Dan Coker's Match Preview

Crossed Hammers & Three Lions: Sir Geoff Hurst

Welcome to the latest in a series of articles designed for international matchdays – a look back at former Hammers players who wore the Three Lions of England.

Today, as England prepare to face the Netherlands in the Nations League Semi-Finals, we look back at a bona fide all-time Hammers legend. Sir Geoff Hurst was born in Ashton-under-Lyne on 8th December 1941. His family moved to Chelmsford when he was six years old and he became a West Ham apprentice at the age of 15, making his first appearance under Ted Fenton in the Southern Floodlit Cup on 15th December 1958 at the age of 17 – the Hammers beat Fulham 3-1. He made his First Division debut in a 3-1 defeat at Nottingham Forest in February 1960; however, he was torn between cricket and football, playing regularly for the Essex Second XI between 1962 and 1964 and missing pre-season training due to his cricketing commitments led to regular early-season fitness issues. He scored his first goal in claret and blue in a 4-2 home win over Wolves on 18th December 1961. Hurst, who began his career at left-half, was switched to a striking role by Ron Greenwood in September 1962, a move that was to totally change the course of his career. Forming a successful partnership with John ‘Budgie’ Byrne, Hurst would prove a key figure in the Hammers’ unprecedented success in the mid-1960s.

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The 1962/63 season saw Hurst score 15 goals in 29 games and he bagged 26 goals in 50 appearances during a successful 1963/64 campaign, including 11 goals in just seven matches in January/February 1964. Greenwood named the same 11 players in each of the Hammers’ FA Cup matches as the club embarked on a run which took them all the way to Wembley in 1964. Hurst scored one goal in a 3-0 win over Charlton in the third round and then two in a 3-0 fourth round replay against Leyton Orient before notching another in a 3-1 win at Swindon in the fifth round. Hurst grabbed the match-clinching third in the 3-1 semi-final win over Manchester United in the Hillsborough mudbath and scored the second equaliser in the Final against Preston with a header that bounced off the crossbar and over the line – an incident that would be repeated on international duty at the same venue two years later. The Hammers would go on to win the Final 3-2. Hurst was also part of the side that won the European Cup Winners’ Cup at Wembley in 1965, scoring 20 goals in 54 matches in 1964/65.

Having scored 40 goals in 59 appearances in 1965/66, including his first hat-trick in a 4-3 win over Newcastle on 11th December 1965, Hurst won his first England cap in a 1-0 friendly win over West Germany at Wembley on 23rd February 1966. His first goal for the Three Lions came in his next international appearance, the opener in a 4-3 win against Scotland at Hampden Park. He was named in the England squad for the 1966 World Cup Finals but only broke into the side for the quarter-final against Argentina when future club team-mate Jimmy Greaves was injured – Hurst scored the winning goal to send England through to a semi-final with Portugal. Alf Ramsey stuck with Hurst for the Final against West Germany despite Greaves’ return to fitness and the Hammers man repaid the faith with a hat-trick; Upton Park team-mate Martin Peters also scored, with Bobby Moore completing the holy trinity by lifting the Jules Rimet trophy as captain.

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Hurst was then the subject of a £200,000 bid from Manchester United’s Matt Busby. The offer would have smashed the British transfer record, almost doubling the standing record of the £115,000 the Red Devils had paid Torino for Denis Law four years previously. Greenwood rejected the offer. Hurst went on to score an incredible 41 goals in 49 games in 1966/67, including four against Fulham in a 6-1 home win and a hat-trick in his next match against the (at the time) mighty Leeds in a 7-0 League Cup triumph. This was the start of a run which saw Hurst score 14 goals in seven games in November/December 1966. 25 goals in 44 appearances in 1967/68 (including all four in a 4-1 League Cup third round win over Bolton at the Boleyn) was followed a goal in England’s Euro ’68 Third-Place Play-Off match against the Soviet Union in Rome’s Stadio Olimpico, a match England won 2-0. Hurst scored 31 goals in 48 matches in 1968/69 on the way to an eighth-placed Hammers finish, including an astonishing double hat-trick against Sunderland in October 1968. Hurst also scored a hat-trick in England’s 5-0 friendly win over France at Wembley on 12th March 1969.

