Tony Hanna's Musings

Who to keep and who to sell?

If rumours are to be believed Manuel Pellegrini will get around a £65 million transfer kitty plus any incoming monies from player sales to spend on new arrivals. Some fans have called for a mass clear out within the squad but I doubt very much whether that will happen – at least to the degree some might wish for. Others, like myself, can see the validity of moving on a more manageable number of players and here are my thoughts on which ones we should keep and which ones we should move on. It is all hypothetical so feel free to agree or disagree. When the window shuts prior to the first game of the season I will follow up this article with one that critiques the present views.

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I would keep Adrian. It will depend on the full transfer kitty available whether there is value in paying 20-30m for a new keeper when there are much greater priorities with regard to strengthening the team. We will definitely have to spend some dosh on at least an understudy unless Pellegrini identifies a good loan or a free transfer move in the market. Despite Hart enjoying some of his best years under Pellegrini at City, it would be a huge surprise if his loan deal at the Hammers was renewed by his old boss. Youngster Trott will inevitably be kept as third choice.

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Zabaletta still has one year to go on his contract. He is another player who played in Man City’s title win under Pellegrini. It makes little sense to sell at this point of time as even if the manager wants to sign a first choice right back, Zab would make a great back up – keep. I doubt any West Ham fan wants the club to sell Rice but there may be quite a few that would move Reid on given his injury record. However, with a lucrative long term contract in his pocket I doubt very much that he is going anywhere, but we did manage to move both Fonte and Ayew to pastures new in the last window so never say never! I would sell – if the opportunity arose. Players who have hamstring problems, especially later in their careers, will spend more time in “physio room” than on the pitch. Antonio, who will feature later in this article is another player who falls into this category. Ogbonna had an excellent season and will be a keep for me. There is a lot of sentiment for James Collins at the moment and quite rightly so. On a small contract with bonuses for appearances, I would – keep. Based on tweets from ex players in the past few days though, confirming Ginge was let go, I doubt he will be in the equation for next season. Cresswell is an interesting one. He has been poor at full back in recent times but can deliver a good cross and free kick. Since moving next to Ogbonna in a back three he has performed much better and he does seem to have built a good understanding with Masuaku. I am on the fence a bit with “Cressy” but I have my suspicions that the new boss may want to play four at the back and on that basis I would – sell. On to Masuaku and before his indiscretion at Wigan he was fast becoming a fan favourite. Arthur had been in most fans top three picks for HOTY at the time. We missed his drive forward for six matches but he is no left back either and if he is to remain a first team regular under Pellegrini it would probably be as a left sided midfielder – keep. Byram comes under the Reid and Antonio banner – sell.

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Noble will not be sold but if Pellegrini spends big on two quality midfielders it could relegate Mark to becoming a fringe player. It will be interesting to see how this situation pans out. Kouyate was one of the first names on the team sheet a few seasons ago but since Payet’s departure his performances have become inconsistent and erratic. There is no doubt he still has the engine but whether he has the ball control and skills required in a Pellegrini midfield is doubtful. There is still a good fee to be had so – sell. Pellegrini’s arrival will almost certainly whet the appetite of fellow South American Lanzini. In an advanced role behind Arnautovic, and when fully fit, it is an exciting combination. Keep. Mario’s loan deal is now over and if we can get the player on another loan deal, or buy at around 20-25m I would – buy. Young Fernandes is another who missed much of the season with injury. We did see what a good player he could become in the match at home to Southampton, but there have been too many other games where he has not delivered. He still makes a good squad player – keep. Obiang is another who has had injury problems over the past two seasons. Fit and at his best he is ok, but is he really at the level we need to be if we want to become a top ten team? I doubt it –sell. Antonio is bordering on the midfield or the striker section. I was excited with his arrival from Forest after seeing his rampaging runs, tearing apart Championship defences. We have seen some cameos of the same at West Ham but too often he has been played out of position. Right back or right wing back exposes his defensive weaknesses and whilst he scares the death out of centre backs when he has played as a striker, his finishing and final ball options are often poor. He reminds me a bit of Ayew in that – ‘what really is his best position’ – and for me it is wide right of an attacking three and I doubt we will ever play that formation. Given he would command a good fee and taking into consideration his hamstring problems –sell. Robert Snodgrass has been on loan at Aston Villa and I would be surprised if West Ham knocked back any acceptable offer considering certain unwise twitter comments that were made public earlier on in the season. Sell.

