The HamburgHammer Column

Mexican Pie, Austrian Cream and Germany's future Number One ?

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!!!

Talking Point

Thanks Darren

Thanks Darren. And good luck in your next challenge at Middlesborough.


Arnautovic Signs, But What Formation Will Bilic Play?

Welcome to Marko Arnautovic.

There’s no doubt he is a brilliant player. On his day. The trouble is that he is consistently inconsistent and at his age he needs to apply himself more. Is he a good addition to the squad? Is he better than other players in his position that we have? Yes on both counts. It is now clear though that Snodgrass will be sold, and probably Feghouli too.

It will be interesting to see if Slaven Bilic changes his formation given the signings of Hernandez and Arnautovic. If you take it as read that Antonio, Arnautovic and Hernandez will be first choices, where does that leave Andy Carroll. Personally, I’d like to see a 3-5-2 formation with Zabaleta, Reid & Ogbonna at the back, Hernandez and Carroll up front with a midfield five of Kouyate, Obiang, Arnautovic, Antonio and Lanzini. Tasty, eh?


Tony Hanna's Musings

Bookies Update

Finalising a transfer deal is a long drawn out ordeal in the modern game. However, the loan deal for Joe Hart is now complete and Marko Arnautovic and Chico Hernandez should both be Hammers by early next week. It was not long ago that most of us were feeling a little frustrated with only a single free transfer under our belts but we can now peruse the opposition fan sites with glee as they vent their own frustrations and point at West Ham as cleverly doing most of their business nice and early. Many Premier League clubs are struggling to hit their targets and have started their preseasons still wondering who will actually be playing for them in three weeks time when the season kicks off? The wheels could still start spinning if any turnarounds happen with Arny and Chico though so keep fingers crossed.

So what else is happening and what other deals could be done?

Darren Randolph With the arrival of Hart he would have been number three between the sticks at West Ham this season. Either Randy or Adrian has to go and it looks like Randy at this point of time. The bookies aren’t betting on this but the official Boro site claims a deal has been done subject to a medical and personal terms being agreed.

Adrian the bookies have reacted to the probable Randolph transfer and Adrian has firmed from even money (50%) to 1/2 (66%) to stay at West Ham. Personally I would love him to stay and I think he will after signing a new two year deal just recently.

Jota the Spanish midfielder was highlighted in the first of my bookie updates a month ago. Currently playing for Brentford there has been a big move in the markets over the past 24 hours that would suggest we are talking to them. The lad was 10/1 (9%) just a day ago and he is into 7/4 (36%). Where there is smoke?

Andre Gray has been in all my bookie updates so far and the price has hardly budged – currently 13/8 (38%). My guess is that we will move for the Burnley striker if we are unable to sign any of the players that might be higher on our target list. I do believe we will still sign another striker after the Chico deal goes through and Gray may well be our insurance bet?

Jack Wilshere is another that has made all my updates. Currently 7/4 (36%) to be a West Ham player come 3rd September.

Keita Balde Diao has drifted slightly in the market over the past few days – 7/2 (22%) from 5/2 (28%). The market suggests he will definitely move away from Lazio with Inter Milan the most likely destination and Juventus and us as the only other likely challengers for his signature.

Robert Snodgrass is 10/11 (pretty close to flip of a coin) to stay at West Ham. Sheffield Wednesday 2/1 (33%) and Brighton 5/1 (16%) are listed as possible clubs showing interest.

Elsewhere there has been market moves over the past few days that would suggest; PSG are real contenders for Alexis Sanchez and Neymar, Virgil Van Dijk will probably leave the Saints for Liverpool, Chelsea are very interested in Oxlade-Chamberlain, Fabian Delph looks like heading to Stoke, Kieran Gibbs new club will be either Watford or West Brom, Matic will leave Chelsea for either Juventus or the Moaning ones and Arsenal have entered the race for Ross Barkley.

As for the early odds on our season;

Win the PL Toddy and Simon are already in the queue at 500/1

Top four is priced at 10/1 (9%) and my thoughts are that the price should be much bigger.

Top ten is 6/4 (40%) and is a good bet for the optimists amongst you.

Relegation is 10/1 (9%) so the bookies think we have as much chance of finishing top four as going down?


Hammer of the Year 2009, 2010 & 2011: Scott Parker

Continuing my look back to some Hammer of the Year winners who I’ve previously written about in the ‘Club Connections’ section of my match previews, today we take a look at one of only two players to have won the coveted prize in three consecutive seasons…

Scott Parker was born in Lambeth on 13th October 1980; a Lilleshall graduate, Parker was the 13-year-old keepie-uppie star of a McDonalds advert during the 1994 World Cup. He began his professional career at Charlton, making his debut in 1997; he also had a brief loan spell with Norwich in 2000.

Parker, who had been consistently linked with moves away from Charlton for several years, finally left the Valley just before the January transfer deadline in 2004 to join Chelsea on a four-and-a-half-year contract for a fee of £10 million after a protracted and acrimonious transfer saga. Parker was initially signed to compete with Claude Makelele and Frank Lampard but did not get too many opportunities to play in his preferred position. He scored his only goal for Chelsea in a 2–0 win against Portsmouth at Fratton Park on 11th February 2004. Parker was named as the PFA Young Player of the Year at the end of the 2003/04 season.

Following the summer signings of Arjen Robben and Tiago Mendes, Parker’s first team opportunities were extremely limited during the 2004/05 season, although he was a regular starter in Chelsea’s League Cup matches, a competition where he played in three consecutive victories against West Ham, Newcastle and Fulham. His difficulties were compounded when he broke a metatarsal in a game against Norwich. Parker consequently missed both legs of the League Cup semi-final against Manchester United and the final against Liverpool, although he was awarded a winner’s medal during the trophy presentation. Chelsea went on to won the title for the first time in 50 years –having made only four league appearances for Chelsea during the season, he did not receive a Premier League winner’s medal as he did not make the required ten appearances to be eligible, though Chelsea did have a replica medal made. After scoring one goal in 28 matches in all competitions for the Blues but having found first team opportunities hard to come by, Parker signed for Newcastle in July 2005 for £6.5m.

