The HamburgHammer Column

Let the show begin - fasten your seatbelts!

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Let me begin by selfishly congratulating my nephew Daniel to his 12th birthday today – he has gone through a few West Ham shirts (presents from his uncle) already in his lifetime and one fine day, despite Brexit, I hope to bring him to London to watch a game and pick up something in claret and blue from the club shop too of course. We’re having a lovely birthday barbecue with the family in the sun later today and it should be a jolly nice affair with some lovely food thrown in for good measure.

As for our final preseason game against the mighty Bilbao, well, it wasn’t exactly jolly but entertaining enough. Our goals were beautiful team collaborations while those we conceded were either unlucky or simply not defended well enough, but once again, you wouldn’t expect any defender to be as sharp in a preseason game as we all hope they are going to be once the league fixtures have arrived – which is basically not far off at all now. Only a few more days and life will be back to normal, with regular West Ham games at the weekend. It’s about time…

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We also have the final stage of the transfer window to endure this week and, frankly, when it comes to West Ham I’m going into those final days with NO expectation or anticipation WHATSOEVER.

All those stories about us being skint, having blown all our money on Fornals and Haller basically, well, those stories no longer wash with me. But I also know there’s nothing I can do or write that’ll change anything in that regard. Our board will spend (or not) as they see fit which is their prerogative as owners.

If we make some more signings I will welcome them at West Ham with wide-open arms, if we don’t sign anyone else at least I will no longer be surprised or bemused by it…

Offensively our team could be a revelation this season, provided the main protagonists can stay fit, healthy and available. Just imagine the likes of Lanzini, Anderson, Fornals, Antonio, Yarmolenko and Haller developing some chemistry in training and the upcoming matches and right there you have a blueprint for most PL defenders’ worst nightmare.

On the other side of the ball though we (still) look shaky and highly suspect. Again, preseason games are not the best sample size to evaluate your back four’s true quality. Why bust a gut or over-stretch for a ball in a glamour friendly if injury could put you out for several league matches when things really matter ?

Also, Fabianski has been out for the latter part of preseason and we all know how he oozes class and competence which in return lifts the performances of his defenders and vice versa.

The Winston Reid issue though is a curious one.

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He’s been out such a long time that people are always going to question whether he can ever return to the form we all witnessed when he was our best defender by a country mile.

Now we’re hearing he’s being rested regularly, his gametime monitored and managed, so he can ease himself into proceedings slowly which sounds like a straightforward and wise plan. I for one hope Reid can make a proper comeback as indeed we could do with another experiencedoption at CB this season.

Aaron Long has been rumoured to be a potential signing for us in the next few days, one of the best young-ish defenders in the MLS, who also has a fairly low release fee at his current club New York Red Bulls. There appear to be some work permit issues, but it doesn’t really sound like a massive hurdle at this stage which could prevent a transfer in the near future. To be fair though, we could also do with another striker and also a DM, but we are skint apparently, aren’t we ?

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As always, at the start of a new season, I am both excited and optimistic, I fancy us to turn some heads this season, hopefully for all the right reasons.
I would expect us to improve slightly on out league position, but maybe not massively. Top 6 ? Not sure we have spent quite enough on new players for that to happen.
Our squad is too unbalanced for that to happen methinks. And we know that West Ham United as a club are topsy-turvy personified.

We’ll get injuries, we’ll still get bad refereeing calls, we may concede more penalties given by VAR this season than we are being awarded at the other end. I am fairly optimistic though that we won’t see a player throwing out his toys out of the pram this season, derailing our season in the process. One cannot be too certain of course, but again, I’m optimistic…COYI!!!

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A heartfelt welcome to my fellow German Katharina Baunach, yet another Kraut lacing her boots for the West Ham Women’s team next season, three in total now! Baunach is 30 years old, she was a winner of league titles and cups both with Bayern Munich and VFL Wolfsburg and she is a super-solid no-nonsense defender. I didn’t find any videos of her on Youtube, showboating in front of supermarket entrances, doing backheels or scoring a multitude of goals for club and country.

That’s probably because her game is about defending first and foremost, not about flicks and tricks. But you don’t get to play for and win things at powerhouse clubs like Bayern and Wolfsburg if you’re a minger.