Hurst scored 18 goals in 42 games in 1969/70, a season which would see his great friend Martin Peters depart for Tottenham as the Irons finished 17th. He scored once at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, in a 1-0 group stage win over Romania. The Hammers would finish one place clear of relegation in 20th spot in 1970/71, with Hurst scoring 16 goals in 41 appearances. He scored his final goal for England in a 2-0 European Championship qualification match in Athens against Greece on 1st December 1971.

One of Hurst’s final acts as a Hammer was his biggest disappointment, however – having already scored a penalty in the 1971/72 League Cup semi-final first leg at Stoke, Hurst saw his powerful late spot-kick in the second leg brilliantly turned over the bar by England team-mate Gordon Banks in front of a stunned North Bank. The Hammers would miss out on a Wembley trip following two replays as the epic saga continued to unfold. Hurst scored his last goal for West Ham in a 3-1 defeat at Manchester City on 8th April 1972, with his last appearance for the club being a 2-0 home defeat to Liverpool seven days later. He had scored 16 goals in 48 matches in 1971/72. He won his 49th and final England cap later that month, in a 3-1 Wembley defeat to West Germany on 29th April 1972 – the same nation he had made his debut against and against whom he had enjoyed his finest hour.

Sir Geoff Hurst is, without doubt, West Ham United’s greatest post-war striker. He scored 249 goals for the club in 503 appearances in all competitions, placing him second behind Vic Watson in the list of the Hammers’ all-time highest goalscorers. During his twelve years as a professional in claret and blue he won all of his 49 England caps, scoring 24 international goals. He remains the only player to have scored a hat-trick on the biggest stage of them all, the World Cup Final. He also shares the record for the most League Cup goals in a career (49, with Ian Rush). He scored three goals in a game for the Hammers on six separate occasions, four goals on two occasions and six goals once. 37 of Sir Geoff’s 249 Hammers goals can be viewed in my video below.

Hurst left West Ham for Stoke in August 1972 for £80,000 and enjoyed a successful spell with the Potters, helping them to successive fifth-placed finishes in 1974 and 1975, higher than Hurst had ever finished with the Hammers. He signed for Johnny Giles’ West Bromwich Albion in the summer of 1975 for £20,000, scoring twice in ten Second Division matches before deciding to join Seattle Sounders in America, via Cork Celtic in Ireland. Hurst retired from playing in 1976. 21 of his 24 England goals can be viewed in my video below.

After calling time on a magnificent playing career Hurst went into management, first as assistant to Danny Blanchflower at Chelsea before being handed the top job at Stamford Bridge in 1979. An inconsistent time with the Blues ended with Hurst being sacked in April 1981 having failed to maintain a promotion push from the Second Division in either of his two seasons with the club. Hurst also assisted his former West Ham manager Ron Greenwood with England campaigns at the European Championships in 1980 and the World Cup in 1982. He went into the insurance trade after leaving Chelsea, taking two years out to manage in Kuwait between 1982 and 1984.

Hurst received an MBE in 1975 and was knighted in 1998. He is one of only five living footballing knights (the others being Sir Trevor Brooking, Sir Bobby Charlton, Sir Alex Ferguson and Sir Kenny Dalglish). He now lives in Cheltenham and celebrated his 50th wedding anniversary with his wife, Judith, in 2014. He was presented with West Ham United’s Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

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Netherlands v England

England face the Netherlands this evening in the semi-finals of the 2019 Nations League – it will be the 22nd meeting between the two nations. The pair have met on three previous occasions at a major tournament, with the Three Lions emerging victorious just once, in the group stages at Euro ‘96 with a 4-1 win. The match was played in front of 76,798 at Wembley on 18th June 1996. Fugees were number one with ‘Killing Me Softly’, The Passion of Darkly Noon topped the UK box office and, four days previously, Top of the Pops moved from its traditional Thursday evening slot to Fridays after 32 years (excluding six months in 1973).