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Forwards This will be interesting! Arnautovic, our top scorer and HOTY is an obvious keep. I doubt too many will disagree. Hugill is one of the strangest signings since Savio. Good judges I know who have actually seen him play more than late substitution roles tell me his control and first touch is to put it mildly, not that good. Perhaps he was a security blanket signing should we have got relegated, I don’t know. Whatever we can get for him – sell. Now to the two players who will probably cause the most disagreement between our readers. Andy Carroll. We all know his injury record and we all know how good he can be at his best. The much maligned striker only has one more year of what was initially a very lucrative contract to run. He will be a free agent after this next season and I would suggest any suiter’s would have to cough up around 10-15m should they want to buy during this summer window. This really is one I am on the fence with but at a push I would – keep. Hernandez is probably one that will divide opinions even more. Right from day one I was one of the few that doubted he would be a success at West Ham. I wrote the same in an article at the time and even made bets with fellow fans that he would not achieve goal targets. Yet some fans believe he is the best striker we have had in years and it was down to Moyes and Bilic not playing him in the right position or system that saw him have a season he would like to forget. In reality, in today’s PL is he ever going to be anything more than a super sub? That is what football is often all about – opinions. My opinion is –sell. I doubt either Carroll or Hernandez will be happy at the thought that they probably won’t be automatic starters next season. It was doubted that the latter would stay at the club because of this and he would push for a move but under Pellegrini I think it more likely that AC may be sold and Hernandez be assured of more game time. I watched a youtube clip of Pellegrini the other day and he stated that he believed that there were three things he needed to install in the players minds at clubs he managed. One of those things was to make all players in the squad realise and accept that they all had an important role in the team, even if they weren’t being selected. All the players need to believe in a common goal, where everyone feels important. The video is below.

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Youngsters Oxford and Burke are ones where I would grab any reasonable fee we can. The former’s attitude appears to be a problem and the latter needs to be moved on for the good of his own career in my opinion. Cullen, Haksabanovic, Browne and Quina will most likely be given more time as squad players and it will be interesting to see what lies ahead for Samuelson and Martinez. In my “sell” choices there are only two players who played regularly in the second half of the season, Cresswell and Kouyate and I would imagine we would get around 30m for the pair. Senior players who either spent too much time on the bench or in the physio room could command up to 65m. They were Reid, Obiang, Antonio and Hernandez. Out on loan player Snodgrass may fetch 10m. Fringe players and youngsters in Byram, Hugill, Oxford and Burke could possibly collect 25m. I doubt all those players mentioned would be moved on, but if they were Pellegrini’s 60m transfer kitty would be bolstered to around 190m to buy around eight or nine new players. Considering that I would imagine we would also still be looking for a few loan deals and possibly some “frees”, I reckon our new manager has got a good platform from which to work from.


A Big West Ham Welcome to Manuel Pellegrini

It was announced at 8am that Manuel Pelligrini is our new manager. I cannot believe there is any West Ham fan that won’t want to join us all on this site in welcoming him to the club. He’s a quality manager with a superb track record. Yes he’s proved to be quite an expensive acquisition but if you want quality you have to pay for it. We know he plays the type of football we like and it will be interesting to see who he recruits in the next couple of months.

