Talking Point

Good News On Brexit Day

For me Brexit isn’t good news. I always was in favour of Remain and of a second people’s vote, but the answer was “We already had one”, and Boris would “get Brexit done”.

Now as of 1st of February, the UK really is no longer part of the EU. Will Britain now get great again? Sorry, it will not. But the EU will also struggle, and maybe the block should have been more flexible to better accommodate the diversity of the continent and keep the UK on board. So for me, the only good news from London last Friday was the signing of an other new player for West Ham United.

In the brilliant book “Rule Britannia. Brexit and the End of Empire” the authors argue that the vote to leave the EU was the last gasp of the old empire working its way out of the British psyche, fuelled by an unrealistic vision of Britain’s future. I wish the UK well in the upcoming negotiations with the EU, but I fear it will be a tough match and in the end the outcome will not be satisfactory. Well, that reminds me of how things panned out at football club West Ham United after leaving the Boleyn (which by the way happened at the same time as the referendum whether to leave the EU).

With the move from Upton Park to the Olympic Stadium the West Ham faithful were promised golden days ahead, the Board was even talking of Champions League football within some years. But we’ve got the second relegation battle within three years instead of.

Even when the owners decided, after fan protests inside and outside the unloved new stadium, to invest a notable amount of money into the squad and hire a decent manager in 2018, it seems we were deluded in some way.

It was not only me who thought that with Manuel Pellegrini, a very successful manager with his former clubs, who was the highest paid gaffer in West Ham’s history, a “revolution” would start and bring success to a club where fortune’s had been hiding for much too long.

Pellegrini’s first season wasn’t bad. After a slow start with four defeats the players seemed to understand the new way of attacking play the Chilean tried to instil, there were glimpses of a fine style of play dubbed the “West Ham way” in former times, and a number of good results with lots of goals scored were achieved. Sometimes it seemed the squad had developed a formerly unknown “winning mentality”, and they accumulated more wins in a single month than ever before in Premier League history (in December 2018). Last season on my travels from Austria to the London Stadium I was lucky enough to attend four consecutive wins (Burnley 4-2, Crystal Palace 3-2, Arsenal 1-0 and Southampton 3-0). Unbelievable!

And when the Irons started very well this season, things looked bright and again it wasn’t just me who thought that West Ham had one of the strongest squads in recent years, and that they would go on to finally win something after many, many years without silverware. This year it is forty years that the Hammers have won the FA Cup, it’s “time to be great again” this season, isn’t it? That’s what we thought after the 2018/19 “transitional season”, which now would surely be followed by one more step forward for the Club.

But then our seemingly talismanic goalkeeper, Lukasz Fabianski, the fabulous shotstopper and Hammer of the Year 2019, got injured, and West Ham suddenly found itself in a downward spiral with Manuel Pellegrini unable to stop the decline. His substitute goalie Roberto who had been brought to West Ham by Pellegrini and his director of sports Husillos, instead of former fans favourite Adrian, proved completely unable to cope with the task of playing in the Premier League. Being a factor of highest uncertainty he unsettled the defenders in front of him, West Ham’s defence was (and unfortunately still is, though Roberto now has left the club) a complete shambles, and the Hammers ship goals after goals! Our exit from the League Cup was followed by a dismal run of seven league games with Roberto in goal without a win, until Pellegrini decided to hand the club’s third keeper his Premier League debut.

It was the best moment of this season so far, when 33 year old David Martin found himself between the sticks against Chelsea and made a dream start by keeping a clean sheet at Stamford Bridge. He helped West Ham win 1-0 away against the Blues and, breaking into tears after the final whistle, he then sprinted up the stairs of the stand to celebrate the win with his father, West Ham legend Alvin Martin, who was a member of West Ham’s Cup winning team of 1980.

But these heroics are long gone, and were a short-lived upturn in West Ham’s fortunes, followed by just one win within the next five games. Pellegrini seemed utterly clueless, he looked an old man in the dugout who had completely lost the dressing room, being unable to coach his team, and making strange substitutions which nobody could understand…

Instead of a step forward the Club now made one back, fired MP after an other defeat to Leicester City by the end of December, and reappointed David Moyes who had saved the Hammers from relegation in 2018, but then had not been found good enough to remain the Club’s manager.