So Katharina sounds like another decent addition that will make our side a better one, on and off the pitch. And of course you can never have enough Krauts in your team, can you ? ;-))

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Hamburg football update: A mixed bag really. St.Pauli lost 1:3 at home to Fuerth and the pressure is building already after just two games. With plenty of injured players, surely the club from the redlight district will need to make some quickfire emergency signings if they don’t want to find themselves at the wrong end of the table straight away.

Hamburg SV are hoping for their first win of the season when they take on Nuremberg, away, later this evening.

The Concordia first team are still in the local cup competition (where the games are coming thick and fast with the next one being played tomorrow evening), however, in the league calendar they have now suffered their first defeat, 2:4 away to Sasel. Tough game, but there is no time to mope and moan, as the next games are looming large already, the cup game tomorrow and the next league fixture at home on Friday evening.

The Cordi U23s meanwhile are suffering from numerous injuries and some ill discipline as well with sendings off galore, resulting in a tough start to their season. They lost their recent cup game 3:4, having two players sent off including the goalkeeper for handling the ball outside the box and then got walloped 1:7 against the same opponent a few days later on Saturday, having not a single substitute on the bench. At this point it’s all pointing towards an uphill climb for the boys this season…

And the Cordi Women’s team played their final preseason game, away to the third string of the mighty St.Pauli women’s side. They did Concordia proud, winning 2:1 not far from the notorious Reeperbahn.


Nigel Kahn’s Column

If I Can Dream...

There must be lights burning brighter, somewhere
Got to be birds flying higher in a sky more blue
If I can dream of a better land
Where all my brothers walk hand in hand
Tell me why, oh why, oh why can’t my dream come true
oh why

Part of being a football fan is we dream. We dream of trophies and titles, of being entertained by goal scorers and gifted wingers. Brookings Devonshir’s and Frank Lampards at Elland Road. Away wins at Anfield to cup wins at Wembley. The start of the season is for dreaming. Elvis dreamed of a better land, where all his brothers could walk hand in hand. Well, it seems so did thousands and thousands of West Ham fans. A better land in Stratford has yet to be delivered for many but some will say it already has been. Whether all the claret & brothers (& sisters) can walk hand in hand I’m not sure. Discourse is never far away it seems, Twitter can be a battlefield and I hold my hand up. I can be antagonistic up with the best wind up merchants. Recently I have tried to take a look at what can we do to come together more as a fan base. Frankly, it’s just a dream. There is too much division amongst our fan base, division over the owners, the stadium, players, even who can give us the best news. Division surrounds us.

There must be peace and understanding sometime
Strong winds of promise that will blow away all the doubt and fear
If I can dream of a warmer sun
Where hope keeps shining on everyone
Tell me why, oh why, oh why, won’t that sun appear

 
How can peace & understanding be brought about between factions? That I don’t have the answer to, but the only thing that comes to mind is a change of ownership. That will mean that all sides can unite behind a new leadership not tainted by the many that see the Daves as destroyers of dreams, not makers. Until that time though should we give up on peace and understanding?

We’re lost in a cloud
With too much rain
We’re trapped in a world
That’s troubled with pain
But as long as a man
Has the strength to dream
He can redeem his soul and fly

How though can one redeem his soul? Well, perhaps by acknowledging one’s faults and trying to change. To that point above I acknowledge how I can antagonise & wind people up. But that is not enough, so I need to change. Not only change though, but I also need to apologise to those I have at times overstepped the mark with. So, if in the past I have offended personally anyone reading this I do apologise, and I hope in the future to never repeat my actions. Sometimes stupidity can overtake me and going forward I hope to avoid such actions.

Jimmy Cooney, ill never see eye to eye with you, I still think you’re a drama queen at times and think you need professional help, but I say that now with no malice.
As for anyone else, all I can do is say I hope we can draw a line in the sand and leave past indiscretion’s to the past and accept this apology. 
Don’t get me wrong though, this extends to the west ham fanbase, not to the owners or their sidekick that is supposed to run the club.
As I said above, to truly heal this club, they must leave. Too many, myself included, will never forgive, nor forget how they took us to this so-called promised land of dreams.
 