Announcing the signing on, Co-chairman David Sullivan said…

“I am delighted to welcome Manuel Pellegrini to West Ham United. He is one of the world’s most respected football coaches and we look forward to working with him. It was important that we appointed someone with knowledge and experience of the Premier League, who already has an understanding – not only of the teams and players we face – but of West Ham United and our ambitions. Manuel brings a reputation for attacking football and getting the best out of his players. We believe he will attract new talent to the London Stadium as well as improving the current squad. Above all, he is a winner, who knows what it takes to succeed at the highest level and is driven to continue that success. Manuel is the first West Ham United manager to have a Premier League title on his CV, and we believe that his experience, quality and proven record of taking teams forward quickly will ensure that he is successful here. We have listened to fans who asked us to be ambitious. We hope they agree it is an exciting appointment. Manuel will shortly announce the names of the new staff he will bring in and he will then get down to shaping the squad he wants. We all wish him the very best of luck.”

Given some of the managers we have endured in our recent history, this really is a move towards the so-called ‘next level’. But let’s have a bit of patience. It wll take a bit of time for him to bed in and get the players he wants. If we finish in the top half next season, that would be a result. We cannot expect instant success. So let’s get behind our new manager and wish him well.

And it’s not often that this is said, but well done to David Sullivan. He’s played a blinder here.

Guest Post

WHUISA Response to Brady's Newspaper Column

WHUISA Chair Mark Walker pens a reply to Karren Brady’s newspaper column

After our home defeat to Burnley in March, when a few supporters invaded the pitch and others protested angrily under the Directors’ Box, our Chairman David Sullivan called for unity. His reasoning was that the team couldn’t survive if the fans were at war with the Club. Supporters could see the sense in that and an uneasy truce followed. We more than upheld our end of the bargain, put our lack of faith in the current board to one side and rallied behind the team as we limped over the line with the joint worst defensive record in the division.

And then that truce was broken, not by fans, but by Karren Brady. Her latest column took a side swipe at fans by blaming the largely self-induced problems at the London Stadium on “malcontents and keyboard warriors”. We are struggling to understand how fans expressing legitimate criticism can be held to blame for the stadium being unsuitable for football, or for the substandard stewarding, the lack of adequate policing, the mediocre catering or the way the whole move was mis-sold to supporters.

For some time now, Brady has appeared focused on her own brand ahead of West Ham, even inviting her Twitter followers to watch her new TV programme which was showing at the same time we were kicking off a vital televised home game against Stoke. Her part-time role at West Ham still commands just shy of a million pounds a year, yet her business interests away from West Ham continue to expand.

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Her column managed to directly impact the team in January when Leicester refused to do business with us, and instead loaned Islam Slimani to relegation rivals Newcastle. This came as a result of ill-judged suggestions she made around the firing of Claudio Ranieri. Those comments caused the club reputational damage and unnecessarily hampered January’s recruitment efforts.

We are fed up of being treated dismissively when the club’s situation is crying out for dedicated leadership. Characterising that reasonable criticism as abuse misses the mark by a mile. WHUISA completely condemns personal abuse of any kind. We are proud that our club employs women in leading positions and has a Ladies team that has been all-conquering this year. But that does not mean that Karren Brady’s statements should escape criticism when it’s due.

It was not West Ham fans who spoke of the Champions League and then assembled a team that spent just one day of this season in the top half of the table. The stadium is a huge problem and will only be solved by working closely with WHUISA and other fan groups to address the concerns of supporters. We, after all, represent the only people that actually pay to be there. Giving up this unnecessary and damaging column might help Karren to focus less on Brand Brady and more on West Ham United.

Mark Walker

Chair – West Ham United Independent Supporters Association

WHUISA has launched a petition calling on Karren Brady to give up her Saturday newspaper column. You can sign the petition by clicking here.

Talking Point

Pellegrini: Appoint 'This Charming Man' Or A Case Of Sullivan's 'Bigmouth Strikes Again'?

On Wednesday morning my article requesting West Ham United end the unprofessionalism and appoint David Moyes as manager was published. Four hours and 39 minutes later, the club issued a statement confirming Moyes’ departure from the club!

