The HamburgHammer Column

No more razzle dazzle - hard graft and focus will do

Having two weekends in a row with no West Ham game sucks, but that’s what happens when one is a weekend reserved for FA Cup games (and you’re already out because you decided to prioritise the league fixtures) followed by another international weekend (once again with limited activity for West Ham players these days – does anyone actually LIKE international weekends ?).

Of course the world of West Ham never really stops turning and there are loads of things still happening, mainly off the pitch, for our glorious club at the moment.

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I won’t be talking about the board too much (again) at this point as most of the national British media have now kindly taken over having a butchers at why exactly our club may be in its current predicament, on the pitch and off it.

I understand representatives of WHUISA (which I have been a member of ever since it was founded) have been invited to a meeting with David Sullivan tomorrow to ask some questions.

Whether this will ultimately take the predictable route which previous meetings with other fan groups have travelled on or if it will indeed lead to the board sitting up and take notice for a change remains to be seen. I won’t be holding my breath, but it’d be plain rude of WHUISA not to sit down with the main shareholder and give it a right good go. What’ll happen with our club further down the road, in the summer, should be a different matter – right now the game against Southampton takes the utmost importance.

The media sometimes tends to label too many games as relegation six-pointers in order to drum up interest, sell papers or get viewing figures.
The Southampton game though promises to be nailbiting stuff, squeaky bum style, with both teams needing the three points desperately.

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With West Brom and Stoke losing we can put some daylight between us and another relegation rival if we beat Southampton, how we get that win is secondary, but beat them we must.

I reckon the vast majority of our fans are very much aware what’s at stake here and I would think the atmosphere, while being tense, could also be fantastic, bordering cauldron level, if only our team put the effort in and give the fans something worth cheering for early on.

Not even a goal necessarily, although that’d obviously help a lot, but a tenacious tackle, a fine passing combination, a cracking shot on goal, you get the picture.
A sign from the players that they want the win as much as the fans. Relegation would do neither the club nor the players any favours and whatever our club may have to go through in the next few months and years, it’ll be easier ftom the position of playing in the Premier League rather than the Championship.

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Now, I’m well aware of the new manager initial boost theory and while Southampton have some decent players and while Mark Hughes may have certain qualities as a manager, Southampton are where they are in the table for a reason. I know we lost 3:0 against Burnley, but I see them as a much better drilled and organised side than Southampton are this season. With the right application, a positive mindset and the encouragement from the home crowd hopefully we will ask Southampton a few questions on the pitch.

It’s not like Southampton have momentum on their side right now and surely David Moyes and his coaching staff have enough time now to put our team in the best shape and frame of mind for the Southampton game. Phase 1 was the warm weather break in Miami. Actually I don’t mind that move. You could argue whether a trip to Tenerife or Malta might have done the same, but the general idea of having a bit of a reboot, a change of scenery, a change of routine might do the lads the world of good.

The players will know themselves they have vastly underperformed this season, they don’t need to read a blog or online fanzine to know that. But now Phase 2 has to kick in, you’ve had your week in the sun, now go out on the cold and wet training pitch in Blighty and work on the basics needed to beat Southampton.
Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing Arnautovic and Hernandez back together from the first whistle. Also it will definitely help to finally have Masuaku back in the fold.
Somehow we have looked a much better team all around whenever he’s been on the pitch for us.

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I also would like to see an attacking lineup, even though this may leave us a bit more open at the back. But I wouldn’t expect us to keep a clean sheet these days anyway and would rather see us counter that with a lot of pace, physical presence and plenty of positivity further up the field. I’d also like to think the home crowd would respond to attacking football a lot more and surely we need the crowd on or team’s side rather than their backs.

I still have no doubt we can escape relegation through a combination of honest graft, effort and a healthy dose of good luck. Don’t forget, new manager or not, Southampton won’t arrive in London brimming with confidence. It’s our job to make sure they won’t be gaining any confidence from playing us.

That’s my West Ham thoughts for the Southampton game which still seems lightyears away. On a personal level, the weekend was mostly successful. I visited my brother at his rehab clinic again (where he will get a week’s extension to fatten him up a bit more in preparation for his final cycle of chemo).
I was trying to help with the fattening up bit by bringing some cake and we then settled down in his room with the radio on, listening to the Bundesliga Soccer Saturday programme, being elated with Hamburg SV taking a 1:0 lead at halftime only to lose 1:2 against Hertha Berlin eventually, relegation beckoning ever more fiercely now!