So as we enter the new season, I hope it’s a season where dreams do come true, but if it doesn’t, never mind. Next year’s dream is just 12 months away. Until then let us sing along with Elvis………

Deep in my heart, there’s a trembling question
Still, I am sure that the answer gonna come somehow
Out there in the dark, there’s a beckoning candle
And while I can think, while I can talk
While I can stand, while I can walk
While I can dream, please let my dream
Come true, right now
Let it come true right now
Oh yeah


Competition

Join the WestHamTillIDie Fantasy League 2019/20

WestHamTillIDie are again running a league for the upcoming season’s Premier League Fantasy Football. We invite you to take part and submit a team!

If you participated last year, you will automatically be part of the league. All you need to do is complete your team for the new season.

If you didn’t take part last year and are new to the WHTID League, firstly click here. When you’ve registered your details, follow the instructions to select your team.

When you’ve selected your team, you need to join The Official WHTID League by clicking on the ‘Create and join leagues’ tab on the right side of the screen (this will only appear after you have picked your team). Then click on ‘Join a league’ and then ‘Join private league’ before typing the code kje6ia into the relevant box. You need to register before the season starts on Friday 9th August.

Special thanks to Ray The Hammer for setting up the league.


Talking Point

From Madrid with hope

It’s been a while since I sat down to write about West Ham and pleasingly, a new face in the form of 25 year old Frenchman, Sebastien Haller has since arrived.

Along with a few friends, we went away to Madrid to visit our friend who’s been living in the Spanish capital for a couple of years. My takeaways from a great trip that also saw us visit both Atletico’s relatively new Wanda Metropolitano and the Santiago Bernabeu were Kieran Trippier’s name on an Atleti shirt looks very odd, the Spanish metro is far cleaner than the tube, plus McDonald’s in the UK needs to start selling beer like Spain!

As Manuel Pellegrini embarks on his second season managing at the London Stadium, the excitement is already building for what as fans we hope is successful and enjoyable campaign. Along with my family, I’ll be at the stadium on Saturday as we play host to La Liga outfit, Athletic Bilbao. Watching both Fornals and Haller make their home debuts will be enjoyable: let’s hope the two men with a combined fee of roughly £64 million pounds can lay on a couple of goals and assists like they did against Hertha Berlin.

Expectations are understandably high, and with the additions we have made coupled with the fact Anderson, Diop, Balbuena alongside a couple of others now have a full season of Premier League experience, we should be looking up. The opening fixture at home to the Champions is clearly the toughest test you could ask for. I’d like to see us win obviously but at the very least not lose convincingly, and use the attacking talent we now have in forward areas.

Our record signing who has represented France at every youth level, even featuring with centre back Issa Diop, is a real coup for the club. The statistics never lie: we have acquired a man as tall as me (6ft 3) who contributed 20 goals and 12 assists in all competitions. Haller was a part of a dynamic and dangerous trio consisting of Luka Jovic and Ante Rebic, the former now a Real Madrid player and the latter being repeatedly linked to Inter Milan and Atletico Madrid. Our new No. 22 was integral to Frankfurt’s domestic success as well as their journey to the Europa league semi-final. Not only can the Frenchman hold the ball up and drop deep to link up play, he has a great shot and will impress with his skill and hard work.

Similarly, former Villarreal midfielder, Fornals looks set to be a bargain. The Spaniard looks tactically flexible in that he’ll be able to play as a traditional 10 but also slightly deeper as an 8. Our new No. 18 will hopefully be able to interchange nicely with the likes of Lanzini, Wilshere and Anderson and provide a fluid quartet behind Haller. When we announced the arrival of the 23 year old playmaker, I distinctly remember a Spanish journalist and La Liga expert stating we’d got a great deal and he was surprised that a number of the top six clubs had not seriously pursued him.

We are very much in the cluster of clubs who are as they say the ‘best of the rest’ but we definitely should challenge for the European places while also looking to go far and try to win the League and or the FA Cup. In my opinion, the teams in and around us include Leicester, Wolves and probably Everton. The foxes may well struggle to replace ‘slabhead’ Maguire if he departs for Old Trafford, Wolves may prioritise the Europa League, while Everton have just sold one of their most important players to PSG in Gueye. No doubt these teams will all still achieve some success but, with the players we have, we really should be contending for that seventh position.