The Dutch were dealt a blow after 23 minutes when former West Ham midfielder Paul Ince was brought down for a penalty which was converted by Alan Shearer. Terry Venables’ England doubled their lead six minutes after the interval courtesy of a header from future Hammer Teddy Sheringham. Shearer made it three after excellent build-up play from Paul Gascoigne and Sheringham before, not to be outdone, Sheringham bagged his own brace just after the hour-mark, converting the rebound after Darren Anderton’s shot had been saved by Edwin van der Sar.

Guus Hiddink’s Netherlands side pulled one back with twelve minutes remaining courtesy of a goal from substitute Patrick Kluivert which eliminated Scotland from the tournament.

England: David Seaman (Arsenal), Gary Neville (Man Utd), Gareth Southgate (Aston Villa), Tony Adams (captain, Arsenal), Stuart Pearce (Nottingham Forest), Darren Anderton (Tottenham), Paul Ince (Inter Milan), Paul Gascoigne (Rangers), Steve McManaman (Liverpool), Teddy Sheringham (Tottenham), Alan Shearer (Blackburn).

Subs: David Platt (Arsenal) for Ince, Nick Barmby (Middlesbrough) for Sheringham, Robbie Fowler (Liverpool) for Shearer.

Netherlands: Edwin van der Sar (Ajax), Michael Reiziger (Ajax), Winston Bogarde (Ajax), Danny Blind (captain, Ajax), Jordi Cruyff (Barcelona), Clarence Seedorf (Sampdoria), Ronald de Boer (Ajax), Aron Winter (Lazio), Richard Witschge (Bordeaux), Peter Hoekstra (Ajax), Dennis Bergkamp (Arsenal).

Subs: Johan De Kock (Roda JC) for Witschge; Phillip Cocu (PSV) for Hoekstra, Patrick Kluivert (Ajax) for de Boer.

The previous articles in the series are:

Vic Watson
Jack Tresadern
Billy Moore
Ken Brown
Johnny ‘Budgie’ Byrne
Bobby Moore
Martin Peters
Frank Lampard Senior
Sir Trevor Brooking
Alan Devonshire
Alvin Martin
Paul Goddard
Rio Ferdinand
Stuart Pearce
Frank Lampard Junior
Joe Cole
David James
Robert Green
Stewart Downing

Dan Coker's Match Preview

West Ham's Dutch Connections

With England playing the Netherlands in the Nations League Semi-Finals tomorrow, here’s my look at the Hammers’ Dutch Connections…

Ray Atteveld

Ray Atteveld was born in Amsterdam on 8th September 1966 and began his career with Haarlem in 1985 before signing for Everton in 1989. A tough-tackling midfielder who could also deputise at right-back, he made 68 appearances for the Toffees, scoring two goals.

In February 1992, the 25-year-old Atteveld was signed on a month’s loan by Billy Bonds as West Ham battled against relegation from the First Division. Atteveld actually made more appearances in the FA Cup for the Hammers than he did in the league, making his debut by starting the fifth round tie at Sunderland’s Roker Park which ended in a 1-1 draw on 15th February 1992; he was again selected for the replay back at Upton Park 11 days later. John Byrne’s double put the Second Division Wearsiders in control before two wonder strikes from Martin Allen put the Irons back on terms. David Rush grabbed the winner as Sunderland progressed all the way to the Final that year. Atteveld’s only league appearance for West Ham was sandwiched in between the two cup ties, at Hillsborough in a 2-1 defeat to Sheffield Wednesday.