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The new Hamburg manager (Hamburg have now gone through 18 managers in 11 years) tried something new, a VERY young team with an average age of 23.98 years, the youngest Hamburg team fielded in 44 years, but it just wasn’t enough. The team frankly isn’t Bundesliga standard and the only positive I can take from the situation is that there is going to be another Hamburg derby next season, albeit in Bundesliga 2, between Hamburg SV and FC St.Pauli.

My Sunday was spent by watching a Concordia doubleheader with both teams winning in the freezing cold East Hamburg sunshine, but arctic winds coming in from God knows where made me question my sanity more than once while spending almost four hours alongside two God forsaken artificial pitches, watching lower league football.
But nothing warms you up better than seeing you team win (apart from some chips, hot coffee and some mulled wine!) and Cordi 2 won their away game 3:1 while Cordi’s first team beat FC Suederelbe (the Millwall equivalent of the Oberliga Hamburg) by a 2:0 scoreline.

Cordi 2 is now almost guaranteed promotion to the next level while Cordi 1 are bound to save some face late on in the season by stringing some wins together which will probably lead to a 4th or 5th place finish at the end of the season, representing failed ambition (as they were hoping to get promoted this season), but that’s football.
And frankly, with an average attendance of 150 people at home games it’s hardly comparable to West Ham’s woes in the Premier League.

Who knows what this week will bring to our much beloved West Ham United ? Good news on a postcard please! COYI!!!

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The GoatyGav Column

Weather With You - Not A Board Related Article

I’ve been an active commenter on the various articles over the last few days – I’m going to leave my opinions there and discuss something completely different. Sometimes you need a break from the depressing drudgery that’s been the life of a Hammer lately so, hopefully, most of the comments on this piece will not stray back to the events surrounding last Saturday’s game.

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Warm weather breaks are good for all of us. Recharge the batteries and come back with a clear head and refreshed vigour. That’s the idea. In contrast to the last International break David Moyes has taken the squad away this time. But is this a good thing?

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I’d suggest that it’s much needed. There are drawbacks, IMO, some of which are discussed in these paragraphs, but I believe the timing of the trip is bang on provided the work goes in at the Florida training camp. Some have opined that they don’t believe the players deserve their break and should be training harder at Rush Green but I’m not convinced that would have the desired effect.

One drawback to the preparation for Southampton, despite the respite, is the lack of competitive game-time in the three weeks leading up to the fixture. Southampton will have played a cup match beforehand and this will enable their players to retain more ‘match sharpness’.

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Another factor affecting competitive edge and sharpness is the friendly to be played at Dagenham & Redbridge. Now whilst I agree completely about the support being showed for the Daggers with this I do think it will further blunt the player’s physical acuity ahead of, what will probably prove, the most important game of the Premier League season so far. All of that without mentioning the risk of further injuries to the squad.

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Then we have the ‘New Manager’ effect to consider. Southampton, despite their league position, still have some very good players who, on their day, would give most Premier League teams a run for their money. Yes they’re underperforming, just like our players are, but the boost that Mark Hughes, or whoever else takes over at St Mary’s (at time of writing there’s still nobody confirmed in the position) could play a big factor in the outcome on the 31st of the month. By that time it’s entirely feasible that Crystal Palace could already be above us, considering they have Zaha back and play at a shaky looking Huddersfield this weekend, so a loss to the ‘Saints’ would put us in the bottom three. Then things will start looking even bleaker than they do today.

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So this one was more for discussion than a soliloquy from me. Looking back, and Dan C may well correct me if I’m wrong here, I don’t remember West Ham coming back from warm weather breaks particularly well. Maybe that’s why it’s only a week this time. Overall I believe it to be a good thing to do but there are some pitfalls that should be avoided. Some time together as a squad, completely away from the situation, may also help the team develop the siege mentality to help them pull together and get us out of trouble.

Between the two r’s (not of the Karren variety this time) of being either rusty or refreshed let’s hope the boys are the latter not the former and that Southampton’s tough FA Cup tie against Wigan means they’re that little bit more jaded than we are come the game at the end of the month. Bringing back some of that Florida Sunshine to warm the cockles of our hearts at the LS would be most welcome.


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Class Act Carrick To Retire This Summer

Earlier this week former West Ham United and England midfielder Michael Carrick announced his decision to retire at the end of this season. This piece looks back at the Academy graduate’s impressive career.

