The GoatyGav Column

Building Towards A Brighter Future

Reading Saturday’s match programme this morning (Monday) set me to thinking about West Ham’s true intentions to grow the squad and challenge in the League. Selling our best players is, and always has been, the main reason the club has never kicked on with a sustained strategy in my opinion. There is more to it than just that as new signings help to convince our top, existing, players to stick around. You’re probably going to struggle to keep hold of your most talented playing assets without that second aspect of investment however it’s all about keeping what you’ve got and building upon it in my view.

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Tim Crane’s “for the record” in this week’s programme included details of the sale of Danny Shea who was sold to Blackburn Rovers, for a record fee of two thousand pounds in 1913. Blackburn won the league the year Shea joined them as existing champions. Shea was in the programme because of being the record goalscorer against Southampton with eight goals in total – six of which were at the Dell, a record in itself. The inside forward, from Wapping, wasn’t the first top player to be sold however he’s much further from being the last. Like Shea many of the top players have gone on to win honours with clubs they’ve moved on to. The promise of bigger and better things have often proven too hard to resist so how can this trend of being a selling club be changed? With this view in mind I see a huge crossroads for West Ham this Summer.

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Should the club return to type then bigger clubs will be filling their boots during the next transfer window. The rich pickings of the likes of Declan Rice, Felipe Anderson and Issa Diop are receiving high profile in the Football media at present but how much growth and progress would those players make at a top six Premier League, or top-tier European League, team make? Ok, you could argue that’s a question that’s always faced players who are being tempted away from the Claret and Blue, so why would anything be any different, to convince them to stay, now? Well – quite a few variables now exist that may sway the scales in our favour.

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Manuel Pellegrini is a respected manager in world football. The former Chilean central defender has been managing for over thirty years, in six countries, winning league championships, taking the helm of such illustrious clubs as River Plate and Real Madrid, taking Malaga to a Champion’s League quarter final and Villareal to a quarter and a semi-final, both of who were also selling clubs as well as winning the Premier League with Manchester City. At West Ham Pellegrini has got the team playing ‘The West Ham Way’ which has, in turn, started to create a positive response from the fifty seven thousand strong home crowds while getting the best out of many of the playing staff. There’s a clear identity to the team and home form has delivered thirty one points this term. There’s progress being made and those, coveted, players know it.

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When the club’s owners have been determined they’ve shown that, with the exception of a certain French international from the island of Reunion, they have often managed to hang on to their top players. The quality of the squad is improving all of the time and it’s morale is directly proportional to that quality.

When you put it all together I’m hopeful that, all things considered, our high performers can be convinced to stick around and be part of something special. Manuel Pellegrini plays a big part of the attraction of staying at our club. West Ham’s owners need to begin succession planning for when MP finally moves on so that progress can continue beyond his departure.

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Away from the first team the West Ham ladies’ season reached a crescendo at Wembley on Saturday. The girls ‘done us proud’ shouted on by several thousand Hammers fans. The progress that the women have made this season is tremendous. In the semi-final at Adams Park they gave me one of, if not the, most memorable games I’ve attended this season (which included a fantastic ‘big’ birthday corporate hospitality gig with family and friends). I’ve resolved to attend more West Ham ladies matches next season when I expect they’ll have another great campaign to make us all proud once again.

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The bittersweet combination of victory, against Southampton at the London Stadium, and loss, at Wembley, was added to by the brave, but sadly unsuccessful, effort of the PL2 team to avoid relegation last week. Despite beating league champions, Everton, 2-1 in a superb performance the lads couldn’t escape the drop. Not many teams are relegated whilst being second top scorers in a league but our boys were really unlucky to go down with that record. At Under eighteen level further progress has been made with some extremely encouraging signs from many of squad. Once again this May West Ham fans can continue their fix of, post-season, football with the youth team appearing at the Hong Kong 7 a side tournament which will be streamed on-line. I really enjoyed watching all the West Ham games last year and look forward to watching again from 17th to 19th May.

Have a good week all. Let’s hope we can finish the season off with a good win against Watford next weekend.