After an all but perfect start into his second reign at the London Stadium with that 4-0 home win over Bournemouth, things haven’t went so well for David Moyes so far, as the shape of the squad he inherited is simply not good enough to restart a season which really has been a desaster so far. We’re out of the FA Cup, eliminated by former Hammers coach Slaven Bilic’s West Brom, and the disastrous home record this season could really turn out to be West Ham’s most lethal problem: the Hammers have won only three games out of fourteen at the London Stadium so far this season.

Therefore it was good news from London last Friday that West Ham had signed another player on transfer deadline day (which coincided with Brexit Day), bringing in versatile attacker Jarrod Bowen from Hull City where he had scored 54 goals and added 14 assists in 131 matches.

After having already welcomed Czech midfielder Tomas Soucek (24) from Slavia Prague on loan within this window, David Moyes hailed the 23-year-old Bowen: “I think he could be a big success. When you score goals like he does, and in the numbers he does, in the Championship, it will give you a great chance of scoring goals in the Premier League.”

That seemed to be good news from London on Brexit Day at last, albeit quickly followed by a severe setback when West Ham slipped into the relegation zone on the Saturday. Well, this season won’t get great again – let’s hope David Moyes and his squad at least will achieve the only aim that’s left: to turn the corner and succeed in the relegation dogfight ahead of us.

As half of the clubs of the Premier League may be involved in the relegation battle this year, there are still plenty of other clubs that could go down. But it will get tough and could really go down to the wire. And well, I’m sure that will also be the case with the upcoming negotiations to get a free-trade deal with the EU. Let’s hope the outcome of both of these battles will be a good one!

Come on you Irons!

Talking Point

Victory for the Forest

I usually hate international breaks. In football I am a “club over country” guy, and therefore I’m not looking forward to international games so much as other football fans may do. But this international break feels different for some reasons.

First because we went into it on a high, with West Ham mustering back to back wins in the League, and the Irons are undefeated in four games now (including the League Cup). Therefore this time we aren’t eagerly awaiting the end of the international break because our club were in desperate need of securing more points to get out of the lower ranks of the table. West Ham now comfortably sit in 7th with seven points out of four games, and they have almost evened out the the poor goal difference that resulted from the heavy loss to the champions in the first game of the season. Therefore everybody can relax, have an eye on the outcome of the Euro qualifiers, and look forward to the Monday evening game against Aston Villa.

And also very important for my positive mood was that I was tasting victory with my hometown club Rapid Vienna before the international break too, in one of the most anticipated and important games of the season: The green-whites won the first Vienna derby of this year, defeating FK Austria Wien 3-1. Those results make it much easier to tolerate this break with no games of our beloved clubs within two weeks.

Unbelievable things can happen on a football pitch

But there is also a different – and much longer – kind of break for league football this autumn in a certain stadium located in Austria’s southern province of Carinthia. Yeah, there are more unbelievable things which can happen on a football pitch these days than a shock victory of an underdog from time to time! Or would you have ever thought that a modern football ground could be transformed into a forest?

That’s exactly what’s taking place for seven weeks now in the Wörthersee Stadium in Klagenfurt, Austria! An art installation consisting of 299 trees was opened to the public in Austria’s most beautiful stadium last Sunday. The installation called “For Forest” can now be watched for free every day, forcing football out of the stadium until October 27th.

The project was conceived by Swiss artist Klaus Littmann (pictured below) – who saw a pencil drawing “The Unending Attraction of Nature” by Austrian painter Max Peintner (above; more than 30 years ago – and finally was able to turn this artist’s striking dystopia into a much disputed, controversial reality together with landscape architect Enzo Enea.

About time for this art installation, but wrong timing for the footy

Peintner’s pencil drawing originates from the 1970s and is a statement against the threat to our natural environment by imagining a time when forests will exist only as exhibition objects. Austria’s largest public art installation seems to come at the right time when the implications of climate change become more and more obvious. But its realisation also means that Carinthian football club Wolfsberger AC, which have qualified for the Europa League for the first time in their history, will not be able to play their group games in their federal province of Carinthia, but have to shift their matches against Borussia Mönchengladbach, AS Roma and Turkish outfit Basaksehir to the Styrian capital Graz.

The Wörthersee Stadium, which is named after the adjacent beautiful lake, is home ground to second tier club Austria Klagenfurt. They now have to play their games on the training pitch of the stadium, as long as mixed woodland is occupying the original stadium, before it will be transferred to a place somewhere nearby (where it will keep growing as a memorial forest). The adapted training venue can host 2500 – 3000 spectators, hence Austria Klagenfurt have lost the opportunity to attract much more spectators to their upcoming ÖFB (Austrian Football Association Cup) game against first division outfit Sturm Graz!