Atteveld left Everton for Bristol City in the summer of 1992 but departed for Belgium’s Waregem the following year. He returned to the Netherlands with Roda and went on to have spells with fellow Dutch sides Vitesse, Groningen and Den Haag before retiring in 2002. Atteveld has since managed Roda and Den Haag in his native country as well as AEL Limassol in Cyprus. He later worked as a consultant academy coach at FC Banants Yerevan in Armenia before moving to Kazakhstan in 2013 where he worked as Academy Director at FC Kairat Almaty. Atteveld is currently Assistant Performance Director at Israeli club Maccabi Tel-Aviv, a post he has held since 2016 – he is responsible for the development of the Under-11 to Under-16 age groups at the club.

Jeroen Boere

Jeroen Boere was born in Arnhem on 18th November 1967. He started his career with Excelsior in 1985 before moving to De Graafschap two years later. An old-fashioned centre-forward in the target man mould, Boere moved to VVV-Venlo in 1988 but returned to De Graafschap in a loan deal – he scored an impressive 28 goals in 56 appearances during his two spells with De Graafschap. Boere was on the move again in 1990, signing for Roda JC but he returned to VVV-Venlo later that same year. He joined Go Ahead Eagles in 1991 before moving to England two years later.

The 25-year-old Boere joined Billy Bonds’ newly-promoted West Ham United for a fee of £250,000 in September 1993, hot on the heels of the arrivals of David Burrows, Mike Marsh and Lee Chapman. He suffered an ignominious debut on 25th September 1993, receiving a red card for an elbow on Kevin Scott in a 2-0 defeat at Newcastle shortly after entering the fray as a substitute. Boere scored his first goal for the Hammers in a 2-0 League Cup second round second leg win at Chesterfield on 5th October 1993. He made only three further appearances in claret and blue in 1993/94 and spent the final weeks of the campaign on loan at Portsmouth.

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Boere joined West Brom on loan in the early stages of the 1994/95 campaign, with Harry Redknapp now in the manager’s hotseat at Upton Park. He returned to east London in November 1994 with the Irons entrenched in a relegation battle; he scored his first league goal for the club in his first Premier League start, in a 2-1 defeat at QPR on 4th December 1994. Boere followed this up with a brace of headers the following weekend in a 2-2 draw at Leeds, salvaging a point from Elland Road after the Hammers had been two goals down. Forging a promising strike partnership with Tony Cottee, Boere scored with another header against Tottenham at the Boleyn on 14th January 1995 but the Irons would lose 2-1 to a Spurs side inspired by goalscorers Jurgen Klinsmann and future Hammer Teddy Sheringham. Boere’s strike against Tottenham’s Ian Walker did, however, deny the goalkeeper a chance to break a consecutive clean sheets record held by Ray Clemence.

With the return from injury of Don Hutchison, Boere found his first team opportunities again restricted, although he did score in a 3-0 home win over Wimbledon on 13th April 1995 and bagged a vital late equaliser in a 1-1 draw at Ipswich four days later, which would transpire to be his final goal for the club. He made his final appearance in claret and blue as a substitute in a 1-1 home draw with Tottenham on 30th August 1995 before joining Crystal Palace the following month as part of the deal which brought Iain Dowie back to Upton Park for a second spell. Boere had scored seven goals in 29 appearances for West Ham United – all of these goals can be viewed in my video below.

After six months with the Eagles, Boere moved to Southend in March 1996 and spent two years at Roots Hall before moving to Japan to play for Saitama-based Omiya Ardija. In May 1999, after dinner with his wife at a restaurant in Tokyo, he was stabbed in his left eye and arm by two unknown men; his attacker was reported to be an Israeli criminal who was later found shot through the head in a Bangkok river. Boere lost his eye in the incident, forcing his retirement from football at the age of 31.

After his retirement, Boere owned The Half Moon pub in Epping High Street from 1999 until 2004. He moved to Spain in September 2004 to work as a real estate agent. Jeroen Boere tragically died at the age of just 39, on 16th August 2007. Reports regarding the circumstances of Boere’s death are conflicting; some outlets reported that the Dutchman died in a car crash, possibly on Ibiza, while other media reported that he was found dead at his home in Marbella. The Ilford Recorder stated that Boere had committed suicide. Boere left his wife and child, as well as two sons from a previous marriage.

