The GoatyGav Column

Fan Sanitizer

Although our team, at times in their history, have lacked a specific playing identity there is no doubt that us West Ham fans are known as down to earth and working class. Dedicated to and passionate about our club we don’t follow West Ham because we’re a glory hunters.

Over the last few years, however, it feels to me like there’s been a gradual erosion of this tradition. It’s not only West Ham. Since the Taylor report you’re not permitted to drink any alcohol within sight of a top tier pitch (although it’s perfectly fine to do this in lower divisions or abroad), you can no longer stand (exceptions same as above) and cctv cameras monitor the crowd. Heaven forbid there should ever be any movement on the restrictions placed on the match-going supporter of Premier League clubs.

Out here in the blogosphere there are times when the sanitization of football appears to be running rife. Certain media channels appear to have agendas as well. Not long ago I wrote about a broadcaster condemning home fans for making an away fan, wearing their club colours in a home area, feel uncomfortable. Go back thirty or forty years and you’d feel a little more than uncomfortable…in fact you’d be risking your neck enough to make many believe you suicidal.

Although not to make precisely the same point the fact that fans are not being allowed to go and watch top-flight football is closely linked. Many ex-pros and pundits are making the, perfectly valid, argument that if you can go and watch a film in a cinema, in an enclosed space, while being socially distanced then how on earth can it not be possible to watch a game of football when you’re, for all intents and purposes, outside? In fact there were West Ham fans who watched the Citeh game AT CINEMAS!

Personally I can’t wait to get back to watching live and in the flesh. I know it won’t be quite the same with 25 percent to 30 percent occupancy, but the day out would remain exactly that. Still a great day out. I’m sure that it wouldn’t do the economy, or people’s mental health, any harm either.

Perhaps it’s something of the conspiracy theorist in me but the thought has crossed my mind that the loss of the fan database by the club, during or shortly after the takeover ten years ago, was no accident. In fact it was this exact thought that prompted today’s article. As many of the traditional core of West Ham’s support, the quoted twenty thousand fans who would go to every home game and spend much time on the road, have now drifted away from attending matches as the atmosphere has, gradually, become increasingly sterile. Although I haven’t stopped going I can fully understand how these people, many of whom post here, feel.

I wonder if the atmosphere at football will continue to decline or if it will make a resurgence backed by sensible rules and regulations. If it continues to drop away I can see a day when your noisy, hardcore fan is driven from the top tier completely and the crowd at a game feels the same as an American Football match. I’ve been saying the same for years however things don’t appear to be improving.

If you’ve read many of my articles in the past you’ll know that I’m not a supporter of the board at West Ham. I am a member of the growing and ever increasingly popular Hammers United and took part in the pre-match march against Southampton. The only caveat that I have to my criticism of how the club is run is that the £99 & £299 season tickets have made it affordable for me to attend matches.

Part of the progressing ‘Fan Sanitization’ programme that seems to have been going on over the last two to three decades was the pricing out of working class fans. The best thing that the current board have done has been to provide provision for those whose budgets are unable to stretch to £800+ to regularly go to live games. Should many get their wish and the board to sell the club I just hope that I won’t be in a position where I’m unable to keep going with my son to watch the club I love.

Back to the football and it’s a much happier state of affairs with the men’s first team. A hard fought point against Citeh was the first ever taken against them at the Bowl. We go in to the Liverpool game more hopeful, although still not expectant, of taking something and playing well. If we see the same level of desire and commitment from the players I’ll have no complaints win, lose or draw.

Internationals meant that there was no WSL last weekend. Next up is a home game in group D of the League Cup against rivals Reading with the game set to be another close contest. A trip to Birmingham City in the league precedes a home game against Brighton which has been moved to 12.30 on Sat 15th November at the Dagenham & Redbridge Stadium.

In their respective international matches Kenza Dali, Martha Thomas, Courtney Brosnan and Katerina Svitkova all featured in their matches for France, Scotland, the Republic of Ireland and the Czech Republic respectively.

In the PL2 the U23’s secured their second point of the season with a creditable draw against high flying Blackburn Rovers. Undefeated Blackburn and the young Irons created chances but neither side had their shooting boots on and the game ended goal-less.

Have a good week all.

COYI!