The HamburgHammer Column

Sinner beats Saints - this is the West Ham we want to see more often

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I was late to the party this time and I missed the first goal as a result of it. When I joined the game about 17 minutes after kick-off, according to my online football score site of choice, Arnautovic had given us the 1:0 lead just one minute before I switched on the telly. So, he can still score after all…

You see, it was community work day at our local sports club again and once more I was helping to mend and put up new strawmat fences around the club premises, toiling away for six hours in what was literally like four seasons in one day: We had sunshine, hail, snow, rain and everything in between, but needs must and I was happy enough to do my bit for the community.

And I wasn’t going to disregard any speed limits just so I could get back home in time for kick-off. After all, this was simply our final league game at home for the season.

Relegation was out of the question, so was finishing in 7th place. So while of course we want to finish as high as possible in terms of league position, this one felt like a pre-season game somehow. When I joined the game in progress it looked to me like players were reluctant to tackle like they might have done if relegation had still been a realistic outcome. It all had the air of a friendly kickabout really.

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Once again it has to be said that it was pretty much a complete performance from the entire team, with no real weak links in sight. And that despite Anderson and Rice both missing the game through illness/feeling poorly.

The guys replacing them did their job and apart from one spell in the game we made Southampton look second best in almost every regard. Oh, if only we had seen that level of effort and intent in games against Huddersfield, Burnley or Everton, this season could have gone a lot more smoothly than it has.

For the first time in ages Pellegrini had actually a decent choice of players to pick from for the game. For me, the main ingredient and key to our success next season will be to somehow keep our injury situation in check. If we could just half the number of games missed by our players through injury that alone will go a long way towards giving us more consistency, more swagger, more points on the board.

Arnautovic of course was the main story of the game, nearly scoring a hattrick, after going through a long barren spell, looking once again very much like the Arnautovic of old who used to enjoy his football at West Ham, banging in goals for fun. If we can have back this player more often again I’d be as happy as the next West Ham fan to keep him at the club which might happen now anyway.

I think deep down Arnautovic knows the whole China affair was handled fairly shoddily by himself and his agent brother, he turned from our star man into Mr.Unpopular quicker than it takes to sing Bubbles and it wasn’t a good situation, not for the club, not for the player and certainly not for the fans. But everyone deserves a second chance. Including Mr.Arnautovic, provided he gives his all for the club and his teammates again, focusing on West Ham rather than pondering which club to sign for next.

The club have put a fixed release fee into his new contract apparently, just in case, but I somehow doubt that any club is going to pay that fee in the summer, rumoured to be around the £45 million mark.

And Arnautovic has recently signed a contract extension with better terms now – so at this point it makes a lot of sense for both sides to make this arrangement work.

Surround Arnautovic with decent players that allow him to score his fair share of goals and he should be happy enough to stay and contribute.

He is a very useful player to have at the club, if he is in the mood and right frame of mind, although I don’t see him as our main guy anymore or a player we cannot afford to lose.
I don’t mind him staying though…provided he has learned his lesson.

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Arnautovic was fantastic against the Saints, but he still wasn’t the best player for West Ham on Saturday, that honour goes to Ryan Fredericks. I didn’t see him put a foot wrong against Southampton, he also scored his first PL goal and even though I missed the first 16 minutes of the game, I did read up his match stats later and those were pretty amazing bordering on quite unbelievable. With Zabaleta also staying for another season I reckon RB looks like a fairly settled position for us next season.

Which I am holding high hopes for, maybe against previous experience and sample size at West Ham. I have also decided to renew my season ticket, so I shall give the ticket office a call in the next few weeks. It will make things easier also in terms of getting tickets for a game should my brother join me for one of my trips to London as that will obviously be one box to tick then.

I couldn’t take him to East London without us going to see a West Ham game.
Other boxes to tick will be jellied eels, pie and mash and an afternoon down by the sea.

Talking of my brother, we are still expecting back the results of his medical procedure – he spent five days in hospital after getting his adrenal gland removed. They sent some tissue of his away for further analysis, so we shall soon know if he needs any further treatment or if any health problem has now been fixed by removing the organ in question altogether…fingers crossed…

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I am an optimist in general which strangely enough also applies to my view on West Ham next season. Can we have the same bad luck (or worse) again with injuries ? Surely not.

