The HamburgHammer Column

Summertime - and the living are waiting for transfer business to kick off

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This will be a slightly shorter column than usual as there hasn’t been that much happening on the West Ham front really. Our new boy, Pablo Fornals, has managed to score twice, playing for the Spain U21s, giving a good account of himself being pitched against other top prospects from all over Europe in the U21 Euro Championships.
What I’ve seen from him so far fills me with confidence. Fornals looks really comfortable on the ball, with an eye for a pass or even a fierce shot on goal.

He may not be the quickest, but he moves about constantly, making himself an outlet for teammates to pass to and he seems to read games well too. A decent player with a football brain who is still young enough to develop further under the careful guidance of Manuel Pellegrini.
Fornals, surely, will need a bit of time to get adjusted to his new surroundings, teammates and the Premier League, but I reckon as West Ham fans we have a good one on our hands here. 1:0 to Pellegrini/Husillos in the transfer business.

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The thing with the transfer business is that it’s not happening in some sort of echo chamber. In order to do their business every club is relying on movement and deals elsewhere.

Sometimes you need to sell before you can buy which may also apply to clubs willing to buy one of your players. So patience really is a virtue when it comes to waiting for your marquee signing to arrive. I have an inkling Fornals will not be our top signing this summer and at this point I wouldn’t even rule out Maxi Gomez ending up in a claret and blue shirt – and I don’t mean the Aston Villa or Trabzonspor kit.

By all accounts he knows that he won’t be playing in another relegation scrap with Celta Vigo again this season, Gomez is destined to try his hand, or rather feet, at a bigger club next, either playing CL football with Valencia (who, however, seem to be struggling with the financial side of things, frustrating Celta Vigo in the process), trying his luck in the Premier League with West Ham or move to another club in another country with better credentials and ambition than Celta.

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I have also read rumours that we might be looking at Bournemouth’s Callum Wilson as an alternative, but it’s a “No, thanks!” from me. I like Wilson as a very decent striker and consistent scorer. However, his recent injury record gives me the shivers and heavy convulsions of déjà vu. Let’s face it, whenever a club like ours takes a gamble on a decent player with a dodgy injury record, what are his chances to play a full season for us, unscathed by knocks, muscle injuries or torn ligaments ?

West Ham is not the right environment really for injury-prone players to resurrect their careers – cue Jack Wilshere hopefully proving me wrong next season!
For a transfer fee of £45-60m (which is apparently what Bournemouth are asking for Wilson) one of the key criteria I would be looking for is durability. So for that kind of money, Wilson surely would be a gamble with far too much risk attached to it, regardless of the potential winnings – Wilson is a fantastic striker after all, used to playing in the PL, but I can’t see us signing Wilson at that price.

The Women’s World Cup has now entered the most interesting phase, the knockout stage. Germany have already progressed by way of winning comfortably against Nigeria.
England are through as well which should keep plenty of Brits interested for at least one more game.

The Germany team have produced a wonderful TV advert prior to the World Cup, filled with sarcasm and fantastic humour (some of it hard to translate as it’s based on some clever German puns and double entendres, but the translators for the English subtitles in the clip linked above have done a fine job with it anyway I think).

I do like the spirit of that advert, that mentality of cheekily giving the finger, metaphorically, to those who continue to mock the women’s game (despite probably not even having watched a single game in their lives), but doing it all in a highly entertaining and jocular, tongue in cheek-style manner.

Although I have to admit that the scene where the young woman holds up her hand, showing eight fingers, still gives me the creeps, I think there are some remote valleys down in Bavaria where having eight fingers on one hand is quite common even to this day, but certainly not in my neck of the woods! ;-))

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As for Hamburg football, all teams have started their busy training schedules now, after a very brief break, including both big clubs, Hamburg SV and St.Pauli, but also the different teams playing with the big C for Concordia on their chest. The Cordi U23s even played their first preseason game yesterday, in difficult conditions as it was incredibly hot out there with hardly any shadows on the pitch to give the players a bit of relief from the sweltering heat.
The Cordi boys still won 5:3. Promising start!