Marco Boogers

Marco Boogers was born in Dordrecht on 12th January 1967. He started his career with second tier Dordrecht in 1986 before moving to top flight side Utrecht in 1988. He signed for RKC Waalwijk in 1990 but was soon on the move again, this time to Fortuna Sittard in 1991. Boogers joined Sparta Rotterdam in 1992 and finally settled, staying at the club for three seasons and helping the club to secure finishes in the lower-to-mid-table region of the Eredivisie in each of his campaigns with the club.

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The 28-year-old Boogers moved to England in the summer of 1995, signing for Harry Redknapp’s West Ham United in a deal worth around £1m. The centre-forward made his debut as a second-half substitute in a 2-1 home defeat to Leeds on 19th August 1995, the opening day of the 1995/96 season. Boogers is infamously remembered for his second appearance in claret and blue four days later, again as a substitute and this time at Old Trafford in a 2-1 defeat to Manchester United. The Dutchman was sent off after scything down Gary Neville and was struck with a four-match ban for reckless behaviour. The incident can be viewed in my video below.

The myth endures that Boogers then went AWOL to a caravan in the Netherlands. As with many a myth, this is far from the truth. West Ham’s former PA announcer, Bill Prosser, takes up the tale in a 2005 letter to The Guardian:

“Here’s a stitch-up of a work colleague, albeit an accidental one. In the 1990s I was the PA announcer at Upton Park. I also handled all of the club’s travel arrangements. You will remember that Marco Boogers famously went a bit doolally shortly after joining the club and was reported to be living in a caravan in Holland… Unfortunately it is untrue and it is my fault. Marco was depressed after being sent off in his second appearance for West Ham at Old Trafford and disappeared for a few days. West Ham’s Clubcall reporter phoned me and said he was trying to find Boogers for an interview but could not reach him. He asked if I had booked any flights for him. I told him I hadn’t, but added: ‘If he has gone back to Holland, he’s probably gone by car again.’ The reporter misheard me and stated on Clubcall that I had said: ‘If he’s gone back to Holland, he’s probably gone to his caravan.’ As you know, journalists often listen to Clubcall. Which explains why, the following day, the back page headline in The Sun was: ‘Barmy Boogers Living In A Caravan’. The legend endures … I feel a bit responsible for his misfortune.”

Boogers returned to first team action in east London in November 1995, making his third appearance for the club, again as a substitute, in a 4-1 home defeat to Aston Villa on 4th November 1995. He started, and scored, in Alvin Martin’s second testimonial, against Chelsea, a week later but could not repeat this form in league matches. He made his fourth and final appearance in claret and blue, yet again as a substitute, in a 4-2 defeat at Blackburn on 2nd December 1995. Writing in his 2014 autobiography, Harry Redknapp said of Boogers:

“Some of the risks were extreme. After being asked what I thought was a ridiculous amount by Bristol Rovers for a striker called Marcus Stewart in 1995, we went with Marco Boogers of Sparta Rotterdam, having only watched him on video. Other managers had bought on taped evidence but that had never been my way. Yet we were running out of time, the season was about to start, Boogers looked good, and would cost half of what Rovers wanted for Stewart. What the tapes never show, however, is what a player is like as a trainer, or a person. Boogers was hard work. The players didn’t like him, and he was a lazy worker. He got one kick in our second game of the season at Old Trafford, but it was on Gary Neville, and he was shown a red card. This caused him to become depressed, he claimed, and he returned to Holland. Very soon, we made that arrangement permanent.

Boogers joined Groningen on loan in February 1996. He was blighted by knee problems and returned to former club RKC Waalwijk a year later. He joined Volendam later in 1997 and ended his career back where it began, at Dordrecht, with a four-year spell between 1999 and 2003. He remained with his hometown club as technical director after retiring as a player and was briefly caretaker manager in 2005. Boogers is pictured on the left in the image below; he left the club in August 2017.