The HamburgHammer Column

Hammers continue to impress - and remain above Manchester clubs in table!

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Another great point against very strong opposition!

This was another strange matchday experience for me. The Cordi away game was taking place at the same time as our game against City, more of that further down below.
I had promised to write a match report for that one, so I was obliged to go and watch really. I started driving back from Dassendorf (apple and potato peasant country on the southeastern fringes of Hamburg) when our game had just finished.

My phone was switched off to be on the safe side, even though I had instructed my mates not to tell me anything about the West Ham game, in case they had heard scorelines beforehand. I rushed up the stairs to my flat with my index fingers placed firmly inside my earholes to watch the recording of our performance.

Despite the Cordi result I was in a good mood because it had so far been a beautiful day, stunning in fact, cold as October days can be, but sunny. And driving back home to the city along those lovely country roads, the foliage of the forest trees on the side of the road was showing off in all alluring colours and tones under the sun, green, red, brown, yellow and everything in between. Think Indian Summer in New Hampshire or the Scottish Highlands and you’re getting the idea.

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In times of once again lurking lockdowns and Covid I sometimes need these little offerings of joy and beauty to feast my eyes and senses upon – the ones we tend to take for granted, allowing them to pass us by unnoticed – and that achingly beautiful autumnal drive through the countryside was just what the doctor ordered. Magnificent!

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When I sat down in my comfy chair with my mug of Rosie, watching our game, I had an inkling that Man City would have most of the possession.
I knew we’d have to give a top all-round team performance to get a result.
In recent times, we have conceded 4 or 5 goals on average against City. Not this time though.

Great effort and desire from the boys all around. Tactics spot on. Disciplined at the back. Not to mention our irresistible counter attacking football which caused City the odd headache.

None bigger than our opening gambit. The bicycle kick by Antonio after great play by Sous Chef and a pinpoint cross from Czech Mate was a sight to behold!

It’ll give Lanzini’s effort a run for its money for Goal of the Month.

Fantastic play from scorer and provider. As far as the excitement factor goes, Carroll’s overhead kick against Palace was more emotional as there was a full stadium to appreciate and applaud the goal when that one hit the back of the net.

Antonio’s effort though was much better in terms of sheer technique as the defender was all over him and Antonio had to get his balance, positioning and execution spot on in order to pull it off. Which, thankfully, he did with aplomb!

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Just WOW!!! Now we had something to defend or rather protect.
Because City were getting better, seeing more of the ball, putting West Ham under the cosh for a while, yet we still were creating opportunities of our own.

We had managed to mark Aguero out of the game in the first half, but even taking into account Manchester’s injury list, it is ridiculously impressive to see whom City can still bring on when they take off the likes of Aguero, Silva or Walker.

One of the new arrivals, Foden, put City level. An equaliser was always likely to happen because they are spoilt rotten with quality footballers from top to bottom, the lucky barstewards! One might argue that their bottom half of the squad could still win trophies competing in most European leagues as things stand.

All it takes for them in order to score a goal from nowhere is just one quick pass, one mesmerising touch, one moment of brilliance. And Foden’s effort was just that. A top class finish. But I wasn’t overly concerned. Or worried. West Ham were playing well. As well as we haven’t seen them perform in many years.

Yes, the pundits were waxing lyrical about the Mancunians putting the squeeze on West Ham. Especially when Antonio had to come off, with what appeared to be a hamstring issue or just cramp. We saw the introduction of Yarmolenko and Haller. Who weren’t overly efficient, but put in a shift nonetheless.

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We still were dangerous on the break and with a bit of luck might even have nicked this one. I’ll say this again: We could have beaten Manchester City!

That’s against the team that had put 22 goals past us on their previous 5 visits to the London Stadium. To put that into context for you: Manchester City needed all of their their last 20 away games at Upton Park to get to the 22 goal mark.

It goes to show how far City have come as a team over the last 15 years and how much we have struggled in terms of results at the new gaff so far.

A point against City was not to be expected. And is something to be proud of and respected.

We continue our impressive points haul throughout this incredibly testing early list of fixtures. Oh, I didn’t actually get to watch the final 7 minutes as somehow my stream had downed tools at that stage. So I had to check out the final result old school style, on teletext. Rarely have I been this nervous pushing the numbers 530 on my remote control to check the PL scores…

Another point in the bag, we are sitting very comfortably in midtable still, above both Manchester clubs, bless them, with another big game approaching fast next Saturday, away at Anfield. Liverpool without VVD are not their usual confident/arrogant self. I reckon we can give them an almighty scare and cause them a few problems as well.