The Concordia first team will play their second preseason fixture on Friday at Voran Ohe which is convenient as their ground is only a mile and a half away from my brother’s house, so weather-permitting it looks like my brother and nephew will be joining me for this one. It’ll be almost a completely new Concordia team, (I think only six players or so remain from the previous squad), so time to get familiar with a lot of new faces and names there…

COYI!!!


Talking Point

Keeping hold of the ball and players

As ever the transfer rumour mill continues to spin and, while we are being linked to some exciting players, inevitably some of our better players are bound to be touted for moves away from the club. Given the progress the club has made coupled with the fact that most Premier League teams can demand substantial fees if the big boys come sniffing, we are in a strong position. For the record, I firmly believe our young French defender who had an impressive debut campaign in England will not depart this summer, and the club which has supposedly registered an interest are a very unattractive proposition unless players want ridiculous wages.

As I’ve stated in previous posts, Pellegrini and Husillos are working hard to improve the team and we are starting to create a very interesting side. Only time will tell how we get on, but it’s a compliment to recent acquisitions that teams are interested in our players.

I was wracking my brains this week in terms of what I could write about, and I was partly inspired by my six a side game on Monday evening. For those wondering, we won 4-2, and our opponents were slightly older with a couple of players not in peak physical condition (think Benni McCarthy, Neil Ruddock, or Brian Dear even further back). However, they are an experienced and organised outfit who attempted to sit deep and counter attack. It was interesting to have a lot of possession of the ball and have to break a team down; it can be frustrating but clearly you have to remain patient. I thought that my team’s experiences on Monday might not be dissimilar to what West Ham might encounter next season…

Quite a few teams in the lower half of the table playing at the London Stadium next season will be content to sit deep (some deeper than others) and try and punish us on the break. Some teams can do that to great effect, other teams such as Sheffield United, Burnley etc might not provide a potent threat on the break but will try to make it extremely difficult in the final third and rely on set pieces. With the arrival of 23 year old Pablo Fornals combined with the likes of Anderson, Lanzini, Wilshere and Yarmolenko, we have an abundance of forward thinking creators who will be integral to breaking teams down, especially at home. I think Fornals will have the ability to play as an 8 and sit slightly deeper sometimes as well as being very threatening as a no. 10. The ever present Mr Noble is often a progressive passer and will still be useful in us improving and winning more games next season. Even if the man from Canning Town does not feature quite as much, he will remain a great motivator for the squad.

It’s certainly encouraging to hear Pellegrini say he wants to play attacking football, and against the sides in and around us as well as below us, hopefully we can be clinical and consistent. There has been a lot said about whether another holding midfielder/box to box style of player will come in, and I do think we need more support for Rice. In line with us perhaps experiencing more possession overall next season, you could perhaps argue that more emphasis will be put on scoring goals and Rice will be entrusted with more responsibility. However, I’m sure Pellegrini is already considering his tactics for the opening day against the reigning Champions. We can’t afford to be naive otherwise we will leak goals not only to the elite teams but teams across the board.

There will be more pressure on us as we add better players and, at home, you always want to see wins but at the very least a team of eleven players putting in 100% effort while ideally playing attractive and free flowing football. If the club is to progress next season, consistently getting results against lesser sides will be crucial, and being able to do that whilst not always playing brilliantly is key. In the words of the rock group ‘Bachman–Turner Overdrive’ and their 1973 song, West Ham must be ’Takin’ Care Of Business’ against teams on a more regular basis.

With a Premier League winning manager at the helm and a very efficient Sporting director working together to push us forward, expectations should start to rise. I believe Fornals is a fantastic addition and he should excite fans while also improve the team and create serious competition for places. I hope to go to more games next season and, much like the six a side fixture where we had lots of the ball, I shall tell myself to follow the advice of Take That in having a little patience, pray the goals will come and we can rule the world…

Hope everyone is well, and has a good week.