Will we have the same number of refereeing calls go against us, costing us points or will we see an improvement there thanks to VAR ? We shall see.

Also, don’t forget that most of our players will stay at the club, so they should have some chemistry developing now with players knowing the running and passing patterns of their teammates which should make for better football on a more regular basis next season. Plus, the manager knows the players now and vice versa.

I know our transfer budget will be limited due to our financial constraints, but if players like Yarmolenko, Sanchez and Wilshere are available to play more often than they have this season (which shouldn’t be that difficult to achieve) we already are a stronger team that way without even signing someone.

If we manage to keep the core, the spine of our team at West Ham (Fabianski, Diop, Balbuena, Anderson, Lanzini and yes, Arnautovic too), then we have a solid foundation to build on.

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We need additions to the squad of course, with a number of players leaving, and we need to replace those players with better quality which will not be cheap. We will find a few South American under-the-radar bargains, yes. But I’m sure Pellegrini also has some transfer targets lined up who will have their market price. As usual, the summer at West Ham will be interesting to say the least. One more game left now for the first team and a great opportunity to finish the season on a high by winning yet another London derby away from home…COYI!!!

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I also have to express my heartfelt congratulations for a very solid and brave performance by the West Ham Women’s team on Saturday in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
In the end City’s superior quality and fitness levels across the team prevailed, but we gave them an almighty scare and they had to work far harder than they probably expected.

I enjoyed watching that game a lot and funnily enough my matchday watching routine was basically the same as when following our first team: I had my West Ham shirt on, I had my screwdriver wandering from one hand to the other to calm my nerves and whenever West Ham were creating a scoring opportunity I was out of the armchair moving towards the telly, trying to get that ball over the line by sheer willpower. Alas, it was not to be this time – but surely for our women’s team this was merely the beginning of an exciting journey, not the end. All part of the learning curve.

Hopefully on a future trip the fixture calendar will be kind and I can also take in a game of Kate Longhurst and her teammates – as you all know by now I have developed quite a liking for the women’s game in the past two years and I reckon things can only get bigger and better for the ladies’ game in general. Long may it continue!

Hamburg football update:

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Things have not gone well for Hamburg football in recent weeks. Hamburg SV lost 0:3 at home to Ingolstadt in disastrous fashion and they are failing to pick up points just as it matters most as we approach the final games of the campaign. At this rate HSV will struggle to even make 3rd place which would give them a shot at promotion through the playoffs. St.Pauli also lost again and they too only have little hope left to get 3rd place. At one point there was a possibility both Hamburg clubs might get promoted this season, now it looks highly likely both will remain in Bundesliga 2. Shame.

Shame is also the keyword about Concordia’s 1:3 home defeat on Friday evening against Curslack. A lackluster performance, with players shouting abuse at their teammates and fans getting utterly frustrated and disillusioned with it all, same as the manager, all of whom shared one thought during and after the game: That nobody really wanted to be there.

A complete waste of time, money and oxygen. If there weren’t three other REALLY crap teams in the same division this season, surely Concordia would have deserved relegation this season, that’s how bad the football has been all season long.

At least the U23s won, keeping alive their slim mathematical hopes of promotion. The women’s team could rest this weekend in preparation for their final game next Sunday away at third placed Rahlstedt, a game which under normal circumstances should confirm Concordia’s second promotion in a row. If they avoid defeat they are up.
And even if they lose they can still get promoted if their rivals don’t win their remaining fixture at a canter. So, at Concordia, same as with West Ham, somehow the women have put their male counterparts in the shade with their achievements this season…

Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Arnie Brace Earns Hammers Season Double Over Saints

Match Report

Noble Performances All Round

I woke up yesterday morning feeling confident and excited for the final home game against Southampton and the women’s FA cup final at Wembley. My confidence certainly lessened upon hearing Rice and Anderson were unavailable due to a virus. Without two of our most influential players, the game looked as if it might turn out to be more of an even contest.