It appears as though this was Moyes’ decision rather than the board’s. The Scot had seemingly had enough of the lack of appetite within the club to rid it of the media leaks, culminating in Sullivan’s hardly-secret meeting with Paulo Fonseca early last week. David Gold went public on Tuesday, saying he wanted Moyes to stay – perhaps he should have a meeting with his Joint-Chairman (y’know, communicate..!) and discuss exactly what it is they want from the club’s present and future. It is highly concerning when the two men at the top of the club are not singing from the same hymn sheet.

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And so, for the second time in six months, we are contemplating the possibilities of a new manager – hardly the West Ham Way. The new appointment will be the sixth permanent boss to work under Sullivan and Gold since they bought the club eight years ago. After the initial club statement vowed “The Club will be making no further comment until a new managerial appointment is confirmed”, supporters were ‘treated’ to an update just 28 hours later which promised a “high-calibre” manager with “a proven record of success at the highest level of the game”. Why Sullivan felt we needed to know this before an appointment is made is beyond me – he must learn that actions count, not words. Incidentally, well done to those who picked up The Smiths references in this piece’s headline!

My personal choice of those mentioned would be Manuel Pellegrini. The Chilean took Villarreal from eighth place before he arrived at the Estadio de la Ceramica to third place in 2004/05. He finished seventh and fifth in the following campaigns before recording a second-place finish in 2007/08, finishing above Barcelona. The club finished fifth in Pellegrini’s final season with them, in 2008/09. Pellegrini also took Villarreal to the quarter-finals of the UEFA Cup in 2005 and the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2006, where they were defeated by Arsenal. The Gunners would again defeat Pellegrini’s side in the quarter-finals of the 2008/09 Champions League.

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Pellegrini joined Real Madrid in the summer of 2009, with president Florentino Perez signing (among others) Kaka, Cristiano Ronaldo, Karim Benzema and Xabi Alonso. The club were knocked out of the Champions League in the last 16 and finished second in La Liga. Pellegrini, in words that should echo in the ears of David Sullivan, said of his time at the Bernabeu:

“I didn’t have a voice or a vote at Madrid. They sign the best players, but not the best players needed in a certain position. It’s no good having an orchestra with the ten best guitarists if I don’t have a pianist. Real Madrid have the best guitarists, but if I ask them to play the piano they won’t be able to do it so well. He [Pérez] sold players that I considered important. We didn’t win the Champions League because we didn’t have a squad properly structured to be able to win it.”

As an aside, herein lies the rub. If West Ham are going to appoint a manager of Pellegrini’s ilk, they are going to have to up their game in terms of professionalism throughout the club and they are going to have to provide significantly greater funds over time to allow him to be a success, as well as allowing Pellegrini and his management/recruitment team to have control over who comes in and who goes out.

Upon departing Madrid, Pellegrini moved to Malaga in November 2010, the club having just finished 17th in 2009/10. Under the new ownership of Sheikh Abdullah Al Thani and the management of Pellegrini, the club finished 11th and moved up to fourth in his first full season. Pellegrini took Malaga to the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2012/13 and finished sixth in La Liga. He left the club with mounting financial problems and excluded from Europe due to Financial Fair Play rules.

Many West Ham United supporters will remember Pellegrini for his time at Manchester City, particularly their 9-0 aggregate win over Sam Allardyce’s side in the 2013/14 League Cup semi-finals. The Hammers did beat Pellegrini’s champions 2-1 at Upton Park in October 2014 though, with Slaven Bilic’s Irons recording a 2-1 win at the Etihad the following season. Pellegrini won the Premier League title and two League Cups at City before departing two seasons ago, with Joe Hart a key figure in his success in Manchester. He has been manager of Hebei China Fortune since August 2016, leaving the club yesterday. He finished fourth in 2017 and leaves the club, including former Hammer Javier Mascherano, in eighth position.

