The HamburgHammer Column

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Don’t you just love football! After our previous run of embarrassing defeats, who would have thunk we would get all three points at Stamford Bridge, of all places ?

Not just three points, but three points away from home, our first win at Chelsea in 17 years, won on the back of a clean sheet while scoring a fine goal at the other end, curled in by a defender, with another one chalked off (correctly) by VAR. Not to forget one truly remarkable, yet fairly unspectacular Premier League debut from one of our own, David Martin, son of former West Ham stalwart, Alvin Martin.

Martin didn’t pull off one top class save after another to be brutally frank, but then again he didn’t have to, thanks to a valiant team performance which had been sorely lacking from our side in recent weeks.

A local lad making his West Ham debut, always a nice thing to see, especially if he’s the offspring of a proper West Ham legend. I keep wanting to call him young David for some reason, but then I remember all of a sudden that he isn’t that young anymore actually, with plenty of competitive league games under his belt, albeit in the lower leagues only so far. Until now!

Once his name was on the teamsheet you could immediately sense hope and passion gradually returning to our fanbase, including on this very blog. Frankly, after the recent horror show with Roberto between the sticks, there was no alternative left to our gaffer. Had Pellegrini persisted in playing Roberto, he would have put his very position at the club at risk I think – and the team might have given another run-of-the-mill performance, basically accepting defeat before the first whistle.

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I wasn’t exactly filled with over-confidence though before settling down in my armchair because guess what song came on the radio just as I was pouring my first cup of Rosie in the kitchen ? It was none other than the old Barry McGuire classic “Eve of Destruction”.

I was only too aware of the irony of those lyrics in the context of West Ham about to face a very strong Chelsea team on their manor, managed by a former West Ham player in Frank Lampard Jr. as he used to be known while he was still kicking footballs wearing the famous claret and blue.

But within the first few minutes of the contest one could sense that this game would be different. David Martin made the first few routine saves look like they were, well, routine saves, everyone breathed a sigh of relief and from that point onwards our team seemed to have decided collectively to give this game a right good go.

Everyone ran the extra mile for each other, putting tackles in. Everyone seemed to provide that little bit of extra effort that had been painfully absent in previous weeks. It was wonderful to see this and actually feel involved in the game again, even as an armchair supporter – this time I was glued to the screen from the first minute to the 95th – and the screwdriver in my hands was back in Action again, constantly helping in calming my nerves. We were really in this game! For the duration of the entire game!

Pellegrini has lost the dressing room ? Well folks, on the evidence of this game he certainly has not!

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A few words on the referee, Moss the Boss. There were quite a few bewildering calls. I was shocked to see stats late in the game that Chelsea had apparently not committed a single foul which didn’t reflect what I had seen on the pitch. I certainly don’t remember us getting any freekicks throughout the game, unlike Chelsea who seemed to get most calls in their favour. Late on, when Martin was briefly down in his box after a challenge, the Chelsea player in question had looked what seemed miles offside before colliding with Martin, still a corner kick was given. Weird.

Earlier, just after halftime, Aaron Cresswell had scored an absolute beauty after a wonderfully crisp attacking move by West Ham involving various players, with the defender finishing the passage of play like a seasoned PL striker might have done, curling the ball into the far corner.

Not too shabby for a LB who shouldn’t even be in the team according to some of our fans. From that moment on it was obvious we’d be seeing plenty of one-way traffic for the rest of the second half.
We also saw continued effort, running and pressing from our lads though.
And we finally witnessed a quite impressive display of defending as a strong unit from the entire team.

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Every single player put a shift in, including the substitutes. When Pablo Fornals was booked I have to confess I was hoping for him to get substituted much earlier than he actually was. How wrong I was.

Fornals hadn’t really provided much offensively considering he is an attacking midfielder (other than providing the key pass for the only goal of the game), but boy, did he get stuck in on the defensive side of the game!
It was just that kind of game, we were never likely to attack Chelsea nonstop, so it was crucial for our attack-minded players too to defend their socks off in this one whenever required.

And so Fornals was constantly on the move, trying to block a passing lane, getting his foot in, earning his corn all afternoon. I know he gets a lot of flak on here, but we shouldn’t forget how young he actually a is and that he is still very much in the process of learning the game and adapting to his new life in the Premier League and in England.

Being West Ham, I was almost certain that lightning would strike mercilessly late on, be that in the form of Chelsea being awarded a dodgy penalty, us scoring an own goal or a hopeful cross hitting a player, any player really, on the bum cheek and slowly trickling behind the line just seconds before the final whistle.

We have a tendency to concede late equalisers in games like this one, however, we somehow didn’t this time!

Three absolutely crucial points and with the league being so close we are just another win away from being in a far more pleasant position in the table again.

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It was very touching to see David Martin’s reaction after the final whistle, seeing him overcome with emotion, salty tears of joy rolling down his boat, with teammates rallying around, congratulating him on a fine debut performance. Not to forget the tearjerking scene of proud father hugging crying son in the stands shortly after.

This now means, hopefully, that Roberto is officially the new training ground keeper (placing of cones and all that) with Martin taking on the role of being our new starting goalie until Fabianski is back from injury. When that happens, surely Martin should be the backup option with Roberto being No.3 in line.

It is sooooo pleasant to write this column after a positive performance and much needed win. Pellegrini clearly hasn’t lost the team. All we needed was a confidence boost and the Chelsea game could prove to be just that. It’s not worth it thinking about what might have been if we had made the switch from Roberto to Martin earlier, surely we’d be a few points better off than we are now. But that’s water down the bridge, it is what it is and hopefully we can now kick on properly and get the season back on track.

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The busy Christmas schedule should be quite telling in terms of where we are heading as a team. With confidence returning, Diop and Fabianski being back in the equation soon with Lanzini and Reid not too far behind, surely as West Ham fans we can all look forward to the next few games with more optimism and, yes, passion again.

A win away at Chelsea can do that to your club…COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Both of the big Hamburg teams lost their respective games, Hamburg SV losing 2:1 at Osnabrück and St.Pauli suffering a 1:0 defeat at home against Hannover. St.Pauli are very much in a relegation scrap now while HSV are likely to lose momentum at the top of the league table. You cannot afford too many defeats if you want to get promoted from Bundesliga 2, that’s for sure.

Mixed results at Concordia with all games being played at home on a cold and foggy Sunday. Beginning with the U23s who lost again.
After starting the season with high hopes it looks like the manager is now going to pack it in next week, being frustrated with the perceived lack of support from the club hierarchy and the effort and discipline of his players, leading to far too many defeats on the pitch. Sad to see the U23s going this way…

The first team earned a respectable 1:1 draw against more skilled opponents.
Considering there was yet another red card for the Cordi lads, a point is not to be sniffed at.

Once again it was the Cordi women’s team to save the day, winning their tie in emphatic fashion by a 6:1 scoreline. With the league leaders Eilbek only managing an away draw, an unexpected one at that, this now means the girls are just one point behind top spot – with superior goal difference.
Fingers crossed and they may still get promoted as champions come May 2020.