leave. Our #10 (literally) has, as we all know, scored some wonderful and crucial goals for us, but that knee injury has massively dented his confidence in his own body, affecting the way he moves and the ability to influence games. In these situations a fresh start elsewhere might prove a win-win scenario for everyone. His role can be filled by Fornals, Noble or Jack Wilshere.

I would keep Wilshere as it’s unlikely we’ll find a buyer for him anyway, so let’s ride out the final year of his deal and see if he can keep healthy and contribute. I am sure a player like Wilshere will be licking his lips at the prospect of playing on that same pitch with the likes of Bowen, Antonio, Rice and Soucek next season.

Roberto is an obvious choice, he will be staying in Spain now, the same country where Pellegrini will manage a club again, coincidentally. So two of the main protagonists of our downfall this season just gone will be plying their trade under the Spanish sun. Who else ? Balbuena. Moyes doesn’t seem to trust him and he should still warrant a halfway decent fee from a club in Spain or South America.

Ajeti (who I think is a fantastic young player, but Moyes seems to disagree) needs a fresh start elsewhere too (with Celtic his rumoured destination), but will his new club take the risk and sign him on a permanent deal immediately or start with a trial run of a loan with an option to buy ?
Winston Reid is a really sad case. Last ever goalscorer at the Boleyn, but since then incredibly unlucky with injuries. I just hope he can continue to play his football somewhere, but he’s not gonna earn West Ham much of a transfer fee, here, unfortunately, we have got a long-term deal on our hands gone massively Pete Tongue.

As for positions we need to fill: Definitely a LB, maybe a versatile type who can play on both sides almost equally well. Another young CB for sure to challenge (and help out) Ogbonna and Diop would be a great idea too. Also a new striker replacing Ajeti, preferably one that fits our system and has a chance of actually playing occasionally. And if a deal can be struck for a decent midfielder/winger from the Championship, why not ?

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We also have some promising youngsters being around the fringes of the first team next season, chaps like Nathan Holland, Abijola Alese, Gonçalo Cardoso, Conor Coventry, Josh Cullen and Xande Silva. They will not all be sitting on the bench on matchdays at the same time of course, some may feature quite a bit, some just once or twice, others on the list will probably not make a single appearance for the first team next season.

But surely they will be providing additional options for David Moyes to have a butcher’s at in preseason training. There’s no better (and ultimately cheaper) way for a club on a limited budget than to bring through youngsters from your own U23s.

Finally, my main topic for today – an obvious one, potentially a painful one but one every West Ham fan is acutely aware of, maybe frets over or worries about: The immediate future of freshly crowned Hammer of the Year 2020, Declan Rice.

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Make no mistake: Declan Rice is a “once-in-a-generation" type of player, an outstanding footballer, both physically/technically, but also character wise. Mature way beyond his years.

HOTY at just 21 years of age, future captain material, for both club and country. Brilliant at CB, probably even better at DM. Still very young, meaning there is so much more to come from him on the football pitch.
Almost frightening to think that his current level is probably merely slightly above the floor of hisability, with his ceiling being two or three metres further above.*

The sad truth is that such a player is not meant to spend his entire career at a club like ours (insert dig at previous and current owners here). So let us all agree that eventually he will be wearing a different club’s shirt.
An image that makes my stomach turn and a few drops of salty liquid running from my minces, then again I could just be chopping some onions…

I really hope a transfer doesn’t happen THIS summer already. One-club players seem to be becoming relicts of the past in football, not just in England.
Players who stay with their club for longer than ten years are now almost extinct like good old Brachiosaurus and his Jurassic mates.

We managed to hold on to Bobby Moore for a long time (16 years), but that was 50-60 years ago – if Bobby was playing today he’d be tapped up in no time so he could play for mega money at Manchester City, Liverpool, maybe Barcelona or Milan.

I know that, strictly speaking, Bobby Moore wasn’t a one-club player at all, he played for Fulham too, plus some teams in the USA while also running out nine times for a club in Denmark at the end of his playing days, but you know what I mean.
Moore was, is a West Ham legend. When you mention Bobby Moore, people immediately think West Ham and England.