Ultimately, a season for West Ham and the fans often entails ups and certainly downs. However with a bit of luck and hopefully some consistent goal scoring from Haller, we’ll be in for an enjoyable season with few worries. The slight concern is that if we get injuries to several key players, i.e. Diop, Rice, Haller etc. the depth is concerning. Despite that concern, we are heading into the 2019/2020 Premier League season with the best starting 11 we’ve had in a long time with a great manager, and it’s about time we got some luck with injuries, surely?

Hope everyone is well, and has a good week.

During writing and drafting this, Fabianski appears to have picked up a minor groin injury in the warm up against Hertha Berlin. Sadly, it’s therefore very unlikely he’ll feature against Bilbao on Saturday, but he hopefully should be fit for the opening day against City.


The HamburgHammer Column

A pitbull, another terminator and a mystery freebie ? Putting the finishing touches on our 19/20 season squad

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First things first, there wasn’t loads to write home about in terms of West Ham United in the week just gone, but the major, yet not really surprising bit of news was the confirmation that midfielder Pedro Obiang had indeed returned to Italy to lace his boots for Sassuolo in future. I couldn’t begin my column without thanking Pedro for the games and memories he has given us during his West Ham reign. Yes, he scored THAT screamer against Spurs (always a surefire way for a player to get brownie points and potential legend status at West Ham), but apart from that one goal he was your model professional footballer, with a bloody nice personality added on top.

By all accounts he was popular with his teammates, always friendly, modest and respectful towards the fans and he instinctively knew HOW to leave our club once he had made up his mind about returning home to Italy.

No dressing room destroying diva-style shenanigans, no dodgy quotes given to the media in order to force through a hasty move to his desired location, no. Instead we had some kind of gentleman’s agreement that he would stay another season while we couldn’t afford to lose him – and one year later Obiang got his desired move without West Ham haggling for a ridiculous fee that might have put any move back to Italy in jeopardy.

Thanks for everything Pedro, I think I am speaking for most on here when I say that Obiang will always be welcome at West Ham, should that be as a fan, a future opponent (Europa League ?) or maybe even as youth coach.

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Despite certain rumours that Pellegrini was satisfied with the squad presently at his disposal and that there wasn’t any money left for new players anyway, other rumours are clearly saying the opposite, claiming we would definitely bring in another striker and also a versatile defensive midfielder who can also deputise in defence if need be. And of course there is always room for a mystery player, arriving from the Ecuadorian top division, either as a freebie or on loan…

One name that keeps getting mentioned in terms of potentially being bound for Stratford, is Chilean hardman/nutter Gary Alexis Medel Soto. Nicknamed “The Pitbull” for his aggressive make-no-prisoners style of play and some off-field episodes displaying a low tolerance of frustration, Medel is a proper beast of a player, surely one you’d rather want to play on your team rather than seeing him charging at you at full speed, face distorted, studs showing, putting in tackles Vinnie Jones would have been proud of in his heyday.

Some fans categorically don’t want Medel at West Ham, and I can see the worries involved here. A player with a reputation like Medel’s, with a flaring temper, can do your club more harm than good. But let’s not forget that Medel is Chilean and has been a staple for their national side. So if there’s anyone who can evaluate if Medel would be a good fit for West Ham at this point, it should be his fellow countryman, our gaffer Manuel Pellegrini.

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At just shy of 32 years of age (his birthday is August 3rd) Medel is vastly experienced, he’s been there, done a lot, probably got all the T-shirts too. You don’t get to play over 120 times for your country if you can’t play football. He has plied his trade in various countries, Italy, England and also Turkey (he’s currenty at Besiktas). So he ain’t shy adapting to new surroundings.

Yes, he is prone to the odd sending-off, in 376 games he has seen 3 straight red cards plus 8 second yellows – that’s an early shower after every 30 games or so on average, not good, but not the end of the world either.

What he does give you in return for that, though, is a tremendous work-rate and tenacity. He can also tackle and would be another leader on the pitch, similar to Balbuena or Noble in that regard. His reputation, actually, might even be an asset for his next team. As an opponent you’ll be very aware when Gary Medel is zooming in on you, he doesn’t even have to tackle necessarily, just the thought of him putting in a hefty challenge might be enough to frighten the opponent into giving the ball away carelessly or passing it back to his goalkeeper as a safety precaution to avoid Medel. I for one wouldn’t mind to see the Chilean reincarnation of Repka at West Ham and he also seems to be in the right price bracket too as he wouldn’t cost a fortune at this stage.

