The HamburgHammer Column

Keep calm and forget preseason! It doesn't define the season ahead

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I can’t say that the Newcastle game exactly kept my Minces glued to the screen for the duration of the game. It wasn’t nice to watch, our team looked flat, exhausted, tired, struggling with the heat and rarely likely to produce the kind of football Manuel Pellegrini has in mind for his West Ham side.
I am also aware that Newcastle were having to deal with the exact same conditions out there on the pitch, they handled it better, they scored, we didn’t , big deal!

I have come to learn over the years that preseason is not the be all and end all in football (it’s in the name really, PRE-season, it’s not the real thing, but merely the preparation stage). Managers expect preseason to do several things for them: Get the team together and start the bonding and acclimatisation process as some players will have left the club with new players arriving to replace them. They need to gel as people and footballers.

The coaches then start the training sessions and the manager may get an idea during that process of which players to pair, maybe tweaking the playing style. Or try out some new formations, mix and match line-ups, chop and change and see how things go.

That process will continue over the course of various preseason games against opposition from various countries and league levels.
Sometimes it can even include trips abroad which can be exhausting due to the travel involved, but the change of scenery may also help the team bonding, like a school trip to Paris…;-))

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It doesn’t matter if it’s Manchester City, West Ham or Concordia Hamburg: Winning in pre-season games is always a bonus, a nice-to-have, but it’s not your main objective at the start of a new season. If you can avoid major injuries to your players, if their fitness levels are up to where they need to be right when the league fixtures kick off and if the manager has got his answers as to how he wants his first XI to play and who his best first XI should actually be, then it’s been a successful preseason.

It doesn’t really matter if you have lost any games in preseason. We have seen teams beat everyone in preseason only to have a disappointing season when the games really mattered.

Or teams with disappointing preseason results then starting to impress and surprise later once the real season had kicked off. Therefore I will not push the panic button after the Newcastle defeat, in fact I don’t even know yet where my panic button is for next season, I’ll tell you should I stumble upon it when cleaning up my flat next week….-))

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I was happy to see the walking wounded of last season back: Wilshere, Yarmolenko, Reid, even Sanchez. Who knows, we might still need all of them next season, so no point really knocking any of those players just yet. I would say that Sanchez surely has been struggling to adapt so far, not helped by his lengthy injury absence, but I still haven’t given up hope in him – blimey, that tin hat still fits my Loaf, thank God for that!

After returning from China our squad will now begin to train with all of the new signings present and also those who were granted a few more days off after playing in games and tournaments for their respective countries. Balbuena, Fornals and Haller will all join their teammates to continue on the road to get West Ham ready for the new season.

I’m really happy we have signed Sebastien Haller eventually, despite my tempting fate with my column last Monday. I met the Frankfurt guy on Saturday while watching the Cordi U23s team beat a poor side in the first round of the local cup competition by a whopping 12:0 scoreline, and he told me a few more things about Haller that made me feel even more delighted about the signing.

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He said we had got ourselves a fantastic team player there, a player with plenty of skill and endeavour, with no airs of a diva or primadonna. Rather than throwing toys out of his pram he would neatly arrange them according to size and colour. And share them with teammates who wanna have a go with those toys.
My mate told me Haller isn’t your typical out and out striker really, he can also perform in that role, but he needs to be surrounded by teammates really to bring out the best in him.

Haller, he said, would set up more goals at West Ham next season than he would score. He would be likely to score plenty of goals still, no doubt, but he will assist even more.

Simply because Haller isn’t selfish, he is constantly searching for his teammates and if any of them is in a better position to score he will give the ball over and let them rake in the glory of scoring. He wants the goal for the team and for the team to win. If that means that he ain’t scoring himself in a game, he won’t mind.

With Haller it’s all about the team and I think that’s something to really get excited about. Haller will find plenty of decent footballers around him at West Ham to create an environment where we can hopefully begin to score for fun. And that will not only make it easier for our still vulnerable defence but it will also help to build up confidence and team spirit.
There’s nothing better as a West Ham fan to see the entire team celebrating together after scoring a great goal after a glorious attacking move involving six or seven players.

As promised last week, here is a video I have found showcasing the skills of a slightly younger Laura Vetterlein, our new defensive signing for the West Ham Women’s team.
Please try and ignore the Manchester United beanie she’s wearing and the glum background setting with the suburban supermarket entrance, but her skills are something else and one wonders why she turned out a defender in the end…LOL

We have also signed a forward, an Aussie with the quintessential Australian name of Jacynta Galabadaarachchi (Put that on a shirt Mrs.West Ham United club shop employee!).