Mark Noble is pretty much a one-club player too (apart from a brief loan spell), but, no disrespect to Nobes, he was/is nowhere near the level that Rice is going to reach eventually.

Rice appears to be happy right now, enjoying his development at West Ham (and how could you not be impressed with that?), enjoying a new way of playing now that Soucek is in the engine room with him. Rice knows he has the PL world at his feet at West Ham, he knows he would be our skipper for years to come, he’d be playing every minute of every game (injury permitting), he’d be the undisputed main guy, the first name on the teamsheet, Bobby Moore reborn. A potential West Ham legend.

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But will all of the above be enough for Declan Rice ? When there is a bigger world out there, with Champions League football, with medals and trophies waiting for him ?
Where he will be sharing the pitch with 10 other superstars playing for the same team, rather than be one of maybe 2 or 3 quality players at West Ham ?
Where he can play for his boyhood club Chelsea with his mate Mason Mount ? Where pundits will be talking about him a lot more regularly than they ever would about even the most accomplished West Ham player ?

I could make all kinds of witty puns now, with rice as the main protagonist. You know, like rice being the main food staple in all them Asian countries. How to never break another man’s rice bowl.
How giving rice to someone will feed that person for a day, but teaching them to grow rice will keep them fed every single day. But this is serious.

Declan Rice is important for the future of West Ham.

Chelsea may put a price on Declan Rice that may seem adequate and fair to THEM. It is likely to be a price that isn’t fair to West Ham.
Or represent his true value to our club. Let me elaborate.

Declan Rice is worth FAR more to us simply by playing for US than being sold. Because of the way he makes every teammate of his look and play better out there. Because of his contagious enthusiasm. Because he represents what West Ham have always been renowned for: Bringing players through the ranks to one day be a regular first team player and maybe even a legend. Or, more likely, be sold off to a bigger club once they have reached a certain level of consistency and greatness.

$ay Chelsea give us 80m quid for Rice next month, just for the $ake of argument. A lot of legal tender that, I know. But some players are worth so much more than something as trivial as money. Knowing West Ham, part of the fee would be used to balance the books (thanks in part to wealthy owners who are always cash-poor when it suits them, especially after the Pellegrini experiment going pear shaped), maybe to pay back the most recent payday loans, transfer some interest payments to the owners, maybe do up the training facilities a bit. That then leaves, what ? £40m ? £50m ?

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How do you even begin to replace a player like Declan Rice with £50m ? Especially a club like ours who has a history of being hit (sometimes) and miss (significantly more regularly) when it comes to new signings ?

Just a year or so after the transfer, the effects of the Rice money will likely be gone, evaporated, vanished into thin air. While Declan will continue to progress, making another club play better and look more accomplished on the pitch.

I know it’s just the way how things work in modern football, but I don’t like it. Everytime it happens, especially when it involves our club, my enthusiasm for big league football dies another little death.
Death by a thousand cuts, they call it.

Rice leaving West Ham now would not be your average cut with a pen-knife though, it’d be one ruthless slash with a machete across shoulder, chest and tummy – I’ll just leave you with the gory details of that mental image. No, I’d rather not watch that if it can be avoided.

So, against all hope, I’m still clinging to those scenes of Rice celebrating his Watford belter with his teammates and the gaffer. His satisfied grin when accepting the HOTY trophy from the hands of Sir Trevor.

I’m convincing myself he is grounded enough to listen to the advice of guys like Tony Carr who suggested to him he should stay at West Ham for the time being to further hone his skills and not to put at risk the trajectory of his impressive development by joining a bigger club too soon.

I’m telling myself to believe that he will be attracted to the vision of himself leading out the West Ham side as proud skipper, leader of men and brains of his team.

I may be setting myself up for utter disappointment here of course, but I’ve had plenty of practice with that at West Ham over the years.
Fortune’s always hiding. And all that…

My column may not be out on Mondays without fail during the break, however, if there are news about players leaving or joining the club, I will certainly try to rustle up an impromptu column…

COYI!!!


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