The HamburgHammer Column
Welcome back, everyone! It’s been a while since I last posted my column, but on Saturday I had the opportunity to watch our encounter against Bournemouth in my accustomed seat in front of the telly, so I finally feel in a position again to cobble a few thoughts and sentences together for my fellow inmates of the WHTID madhouse.
Let me start with a confession: In theory I should have a soft spot for the Cherries because a) I like cherries.
And b) Their home shirt colour combination is the same I root for every other weekend when my beloved Concordia are playing a home fixture.
As for Bournemouth as a town I haven’t got a Scooby if the place is nice, beautiful or boring, never been there, probably will never get to visit.
On the other hand though I really don’t fancy that club crest – I know it’s supposed to be the silhouette of one of their former star player’s Loaf, pictured heading a ball, apparently representing progress, I suppose because the eyes of the player and the ball are directed upwards. I still think it looks a bit daft. It’s reminding me of a crest which a school team might come up with in arts and crafts class. And most importantly, of course, they are a very tricky side to play against.
Well organised, tough in the tackle and usually well up for it, especially at home. Very hard to even nick a point from. And so it proved.
We came out of the blocks surprisingly quickly though, with plenty of attacking intent and a very early goal by a very productive Yarmolenko, scoring another trademark curler with his favourite left foot.
Of course Yarmo has been a goal machine throughout his career, especially for the Ukrainian national side and I would hazard a guess most of his goals scored for them were of similar ilk rather than ordinary tap-ins or close-range headers.
But I had an inkling that the hosts would be coming back into this one somehow and unfortunately I was right.
Was their equaliser marginally offside, maybe by the proverbial armpit ? Maybe, but looking at the VAR replays I reckon that I would have wanted that goal to stand if it had been us scoring it. I always thought that with tight decisions such as this the benefit of the doubt should always go to the striker. So while I was unhappy with them scoring I couldn’t really argue the case for the goal to be chalked off. VAR did its job and was right.
Then a most bizarre thing happened: Our much revered custodian, Lukasz Fabianski, went down after kicking the ball. Goalkeepers do that quite often during a game of course, in the shape of goalkicks, clearances etc.
Only this time Fabianski went down straight away and took what seemed like an eternity to get back on his feet, having to leave the field with the help of two physios. Only at West Ham! I’d like to take the opportunity to wish Fab a speedy recovery by way of my column. Come back soon and come back strong!
Backup Roberto entered the pitch to replace Fabianski and I have to admit I didn’t think this would actually increase our chances of getting anything from this game in terms of points.
In truth Roberto is a decent enough keeper (I see him on a par with Adrian or at least close to that level), but the Spaniard clearly was feeling the pressure that comes with having to get in goal without much notice or time to warm up properly. His initial goalkicks went all over the place which earned him mocking cheers from the home crowd (and maybe some of the travelling West Ham fans too) for the rest of the game.
He actually made some very good saves in the second half and as for Bournemouth’s second goal I ain’t too sure if Fabianski would have saved that one. Unfortunately our entire team looked like they were still busy sipping their halftime isotonic beverage in the dressing room as the Cherries scored within the first 60 seconds of the second half. Offside trap gone pear shaped.
Those lapses of concentration can happen, but they shouldn’t. Thankfully, not long after that, VAR was kind to us, ruling out another goal of theirs which would have most probably put the game out of reach for us.
And then something lovely happened: Aaron Cresswell SCORED!!! As is quite often the case on matchdays for me, I was wearing my #3 West Ham shirt, bearing Cresswell’s name. His calendar poster was back on my living room wall for the occasion (yes, I’m actually older than 12 years, would you believe it ?) and he thundered in a wonderful shot to get us level. Crowning yet another very solid league performance until he got away with one very late.
He was blatantly grabbing his opponent’s shirt in his own penalty box. Not just for a split second, but really holding on tightly. For me a textbook penalty. When the referee was pausing for what I was certain would be a merciless VAR review my heart sank as surely there could only be one outcome.
Why and how VAR didn’t award Bournemouth a penalty there, I will never know! Lucky escape right there!
Down the other end though we had enough opportunities upfront to win two games, but once again we just weren’t clinical enough. Still, I was happy with the performance of our team after the shambles at Oxford in the League Cup earlier in the week. I thought everyone put a shift in, especially Cresswell, Fredericks, Rice and Yarmolenko. A point was probably a fair result, all things considered.