Michael Carrick was born on the 28th July 1981 in Wallsend, Tyne and Wear and was part of West Ham’s FA Youth Cup winning side in 1999, scoring twice in the second leg of the Final as the Hammers beat Coventry 6-0 on the night and 9-0 on aggregate. He made his first-team debut four days before his 18th birthday, on 24th July 1999 in a 1-1 draw away at Jokerit of Finland in the second leg of the Intertoto Cup third round. Carrick had a month-long loan spell at Swindon before a similar stint at Birmingham. He returned to Upton Park to score his first goal for Harry Redknapp’s Hammers in a 5-0 win over Coventry on the 22nd April 2000.

Carrick became a regular in the centre of midfield in 2000/01, scoring his only goal of the season in a 1-1 home draw against Aston Villa. A tall, elegant, cultured midfielder with a fine range of passing, Carrick made his England debut in May 2001 as a substitute in a 4-0 friendly win over Mexico – to date, he has won 34 caps for his country, without scoring. He was part of the squad for both the 2006 and 2010 World Cups but only played one game at a major tournament.

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With Glenn Roeder now in charge, Carrick was on the scoresheet twice in 2001/02, scoring the Hammers’ consolation in a 7-1 defeat at Blackburn and, more positively, in a 2-1 home win over Chelsea. Despite the joy of scoring in a 2-0 home win over Tottenham in March 2003, Carrick and the Hammers experienced the agony of relegation in 2002/03.

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The 22-year-old stayed with the Hammers for their first season in the second tier as Alan Pardew eventually took over the managerial reigns – he was voted by supporters as runner-up to Matthew Etherington for the 2003/04 Hammer of the Year award and was also named in the PFA First Division Team of the Year. His last goal for the club came on the 17th January 2004 in a 3-3 draw at Sheffield United and his final appearance for the Hammers came in the 1-0 Play-Off Final defeat to Crystal Palace in Cardiff on 29th May 2004.

Too good for the Championship and with a lack of top-level football threatening to curtail his impressive development, Carrick returned to the Premier League in August 2004 – Arsenal, Everton, West Brom, Crystal Palace and Portsmouth all showed interest before Tottenham eventually won the race for his signature, paying around £3m for his services. Carrick had scored six goals in 159 appearances for West Ham United – all of these goals can be viewed in my video below.

Carrick made his Tottenham debut on 18th October 2004 as a substitute in a 1–0 defeat at Portsmouth. He was often overlooked by manager Jacques Santini before emerging as a regular starter after the appointment of Martin Jol. His first full start for Tottenham was also Jol’s first game in charge of the club away to Burnley in the League Cup on 9th November 2004.

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Carrick scored his first Tottenham goal on 3rd December 2005, netting the winner in a 3-2 home win over Sunderland. He scored his second and final goal for the club on 8th April 2006 in a 2-1 home win over Manchester City. Carrick was one of ten Tottenham players who fell ill at a hotel just before their final game of the season away to West Ham on 7th May 2006 as the players suffered from apparent food poisoning after a dodgy lasagne. He managed to play in the game but lasted just 63 minutes in the 2-1 defeat to his former club which saw North London rivals Arsenal beat them to fourth place in the league and the final qualification spot for the Champions League. It turned out to be Carrick’s final appearance for Tottenham – after two goals and 75 appearances for Spurs, he moved to Manchester United in July 2006 for an initial fee of £14m, potentially rising to £18.6m.

Carrick made his Red Devils debut in a 3-0 win at Charlton on the 23rd August 2006 and scored his first goal for the club in a 3-1 home victory over Aston Villa on the 13th January 2007. He scored twice in the second leg of the Champions League quarter-final as the Red Devils impressively swept Roma aside 7-1 on the night. His first season at Old Trafford culminated in winning the Premier League title as Carrick won his first major honour at senior level (Intertoto Cup aside…).

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Manchester United retained their Premier League crown the following season, with Carrick scoring against his old club as the Hammers were beaten 4-1 at Old Trafford in May 2008. Further success was to follow as Carrick helped the Red Devils beat Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League Final, a night which saw Academy graduates Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Joe Cole and Frank Lampard Junior play on European football’s biggest stage – the Geordie midfielder converted his side’s second penalty of the shoot-out. Carrick played in the Champions League Final again the following season but his side were defeated 2-0 by Barcelona and the Catalan giants beat Carrick’s team once more in the Champions League Final of 2011.

At the end of 2012/13, Carrick was voted Manchester United’s Players’ Player of the Year and was named in the PFA Team of the Year. He was also nominated for the PFA Player of the Year Award but Tottenham’s Gareth Bale claimed the prize. To date, Carrick has won five Premier League titles, six Community Shields, three League Cups, one Champions League, one Europa League, one FIFA Club World Cup and one FA Cup in his time at Old Trafford. Now 36, Carrick is retiring as current vice-captain of Manchester United and has scored 24 goals in 463 appearances for the club in all competitions at the time of writing.