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Another name you hear a lot these days in connection with West Ham is Moussa Marega, a Malian striker, nicknamed the Terminator. Presumably not because he has an Austrian accent, but due to his force and impact in the opposition’s box. Marega is a late bloomer, it wasn’t that long ago that he was scoring his goals for a club at the French 6th level. By now though he has become a regular in the Malian national side and has also got a taste of CL football with Porto.

In Julian Dicks we had a Terminator before, so if Marega is only half the player for us than Dicks was, we can look forward to quite a player!

West Ham, of course, were interested in signing Marega before and he won’t come cheap. What might be possible though, if Pellegrini is really keen on getting the player, is a loan deal with an option or, more likely, an obligation to buy next summer. The good thing is that Marega can play as part of a dynamic front three or also just behind the main striker.

Built like a brick shithouse, he is hard to stop by legal means for any defender, he is equally adept at heading the ball, finishing and playing lethal passes.

28 years old, Marega’s best years should still be ahead of him. I wouldn’t mind seeing him at West Ham, causing havoc upfront with Haller, Anderson and Antonio.
That should be fun…;-))

With every week that passes, the West Ham Women’s team seem to confirm yet another decent addition to the squad, this time French attacking midfielder Kenza Dali who will celebrate her 28th birthday on Wednesday. She’s been on the fringes of the French national side as well in recent years, scoring 4 goals in 22 games so far for her country.
Despite not winning the title with PSG, she still was part of one of the top sides in France until 2015, scoring 33 times in 82 games, so far the most prolific spell in her career. After that she played for Lyon, Lille and most recently Dijon, so you can tell she’s mustard…(see what I did there ? LOL)

Just as her namesake, Salvador Dali, was an artist with brush on canvas or sculptures made of bronze, Kenza Dali is an artist with the ball at her feet.

She is the third highly promising signing for the West Ham Women’s team and one would expect the ladies to become a much better side now, potentially maybe even a side to be reckoned with next season, a dark horse to spoil things for the usual suspects, we’ll see. I cannot wait to see them in action myself.

A quick word on the Fulham preseason game on Saturday. It was great for the new boys Haller and Fornals to finally get their debuts for West Ham against decent opposition. With Lanzini scoring a fine goal apparently in our 1:0 win.
I say apparently as I didn’t see the game, not even highlights, like most of you I guess. But it was valuable gametime for various players and there were no new injuries to report, so mission accomplished for now. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Finally, the new season proper has now started for most clubs in Hamburg with the league calendar kicking off.
Hamburg SV have started their season under new manager Dieter Hecking with a game against their bogey side Darmstadt, drawing 1:1 with a late penalty equaliser deep into injury time.
St.Pauli will play their first fixture later this evening at Arminia Bielefeld.

All three main Concordia teams have been in action yesterday.
The Cordi first team started their league fixtures with a home game against recently promoted Bramfeld, winning 2:0 in unspectacular fashion. As no other team managed a win by a bigger margin in their first league game the Cordi boys are officially (and unexpectedly) the first table toppers this season. Maybe I should print out the table, get it enlarged and framed nicely and hang it on my living-room wall…;-)

The Cordi U23s also played at home first, against TuS Hamburg, winning 4:0. Great start for them into the new season!

And finally the Cordi Women’s team had another preseason game against local rivals Berne, losing 1:3, but gaining valuable on-pitch experience while improving their fitness levels.

What was really nice last week was the Concordia club president texting me, asking if I was actually paying for the match tickets at home games. I replied to him that I did, as a matter of principle, and that I was happy enough to do so. He was having none of it though, saying that I shouldn’t have to pay as I was regularly providing content for the club’s matchday programme. So he made sure there was a free season ticket waiting for me at the turnstile, prior to kickoff, which means I now only have to pay for the away games. Good man!

That leaves me with an opportunity to give some of my ticket money saved to the women’s team instead. They are always grateful for donations in order to buy new balls for practise, shin pads or training gear. As you can imagine, they are not exactly swimming in cash at Concordia, especially as far as the women’s team is concerned…


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