Things are looking good for Moyes and the players at the moment and the mood around the training sessions must be positively buzzing at this point. Long may it continue! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Good weekend for the big Hamburg clubs. Hamburg SV came back from 0:1 down against bottom club Würzburger Kickers to win 3:1. That’s 15 points from a possible 15, folks! A perfect start to the season. Top spot in the league table and already an impressive five-point cushion between themselves and Kiel in 2nd place.

St.Pauli did a bit of a West Ham, coming back from a two-goal deficit in the final ten minutes to draw 2:2 away to Darmstadt, equalising with a last-gasp penalty. They’re sitting comfortably in a heavily crowded middle section of the league table.

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Concordia lost 0:4 away to Dassendorf which sounds like a brutal and humiliating surrender. It really wasn’t. Several television crews were present as Martin Harnik was making his Dassendorf debut as a starter. Until recently the 33-year-old striker had been playing for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. On Saturday he was no longer playing against Dortmund or Mönchengladbach in front of a 50k capacity crowd but against lowly Concordia with a mere 300 souls watching from the sidelines (that was the maximum capacity allowed due to Covid) – how the mighty fall…;-))

It was goalless at halftime. Cordi had plenty of opportunities, but wasn’t effective enough with the final ball. Once Dassendorf had scored their first (through Harnik of course, putting the ball over the line with a backheeler, like the experienced old trooper he is) there was only ever going to be one winner. Both teams were still playing attacking, football but only the home side were putting their chances away. It wasn’t a 4:0 performance at all. I am not happy of course when my team loses by four goals, but this one was just down to a very unlucky second half. It could have been a 2:2 really. or a 4:4. Games like these happen. Better luck next time, Cordi are in 4th place now.

Sunday football was being played out in relentless rain: Cats, dogs, hares and badgers, not nice. The Cordi U23s won anyway, away to Stapelfeld, 5:0, easy one that. After that I had a bit of driving to do from that stadium to Cordi’s home ground in order to just catch the start of the second half of the Cordi Women’s team’s home game against Tornesch and, BOOM, another win, 3:2! The girls are sitting midtable now after winning their last two games in a row. Looks like they might be able to avoid a relegation struggle after all…

BREAKING NEWS: Due to the current spikes in new cases of Covid in and around Hamburg the local FA has just announced that ALL lower league football will be suspended until further notice.
Which means no more Concordia games for the time being…:-(


Match Report

A Fresh Beginning for West Ham

The BT commentator made an appropriate remark during the game against Man City. He thought the Hammers were playing more solidly because there was not a home crowd to convey their anxiety to the team. You may not think this is correct, especially as we seem to be playing as well away as at home, but it is something to consider.

On the whole, when fans were allowed in the stadium, the general attitude of fans was not just anxious, but hostile to many aspects of the regime at the club. Fans acted as if the players could not read and would not be affected by negative comments. There were many games where the team could hardly pass the ball.

We seem to be entering a different era. The team is playing as well as any West Ham side have ever done in the past. Their defensive strength against Man City was truly remarkable. They pulled off a miracle at Spurs and their performances against Leicester and Wolves were sublime.

David Moyes surely deserves great praise. He has saved the club twice from relegation and now he has settled on a system which has transformed players such as Cresswell and Masuaku. The purchase of Soucek, Bowen and Cofal have turned around years of bad decisions in the transfer market. Antonio, who I never considered to be a centre forward has gone on in leaps and bounds.

I must say I was disappointed that Lanzini was not given a chance against Man City. I hoped that his strike against Spurs may have boosted his confidence. Instead, the manager decided to bring on Yarmolenko, leaving us without a striker and it almost turned out to be a disastrous decision.No doubt, he will be given an opportunity in the near future to see if his talents are restored.

I am bemused by Haller. He has the ability to score goals and he does get back in defence when required. I would have thought he would be inspired by the efforts and commitment of Antonio. But he does seem to lack a sense of positioning. I may be wrong but he often seems to be a couple of yards back from where he should be.