With multi purpose use, conflicts are inevitable

Nevertheless in my opinion the realisation of this art project is a brilliant idea and from the pictures I’ve seen so far it looks great (pics: Christian Rainer; But I have had a lot of discussions with friends, some of them heavily criticising the installation which temporarily prevents the ground from being used properly. Though according to its building permit the Wörthersee Stadium is not only to be used for sports, it is a multifunctional arena which also hosts concerts and other events throughout the year. And without this multi purpose use the stadium never would be viable.

As West Ham fans we already know that in a stadium which isn’t used for football only, conflicts of use do emerge from time to time, as it was the case two years ago when West Ham had to start their season with three away games because of the athletics. In Klagenfurt without doubt it would have been better to let the installation take place earlier in the year to avoid a conflict with the Europa League. But on the other hand the recent conflict of use is an other evidence to demonstrate that Carinthia and Austria need this 30,000 football stadium.

The ground has been built for the European Championship 2008 and often been dubbed a “white elephant” since. It is used from time to time for games of Austria’s national side (Austria beat Germany there in June 2018!) and has hosted the Austrian cup final several times. The Europa League would have been a perfect fit, but let’s hope Wolfsberg or even Austria Klagenfurt qualify for Europe in years to come and then get the stadium filled again with 29,900 football fans instead of 299 trees.

I’m a fan of the “For Forest” project, as I already said. I know the Wörthersee Stadium quite well and have been to it quite often, not only to watch football games but also because of my profession as lawyer representing the City of Klagenfurt in the environmental impact assessment and the construction law procedures. Our law firm also have organised a Symposium on sports law there for some years. And after having been there supporting Rapid Vienna together with Austria’s loudest and most enthusiastic supporters, though without success twice within three years, now I wonder how it will feel to visit a very quiet Stadium, watch the trees from the terraces and hear the rustle of leaves instead of the chants of the football fans. Victory for the forest this time …

A victory for the Greens at last?

Well, you may know that my hometown club Rapid Vienna’s colours are green and white, and they call themselves “the Greens”. Unfortunately Rapid have already been defeated twice in the Austrian cup final in the Wörthersee Stadium by Red Bull Salzburg. So for once I could be relishing in the rare sight of the “greens” having occupied the pitch, celebrating their victory, though they aren’t wearing shirts and shorts of this colour but green leaves. Could that be a good omen for the next game in this year’s ÖFB Cup when Rapid meet Salzburg as early as round two in a „premature cup final“ on the 25th of September?

Anyway, let’s hope league football will make a glorious comeback after the international break, and “claret and blue” as well as “green and white” will delight us with beautiful goals and cracking victories on the football pitch next weekend! But until then, why not have a debate on what you think about “For Forest”, the controversial art installation on the Klagenfurt pitch?


Talking Point

New Number 7 Found Quickly

But Hammers still in desperate search of a hitman

With Marko Arnautovic having departed to Chinese side SIPG Shanghai under highly annoying circumstances (on which I don’t want to waste words anymore) West Ham have immediately got a new number 7 in Andriy Yarmolenko.

Prior to West Ham’s first game of pre-season in Austria, Andriy said:

“I’m changing because it is my number in the national team and also because it is a lucky number for me and I hope it makes me play well for West Ham.”

Having been out for much of last season due to injury the Ukrainian added: “Maybe a little bit I am like a new signing!”

If he keeps fit, Yarmolenko could partly fill the gap that Arnie’s departure has opened in West Ham’s squad. But with Andriy being a winger it will be necessary to quickly also find other offensive options to guarantee that West Ham will reach their goals: finishing within the first third of the Premier League table, and to do that with offensive and entertaining football. Manager Manuel Pellegrini’s first transfer target Maxi Gomez unfortunately could not be signed, and therefore the search for a new striker has to continue.

With forward Andy Carroll released in the summer after another injury-affected season, also his squad number was handed to a new player in the 3-2 win over Austrian Bundesliga side SCR Altach, with Chicharito sporting the shirt no. 9. It is to be seen though if the Mexican will keep this squad number, as a new center forward might get it, and it is not a certainty at all that Chicharito will remain at West Ham.