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I would not be disappointed if Rafa Benitez were to rock up at the London Stadium but I really don’t see Sullivan paying the £6m release fee. Personally, I don’t see why a board of directors would be happy to pay £20m for Andre Ayew and £10m for Robert Snodgrass but baulk at £6m for a manager – then again, this is the same board of directors who have not paid a permanent transfer fee for a first-choice goalkeeper since they took over the club (Stephen Henderson being the only custodian who has cost the club a fee in that time). Reports this morning suggest that Zenit St Petersburg could move for Benitez as a replacement for Roberto Mancini. My preference is for Pellegrini as he’s known for more attacking football. In addition, Benitez oversaw three different sets of four league defeats in a row last season, something neither Slaven Bilic nor David Moyes experienced during 2017/18.

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As for Marco Silva, I think he has his head too easily turned which, at a time when we are craving stability, rules him out for me. After hoping on Wednesday morning that the club would show a desire to end its unprofessionalism and appoint Moyes, I now hope that the new incumbent is appointed swiftly so we can begin planning for next season and beyond. If it is Pellegrini or Benitez, their vast experience will hopefully put an end to West Ham being run as a “basket-case club”, as I read in one publication yesterday. It’s going to be an interesting week…

Finally, huge congratulations to Jiahao Wong, who won The Official WHTID League via the Premier League’s Fantasy Football with his team ‘AdrianSupportGroup’. Jiahao amassed 2,305 points over the season, topping a table which consisted of nearly 250 participants.

The HamburgHammer Column

From Upton Park to Gotham City - Random ramblings about an unusual end of season trip

This trip was necessary and long overdue – due to my only brother’s fight against the big C (and my mind being subsequently otherwise occupied) I had merely managed three games this season so far (Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal), so I had to get my London fix once again. Of course when my Ryanair plane lost touch with German soil West Ham were already guaranteed their league status for next season, but that didn’t bother me. Maybe with the pressure off our team could play more freely and knock in a few goals to compensate for what had been a shockingly bad season for West Ham on various levels.

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Friday, May 11th

This trip was to prove very unusual for the simple fact that our trusted cabbie BSB was on a well deserved holiday in Spain and as we usually meet up at least once when I’m over to revisit our usual Two Ronnies’ routine this time there was no trip for me to Dagenham. Instead I arrived with the early morning flight, finding myself in Stratford at the ungodly hour of 9am.

I couldn’t check in at my accommodation in Boleyn Road (!!!), Upton before noon, so had some serious time to kill.

Almost without thinking my way led me through the Gotham City themed film set called Stratford/Westfield towards the London Stadium. I had been in two minds about whether to renew or not. A proper internal fight of wills. There were good and bad points on both sides of the battlefield. I had spoken to BSB beforehand and finally his arguments resonated the most with me.

So I actually did it, I renewed my season ticket using my accumulated club cash in the process.

I wouldn’t want to miss out on watching any West Ham game of my choosing when making a trip back to London. I couldn’t really miss my regular, yet limited in number, matchdays watching the Hammers. Not necessarily because of our great football but for meeting friends on a matchday, sharing banter, food and drinks.
Yes, I know, I said I didn’t want to give the board any more money, but give me a break!

At least I haven’t bought any merchandise for a year now and the way I see it, my season ticket money doesn’t go to the Daves anyway, it’s representing in fact a small portion of Mark Noble’s or Declan Rice’s weekly wages…:-))

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On it was then to my little room in Boleyn Road. The residential area it was in reminded me of the road where I used to live during my Barking days, so the size, state and outward appearance of most houses didn’t come as a shock to me.

What was a bit of a shock was seeing plenty of women in burkas, leaving only their eyes visible to the outside world. Those are a very rare sight even in Hamburg where we also have a sizeable percentage of Muslim people, but most Muslim ladies in Hamburg seem to be content with wearing headscarves. But anyway…

My first box to tick was my first (and final) visit to Nathans Pie&Mash shop in the Barking Road. Of course this is an institution for many West Ham fans and since I got introduced to my first pie and mash just two years ago (although one might think, gazing at my girth, that I must have had my first pie and mash as a toddler without ever looking back since) I needed to check out this place.