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The GoatyGav Column

The Value Of A Signing

I was quite excited when Andy Carroll joined West Ham. At the time I felt like we were beginning to punch above our weight bringing the England striker to the club. Maybe on a higher level still Dimitri Payet was another example of a forward that raised the bar within the squad. You could argue that both players, during the time they spent on the pitch, were excellent value but, for different reasons, it’s not necessarily just about the minutes that they actually end up playing.

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In the case of AC I think you can probably see where I’m going with this. Having played so few games for us Carroll, sadly, could never be described as having provided decent value for money. Over six full season the Geordie target man played only a hundred and twenty-six games. Regardless of the fee paid by the club his wages alone meant that his contribution of thirty-three goals in those matches, in all competitions, turned out a poor investment. Should he have played more often it might have been a different story however.

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I think it’s safe to say that most West Ham fans were saddened by how things ended up with Payet. One aspect of his time at our club that I do find interesting was Slaven Bilic’s ability to get the best out of him. I’m not so sure that Dimitri doesn’t rue his move away from West Ham. It’s my firm held belief that he enjoyed his best football whilst with us in East London before things went sour and that, in no small part, owes to Slaven’s tutelage and management. All things considered you’d have to say that he was tremendous value for money for the club despite his signature song now being dedicated to a piece of claret carpet.

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The value of a signing is influenced hugely by how much a manager can get out of a player. Looking back at Alex Ferguson’s time at Manchester United you would have to say that he was a top level manager when it came to motivating his playing staff. In the main Sir Alex’s recruits were not stellar signings. Quite often I was surprised that particular players were brought in at Old Trafford during his reign. Considering the likes of Schmeichel, Solskjaer, Bruce, Evra, Stam and Irwin the value for money was phenomenal but even the, already, highly rated, recruits like Ronaldo, Cantona, Rooney Cole and Van Nistelrooy reached their potential under the expert guidance of Alex Ferguson.

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Part of this ability to eke out the best in players is the, deep rooted, knowledge of exactly how those players are going to fit in to the team and the qualities that they’re going to bring to the side. It’s a form of footballing intelligence that some managers seem to have in spades while others struggle with. Another aspect of the eventual value brought in by a player is the attitude/mentality they possess. In the case of Alex Ferguson this was as important as the player’s skill. How the player is going to apply themselves when they do arrive at a club is never a given but clever recruitment will ‘play the numbers’ to give the best chance of a favourable outcome.

Of course the chances of succeeding with player signings increases hugely with a manager’s ability to improve that player. Some top managers are masters of this. Pep Guardiola and Ferguson were both prime examples of that ability where others like Jose Mourinho have been more about top signings slotting in and doing a job.

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Had Andy Carroll have signed for Manuel Pellegrini the Chilean manager may well have managed him better. It’s a hypothetical argument, I know, and we’ll never know but it’s certainly true to say that some gaffers know how to get the best out of their players and things may well have been different for Wor Andy. Andriy Yarmolenko, despite being a different type of player, will hopefully be the beneficiary of MP’s ability to get more out of players than previous managers at the club. Given time, and If he can just avoid any further breakdowns, he may prove superb value.

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I’m confident that we have a manager at West Ham who falls in to the category of those who get more out of their recruits. It’s not always an instant hit. Sometimes players coming to the club take time to settle in to a side after a period of adjustment. At times last season the challenges that certain situations have brought Pellegrini have proven difficult but the professionalism with which he’s handled those situations, coming out the other side with players still contributing to the team, has been both admirable and favourable to other gaffers at West Ham in the past. Whoever we sign this summer I have faith that the manager will have applied all of his expertise in identifying as players with a high probability of delivering for us on the pitch. He’s one of those with that kind of savvy so in Manuel I trust.