So going back to the fans, I do hope we realise now that fans make a difference. We have got to do more to make more atmosphere at the London Stadium and put aside all negativity.
I hope we shall be able to watch our side with confidence, instead of feeling a knot in the pit of our stomach, expecting a mistake to cost us the game.

It does seem as if it is unlikely fans will return to football stadiums this season. It would make sense to let a few thousand attend each game, so that at least we can get rid of the fake crowd noise, and personally I am sick of measures, which are not scientific which restrict our freedom, such as not allowing any attendance at sports events and closing pubs at 10.00pm. I am 70 years old and believe that the Government has now interminably explained to me what I should do to avoid getting Covid 19 and spreading it and they should let me get on with my life.

Anyway, I pay tribute to David Moyes and the team who have restored hope and enjoyment in watching them. I even give the owners a reprieve for now.


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

From the Vaults: West Ham United v Manchester City 29th April 2018

On 29th April 2018 Manchester City came to the London Stadium to display their dominance in a season they were run away champions achieving 100 points, with Manchester United trailing in 2nd place on 81points. It was a season where the champions achieved the highest ever points tally within a season and the biggest points gap from a second placed team.

Moyes was in his first stint as the gaffer at West Ham where we finished 13th on 42 points, not enough to retain Moyes as manager in a season of few positives. A run of better results in January and 2 wins and a draw in our last three matches of the season secured our Premier League status for a 6th consecutive season after promotion in 2012.

West Ham were defeated 4-1 five times in that season and after Arsenal’s win over us the game at London Stadium against Manchester City held little hope in the final run in for the end of the season. The outcome could have easily been predicted.

The players did not graft in this match and despite Cresswell’s curled free kick beyond Ederson, a series of defensive mishaps and a Zabaleta own goal piled on the misery as Raheem Sterling inspired City towards their title and 100 league goals in 35 matches.

What a different story to the 1-1 draw at the London Stadium against a City side struggling to get started this season with just 8 points from their first 5 games. Contrast that with the Hammers achieving 8 points from their last 4 games that also include impressive wins against Wolves and Leicester and the amazing comeback from 0-3 down away to Spurs.

Antonio’s impressive over head kick to open the scoring was just another excellent moment we almost expect from a player who has transformed into a goal scoring machine since lockdown restart. Hammers had to work hard for their point with City peppering the home goal and enjoying 70% possession. In fact if you compare stats between these two matches their are very similar. City did everything except score another goal, with Foden’s equaliser the only reward.

Is this is different West Ham we are seeing this season? We can certainly enjoy talking about impressive player performances rather than soak in the misery of another poor result. We are also proving difficult to beat even when we are 0-3 down away. Only time will tell but even at this early stage of the season there seem to be some very encouraging signs with a team prepared to fight for the result and hold on until the end for a point – or even to get a point with the final kick of the game.

Be safe everyone


Book Review

West Ham 1, Manchester City 1. A Perfectly Acceptable Result.

This is what our next level looks like. We go up against the juggernaut that is Manchester City and our collective attitude is one of muted excitement. Yeah, the most likely outcome is a loss. City have put 22 past us at our rental I was reminded during the pre-game. But it isn’t that sense of dread, as if watching is a task we have been assigned by our sadistic boss. Let’s have a go, enjoy a little football, and see what happens. It’s a level that I am comfortable with, mostly because I have accepted that our board are not equipped to bring us any further along than that. But as a replacement for a constant fear of relegation, which I suspect will still creep up on me from time to time, I’ll take it all day long.

When you don’t watch City every week, you kind of forget how much they press. The constant harassment on all parts of the pitch. They won a corner, forced any number of cheap giveaways, and made life generally difficult. And that was in the opening five minutes. But unlike previous years, we have pace to get up the pitch and ask a few questions. That looked to be the theme early on.

City turned up the pressure even more in the 13th minute, starting with a low shot from Gundogan that went wide. City won a couple of corners, and for reasons I don’t understand Pep prefers to have them taken short. The visitors dominated the ball and showed great movement off the ball. But West Ham held their line, and unlike last Sunday we weren’t behind after 16 minutes.