My verdict: Lovely people. Atmospheric decor with loads of references to West Ham. Decent pie, bland mash. But food wise no comparison to BSB’s place in Dagenham where the taste, portions and value for money are all better.

But I suppose with Nathans it was very much a traditional thing, you went to the game with your father or later your own kids and had pie and mash there before a game, as part of the ritual. I doubt too many people ever had a pie and mash there on non matchdays.

My visit to Newham Bookshop has now also become a personal ritual for every trip and once again the brilliant Vivian Archer and John Newman provided tea, book recommendations and lovely banter.

They also recommended a German themed pub on the other side of the river, but more of that later.

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While still in Newham Bookshop I got a text message from Iron Liddy, leading to another chapter of what has become another much cherished ritual for me, having pizza with Liddy and Mr.Lids in their local branch of Pizza Express, so it was the District Line Eastbound for me later that evening.

As usual it was a fantastic evening, having our li’lle jokes (that’s little in received pronunciation folks!), chewing the fat about West Ham, life in general and also personal stuff, but time flew by (as it tends to do when you’re enjoying yourself) and we parted ways to meet again on matchday.

I can only thank Liddy and Mr.Lids again for their kind and over the top hospitality and try offering to repay them their courtesy once they finally find their way to my town – they will get the right royal red carpet treatment from me, you can be sure of that…

Saturday, May 12th

Our blog’s own Corkiron had recommended a breakfast cafe in Bethnal Green where I could tick my box of having at least one Full English – and so to Bethnal Green I went.

Of course I had heard all the stories about the Kray Twins growing up in the area and similar to Upton I found it a vibrant and diverse neighbourhood full of life, shops and market stalls, with surprisingly loads of pubs lining the Bethnal Green Road on both sides.

When I arrived at E Pellicci there was a queue outside and there still was one when I had finished my breakfast, always a good sign if people are willing to wait to get in.
I love family establishments like this and as I learned this place has been around since 1900, serving food and a heartfelt welcome to their customers, a tradition being passed on through the generations the latest of which was represented by a bubbly fellow called Nevio Jr.

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Now this guy was not just a waiter, he was basically entertaining and conducting the whole neighbourhood audience with gestures and gazes that would have made Di Canio proud in his West Ham heyday, sharing little jokes and banter not only with the guests but also employees from nearby shops and stalls, or customers picking up takeaway orders. Coupled with some rare sunshine it made for what was almost a carnival atmosphere.

It was like a scene from the Notting Hill flick, I almost expected Hugh Grant to sit down at the adjoining table next, asking me to chuck him over the bottle of brown sauce.

Only when paying for my breakfast did both Nevio and I find out that this business transaction might never have happened under normal circumstances as he had strong Tottenham leanings with my being a Hammer obviously creating a certain tension in the air.

His professionalism won over though, so having cottoned on to the fact I was German he was cramming around in his brain for the only German phrase he knew and being of Italian heritage it wasn’t surprising to hear that this phrase was “Ich liebe Dich!” (I love you!). I shouted back “I wouldn’t go that far mate!” across the pavement before making my way back to the tube station.

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Getting off at Vauxhall station, strolling alongside the Albert Embankment with views of Tate Britain and the Houses of Parliament, past a new development of luxury riverview flats called The Dumont (with sale prices for each unit probably approaching half the GNP of most African countries) I went to the pub that had been recommended to me in Newham Bookshop the day before.

“Zeitgeist” is located in a pub in Black Prince Road which used to be the Jolly Gardeners pub for 120 years.
Apparently Charlie Chaplin was one of the famous locals there; it is said his father was playing frequently on the house’s piano to entertain the local community.