Frenchman Sebastien Haller, playing for German side Eintracht Frankfurt and having netted 15 times in the German Bundesliga last season, is rumoured to be West Ham’s new striker target. He is said to be at the centre of a €40 million bid from the club, but he has no get out-clause in his contract and the German outfit will be reluctant to let Haller leave, as with Luka Jovic one of their stars has already joined Real Madrid and another one, Ante Rebic, could leave for Inter Milan.

West Ham’s shocking scoring record

West Ham is desperate to sign a really prolific front man after years in which the Hammers’ scoring record has been on low tide. A survey published by ClaretandHugh ( click here ) showed that West Ham are the only Premier League team to not have a league top scorer in excess of twenty goals this century.

The last player to score more than 20 goals in a season for West Ham, believe it or not, was Tony Cottee. The striker who just has turned 54 on July 11, scored 22 goals in the 1986/87 season. The season before, Frank McAvennie scored even more goals, hitting the net 26 times in the First Division when the “boys of 86” achieved West Ham’s all time best finish in the top flight! Together Cottee/McAvennie scored 46 league goals that season when the Hammers came a close third behind Liverpool and Everton winning 26 of their 42 games.

Long time gone … but in Pellegrini we trust! And in his director of sports, Mario Husillos, who hopefully will engineer an other transfer like the one that brought new midfielder Pablo Fornals to West Ham United recently!

Though there seems to be some doubt at West Ham that the Argentinian director of sports will be able to bring arguments weighty enough to lure Haller from Frankfurt to the London Stadium: media reports emerged on Friday that in this transfer case additional help by another agent, Willie McKay, has been called into action to help completing the deal.

Come on you Irons!

My West Ham Story

The New Kit: Looking Back to the Past or Another Step Forward?

West Ham United’s 2019/20 new Home and Away kits were unveiled last week and, as the official website have let us know, the all-white 1980 FA Cup-inspired away shirts are “proving particularly popular with supporters“. For me though West Ham’s new home kit is something very special, because the original shirt which has inspired Umbro, was used back in the time when I first came across West Ham United.

In these times, when I was attending grammar school in my home town in Lower Austria, my classmates and I were very much interested in English football. In 1975-76 Liverpool had won the UEFA Cup and then, for six seasons in a row, the “Champions League” of this age was won by English clubs: from 1977 to 1982 Liverpool were winners of the European Cup three times, Nottingham Forest won it twice and Aston Villa once! English clubs hence were the best in Europe and that drew my and my classmates’ attention to the First Division of the English Football League. Back in these days every Sunday the evening sports show in Austrian TV had some of the goals that had been scored over the weekend on the often deep and muddy pitches of the English grounds. And the FA Cup Final could even be watched “live” every year on Austrian TV!

Goalkeeper shirts had to be green

The English goalkeepers in these days always wore green shirts, and so I also got me a green goalkeeper shirt for the matches we played in school (a colour which I had always liked because it is the colour of my favourite Austrian club, Rapid Vienna). Playing in goal myself, I was particularly interested in English goalkeepers, and it was Phil Parkes of Queens Park Rangers to whom I paid special attention, because one of my close friends, with whom I shared the passion for Rapid Vienna, had already become a loyal supporter of the Hoops.

The fascination of claret & blue

But not only blue and white hoops had caught my attention, also these claret shirts with the blue sleeves were something very special for us, because West Ham’s and Aston Villa’s “claret and blue” were completely unusual colours for football shirts in Austria.

Therefore I also kept an eye on West Ham’s results and when the club won the FA Cup in 1975 and reached the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup Final, also the Hammers became one of the teams to watch! And that brings us back to the new home shirt, because the strip which served as a model for the 2019 claret home shirt (shoulders, upper part of the chest and sleeves in blue) was used from 1976 to 1980 and was first sported in the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final in Bruxelles against Anderlecht in May 1976. I watched this game on TV and I have kept a newspaper cutting of the match report showing then West Ham keeper Mervin Day and a West Ham defender in the new shirt.

These days also were the time when I first travelled to England in 1976, repeating that journey in 1977. And then I visited Scotland some years later in 1980 when I already studied at university. But as all of these trips only could take place in July, my hosts would just treat me to a match of cricket and no live football could be watched! But on our trip through Europe with an “interrail ticket” in 1977 we were able to manage getting to Kaiserslautern in Germany to watch our first live game of an English team: QPR played a friendly there on the Betzenberg against 1. FCK. Phil Parkes still played for QPR then.