From the Archives

Happy Birthday Frank Lampard Junior

Happy Birthday to former West Ham and England midfielder Frank Lampard Junior, who turns 41 today.

Frank Lampard Junior was born in Romford to West Ham left-back Frank Senior and Pat on the 20th June 1978, a month after the Hammers’ relegation from the top flight. He joined West Ham’s Academy in 1994, spent a spell on loan with Swansea in 1995 and won the South East Counties League in 1996, making the FA Youth Cup Final in the same year, although the Irons lost to Liverpool.

Lampard made his Hammers debut at the age of 17 on 31st January 1996 as a substitute in a 3-2 home win over Coventry; he made one further sub appearance in 1995/96 and made 16 appearances in 1996/97, although his season was ended by a broken leg suffered at Aston Villa in March 1997.

Lampard was a key figure in the Hammers’ ever-improving team in 1997/98, scoring his first goal for the club a minute after stepping off the bench on the opening day of the season, the winner in a 2-1 victory at Barnsley. Lampard made 42 appearances as the Hammers finished eighth, scoring nine goals, including a hat-trick in the League Cup fourth round against Walsall, who had future Hammer Jimmy Walker in goal. Lampard also scored the opener in a 3-1 defeat at Leeds’ Elland Road, replicating his dad’s jig round the corner flag at the same ground in the 1980 FA Cup semi-final by way of celebration. He made his debut for England Under-21s during this campaign, going on to captain the side.

Lampard made 41 appearances as the Hammers finished fifth in 1998/99, scoring six goals. Becoming renowned for spectacular strikes from distance, he notched long range strikes in home victories over Leicester and Middlesbrough, and also scored a penalty at Anfield’s Kop End in a 2-2 draw against Liverpool.

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Arguably Lampard’s best season in claret and blue was the 1999/2000 campaign, scoring 14 goals from midfield in 49 matches. He started the season in style, scoring four goals by the end of August – three in the InterToto Cup against Jokerit, Heerenveen and Metz, as well as the winner in a 1-0 home triumph against Tottenham. He also scored in the UEFA Cup against Osijek and bagged winners in Upton Park goalfests against Sheffield Wednesday (4-3) in November 1999 and Bradford in February 2000 (5-4). Lampard also made his full England debut under Kevin Keegan in October 1999, starting and playing 76 minutes in a 2-1 win over Belgium at Sunderland’s Stadium of Light – his cousin, Jamie Redknapp, scored the winning goal.

Lampard’s final campaign in east London, 2000/01, saw him bag nine goals in 37 games. He scored his only brace for the club in a 2-1 win at Bradford in February 2001 and signed off as a Hammer with three goals in his final four games. His last goal for the Irons was a penalty in a 2-1 defeat at Newcastle on 16th April 2001, with his final match for the club being a 2-0 home defeat to Leeds on 21st April 2001 – the visitors had 22-year-old Lampard’s youth team colleague Rio Ferdinand in their ranks. Lampard made his second and final England appearance while with the Hammers in Sven-Goran Eriksson’s first match in charge, as a half-time substitute in a 3-0 win over Spain at Villa Park in February 2001.

A few weeks later, Lampard’s father and uncle (Frank Senior and Harry Redknapp respectively) both left the club. Feeling that his position as a player at the club was untenable, Lampard sought a move and rejected Aston Villa to sign for Chelsea for £11m in the summer of 2001 – he had scored 38 goals in 187 appearances for West Ham United. My video below shows 37 of these 38 goals. This video has proved to be one of my most popular, with in excess of 25,000 views since it was posted in October 2018.

Lampard went on to become Chelsea’s highest goalscorer of all-time, scoring 211 goals in 648 appearances. He won three Premier League titles, four FA Cups, two League Cups, two Community Shields, one Champions League and one Europa League during his time in west London. He won 106 caps for England, scoring 29 goals for his country. He represented the Three Lions at the 2004 European Championships, and the 2006, 2010 and 2014 World Cups. He missed the 2012 Euros through a thigh injury.