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Photo Diary 2018-19 Season Review Part 3: The Players

Manuel Pellegrini is already ringing the changes with new Spanish goalkeeper Roberto, signing on a free as the popular Adrian leaves, along with Carroll and Nasri and there will no doubt be more players on their way out. The big question will be who will we sign to replace and hopefully improve our squad for the coming season? Well, whilst we wait for the excitement of the transfer window to unfold here is a timely reminder of the players who have excited, frustrated, entertained – on and off the pitch at times and caused us to shout and scream with joy and celebrate as well as give us high blood pressure and make us use a few choice words we no doubt will be repeating again next season. Some of those featured here will not be wearing the claret and blue next season, and some we can’t wait to see walk onto the pitch wearing the new kit, which I think is looking pretty cool. Oh, and we got to honour West Ham legend Billy Bonds – as well as seeing some other ex-players on a match day. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their continued support and wonderful words and feedback. I am always touched by those who take the time to comment and so glad that readers enjoy my match day photo diaries.

The HamburgHammer Column

Missing a Cup Final and welcoming "The Wall" to West Ham

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Last week I had nothing to fill my column, this week quite a bit has happened, both at West Ham and in my crazy, little world. On Friday it was really all happening, literally at the same time – and I’m not even talking about the deadline for season ticket renewals officially expiring.

After all, I had renewed mine the week before already.

They say that you can’t juggle too many balls at once and I found that out the hard way on Friday, the day of my brother’s birthday.
He had invited the small band which is our family for a nice meal at his local Greek restaurant (Mediterranean cuisine is always a hit with me).

When my brother announced earlier in the week he’d be having the meal late afternoon on the day of his birthday I of course told him there was a bit of a clash with the Cordi U23 team playing in the local Cup Final, a big occasion for the players and fans, but also the club as a whole as it would bring some much needed money, prestige and feelgood factor to Concordia – and maybe even a shiny new trophy!

But I obviously knew I had to get my priorities right here – so family first it was, Cordi second – and before you mention it, no, it wasn’t (just) because of the food I opted for the family dinner.

If I had picked a game of football over my brother’s big day, considering that not too long ago we couldn’t even be sure he’d be able to celebrate another birthday party in the first place, well, then my brother would probably have stopped talking to me for quite a while and rightly so.

It was a lovely meal of course (involving plenty of garlic) and when we parted I had one eye on the clock – it was still reasonably early and if I was lucky with traffic I could maybe make it to the football ground just in time to still catch the second half.

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But when I got there it was nigh on impossible to find a parking spot (as the ground was smack in the middle of a residential area) and once I had eventually discovered a gap nearby, I heard the cruel sound of the final whistle while on my way to the ground. I quickly learned that the Cordi boys had lost 1:5, but the game apparently was much closer than the scoreline would suggest and their opponents were heavy favourites to begin with, playing two levels above Cordi.

The lads still celebrated as if they had won the Cup anyway, long into the night and they were happy enough to celebrate and mingle with the fans, including myself.

Every single player was sociable, we were discussing the highlights and setbacks of the season just gone, already looking ahead to the next. And highly entertaining and educational it was too, with one of the players’ WAGs desperate to finally get to the bottom of the offside rule, with four different players trying to explain the finer details, with varying degrees of success, using bottles, plastic cups and lighters to recreate offside situations. Such fun!

West Ham, meanwhile, have made their first signing of the summer, out of the claret and blue, with no social media ITK getting a sniff before the player was doing the crossed hammers on the OS announcement article. Well done!

That’s how I want this club to conduct their transfer business. No leaks, no polls, just sit down with the gaffer, identify the targets and go after them without announcing our intentions to every John, Paul and Ringo who has a blog or podcast to fill.

Roberto Jimenez Gago, or simply Roberto for his friends, is a veteran goalkeeper, arriving on a free transfer from Espanyol. 33 years old, nicknamed The Wall (promising moniker, but I hope he can also move a bit when required), the guy has been around the block a few times, notching up over 500 games in his professional career so far, winning the Europa League with Atletico and also spending time at Malaga and Olympiakos.