In my opinion, Michael Carrick has been a special player. From the first time I saw him live in the second leg of the FA Youth Cup Final in 1999, Carrick has always been a class above. However, under-appreciation has followed Michael through his career. At West Ham, I remember some supporters used to complain that he didn’t ‘get stuck in’ in midfield – this ignorant attitude was oblivious to the fact that, on many occasions, Michael didn’t need to tackle – his footballing brain often intercepted the ball before the need to tackle would arise. His range of passing was simply stunning – always looking for a forward pass, he was pinpoint over five or fifty yards. His midfield peers, Frank Lampard and Steven Gerrard both earned over 100 caps for their country – Michael didn’t even make 40. Jordan Henderson already has two more caps than Carrick won in his career.

The age-old conundrum for England at international level was always how to fit Lampard and Gerrard into an England side together without curtailing their attacking instincts – the fact that the opportunity to play Michael Carrick behind the pair of them was ignored by successive England managers is simply a crime. He could have been England’s version of Italy’s Andrea Pirlo or Spain’s Xavi. It is indicative of English football that Carrick would probably have won many more international caps had he been playing for another ‘top’ nation where his talents would have been more recognised and valued. This lack of appreciation at international level was tempered by Michael’s success at club level – he won every trophy going in domestic and European competition. It’s just a shame he couldn’t challenge for them with the Hammers.

I’m sure West Ham Till I Die readers will join me in wishing Michael a happy retirement.

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Talking Point

Guest Post: We can no longer beg to differ or engage in a civil manner. Why?

Guest Post by Anonymous

This follows on from "THIS2: article from the same author on the events of last weekend.

I just read your “piece for the Standard” You have just completely taken my head thoughts on this. Agree with every word and nuance in its entirety. Well done.

For the last two seasons, I witnessed two supporters who sit in front of me whom week in week out have hurled abuse at the players sat on the subs bench directly in front of us. Ayew, Carrol, Kouyate and even Antautovic have come in for nasty stuff at different times. I have come very close to pulling them up and telling them to shut up, but then it would kick off and just add to the woes amongst supporters and place me at risk.

The players sit exposed within inches of some supporters who are paying 4k a year for a seat and who have the manners of moronic pigs despite their earning capacity. My overwhelming impression of the last two years is of bunch of players terrified of the supporters. It reminded me of my years coaching kids football watching parents and other coaches scream at the kids terrifying the kids.

On a practical level the club should consider redesigning the subs seating in order to shield players from the supporters and get their focus on the pitch and not on what goes on in the stands. They perhaps also should start kicking out some of these abusive fans.

I mean in what other sport or entertainment industry event is it ok to scream ‘You f***ing lazy fat worthless useless c**t!’? Apologies for language, but this is what I hear week in week out, with many children present too. Whenever I have made comment on this I am dismissed with ‘Oh it’s just banter mate’.

And all this going on before the events of Saturday. Cancer starts small.

I brought up Brexit in my previous email that you posted on your WHTID. I am not sure if you read some of the replies on the WHTID forum, but some picked up on this and took my observations out of context in inferring I was blaming ‘Brexit’, identifying me as a ‘Remoaner’ with an ulterior motive and therefore totally dismissing my views because of this. They wholly missed the point.

We dropped a bomb with the EU referendum and it divided the nation, the same has happened with West Ham and the move to the Olympic/London Stadium, we are no longer West Ham United we are West Ham Disunited. This was the point I was making.

This is part of a much bigger picture, we are living in a way more aggressive abusive world than 25 years ago. The internet has also helped fuel this as people sit anonymously behind their screen typing their bile, something they would not do face to face, especially 25 years ago.

I have scaled down my involvement on social media to the point I am considering pulling out completely. I talk face to face more than I have ever done in recent years. ‘Talk Don’t Tweet’ is now my motto. Engaging with people in person is the medicine needed for over indulgence behind a computer screen.

Even amongst long term friends I pick up on massive polarization and divisive attitudes when on line/Twitter/Facebook etc. We can no longer beg to differ or engage in a civil manner, we are either A or B, Black or White, Gay or Straight, Left or Right, Fascist or Socialist, Tory or Labour or of course a Brexiteer or Remoaner. Everything now has a label. It feels that most people have forgotten that we are all humans with a limited shelf life. We simply need to talk face to face and rediscover the art of real communication and accept that we have different views. This world would be better for it. Of course, this is me being idealistic.