Her name is actually of Sri Lankan origin, but she was born in Australia and has played for Melbourne City and Perth Glory before joining West Ham.
She is only 18 years old and definitely one for the future. Jacynta knows what to do with a football too…

And another one. Which will also help you getting used to how to pronounce her name correctly – you know by now this is a slight pet topic of mine, bordering on obsession…LOL

Is our transfer business at West Ham done ? No, I don’t think so, not for the women’s team, and certainly not for the first team. We will definitely lose a few more players, Pedro Obiang by all accounts is already in Sassuolo, Italy to finalise his move to their local Serie A club as early as today.

And despite rumours coming out of West Ham that after Haller we could actually be done with new signings arriving in Stratford now, I ain’t buying that at all!

If there is a decent player available who will improve our team, if a deal, maybe a loan, can be agreed for that player, then of course we will do more business. We will also have to replace players that are sold in the coming days and weeks.
If we don’t have a (better) replacement lined up, we shouldn’t sell. Simples.

Our squad is still unbalanced and an injury or two to any of our key players could derail our season just like that. So I am expecting a few more transfers at our club, ins and outs…COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Those of you who have been out and about in Germany will know that the picture just above is certainly NOT Hamburg, but it’s actually the famous Holstentor (Holsten Gate) in Luebeck. I ventured to that beautiful old Hanseatic city about 50 miles north of Hamburg to watch another preseason game of the Cordi women’s team. That’s dedication, innit ? ;-))

The game was actually not in the nice (old) part of town, same as London tourists would rarely find themselves doing selfies in South Bermondsey, but the game was scheduled to be played in the northeastern suburb of Siems which turned out to be the indiustrial/harbour part of town.

But it was alright as it was the same route our car used to take every weekend when our family went to our camping site on the Baltic Sea coast in my childhood.
I even passed the beautiful old water tower, the one I swore as a kid I would eventually live in one day.

But I also did pass a dead badger, prostrate on the side of the motorway (no joke) and maybe I should have taken that as a bad sign and turned the car around at once.

The girls lost 3:12, with the halftime score at 3:3. A total second half collapse made for a shocker of an afternoon. A combination of far superior (and ruthless) opposition, tough conditions (very hot), various individual lapses and mistakes on Cordi’s side and there you have it.
At one stage the manager and players were shouting at each other and I thought they might even walk off the pitch after 70 minutes or so.

It was bad vibes, at least for the ten minutes immediately following the final whistle. But as usual there was a team talk at the end and the manager also called the next training session off to allow the girls to clear their heads.

The idea to play only teams in preseason which play one or two levels above Cordi looks a risky approach at this stage.

I just explained how you should never read too much into preseason results.
But 3:12 defeats don’t exactly boost confidence in your team’s ability.
The girls and coaching staff now need to put this defeat behind them fast and focus on improving concentration levels and fitness. I’m sure they will have a good season regardless. They will face easier opposition actually once the season begins.

Earlier this weekend just gone, the Cordi first team won their first-round-of-the-local-cup encounter 3:0 on Friday evening, away at Glinde. Not exactly a feast of football, but mission accomplished regardless. And I already mentioned the U23s winning their cup game 12:0 the day after…So plenty of goals, but not all of them for the right team…

Talking Point

The West Ham Catch 22

The brain cells are recuperating and preparing themselves for another season of psychological torture. The last three months have been spent watching events such as the Women’s World Cup, the French Open , Wimbledon and the Cricket World Cup. But nothing can compare to the release of dopamine when your football team scores and that makes us a little mad.

If we were sane, we would support teams where we were guaranteed more goals. After all, Premiership football is about a simple transaction. You get a load of cash for the football rights and you dole it out on transfer fees and wages. My ten year old grandson could do that.

I’ve been loving Catch 22 on Channel 4 and will read the book again when I go on holiday. And this is our Catch 22. To transfer your allegiance to a new club you’ve got to be sane , but the trouble is, if you support a club like West Ham, you’ve got to be a bit mad.

After all, it’s a club run by pornographers, doesn’t own a stadium, has a dame trying to screw the owners of the ground for a few thousand pounds when we could save £800,000 by getting rid of her, and thinks that by surrounding the pitch in maroon instead of green, the results will be improved.

But we love it. We can’t get enough of it. We all think it’s going to get better in the future. And, perhaps it will. We’ve splashed out £45 million on Haller and £25 million on Fornals. We’ve got Yarmalenko, Reid, Wilshere and Lanzini coming back from injuries (I won’t include Sanchez). And it doesn’t seem that we have lost Rice or Diop. So, we should all take our hats off to David Sullivan, who has probably calculating that he should take the risk to make the club more valuable when he sells it in the summer of 2021, when he is free from his agreement with the owners of the stadium.