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Lampard spent a season with Manchester City before ending his career at New York City FC in the United States. Lampard, 41 today, is currently manager of Championship side Derby.


Financial

Payments to Premier League clubs for the 2018/19 season

I came across a nice little breakdown of the combined TV money, commercial revenue and prize money that each team in the Premier League received last season and it makes for interesting reading.

Each team secured a guaranteed £34.3m equal share of the TV money then on top of that they receive a facility fee which depends on how many of your games are shown on TV, in 2018/19 West Ham were shown on TV 16 occasions so received a facility fee of £18.9m accordingly. Then depending on your final league position you then get a merit payment which is about £2m per league place so we received a further £21.1m for finishing 10th in the league and then every team receives £4.9m from commercial revenues.

International TV money this season was a fairly hefty £43m which is split equally between every team BUT that will change next season after the top six clubs won their battle to earn a greater share of that revenue. They argue that because they have more fans abroad, they are entitled to a greater share of the money made from foreign territories so the gulf between the top 6 and the rest will continue to grow as the Premier League granted their wish. I’m not sure many people are aware of this bizarre decision so feel free to have a rant below.

In total West Ham received £122,528,663 for the 2018/19 season placing West Ham 10th place in terms of money received which seems fair as we did finish 10th in the table and all of the Premier League teams combined received just shy of £2.5 billion between them with bottom placed Huddersfield still raking in £96.6m which is staggering considering Juventus, the Serie A champions only earned £102 million according to an analysis from the football finance blog Swiss Ramble.


The HamburgHammer Column

Four nails or four candles ? As a new signing Fornals is formidable

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Finally another new signing to get excited about – and finally a reason to write something, allowing me to put out my column again. Bringing in Pablo Fornals is fantastic on many levels. The way it happened was, by the looks of it, straightforward, without ITKs discussing the move weeks on end. I suppose rumours only really started to bubble up to the surface once the deal was pretty much done and dusted. It’s refreshing to see business at our club being done in such a professional and efficient manner.

It’s also encouraging that our Director of Football, Mario Husillos, obviously knows exactly what we’re getting with Fornals. He used to work with the player at Malaga and both Husillos and Pellegrini apparently have monitored the progress of Fornals closely in recent times.

Fornals, by all accounts, is a highly promising prospect, with age very much on his side, but also, according to Pellegrini, a good person to have in the dressing room which obviously is another crucial factor when picking your targets.

Looking at his interview below, Fornals seems certainly like a young man with ambition and skill, but also with his head firmly screwed on, more interested in helping the team rather than just boosting his own goals and assists tally, that will surely take pretty much care of itself, once he has started to develop some chemistry with his teammates.

Of course I have watched highlight reels of him, but frankly they don’t mean a lot. I could watch ten hours worth of material on him on Youtube, and still be none the wiser.

These clips can be very cleverly edited, with fancy hip-hop beats added for dramatic effect, still they can be somewhat misleading (even Julien Faubert looked the nuts on Youtube). I doubt though that Husillos and Pellegrini have chosen Fornals on the strength of a few clips they found online, their scouting will have been thorough and regular, so if they have given the deal the thumbs up, I’m all for it.

So, what are we likely to get then ? An attacking midfielder whose best position is in central midfield, in the #10 role ideally, but he can also switch to the wing, if need be.
He’s a great dribbler apparently, strong on the ball, but also not afraid to win back the ball either in his own half, putting in a tackle, or by pressing the opposition in theirs by chasing them relentlessly.

So, essentially a winner of the ball, a keeper of the ball and also a distributor of the ball. The latter seems to be his strongest selling point really, finding the lethal pass, either to the wing or as a through ball to the striker, just seconds before the ball bulges the net.

He doesn’t score many himself, but that’s not really his role. He sounds like the kind of player I love though, a player who feels at his best when he makes his teammates shine and perform better. Someone who will not rake in the plaudits for his goalscoring but who will happily have a hand (or rather foot) in most moves leading to goals for his side.
I cannot wait to see what he can do for us, our little Spaniard (Pablo is Spanish for Paul or Paulus, meaning “little”).

