The HamburgHammer Column

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First of all, Happy Birthday to my mom, may she rest in peace – today would have been her 83rd birthday. Love you forever, Mom! God knows what she would have made of the crazy times we’re now living in. Especially Covid, quarantine and lockdowns.

Maybe it’s for the better she didn’t have to experience all that crap on top of everything else that was troubling her health towards the end…

All I know is that lockdown is beginning to mess with my mind. We also had another international weekend, so no West Ham game which didn’t help matters. And no Concordia football either of course!

I suppose that goes a long way towards explaining why my dreams are getting really weird and illogical these days. Weirder than usual anyway.

Take my recent dream about a trip to London, bits of which I could still remember after waking up on Saturday morning. Undoubtedly I had been to London since I had walked past some of the famous landmarks that make up the modern London skyline. The skyscrapers in the Docklands, St Paul’s Cathedral, the River Thames and the red buses. Most of the dialogue was in English. Yep, no doubt, London.

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I should have realised early on it was only a dream (but somehow we never can tell the difference while we’re dreaming as even the craziest upside down events seem perfectly normal while you’re slumbering through another REM phase), there were clear giveaway signs that this trip was taking place halfway between the towns of Hogwash and Codswallop.

I was alongside people who are no longer with us. There were celebrities mingling with common people like it was open day at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, with not a single soul batting an eyelid. Nobody was wearing a mask or heeding social distancing rules.
I went to a shop and bought a packet of crisps and a print copy of The Independent (which is only available in digital form these days).

I don’t recall the actual details of the business I was engulfed in throughout the dream or why I was even in London in the first place. The spooky thing is that West Ham had no part to play in that dream whatsoever. I didn’t go to a game. I didn’t walk anywhere near the stadium. I didn’t buy any West Ham related gear or trinkets in the club shop. I didn’t talk all things West Ham in the pub. I didn’t even watch the Daggers or the U23s with BSB.
Not even a bizarre attempt to buy a West Ham shirt over the Pizza Express counter in Upminster or something similarly surreal.

When I woke up, I was properly confused. What the hell was that !?
A trip to London with not a single chapter dedicated to my beloved West Ham ? This was bonkers!
Or had I merely “forgotten“ the West Ham bits this time around once I had my eyes open ? Unlikely.

Again, it must have been due to lockdown fever and the associated ramifications…thank God there’s a West Ham game again next weekend!

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As there is no match to review, I had to think of something else to write about. And as it so happens, I have recently managed to catch a glimpse of the odd MLS game, some of them involving our very own Winston Wiremu Reid, playing for his loan club Sporting Kansas City.

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Legend has it that Kansas City has the most fountains in the world outside of Rome, Italy. That’s why they call it “City of Fountains“. I thought you might want to know that.

It’s also one of the undisputed BBQ capitals of the USA apparently. I was very pleased to learn that! One more destination for my post-pandemic bucket list right there!

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Oh, and the name Wiremu is obviously a nod to Reid’s Maori heritage – it means “Determined protector” or “Helmet of determination“.
Is it any wonder he turned out a very solid centre back ?
A more boring, but equally true explanation claims it’s simply the Kiwis’ version of the name William. Or the German equivalent Wilhelm. Take your pick.

As most of you will know he suffered a freak injury in a nasty incident against Swansea City in March 2018. When he collapsed, in a state of unconsciousness, with the knee buckling under his full body weight, at the time that challenge looked like a potentially career ending impact.

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His loan move to Kansas City in that respect seemed like the culmination of a long road back to recovery and playing professional football again.
An opportunity to prove to the world he could still play and continue to have a career in the game.

Whenever I watched him play for KC he was head and shoulders about most of the other players on the pitch which is no surprise.
The MLS have a few star players, with previous experience at big clubs in Europe, but they are still the exception. Most of the squad players are local youngsters, ex-players from college teams or from South America.
The league is improving year after year, but in terms of quality there is still an ocean, literally, between the MLS and the Premier League.

The KC gaffer as well as the local pundits were in unison how Reid was reading the game beautifully, orchestrating his teammates, being very vocal in doing so and, living up to his name, protecting his goal with determination and experience.
That’s no actual quote, but the general gist of their praise.