Today the entertainment comes mainly in the form of Bundesliga football being shown on a big screen, German food staples like Schnitzels, Sausages and Flammkuchen (thin dough bread pizzas served with various toppings) and 16 (!!!) different German beers on draught.

I was scouting the premises for suitability for a special purpose.
Maybe this could be a lovely venue for a future informal meetup of WHTIDers, if some of you should be interested going there when I’m over next, at the very least it’s a bit different than other pubs and a jolly good laugh for sure.

Yes, it’s on the wrong side of the river, it’s full of Germans and you won’t get pints of Carling, Boddingtons Bitter, Spitfire Ale or Old Speckled Hen there.

But don’t be afraid, you won’t be surrounded by Krauts only, with no English being spoken at all, there are Brits drinking at that place as well and all the staff are British too, as far as I could tell…with the odd Aussie thrown in for good measure.

I watched (and suffered) the relegation of Hamburg SV on the big screen, sharing a table with a fellow Hamburger, a Moenchengladbach supporter and two Dortmund fans. The pub was packed solid when the games kicked off and they were showing the Bundesliga conference which is like Soccer Saturday but with live pictures, so they switch from one stadium to another whenever goals are scored or penalty shots have been awarded.

The reactions from the crowd were interesting. In most cases it was obvious which club they supported as different corners of the pub went berserk when certain teams scored. But the loudest cheers, unfortunately, came whenever goals were scored against Hamburg (or for relegation rival Wolfsburg) and also once the relegation was finally confirmed.

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It didn’t come unexpected, but it hurt this proud Hamburg boy more than I had anticipated (and I don’t even support them), especially with those other fans in the pub rubbing it in with glee and mocking chants of “Cheerio!”.

I hope they will get treated with a bit more respect from rival fans should their own team ever find themselves in the unfortunate position of getting relegated.
I went back to Stratford, watched some of the Boro-Villa game to take my mind off relegation and turned in early as a busy matchday lay ahead…

Sunday, May 13th

MATCHDAY! Our own Russ phoned me up late morning about meeting up at Westfield which we did and I was relieved because he obviously knew the shortest way to the Supporters Club at Stour Space where we got ourselves match ready with a burger, chips and a cold hop-themed bevvy. We were then joined in quick succession by Hammers West (who had come all the way from California), Voice of Reason, Heedsy, Nigel Kahn and Sean Whetstone.

Plus the most popular German Hammer on WHTID these days, Ebi from near Cologne who now also qualifies as the more passionate German Hammer compared to me as he apparently saw 12 games in person this season, myself only clocking in with a measly four in total which makes me a glory hunter, armchair supporter, malcontent and keyboard warrior all rolled into one I suppose…;-))

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Once arrived at the 238 steps on the concourse there was more banter before and after the game with Gramsci, AndyHammer, Dan and John Coker, Irons1959, Toronto Hammer and Dorset Lurker. I’m sure I have forgotten one or two, but as always it was great company and the perfect build-up towards kickoff (or setup for the post-match drinks).

No Hugill! Not even on the bench. Not only did that kill my predictor (at least I got the final score right), I was also genuinely hoping this guy would get a few minutes in this game. Still, it was obviously one of our better games, with some lovely free flowing football and three absolute peaches of a goal – all in one game.
This also helped to lift the general matchday atmosphere at the stadium and in my book it is the only way this stadium will ever develop into a decent home ground for us.

We need a team with quality players, performing in a way that gets the crowd going and off their seats time and time again. One thing that made me smile was the kids who were sitting around us, shouting all the way down over the gaps and the lower tier towards the pitch, they are like li’lle, sorry, little adults, aren’t they ?
Shouting “Book him ref!” or " Shoot the ball Mark Noble" with their high-pitched young voices. Brilliant!

A bittersweet moment was the (final?) appearance of the Ginger Pele, playing out the final few minutes of our season wearing the captain’s armband.
What a loyal and true servant to the club he’s been. Hopefully we will see him for at least one more season.