Scott became a regular in the Newcastle first team and was one of the few players at the club to show any consistency during an often difficult 2005/06 season in which the Magpies finished in seventh place, despite suffering a poor start under Graeme Souness. His first Newcastle goal came against his former club Charlton in a 3-1 defeat on 25th March 2006. Later that month he was diagnosed with glandular fever, putting an end to his season. The timing was especially unfortunate for Parker; he had been playing well but the illness ended any hopes he may have had of forcing his way into the England squad for the 2006 World Cup.

New manager Glenn Roeder named Parker as his captain In July 2006, succeeding the retired Alan Shearer. Despite Newcastle’s poor form, his performances earned him a recall to the England squad in September 2006 after an absence of more than two years. After six goals in 73 matches for Newcastle, Parker left for West Ham United to be reunited with his former Charlton manager, Alan Curbishley, in a £7m deal in the summer of 2007.

Injury played a large part in Parker’s early career in east London, with the midfielder unable to make his debut until a League Cup win over Plymouth at the Boleyn Ground in late September. Three days later Parker was injured again during a home defeat to Arsenal and ruled out for a further two months. His first goal for the club came three days before Christmas, the last-minute winner in West Ham’s first ever victory at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium.

Parker’s second goal for the club was over a year later, from close range in a 2-1 defeat at Bolton in February 2009, by which time Gianfranco Zola had taken over from Curbishley. His season was ended by injury the following month but he had still done enough to win the 2008/09 Hammer of the Year prize. The Irons struggled in 2009/10 and were second bottom of the Premier League when Parker was sent off for two yellow cards in the 2-2 home draw with Arsenal in October. His first goal of that season was a stunning, dipping half-volley from distance to bring the Hammers level at the home of his old club Chelsea in March, although the match would ultimately be lost 4-1. His only other goal that season was infinitely more significant, the winner in a tense 3-2 victory over Wigan on 24th April which secured the Hammers’ survival – Parker’s sensational 77th-minute strike from 25 yards was followed by an emotionally-charged celebration. Two weeks later, he would become the first player to retain the Hammer of the Year trophy since Julian Dicks in 1997.

A 17th-placed finish in 2009/10 resulted in Zola being replaced by Avram Grant and the Hammers would endure a turbulent 2010/11 campaign. Parker was the bright light shining in the east end gloom as he displayed the fight, determination and character sadly lacking in many of his team-mates – he was often mistaken as the club’s captain by an inattentive national media. This was epitomised by his best goalscoring season during his time with the club, Parker opening with three goals in his first six games (the injury-time winner against Oxford in the League Cup, a wonderfully-lofted volley in a 3-1 defeat to Chelsea and a scrambled effort in a 1-1 draw at Stoke). Another three-goals-in-six-games spell followed in October/November as he scored a late headed equaliser in a 3-1 extra-time win over the Potters in the League Cup, struck a thunderbolt in a 2-2 draw with West Brom and grabbed the clincher in a 3-1 win over Wigan.

On 9th February 2011, he became the first England player to receive his first four full caps whilst playing for four different teams, coming on as a second-half substitute for Frank Lampard in a friendly against Denmark. Parker was to score once more for the Hammers that season, a beautifully-executed effort with the outside of his right foot from the edge of the area in a 3-1 home victory over Liverpool in late February. The following month, he played in a 0-0 draw at Tottenham hours after the death of his father. He also started in England’s victory over Wales at the Millennium Stadium. Parker would again be crowned Hammer of the Year, the only player other than Sir Trevor Brooking to claim the award three seasons in a row. He was also named as the Football Writers’ Association Footballer of the Year, an incredible feat considering his club were relegated in bottom place. In doing so, he became the second Hammer to win the award, following in the footsteps of the great Bobby Moore.

Parker started West Ham’s 2011/12 Championship campaign, notching one goal in four league appearances, this coming in a 4-0 win at Watford. At the age of 30, Parker knew he may only have one opportunity left to play in an international tournament and, with Euro 2012 on the horizon, was aware that he would have to be playing Premier League football. With his children in school in the local area, Parker opted to remain in London and signed for close rivals Tottenham for a fee of £5.5m. Parker made 129 appearances for West Ham in all competitions, scoring 12 goals.

Parker was named Tottenham’s Player of the Year in his first season with the club, playing in 29 league matches as the club finished fourth but were denied Champions League qualification as Chelsea won that competition and would compete as holders despite finishing sixth in the Premier League. Parker’s move to Spurs paid off in that he cemented his England place, being named Man of the Match in a friendly against European and World champions Spain in November 2011 and appearing as captain of his country against the Netherlands in February 2012. Parker started all four matches at Euro 2012 as England made the quarter-finals. However, an Achilles injury picked up during the tournament would keep him out of the first four months of 2012/13. After 63 matches without scoring for Tottenham, he was on the move to Fulham in August 2013, with whom he stayed until retiring from football earlier this summer.

Scott Parker, disappointingly, received a mixed reception when he returned to Upton Park as a Tottenham player in February 2013. I was one of the many, however, who gave him a standing ovation when he left the field that night, remembering his four years of exceptional service rather than focusing on the club he left us for. For me, Parker was a perfect picture of passion, perseverance and pirouettes and I am sure he will be long remembered as a West Ham United great. I wish Super Scotty all the very best in his retirement.

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