The Malaga link is crucial as obviously Husillos very much knew what he’d be getting, bringing Roberto to East London. Not so much buying the cat in the bag, but having a solid wall made of Spanish brick, 1.92m high.
Roberto is also fluent in English already which should help him massively with settling into his new life in London in next to no time.

For me this signing does tick a lot of boxes. It’s a free transfer to begin with which is always a hit with our notoriously thrifty owners. Roberto apparently will be on lower wages than Adrian was too which will free up further wages for a more spectacular and expensive new arrival this summer. Of course we no longer need to bring in a marquee signing for the purpose of pushing season ticket renewal figures, that ship has sailed. But Pellegrini surely will not be able to improve the squad by signing freebies and loan players only.

So saving some dosh while replacing Adrian is smart business. Having read up on Roberto and also watching some footage on Youtube he looks like a very decent backup.

Experienced, with a penchant for reaction saves plus the ability to start a quick counter attack with a precise long kick to an outfield player. I am not quite sure yet at this stage if he will be quite good enough to give Fabianski a run for his money, if he will seriously challenge our Polish Number One for the starting spot or if it’ll strictly be backup and Cup duties he’ll be performing.

We shall see. I have read comments from some supporters at his previous clubs claiming Roberto has moments of butterfingeritis resulting in a tendency to drop some balls occasionally, so we should expect a number of heart-stopping rebounds which should keep our defenders on their toes at least.

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Like every summer there are also players of course who will be off, in some cases we already know they’re gone, in other cases there are strong rumours of deals being prepared. Andy Carroll not getting a new contract surely doesn’t surprise anyone and it’s a telling irony that he is out injured as his career at West Ham is drawing to a close.
His time with us was constantly blighted by injury, when you consider he wasn’t even available for selection for about half of the games it’s staggering evidence of a transfer gone pear-shaped.

Yes, I know that he scored some bloody nice goals for us, his bicycle kick surely still ranking as probably the best goal scored at London Stadium so far. But when you contrast his wages with the games he played and the goals he scored it simply wasn’t enough. A transfer that never really took off and simply didn’t really work out, neither for the club nor the player, apart from the financial package. But I’m convinced that footballers want to play the game rather than just cash their cheques and mow the lawn in their back garden.

Nasri will not get a contract extension either, again, not surprising really and another nice wad of wages saved for other potential incomings. Which apparently also applies to both Hernandez and Perez (whose transfer by all accounts is imminent).

Both of them were high on wages and low on gametime which is both unfortunate and unsustainable long-term, so selling them to Spain makes a lot of sense. It’d leave us very short on the offensive side of the ball for the time being, but there is enough time to fix that. With Arnautovic likely to stay and Silva potentially playing a bigger role next season, we still need another striker or two though and I fully trust Pellegrini and Husillos to be right there on the case.

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I don’t know what it is about this time of year. Maybe it’s to do with all clubs having a blank canvas at this stage. Failures of the season just gone are slowly fading away from memory. Fans at this stage can instead focus on dreaming about their clubs making some fantastic signings over the summer, improving the squad further. There are no West Ham games at the weekend with strikers shamefully missing sitters, with woeful defending or shocking refereeing calls to dampen any unexplainable outpourings of optimism among a fanbase that is already looking forward to the new season.
Maybe the lovely weather does play a part as well. I cannot help but, maybe foolishly and against better judgment, feel positive about next season.

At this point I am 100% we will have a better squad at West Ham two months from now, suffering fewer injuries, we will score more goals and concede nowhere near as many as last season, opponents will struggle to beat us at London Stadium, no matter if they’re Liverpool, Burnley, Brighton or Aston Villa.

Let’s hope the feeling/delusion lasts a bit longer. Thank God the summer will not be without football altogether as there still is the Women’s World Cup looming large where we can keep an eye on Germany and England – and don’t forget Scotland who will have West Ham forward Jane Ross hoisting the claret and blue colours, metaphorically, in France.

Could be interesting. As surely West Ham’s transfer business will continue to be over the coming weeks. COYI!!!

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