Perhaps we are still short of full backs. And, although not taking too much from friendlies, we have shipped six goals, which is reminiscent of previous beginnings of other seasons. Personally, I would build a team from the back, but we have an attacking manager and we’ll see how that pans out. And let’s hope that now the traitor, Arnautovic, has gone, team spirit will soar.

So, there’s less than a month to go and let’s hope you’re going to get your dopamine in spades this season.


Haller's a Hammer

At 1pm it was announced that West Ham have made a record signing. He’s 25 year old French striker Sebastien Haller, who has been quite a prolific goalscorer for Eintracht Frankfurt over the last two seasons, and before that with Utrecht and Auxerre. The deal has been tied up relatively quickly given the complications in modern day transfer arrangements. The fee is £41 million plus an extra £4 million of potental add-ons. It’s a five year deal with another year as an option.

I have to say I am more excited by Haller than I was about Maxi Gomez, and all credit to doing the deal in the absence of Manuel Pellegrii and Mario Hussilos who are both in China. Seb Haller told

I feel really great,” said the centre forward. “I think it’s a really good opportunity for me to be here. It means a lot (to be the record signing). It proves that the club [has] really wanted me for a long time. I felt this desire to sign me and I’m really happy to sign, also. it is an ambitious club, a nice club, a nice city and nice fans too. For me I can guarantee that I will give 100% for the club because the club has given me this confidence and I will try to give it back every day in every game. I will always give 100% and respect the club. I think this is a normal thing and that I can guarantee. I know it’s a big transfer and there is a lot of expectation around me, and I just want to make people proud of this transfer and I will give everything I have."

Transfer Gossip

Introducing Sebastian Haller

This is Sebastian Haller, the Eintracht forward who West Ham are keen to sign. Looks quality, judging from this video.

The HamburgHammer Column

Will Seb be our buffalo in a China shop ? Let's hope so!

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I hope I am not tempting fate here, as the player is not quite ours yet, but early signs are promising that French striker Sébastien Haller (pronounced the French way, Sebastioooh ‘Alleeer, you gotta drop the H like a true Cockney and you’re halfway there…LOL) could indeed be West Ham bound.

If rumours are to be believed we have convinced the player of this exciting little PL project we’ve got going in East London, personal terms have been basically agreed including a release clause while the two clubs have apparently also agreed on a fee of around the €40m mark, according to some sources (other sources claim though that a fee is yet to be agreed).

Once again though, the payment structure of any fee could prove to be a major stumbling block as Eintracht Frankfurt may well be demanding a bigger fee upfront than we are willing or capable of handing over.
If we have to pay 20m upfront, I’d still go for it as preseason is already in full swing and we do need quality first-choice strikers soon, not freebie stopgaps.

As Mario Husillos has surprisingly travelled with our squad to China for the preseason tournament there, the West Ham director of football will have to continue negotiations for Haller by email or telephone conversations which would suggest that the face to face negotiations from now on mainly rest with either club intermediaries or David Sullivan himself. Is that a good or bad thing ? I’m not really sure, so fingers crossed and God be with us!

I’d still like to go ahead regardless and assume we will eventually sign up Haller (after losing out in the quest to sign new Valencia striker Maxi Gomez who may or may not have been used deliberately as an elaborate smokescreen for our real target(s), who knows ?).

I may have told you before about one of my Concordia mates who is also a diehard Frankfurt fan (due to the fact he was born by accident in a local Frankfurt hospital. His heavily pregnant mom and his dad were at that crucial time in a car on their way home from some holiday destination in South Germany when the labour pains kicked in, but he could just as easily have ended up as a Nuremberg or Hannover supporter depending on traffic on the Autobahn, I suppose).

So I know for a fact that like most Frankfurt supporters he isn’t happy at all about potentially losing Haller. Allow me to tell you a thing or three about the player who will hopefully be a Hammer later this week:

He’s 25 years old and grew up on the outskirts of Paris.

He is what is known as a street footballer as he played and breathed football virtually 24/7 when still a wee lad, kicking a ball and doing keepie uppies on the streets and courts of his suburban neighbourhood. So while he joined a proper club at the age of 10, well before that time he had already developed skills and instincts out there on the street you cannot really teach in club football.