It came as a surprise to hear Fraser Forster would be starting in the opposition goal after 494 days out of the Saint’s first team setup! He looked rusty and thankfully that rust probably told with the team and Arnautovic’s second goal. I do not want to give a detailed match report as the brilliant David Hautzig has already done one, and my attempt at a report would not be as successful! In many ways, David is the Mark Noble: experienced and consistently putting in good performances (Nobes was superb yesterday). Whereas in writing terms, I like to think of myself as Grady Diangana, some promise but definitely not the finished article (Grady did reasonably well I think).

The defence looked solid, a special mention for Ryan Fredericks as he played very well from a defensive standpoint and then scored that well worked goal in the 72nd minute. I look forward to seeing how Fredericks performs next season as the starting right back, his pace is blistering which is always a bonus… Obiang and Noble dovetailed well, and Lanzini did well stitching the play between midfield and attack. Great to see Arnautovic working hard and bagging two goals, his future remains a talking point, and may well dictate some of the business done in the summer. Wilshere came on and looked good: he moves with the ball so effortlessly, and I hope we see more of that next campaign.

I was watching a stream which had former West Ham player, Don Hutchison commentating. I’ve heard of Hutchison before, my Dad tells me he was a committed midfielder who also featured as a forward at times. Hutchison felt that Noble was the man of the match, and he was definitely significant again. In the first half he was pulling the strings as Southampton sat off us. He is never afraid to collect the ball and his assist for the opening goal was exquisite.

I very much enjoy playing football and fancy myself as a holding midfielder, and I’d like to think my playing style mirrors our 31 year old captain’s! In the final season at Upton Park he was magnificent and certainly should have earned an England call up. Noble has played under the various managers we have had, and that is testament to his ability. The strongest aspect of my game, and the most appreciated by the boys in my six a side team, is my passing and vision. My point ultimately is that Noble has always been an underrated passer, and he more often than not impacts the game positively when given time and space. The man from Canning Town is also partial to a cheeky Cruyff turn, much like myself! Perhaps I’m the long term replacement for Mark…

Massive credit has to go to West Ham women’s who did brilliantly well to get to the final. They worked very hard in the first half but unfortunately came up against a team with more experience. Each and every West Ham player did themselves and the club extremely proud, but the ladies side look to be going in the right direction.

With yesterday’s brilliant performance against Southampton and Rice and Anderson to come back in for the final game against Watford, I hope we can finish in 10th position with a win at Vicarage Road. Watford may well rest players for the FA cup final against City, so maybe we can win a third game in a row and finish the season on a high.

I look forward to watching the local team Tonbridge Angels play Merstham on Monday in the Bostik Premier Playoff final. If they win the game, they will need to beat either Met. Police or Poole Town to gain promotion. If they can win both games they will be playing in the Conference South next season which would be brilliant. I hope they achieve promotion and West Ham beat Watford to leave me happy going into Summer!

David Hautzig's Match Report

West Ham 3, Southampton 0. Carpet-Bagging Three Points.

Such a shame that we can only enjoy the remarkable accomplishment of our board and their new floor covering for two matches this season. Maybe that was always the intention? I mean, isn’t the carpet like a new signing? I’m sure we will see the best of it next year after a full pre season.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Petty rant over.

There are players in this league who succeed almost in spite of themselves. In what other universe do players like Danny Ings and Shane Long keep playing and scoring goals as the world around them moves a lot faster than them. Yet they do. And in the fifth minute we could easily have fallen behind when Ings played a ball to Long on the right side of the West Ham eighteen yard box. Thankfully for the hosts his shot went over the bar.

The only supporter I know that has been virtually 100% supportive of Mark Noble has been Shedman. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say anything critical of the captain. Me? I’ve called for his head dozens of times, probably. But time and time again, he wills himself to be anywhere from useful to invaluable. Last week at Spurs he utterly dominated the midfield. In the 16th minute, he intercepted an errant pass and within a second saw Arnautovic find space in between the Saints center backs. A perfectly weighted ball followed, capped off by Marko’s first goal in months.