But where does that leave Manuel Lanzini ? There are only so many shirts available for central midfielders in our starting XI, but Pellegrini has already confirmed he wants to see both on the pitch at the same time if possible – and the prospect of seeing both of them terrorising opposition defenders with their tricks and flicks is mouth-watering.

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Apparently Lanzini wants a new deal, with better terms, paritiy even with the highest earners at the club, if you believe certain sources. Which is perfectly understandable from Lanzini’s standpoint. He’s just returning from a potentially career-threatening injury, his contract is coming to an end soon, and he obviously wants the best in terms of financial security for his family.

For the club, on the other hand, you don’t want to run the risk of dishing out a new five year deal on high-wages when you cannot quite be sure how his knee will be holding up when playing more games in succession again. Make no mistake, Lanzini in top form is a player you want on the pitch, playing for your colours, period!
I can see a compromise solution being found here, a deal with better terms and certain incentives or contract extensions kicking in if Lanzini has proven he can play and perform regularly again.

Saying that though, every player can be replaced and should Lanzini overplay his hand, starting to hurl toys out of his pram left, right and center, then I’d reluctantly sell him.

Either way, the transfer business will now begin to pick up pace, with players like Obiang, Hernandez, Oxford, Hugill, Ogbonna and Byram likely to depart while we will surely sign at least one striker, another defensive midfielder and probably another CB. Exciting times, folks!

I have heard that we will monitor several players during the Copa America and that’s where Husillos and Pellegrini will come in handy again. We are certainly picking up some great players at bargain prices from the Spanish-speaking world. As we already have some Spanish-speakers in our squad this will also help any new arrivals during the process of settling into their new surroundings in London. I expect Fornals not needing a lot of time to adjust really and he might just surprise us all by hitting the ground running.

Talking briefly about women’s football again, while the World Cup is still on, I wanted to post some highlight clips from the internet, yes, the ones that can be misleading at times.

In this case I do not put up them clips in order to push certain people to like or appreciate the women’s game against their will, that’s not even possible, not by linking a few online videos anyway.
But what it hopefully will do is prove that women can essentially do everything with a football that their male counterparts can do as well.
There are more great male players out there simply because currently more men play football than women, but the best women footballers are a joy to watch for any connoisseur of the beautiful game, same as the top players doing their thing in the men’s game.

The above highlights are from Dzsenifer Marozsan who is currently the best German player (with Hungarian roots) and I would hazard a guess that she could even teach some of the West Ham first team a thing or two in training.
The other clip below shows skills from various players, skills that even the likes of Messi and Ronaldo would applaud.
I am a football fan first and foremost – and if I see a great move, crowned by a fantastic goal, I don’t care if the player in question has a womb or not, I appreciate the skill to shoot or pass a ball, that’s it.

If football fans cannot praise a footballing skill only because it comes from a woman, I can only shake my head in disbelief and move on. They showed some interview excerpts recently on German telly from the Seventies, with really famous German players and managers at the time, not being shy to voice their opposition and disdain over women playing football.

One even said there were so many lovely different sports for women to choose from, so they shouldn’t pick football and leave that up to the men.
Not the strongest of arguments methinks.

Ah well, they used to say the same about women’s right to vote, to drive a car or run a business, I presume…and look where we are now in that respect.

Football in Hamburg is still in its summer break, so just two brief mentions. The Cordi U23s have managed to switch divisions. They are still at the same league level, but will now face more local teams in Hamburg’s East End neighbourhood, rather than venturing out far into the south-eastern suburbs as they had to do last season. So this is nice and it will provide plenty of derbies, highly attractive for both players and fans.

And on a personal level I have positives to report from my brother: His most recent blood tests came back with very positive results as ALL markers and parameters are how they should be, at levels comparable to your average, healthy person. Which, of course, has been a total relief to me.

I cheer any new signing that arrives at West Ham, obviously, but it’s still quite a different reaction compared to what I felt when my brother was telling me his good news.

COYI!!!


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