I do not know the answer to all this hostility and division, there probably isn’t one, I try not to get cynical about mankind, but it is very challenging not to just shut the door and stay indoors for the rest of one’s days. I fear for the future of my children and eventual grandchildren. The world has become a worrying place in recent times.

The Blind Hammer Column

Brooking Is Right – Stay Away If You Cannot Support

Blind Hammer supports Brooking’s call for the Board Haters to stay away.

This is what Trevor Brooking said after the disgraceful scenes on Saturday.

“….some of those decided if we went behind that was the time then to show their frustration. But the actual level of aggression was something I couldn’t believe a West Ham fan could get involved in.
“Some of the aggression was so strong – it did go back to the bad old days. I saw a few young families leaving because the youngsters were frightened. That’s not your genuine West Ham fan, and some of the aggression was really strong.”
“The stewards were quite young and really couldn’t deal with the aggression that they were faced with.”
“The fans, and the fans involved in that have to understand that and really shelve all those discussions and all those frustrations – just don’t come to the games at the moment until you try and allow the players to get the points to try and stay up and that is the biggest challenge in the next three weeks.
“There have been a lot of frustrations about spending money and a players coming in and all those sort of things as whether the stadium is the right place. The fact is we’re at the stadium and it’s nearly the end of the second season and yes there’s a debate on investment but now with five home matches remaining. It looked an advantage. But when you’ve just lost 3-0 and had people coming onto the pitch with a lot of people venting their frustrations towards the directors… that means the next five games at home look pretty bleak. There is no way that the team is going to be able to play and get the points to stay up under that sort of atmosphere – it’s impossible
“All I will say is that between now and the end of the season, anyone who has got that aggressive frustration to just don’t come to the five home games that are left because we need everyone, all the fans and the team all working together, to try and get sufficient results in the five home games – which we thought were going to be the strength – but yesterday became a massive weakness.”

I am amazed that, even now, some are trying to excuse the thugs and idiots who ruined the game. Brooking is entirely correct, there are no excuses. The response of so called supporters was astonishingly self-destructive. The truth is that West Ham were not playing a stinker. We should remember that for over half the game we were the better side. You do not have to take my word for it. Sean Syche admitted that his side were simply not in it until they scored. They were restricted to early time wasting. This was orchestrated by their goalkeeper Pope. His long punts were also their main tactic deployed to resist West Ham’s dominance. Lennon’s handball should have been punished with a penalty. West Ham’s performance was not perfect, we lacked a cutting edge, Mario and Lanzini in particular missed crucial chances, and Hernandez should probably have been introduced earlier.

Nevertheless it was Dyche who made an inspired substitution and it was Wood who scored a fine goal in a rare Burnley attack. This happens in football. Teams go behind but can recover. Time for our supporters to show their loyalty, their mettle and support? Not a bit of it.

The proclamation by the Board Haters that they could separate their vitriol in a way that would not negatively affect the team was always a fantasy. This animosity destroyed our season at the time of the Bond Scheme. It is destroying us now. The fact that we are now amongst favourites for relegation has everything to do with these self-consumed malcontents rather than anything to do with our squad or management. I get it that people are emotionally upset that Upton Park no longer exists. I absolutely deny that they, because they cannot come to terms with this, have the right to drag us into an angry abyss. If there is a cancer eating away and destroying our club it is these negative and arrogant self-obsessed. This hate filled minority were always going to allow their own sense of grievance to come first. We saw on Saturday how deep their support really is.

The self-consumed were simply waiting for the first hint of any adversity to abandon any pretence of support. They welcomed it as the earliest opportunity to launch the disgraceful scenes which shattered any chance that the team could recover. Lenin once famously described this kind of support as the support provided by the hangman’s noose.

My in stadium commentator could not even describe the game for the last 15 minutes. He had a duty to explain the situation from the health and safety perspective of blind and visually impaired supporters. He felt obliged to increase our awareness of the developing Stadium disorder. From his position he described women and frightened children around him crying in fear. There were many supporters of all genders and ages getting very panicky. He also described the reaction of Brooking, positioned adjacent to him, when these so called supporters, to my mind, idiots, launched their attack. He described Brooking profound embarrassment when these morons started chanting his name. Brooking was visibly appalled that they could ever feel he had anything in common with them.

It is difficult to express the depths of anger I personally feel about the people who are dragging our club down with their self-serving negativity. However I don’t have to. Brooking has summed up the situation perfectly.

David Griffith

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