After the game, a group of us, including Mr.Lids who was looking as happy as a cat sunbathing on a milk float, congregated at the Heineken Bar for some end of season review banter. Personally, I had the pleasure of prolonging said banter in the company of Hammers West, Voice of Reason and Heedsy in The Crate (where I had to remove all my West Ham gear before being allowed in). Still, fantastic company, decent beer, great pizza with cheese and courgettes (another word I had to learn, in Germany we know them as Zucchini).
Brilliant matchday.

Monday, May 14th

Days of departure are always a bit crap. You usually spend too many hours twiddling your thumbs at the airport as you are too scared to do proper things in London for fear of missing your flight as a result of milling around in a museum, gallery or park, forgetting all about the time. Still, I went back to the Olympic Stadium once again, walking through the ever rising and already towering skyline of Gotham City, pardon me, I mean Stratford of course, sitting down on a bench in the Olympic Park, reminiscing about the Everton game, my season ticket renewal, my dear friends in England and our beloved club.

I got to think that while I will always struggle with the shape of the stadium and the distance between the fans and the pitch it’ll still be alright providing a matchday experience as long as our team play some nice passing and attacking football, scoring a few goals in the process. As it is, some people will never love or even like the stadium, others already are getting used to it, because, frankly, what’s the alternative here ? We already have kids in the stadium now who have never seen a game at the Boleyn Ground.

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For them the London Stadium is the only West Ham ground they have ever known. It’s easier for them as you cannot miss what you never had in the first place.
Yes, I like clean toilets, a variety of food stalls and seats with plenty of legroom all of which a modern stadium brings.
But as a football fan I also like football stadiums which afford the opportunity to be close to the pitch and feel connected to the game and the players.

Many of you will have passed the advertising hoarding as you enter the Olympic Park via Westfield. It showcases the various events at the London Stadium which are supposed to draw the punters in. I was intrigued by the West Ham section, with a picture of Antonio and Sam Byram locked in a goal celebration (joined by Edimilson Fernandes I believe).

I wrote it down in full, so I could quote it to you word by word, let’s see what you think:

WEST HAM UNITED F.C. – West Ham take on a host of Premier League rivals at the London Stadium as they attempt to climb the table. See the stars of the Premier League battle it out on the pitch with both teams going for the win in these top-notch clashes.”

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Interesting to note the advert says West Ham United FC, not West Ham London. Also the statement seems to veer from the realistic, to the optimistic towards the downright bizarre (as marketing or PR campaigns have a tendency to do). For sure West Ham have much better hope of climbing the table than actually challenging for trophies.
Both teams going for the win ? A nice thought, but how realistic is that when you watch Premier League games in general ?
Top-notch clashes ? Again: It may be the Premier League but I have seen plenty of games already at the LS that were anything but top notch, like boring as hell 1:0 wins against Burnley or Hull.

Still, as one season goes into the archives with another one looming large, with a transfer window and the World Cup to entertain us all in between, I am sure it will be yet another rollercoaster of emotions at this basket case of a club we all love so dearly. I’m already looking forward to whatever games I shall be able to make next season.
Thanks again to all of you for putting up with my ramblings and special kudos to those of you looking after me again in such a lovely and kind fashion!
(You know who you are!)

As a consequence I don’t even mind getting taken the mickey out of time and time again – I wouldn’t have it any other way! Onwards and upwards! COYI!!!

PS: Hamburg football update:
So you already know that HSV got relegated and you probably also know St.Pauli have escaped relegation which means both will meet in the famous and feisty Hamburg derby twice next season in Bundesliga 2. The local fuzz are already busy cursing their luck!
Concordia have failed to win promotion and will finish the season in midtable (7th or 8th).
Cordi’s U23s have been promoted as Champions, same as the Concordia Ladies team.
Another local club I sometimes watch because their ground is in walking distance to my flat, TSV Wandsetal, have also been promoted as Champions.

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