If you take your chances, you can win on any day. And when Coufal got the ball from Soucek after he intercepted a pass, the newest Czech addition sent a cross into the box for Antonio. It was a bit behind the newest West Ham talisman, so it would take a real moment of quality. That’s what we got. Antonio manhandled Dias like he was an annoying gnat and put a glorious overhead kick into the back of the net. There was a handball question on Soucek that VAR looked at, but we were spared the absurdity of that and the goal stood. The last time City won a match on the road after conceding the first goal was when they beat Brighton to clinch the title in 2018-2019.

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West Ham 1
Manchester City 0

City had a superb opportunity to draw level in the 25th minute when Cancelo put a low ball into the box that invited anyone in black to nudge it past Fabianski. But Mahrez met the ball at the far post and could only hit it into the arms of the Hammer’s keeper. Minutes later Garcia was given way too much space near the top of the West Ham eighteen yard box but his low shot went just wide.

As the first half wound down, West Ham threatened a bit with pressing play from Rice and Soucek. While their efforts were only able to produce a couple of blocked shots, it showed that despite City’s dominance on the ball West Ham still had it in them to threaten their guests.

Halftime
West Ham 1
Manchester City 0

The second half started badly for West Ham, but not because of anything Manchester City did. Antonio waved to the bench in the 49th minute while holding his right hamstring, the same one he tweaked at Spurs last week. He stayed on while replacements warmed up, but life got worse before they could come on when the camera showed De Bruyne warming up. Cancelo drove down the left as he did from the opening whistle to great effect and fed Foden in the box. The halftime substitute controlled the ball, spun, and beat Fabianski.

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West Ham 1
Manchester City 1

City kept pressing, and with Bowen and Yarmolenko leading the line in the absence of Antonio all West Ham could muster was a corner. Down the other end Walker tested Fabianski with a dipping low shot. Still, despite the visitors dominance West Ham looked competitive. Even comfortable. Rice won the ball at midfield and fed Yarmolenko near the top of the City box. He tried his favorite left footed curler, but it went over the bar.

Against a side like City, you don’t get too many opportunities to even think about attack. In the 71st minute, Yarmolenko had the ball near the top of City’s box with Haller waiting inside. A little cross off his left foot was in order. But he kept trying to create space, and eventually lost possession with Haller looking on in vain. The Ukrainian acknowledged his bad decision with a little wave. I’ll forgive him eventually.

City won a corner in the 78th minute when Balbuena blocked a cross from Cancelo. City went short, and eventually won a second when Haller got his first touch of the day inside his second favorite box and headed the ball behind the goal. A minute later Ogbonna fouled Sterling, giving City a free kick from a potentially lethal position. De Bruyne stepped up to take it, but it sailed into the arms of Fabianski.

West Ham won a somewhat fortunate free kick in the 82nd minute when Fornals was pushed over after looking to have lost control of the ball. Cresswell tried to whip it in but City defended. Masuaku got the ball back near midfield and after a very nervy moment on the ball regained control. But while trying to get into an attacking position Soucek was called for handball and the threat was over.

Minutes later Masuaku made a stellar defensive play when he got back and stopped Mahrez from a point blank shot. A moment later Fornals was sent in alone, every West Ham supporter around the globe leaned in, and the in form Spaniard looked to try and chip the keeper but the ball didn’t get the height needed. Seconds later Fabianski came out to meet Sterling in the box to make a crucial save on what looked to be a certain goal. After a fairly quiet second half the action ratcheted up to fast and furious, giving my typing fingers quite a workout.

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In the 89th minute Yarmolenko made what could have been a game losing mistake when he lost the ball and allowed City to break. Sterling ran into the West Ham area, but Ogbonna slowed him down just enough to let Yarmolenko get back and atone.

In the final seconds City won a corner, and the natural reaction in the past would have been to almost visualize the winner going in after some defensive error. Bad marking, a silly attempted clearance, whatever. City helped those fears by taking another short corner, which even a wine salesman can see is a strange decision with seconds left, and the whistle blew.

Final Score
West Ham 1
Manchester City 1

Despite City dominating possession, West Ham had every right to feel they earned that point. On a day where Masuaku….Masuaku for goodness sake….made some great defensive plays it’s more than reasonable to feel that way. Resolute defending that limited the opposition’s attempts, pace on the counter, and solid play in goal. That’s what we can and should expect.

I can live with this level.


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