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Now, I had to tell porkies if I said Reid did play every game for Sporting Kansas City. He did not. There was the odd niggle, a groin issue here, a slight knock there which made him miss a game occasionally or be rested. But nothing major keeping him out for longer than one game.

Once the MLS resumed with their schedule, Reid was the lynchpin, the leader on the pitch taking Sporting KC on a memorable run (8 games played from October onwards, six wins, one draw, one defeat) that saw them finish in top spot of the Western Conference and in pole position for the playoffs.

These will begin next weekend with a game against San Jose Earthquakes, in a knock-out format which will see Sporting having to win four more games to be crowned champions in the home of the brave.

Reid will undoubtedly be a key starter for them and if they make it to the final in December, Winston Reid will have been one of the main reasons for their success this season.

Strong in the challenge, with the ability to play the ball out of danger with grace rather than blind force plus the vast experience of knowing where to position himself and who to mark, he has often looked like a man amongst boys, playing in the MLS. He really needs to compete against PL opposition again.

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So, is there a way back for Reid to get his body back into a claret and blue shirt in January ? In my humble opinion, it’s a big, fat YES, PLEASE!!!

If he gets through the next few games at KC alright, he will be match fit and probably on an emotional high after playing in a final (hopefully!).

He is an experienced defender with serious PL credentials and he’s under contract at West Ham for another 30 months. Which means we’re paying a big chunk of his substantial wages anyway. He might as well play for us.

And you can never really have enough good defenders in the PL. Especially a team like ours that now favours playing five at the back, so we need three CBs in every game now.

What present events seem to be telling us is that it’s very easy to lose players this season: Through injury or from catching Covid while on international duty or dancing on a table at a wedding in Cairo surrounded by 50 guests wearing tuxedos or after a few days bronzing and partying in the Dubai sun.

If you are then in a position to bring on someone like Winston Reid, to form a partnership at the back with the likes of Ogbonna, Balbuena, Diop or Cresswell, you give your side a proper chance to carry on regardless without really losing much in terms of quality and experience.

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Is he still good enough though to stay toe to toe with young and pacy PL strikers in 2021 ? Only one way to find out. Get him back at West Ham and put him through his paces at Rush Green. I think he can still defend against most of what PL opponents are ready to throw at him. Probably not necessarily against the top PL strikers, but these would cause any defender in the league headaches and serious Barney at times to be fair.

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Let’s not forget that apparently money is scarce for West Ham at this point. So, why spend 20m or 30m quid for a defender when we already have a pretty decent option under contract in Winston Reid ? I know we also signed Craig Dawson on loan (and that the gaffer and teammates seem to have been impressed with the guy after seeing Dawson really busting a gut in training sessions recently). But again, you can never have enough good defenders in the PL, can you ? It’s down to Moyes, of course.

But bringing Reid back to West Ham does seem to make plenty of sense, when you look at all the angles here. If it doesn’t work at least both West Ham and Reid know what’s the score and can make a final call about his West Ham future next summer.

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So, Sheffield United next. The Blades. The Tevezgate derby. For some reason, the whole Tevezgate thing has paled pretty much into insignificance for me personally.

There is a new reason though why I want us desperately to beat Sheffield United next weekend. And that is because of the ridiculous way that our goal against them last season (scored by Snodgrass) was ruled out because a Sheffield player had headed the ball onto Rice’s hand not far from the centre circle in the build up to the goal.

Last season the rule of course made it possible (or even mandatory) to chalk off that goal, this year the rule has been amended so that the goal would likely be allowed to stand if it were to happen again in similar fashion.
If the handball doesn’t happen “immediately“ before the goal is scored, if the handball doesn’t provide the direct assist for the goalscorer, referees should allow goals like the one Snodgrass scored against the Blades.

Let’s hope though that this time we can beat them fair and square, with no need for VAR to step in. We should be able to field a pretty strong side as Ogbonna is rumoured to be back in training already and maybe Antonio too will be fit enough to be an option for the bench at least.
No Yarmolenko who has to self-isolate because of testing positive for Covid unfortunately.

Another chance then maybe for Haller to prove that indeed he is a good player who knows where the opposing goal is…even if he doesn’t play for the Ivory Coast national side…COYI!!!