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West Ham 1
Southampton 0

Even before the goal, Arnautovic seemed to be coming out of his January induced funk. He made runs, he looked involved. Balbuena sent a long ball around the 20th minuted that Arnautovic just couldn’t bring down properly, but the positioning was there. I still think we should have taken the money and sent him off to China, but if he has to stay I could cope based on what we saw last week and today.

In the 35th minute, Lanzini went on a long run with Antonio and Arnautovic ahead of him in support. The Jewel was eventually stopped before he could find either of his partners. So why mention it? Because Lanzini was launched from the top of the West Ham penalty area by a truly sublime little pass from Noble. It was a thing of beauty, and I wanted to acknowledge it.

As the opening forty five minutes wound down, Southampton looked better. They pressed higher up the pitch, and forced West Ham to look for long balls to relieve the pressure. Noble, Fredericks, and Balbuena all had moments of stress. But the visitors couldn’t find the final ball, and Fabianski wasn’t asked to do much.

The final seconds of the first half almost brought a second West Ham goal, against the run of play. Obiang and Antonio worked the ball on the left side of the Saints penalty area, culminating in Antonio letting go with a low shot that Foster had to dive down to stop.

West Ham 1
Southampton 0

Southampton made one change to start the second half, with Redmond coming on for Ings and immediately the change looked to be a good one. Redmond had a point blank shot blocked by Diop, and then Southampton won a corner. Fredericks got the ball near the corner flag, and even though he had time he chose to lob the ball downfield to give West Ham a breather. Southampton came right back down and won two corners in quick succession, the second coming from a crucial block by Antonio in the box. Warning shots had been fired, and how the Hammers responded would dictate the second half and ultimately the match itself.

Diangana has had a good first season in the Premier League. He has shown glimpses of quality, but he has also shown glimpses of youthful indiscretion. Runs into the abyss, passes to black holes. Which, I guess, is understandable. He’s a kid. Without dampening his creativity and guile, I hope Pellegrini works on his composure next season. If he had that today, based on some runs he was able to start but not finish, the game might have been out of reach by the hour mark.

Southampton came inches away from an equalizer in the 64th minute when Redmond sent a volley off of a corner that Fabianski had to palm over the bar at the last moment. The hosts handled the ensuing set piece, but seconds later Long was sent in on goal but for some reason he didn’t shoot. Instead, he ran into Fredericks and hoped for a penalty. What he got was time to look at the sky while West Ham came down and won a corner of their own after Foster got down low to stop a shot from Lanzini.

I have always been superstitious. If I watch us win on a certain television, I make sure to watch the next game in the same room on the same TV. I watched the match today in my basement. However, I was needed by my son in the opening half for a few minutes so I put the game on my IPad. That’s when we scored. So when I was needed again for something in the second half, I grabbed the Ipad again. And that’s when Masuaku sent the cross into the box that Foster made a mess of and Arnautovic headed home.

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Dave’s IPad 2
Southampton 0

When talk started that West Ham would release Wilshere and pay half of his contract rather than give him another season, I scratched my head. He certainly was a bad investment this season, and you could argue that a three year deal was daft. But to my way of thinking, another season was a better choice. And if we see the kind of play from him next year, even in half the matches, that we saw today we will all be happy he is a Hammer. A little back heel to Fredericks sent the right back in for his first league goal of the year.

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Dave’s IPad 2
West Ham 1
Southampton 0

Arnautovic came ohhhhh sooooo close to the hat trick after Perez made a good run down the right and rolled a pass to Marko at the top of the box. When he set himself up for a right footed curler it looked like a third goal was in the books. Alas, it went wide.

Can I say something unpopular? I think keeping Perez might be a good idea. His goals per minute ratio is the best in the side, and I doubt we could get more than 4 million for him. So despite the wages he might be better value for money than a new signing.

Final Score
West Ham 3
Southampton 0

“We should be one point out of 7th” was the text I got from my best mate, Jon in a clear dig at the awful refereeing decisions we have seen of late. I understood the point. I’m usually the one that says such things, and Jon is the one who usually points out that such things are rarely that clear cut. What was clear today was that we treated the final home match of the season with the respect it deserved and turned out the home lights with a good performance and three points.

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