The HamburgHammer Column
Usually I begin my column with a little update from the world of my beloved Concordia Hamburg. Not this time though, first thing first, needs must. In the last few days we have signed Joe Hart (albeit only on loan for the time being), plus Marko Arnautovic on Saturday with Javier “Little Pea” Hernandez pretty much in the bag to officially sign with us tomorrow (his transfer to us has been confirmed by virtually every trustworthy media outlet in Germany and the selling club Bayer Leverkusen as well).
After being ultra critical of our current owners in harsh column after harsh column I am more than happy to currently be munching on two or three large slices of humble pie (served with some salsa and guacamole on the side in honour of our incoming Mexican fox in the box).
And apparently our transfer business will not be finished there either.
Rumours of Keita Balde are still flying about, we might also see another Mexican striker signed up to partner Hernandez and even a bold gamble on West Ham fan Jack Wilshere could be on the cards. With maybe some other targets in the pipeline that not a single ITK might even have a Scooby about so far.
So it finally looks as if Bilic will actually be given a very decent squad to better our performances and results from last season. So I gladly doff my cap to Mr.Sullivan and Mr.Gold in that respect, we seem to have negotiated some shrewd deals after all to bring in very decent quality with fairly modest spending. The owners will never really be my cup of tea, but of course they don’t have to be. They own and run the club, I am a mere fan who roots for the team and has a good old moan from time to time. The owners and I are unlikely to be sharing many dinner conversations in future anyway and I don’t work for them either. They may be no more than benevolent bankers for West Ham at this point (no rhyming slang intended), but I have now accepted they will not inject millions upon millions of their personal wealth into the club without expecting their money back with interest at some point. Fair enough! They have every right to do that.
When even Mourinho seems to be looking both incredulously and enviously at our transfer business, when the Daily Telegraph is posting an article about Hernandez potentially being the Premier League’s best signing of the summer it must mean our club are doing something right after all.
Also Arnautovic has the potential to be a big hit at West Ham in my opinion, an Austrian version of DiCanio if you like, a bit of a character with an ego as big as your average mountain top in the Alps. I read that Arnautovic can drift in and out of games, but also has the uncanny tendency to decide a game on his own with a deft touch, a decisive pass, a classy finish. He may not shed blood, sweat and tears for the team over the full 90 minutes, but if he can win us games with just 10 minutes of footballing genius I’m fine with that.
Quick word on our goalkeeping situation: I’m hearing that Adrian is now likely to also leave the club with Randolph having already joined Middlesbrough. That leaves us with only Hart on loan. Which means we probably are confident that Hart could actually be a permanent fixture for West Ham eventually, if we are prepared to ship out our main two goalkeepers from last season in the same window.
Or we are happy enough to just find us another goalkeeper or two out there for reasonable money who will be at least at Adrian’s and Randolph’s level. I hope our scouting department has a few decent options lined up already as we speak. I would have liked to keep Adrian as I love the guy as a person and character (minus the keepy uppy crap in his own box with an opposition player rushing towards him, obviously).
Moving back to Hamburg for a moment, the Royals were in town on Friday, Prince William, with his wife, the Duchess of Cambridge, and the kids too. Before you ask, no, I wasn’t there amongst the crowd, waving my Union Jack or singing Rule Britannia or Bubbles at them, but by all accounts it was a glorious visit with the Hamburgers treating the British visitors like, well, royalty…:-))
From what I read in the local tabloids they visited the recently opened concert hall with Kate owning up to having played the flute in younger years, but when offered the chance to display her skills on the instrument in public, she flatly refused and took the conductor’s baton instead for a while. They also were walked through the Maritime Museum, looking at models of some British ships as well, then meeting the cheering masses of admirers on the streets outside before heading to the local Airbus factory, talking to trainees and attending the helicopter assembly next door which apparently was a personal highlight for Prince William who flies a mean helicopter himself – or so I’ve heard…
I wasn’t a personal witness to all those shenanigans as I am not exactly a big fan of monarchies and royalty, and also because Friday was another summer evening filled with Concordia football for me, joined once again by my brother and my nephew, Daniel, who will celebrate his 10th birthday in August. There was free beer for the 150 spectators in Stapelfeld (I only had a small one as I was the designated driver) and indeed it was the expected easy 5:0 win for the Cordi boys, it was more of a glorified preseason friendly than a proper cup contest, but my nephew was the star of the evening anyway proudly sporting his Cordi shirt (wearing #6 in honour of Bobby Moore), chatting to everyone in sight at random, be that fellow and much older Cordi fans, players, substitutes, physio, club vice president, away fans, whoever cared to listen to the incessant waterfall of words streaming from his mouth, just rabbiting on like a market trader on speed.