Yes, we could have won this, but a point away from home in the Premier League is always a point gained and we have thus cemented our position near the top of the league table for the time being. Fingers crossed, Fabianski won’t be out for too long. We are still very hard to beat (unless you’re a League One side of course!) which bodes well for our upcoming games in the PL. COYI!!!
In local news from my neck of the woods (and slightly related to West Ham) I was surprised to read in a recent article in Germany’s equivalent of The Observer that there were certain interesting developments currently taking shape in the Hafen City area of Hamburg which is bascially our belated local version of London’s Docklands regeneration project on Hamburg’s waterfront.
The news is (and I nearly spat my tea out when I read it) that WESTFIELD, yep, the retail fellas most West Ham fans will be all too familiar with as they have to pass through or alongside their massive Stratford based shopping centre on their way to or from London Stadium on any given matchday when we’re playing at home, will be setting up shop in Hamburg, literally!
Their plan is to essentially build an entire borough/district of their own in the finest part of the Hamburg Docklands area including the biggest shopping centre Hamburg has ever seen, housing 200 shops and food outlets, a state-of-the-art cinema with ten giant screens, an adjacent cruise ship terminal, big enough to host at the same time two of those gigantic cruise liners arriving on the river Elbe almost every single day of the week, three new hotels with more than 800 rooms combined plus an additional helping of posh flats and apartments plus a few modern office buildings to boot (housing workspace for 4000 employees).
In close neighbourhood of the shopping centre you will also find around 40 shiny new upmarket restaurants, cafes and bars. You get quite a thirst and an appetite when buying stuff, things and trinkets all day, you know…
In short: A generous whiff of Stratford is coming to Hamburg, likely to be completed by 2022.
I understand the Hamburg version of Westfield, the shopping centre, will be just about half the size of its Stratford counterpart, but don’t forget that the entire city of Hamburg has a population of “only“ 1.8 million people.
And we have plenty of shops, department stores and shopping centres already. More than enough to be frank, actually.
Still, we’re getting another one anyway. And not just one like the many others but the biggest, poshest and bestest (apparently) of them all. What’s that sound I’m hearing ?
I’m not sure I like the sound of that (in fact I think Hamburg needs another shopping centre as urgently as Antonio needs another torn hamstring) but it just seems to be a sign of the times, with the focus being on consuming and buying more and more (needless) goods unfortunately.
Of course they’re intending to especially milk the wealthy cruise liner passengers when they briefly come ashore (at least those that don’t hurry off to spend a few hours or half a day away in Berlin, 200 miles further east), but they also will aim to drive shoppers away from the established city centre shopping district and the locals from the outskirts of town too, trying to make a quick quid or two (thousand) while the opportunity is there.
On a personal level it’s going to be pretty weird, seeing that familiar Westfield logo in my own neck of the woods all of a sudden – yet I somehow don’t expect they will have a WHSmith in there.
Nor a Tesco, Nando’s or a good old Pie&Mash shop (well, there isn’t one of the latter at Westfield Stratford either, is there ?). Not to mention a proper pub with Real Ale on tap. That’d be bloody nice, but it’ll probably be Hamburg’s 77th wine bar instead…
And as for the local equivalent of London Stadium ? That would be St.Pauli’s Millerntor ground, as proper a cauldron of footballing madness as you’ll find anywhere on the planet, approximately 3 miles away from the Hamburg Docklands which is slightly further away than the distance between London Stadium and Westfield Stratford, innit ?
Be that as it may: Once it’s open for business I will probably shop at Westfield Hamburg as often as I do at Westfield Stratford – two or three times a year – at most. I simply prefer the local shops and shopping centre in my Wandsbek neighbourhood in Hamburg’s East End. They are probably not as posh and shiny as that new place is going to be, but who needs posh anyway ?
Hamburg football update: Starting with Hamburg SV who managed a worthy 2:2 draw at bogey team Regensburg which keeps them in hot pursuit of table toppers Stuttgart. St.Pauli beat Sandhausen 2:0 on Sunday to get within touching distance of several promotion hopefuls just behind Stuttgart and HSV.
Mixed results for my local side Concordia. The first team lost a rain-soaked game in unlucky fashion 2:3 at home to Barmbek. The U23s only managed a 1:1 draw away, however, the women’s team did Cordi really proud, winning their home game at a canter in an impressive 11:0 showcase against out-of-towners Tornesch. Well worth getting soaked to the bone for, watching that goalfest from the touchline. The girls are among the promotion pacemakers already, despite only getting promoted to the league earlier in the summer.
It’s pretty satisfying to witness their progression up the league system.