Phil Parkes, Trevor Brooking and FA Cup glory

When Phil Parkes moved from Loftus Road to Upton Park in 1979 for a transfer fee of £ 565,000, being the most expensive goalkeeper at the time, attention switched from QPR to West Ham more and more, and I can confirm that QPR was not on my radar anymore. And I remember very well to have watched the FA Cup final 1980 when the Hammers won the Cup thanks to Trevor Brooking’s famous header which beat Arsenal: “1-0 to the Cockney boys!”

The 1976 home shirt was used by the Hammers for today unbelievable four seasons, but in 1980, as we all know, this shirt was not the one which Trevor Brooking sported on the Wembley pitch against Arsenal in May 1980, when the Hammers won silverware for the last time in their history so far. In that final both of the teams played in their away kit: the Gunners in yellow shirts and blue shorts (well, and the shorts could really be called “short” these days!), and West Ham in all-white. Therefore it’s no surprise that the new white Umbro away kit inspired by the cup win of 1980 has proved so popular among West Ham’s fans that its pre-orders have hit record numbers since its launch last week. I’m sure I will be tempted to order one as well soon, especially as since last season non-sponsored shirts are available in all sizes, not only for children. But somewhere in my wardrobe I should already have an old white cup final replica shirt, just couldn’t find it the other day.

Quite some years already

I also have some old shirts of my Austrian favourite team Rapid Vienna of course, which I started to support in primary school. When I became a “Rapidfan” by the end of the sixties, it took them 14 years to repeat their winning of the Austrian championship, albeit they had won it in 1967 and 1968 for the 24th and 25th time in their history. And with West Ham it’s even worse: Now it’s almost forty years since winning the FA Cup in 1980, and even the latest cup final in which West Ham have played dates back to 2006, quite some years already!

Fourteen years seemed to be a very long time for a young guy, whereas I now feel that the 14 years since West Ham’s promotion back to the Premier League in 2005 (which was followed by a fantastic season under the tenure of Alan Pardew with the highlight of the cup final against Liverpool) have passed very quickly. But forty years are quite a long period also for an older man, aren’t they? And haven’t older people got the habit to become impatient from time to time? Will there ever be a season when the Irons win some silverware again? Maybe next season, forty years after 1980?

If the shirt can help that task and inspire the Hammers to return to Wembley glory, as FA Cup-winning defender Alvin Martin is quoted on the official website , so be it. But more important is who’s at the helm as manager and which kind of business he can do in the summer. Therefore I’m happy with the shirt, but I also say: “In Pellegrini we trust!” Manager Manuel Pellegrini has started to build something special at West Ham and we have already seen a change of mentality of the team in several games throughout the last season.

Let’s hope that the new kits do not only serve as mere reminiscence of former success, but will bring back some silverware to the club in the near future! West Ham have made some big steps forward in the transition season that was 2018/19. Now they should be ready for the next level if MP is allowed to continue what he has begun.

Let the “Pellegrini Regulation” continue! Come on you Irons!

Talking Point

The Magic of the Play-Offs

While I was writing this post, Charlton and Sunderland were just battling it out in the second of three play-off finals within three days. On the Saturday Newport County and Tranmere Rovers met in the League Two-play-off final with the Rovers earning a spot in League One thanks to a last-gasp extra-time winner, and now the League One-play-off final was to decide which club would win promotion to the Championship next season.

And being the climax of this sequence of play-off games, on Monday the Championship play-off final, this year not being played on a Saturday afternoon but on a bank holiday at 3 p.m., will decide which outfit will be the third club to be promoted to the Premier League for the 2019-20 season. The venue of all these finals, of course, is the same as every year, after the play-off finals have returned in 2007 from their temporary exile in Cardiff’s Millennium Stadium to New Wembley.

An English export hit

The play-offs and the extra excitement which they add to the end of the season have been some kind of an English “export product“ to other countries in recent years, though not only to decide promotion and relegation (e.g. like in Germany where this year the “Irons” from east Berlin, 1. FC Union, are a contender for promotion to the Bundesliga), but also in order to gain the winner a spot in the Europa League. This is the case in Austria for the first time this season.