Later on he became a member of the Auxerre academy, following in the footsteps of Bacary Sagna and a certain Eric Cantona…

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He was part of a trio of attackers at Frankfurt together with Jovic and Rebic, a group which was affectionately known as “The Buffalo Herd“, due to their physical and robust style of play. And while you wouldn’t want a buffalo herd, same as the proverbial bull, anywhere near your parents’ china shop, buffalo style attackers can be very fearsome in football even in 2019.

Haller and his mates in any case were scoring goals for fun, being one of the highlights and joys to watch in recent Bundesliga history. And the envy of every team in the league.

Haller’s main asset that catches your eye first is obviously his height and build. You won’t brush this guy off the ball easily, at least not by legal means and he can hold up the ball well enough to bring others into play time and time again.

Mark Noble might want to cover his ears now, but Haller is a fantastic penalty taker which could come in useful with VAR being a factor in the PL now.

He is also a great outlet when his team is under pressure as he is capable of winning balls booted high up the pitch as his height gives him tremendous range to control the ball with his head or either foot. Which of course is also a good asset to have when defending against a set piece.

You’d be forgiven for thinking his height might be somewhat hindering him in certain other situations on the pitch, however, his body control and agility is extraordinary for a man of his stature, indeed he quite regularly turns an opponent in astonishing ways, leaving him to snatch at thin air and using great initial acceleration to get away and have a shot on goal or play a pass to a teammate. (Although he is nowhere near as fast as, say, Felipe Anderson who can outrun opponents over half the length of the pitch, Haller doesn’t quite have that kind of pace over distance.)

One distinctive factor in Frankfurt’s attacking brand of football was his constant interchanging of positions on the pitch with Rebic and Jovic, rendering their moves and tactics highly unpredictable…and as a result lethal.

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Moreover Haller is not just a one-trick pony either as his collection of goals clearly showcases: Left foot, right foot, headers, penalties and bicycle kicks, you name it, he scored one just like that.

You can also add playmaking to his weaponry as his flick-ons are another major part of his attacking play, ideal for helping guys like Anderson, Lanzini, Yarmolenko or Antonio to boost their own goal tally.

In short: I think Haller would be ideal for West Ham, after missing out on Maxi Gomez. He is more than just a good finisher, he makes the players around him better and also is a proper team player.

If we get him we would have a very confident young man on our hands, with his peak years still very much ahead of him, but no egotistical diva or disturbing factor in the dressing room. His English at this point is as fluent as his movement on the pitch, so that should also help him settling into London life quickly, again, IF the signing happens of course!

Either way, we should have a decision in the next two or three days I reckon and then we can get in another striker on loan or a reasonably good freebie as backup.

Let’s hope for the best, COYI!!!

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A quick “Welcome to London!“ goes out to our first new signing for the West Ham women’s team, defender Laura Vetterlein, arriving at West Ham from Bundesliga side SC Sand.

27-year-old Vetterlein (translating as “little cousin”) has also played for German women’s football giants Wolfsburg and she’s won the Champions League with them twice, same as the German league title (twice as well), so you can be certain that Laura will bring experience, skills and solidity to our defence. As a fellow German I am obviously over the moon that West Ham have ramped up their Kraut quota, at least as far as the women’s team is concerned.

Maybe we’ll develop a taste for it and sign a German or two for the first team as well to follow in Hitzlsperger’s footsteps.

In any case, I hope to be able to catch Vetterlein, nicknamed Laurinho, in footballing action whenever I shall be over for my next visit. When I do, I can teach you all a few important German phrases to shout onto the pitch as encouragement, so that Laura may get a bit of extra spring in her step…not that she’d need it, of course!

To give you an idea what she looks and sounds like, here’s a little interview clip from the time at her previous club.

Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV lost a preseason game against Huddersfield, of all clubs. Concordia came runner’s up at a week-long local tournament of eight teams and the Cordi lads looks in decent enough shape now, judging by the preseason performances, to kick off their season in style this Friday with a cup game away to minnows Glinde.

Will they turn out to be Cordi’s Wimbledon and cause a premature cup exit ?

I also watched another preseason test yesterday, this time of the young Concordia women’s team, they got trounced 0:8, albeit against a frighteningly good side playing two levels above Cordi. The class divide truly showed on the pitch…

According to the manager he wanted to keep the girls firmly grounded and focussed for when the new season kicks off four weeks from now. So far the players were used to winning left, right and centre. Next season will be a tougher challenge, against better teams throughout the league and with definitely more defeats on the cards than in the season just gone. No reasons then for illusions of grandeur here…

So probably it wasn’t such a bad idea after all to show the team that there are still plenty of things to work on and improve in training. They make think they are a good team already, but there are sides out there that are far better…and that’s the kind of level where Cordi aim to be one day.

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