(I wonder where he gets it from, must be running in the HH family…:-))
He still has to learn a bit about the finer details of the beautiful game though as illustrated when he screamed at the ref, demanding a penalty to Cordi when one of our lads had been scissor tackled early in the first half. That the foul happened twenty yards outside the box didn’t really bother little Daniel much, the foul appalled him enough to demand a penalty for the offence, regardless of the position of the crime scene.
Interesting thinking really, he may be onto something there, maybe it’s time for a rule change after all…:-))
The biggest laugh happened when he congratulated the substitute goalkeeper (who had played the entire second half) on his masterful performance after the final whistle (one tiny goalkeeper praising his slightly older and more experienced fellow goalie). The Cordi custodian could only grin at that verdict as he had only touched the ball once, kicking it away three times as that was pretty much all he had to do during his 45 minutes, but it was still good to see loads of players giving little Daniel high fives and also asking him when he would start playing for Cordi himself.
Another player had me in stitches when he told my nephew “If even I can play for Cordi, you surely can do the same!”, I love the humour at Concordia! The banter and wit is quite similar to what happens when West Ham fans get together.
The side benefit of this evening apart from the win came in the shape of Daniel now being utterly desperate to join a local football club first (there are three clubs close to where he lives) and learn to play football in a proper team before then joining the Concordia youth ranks in preparation for his future role of the new German Number One in about 2031, obviously…:-))
Don’t get me wrong, I love that he just recently got his orange belt in judo, but every uncle surely wants to see their nephew become a decent footballer rather than a great judoka, or maybe that’s just me…
Back to West Ham the team have concluded their training camp in Austria now and what I’ve seen and read so far is very encouraging, especially as far as our youngsters are concerned. It would be lovely to see guys like Cullen, Rice, Burke, Quina, Holland, Makasi and Martinez stick around and become a more regular feature in and around future first team squads, but we’ll just have to see about that. I’m also blown away by the sheer class of Zabaleta, he may no longer be good enough for a club like Man City but he still looks like a darn nice defender to me.
The way the ball seems to stick to his feet is amazing, the guy just knows what he’s doing and I cannot wait to see him play in person. Which should be fairly soon as it’s going to be an exciting week for me. In the coming days I intend to drive down to the West Ham training camp in Germany, hoping to catch a training session or two, maybe have a quick chat with Slav, with hopefully a few players signing my matchday programmes. No idea if they will let me in to watch or not, but I will give it a try anyway. It would be rude not to pay the team a visit as they’re training only 70 miles away from where I live.
And then it’ll be my record stretch of football games attended in person in the space of just five days. Starting Friday evening in Schneverdingen with the first game against Bremen, followed by the second one on Saturday afternoon in Lohne (games I will attend together with a certain cabbie and a Russ who claims to be The Original One). Returning to Hamburg on Sunday it’ll be the season opener for Concordia at home to Buchholz, followed by West Ham playing Altona on Tuesday evening.
It’ll be emotional for sure. I’ll be as happy as a kitten on Christmas Day snuggling on a warm blanket on the sofa surrounded by a circle of meat based treats seeing my beloved West Ham this close to home for once. I feel a lot more optimistic about West Ham and the upcoming season again, I may even buy a new West Ham shirt this season (even though this German turncoat not too long ago vowed to never again buy any merchandise as I didn’t want to support the board with my dough, but I support West Ham, the football team, first and foremost and as long as the board put the majority of the merchandise income back into the squad I’m fine with that).
I’m a much happier Hammer again, thank you very much! Bring on the mighty Hammers in Germany! The North is ready. COYI!!!