The Austrian Bundesliga have got a completely new league format in 2018-19, with the twelve clubs being divided into two groups after 22 games and their points tally cut in half (which seems quite unfair, but should make a premature decision of the title race less likely; that didn’t prevent FC Red Bull Salzburg from winning the league for the sixth time in a row though!). Within the top group, after ten more games, the Austrian champion and three or four European spots (dependent on the cup winner’s place in the table) were to be decided according to the league ranking, but then the fifth club to play in Europe is going to be selected via the new Europa League qualification play-off.

From lower tier to Europe

This play-off has added incentive and extra excitement to the “relegation group” of the Bundesliga: whereas the club finishing sixth in the table of the lower tier faced straight relegation (there was no play-off to save Wacker Innsbruck, the lowest ranked team, from the drop, like in Germany where a relegation play-off is played), now a play-off semifinal and a two-legged play-off final is going to decide if the club I support in my home town will play in the Europa League or not next term.

Rapid Vienna unexpectedly could not finish in the top half of the Bundesliga after 22 rounds, and – less surprisingly – could not win the Austrian cup final, losing out 0-2 to Red Bull Salzburg on the 1st of May in Klagenfurt . Therefore the last opportunity to qualify for Europe now is to win the Europa League play-off semifinal (which consists of only one game played out by winner vs. runner-up of the relegation group) and then to claim victory in the two-legged play-off final against the club finishing fifth in the “championship group”.

Rapid’s opponent in the first game on Tuesday will be SV Mattersburg from the eastern part of Austria (Burgenland), and if they proceed to the final they will play on Thursday and Sunday against Sturm Graz (dependent on the results of the last round of the Bundesliga top tier).

A fixture list in the English style

This is going to be a sequence of games which really can be called an “English week” for Rapid: two mid-week-games, providing only one day of rest between the first and the second game, reminding us of the packed fixture list of the English Premier League at Christmas time and New Year. Especially as these games are played at the very end of the season, we can expect a whole bunch of players suffering from cramp in all the upcoming games, not only in the Austrian matches …

I’ve watched live in the stadium a “domestic play-off” only once so far, this game being the Championship-play-off between West Ham and Blackpool in 2012 . What a joy that was when Ricardo Vaz Te scored the 2-1 in front of the claret and blue part of the Wembley terraces! I had flown over to London just for that game and returned home the next morning and, having booked very short-term, I had not informed any friends that I would be in London that day. But, as it often happens “by chance”, I bumped into Sam Haseltine who ran the football blogger platform “Football United” by then after the game.

Now I very much hope that also my second play-off, this time at home in Austria, will be a success! Rapid Vienna did very well last season in the Europa League. They beat Steven Gerrard’s Glasgow Rangers FC in the group stages (pic), providing me with some late revenge for Gerrard’s goal in the 2006 FA Cup Final.

Now, while I’m finishing this post, Charlton have scored the 2-1 at Wembley, the clock showing the 94th minute. Heartbreak for Sunderland and pure ecstasy for Charlton that are sent back to the Championship. I feel sorry for the Black Cats, but this is football, and this is the magic of the play-offs!

The manager who’s celebrating his club’s return to the Championship now, is a former West Ham player, and it was West Ham-loanee Josh Cullen who knocked off a very quick free kick which lead to Charlton’s last-minute winner! Manager Lee Bowyer, who once played for the Hammers in midfield in 2003 and from 2006-2009, has guided the Addicks, which have been his first professional club as a player, back to the Championship in his first full season as manager. And Charlton have been the first team winning the third tier play-off final in seventeen years after having gone behind in this match. That’s an other beautiful story, but it’s also hard lines for Sunderland on the other hand! Clubs play roughly 4,500 minutes in a season and then to lose out on promotion in the last minute is absolutely brutal!

A festival of football

Yeah, anything can happen in football – especially if everything is determined by one odd game! That’s the magic of the play-offs and of the other upcoming finals.

On Monday in Germany, VfB Stuttgart and “Eisern Union”, the “Irons” from east Berlin for whom I keep my fingers crossed!, are going to play out the second leg in Berlin (first leg 2-2) which will decide upon promotion and relegation from the Bundesliga. On the same day Aston Villa and Derby County play each other in the Championship play-off. And just one day after Rapid Vienna’s first play-off game on the Tuesday, the European festival of English football will begin on Wednesday:

English clubs – regardless of Brexit – play out Champions League and Europa League between themselves on 29 May and 1 June respectively.

Let the finals continue!

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