The GoatyGav Column

Show Me The Money!

Jerry Maguire is one of my favourite films. Being in sales myself I guess that I identify with the main character of the same name as the title. For those who haven’t seen it I’d describe the movie as a good insight in to the ups and downs of a sales professional. Maguire, himself, is a sports agent. I love the film for it’s humour and honest depiction of how those who appear super confident use a front to transmit a self-assuredness as well as how those in sales can go from hero to zero in a single moment. Very much like sports people in that respect – one minute they can be on top of their game and the next they consider themselves as a ‘Cautionary Tale’.

For those who might think that you’ve accidentally logged on to a film review site – fear not. There are many parallels between our very own Marko Aranautovic, and his brother, to some characters in Jerry Maguire. Cuba Gooding’s character, Rod Tidwell, coins the phrase “Show me the money” during a phone conversation with Jerry Maguire in which he ends up confirming that he is going to remain Jerry’s client when all his others are leaving him to sign with the firm that have just fired Maguire. In fact “Show me the money,” and “You had me at hello,” have become two of hollywood’s best known film lines since the picture’s release.

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Maguire is later described by Tidwell as “hanging on by a very thin thread.” Recent comments to the press about West Ham paying peanuts could be seen in the same light. Earlier in the same scene Maguire encourages Tidwell to “get back to the guy who first started playing this game,” before continuing “remember – way back when, when you were a kid, it wasn’t just about the money was it? – was it?” I don’t think there’s much doubt about Marko’s reasons for wanting to go to China and it doesn’t have anything to do with achieving things in the game or playing for the joy of it.

Another interesting dynamic of Tidwell’s situation during the film is that he is exposed to a high risk of losing his livelihood if he gets injured before the end of the season. Admittedly this is a risk that is driving MA to making his ‘big money’ move. He appears to have been playing while carrying an injury in recent weeks anyway. Who is to say that our striker won’t break down at some point before the end of this season. At the end of Jerry Maguire Tidwell gets his life changing contract. It’s my guess that MA will get his however the difference, in Arnautovic’s case, is that he’d be off to a, comparatively, uncompetitive league to achieve his ‘earner’.

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Other parallels exist. Tidwell is a moody, uncompromising player who proves challenging to his head coach. He’s also trying to secure his family’s financial security by signing a money-spinning deal. Two dynamics that exist, or, at least, have existed, during Arnie’s time at West Ham.

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The plot of the movie centres around a ‘mission statement’ that Maguire shares with all of his colleagues at his sports agency company. In this document an ethical approach to ‘the future of our business’ is mapped out and a ‘less is more’, sustainable, MO should be adopted by agents. For me the current business practices of many player’s agents is unsustainable and the millions that end up in the pockets of those agents simply can’t continue. On this occasion, however, it looks like the agent will get his way and we’ll lose our player to a league where once great players go for their final pay off.

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All boiled down none of us want another Payet situation. It’s hard to believe that Marko’s brother is his ‘Ambassador of Kwan’. I guess you have to respect that Marko can earn far more money, in China, than West Ham are currently able to pay . Best the owners get as much out of the deal as possible and re-invest in a good, new striker. Let’s hope it ends up working in our favour.

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!


Talking Point

West Ham Family Witnessing History

We came over from Austria last weekend and were able to watch an other game in the London Stadium. Well, I love coming to London and it seems West Ham does appreciate my presence, too, because all of the last three games I was able to attend this season have been wins for the Irons!

This weekend also would have been the right time “to have a word” with my compatriot who doesn’t seem to be so enthusiastic anymore about staying in London as I am. But unfortunately immediately after the game Arnie left for Vienna, whereas we’re going to stay in London until Tuesday!

Witnessing history

Well, it seems the games that I have picked for my visits to the London Stadium since West Ham’s move to Stratford, are frequently going to be remembered for something special: Last season I watched Slaven Bilic’s last game and Marko Arnautovic’s first goal there. This season I’ve already witnessed Felipe Anderson’s first brace for the Hammers in the win over Burnley. And now maybe (I still say “maybe” as I don’t want to take it for sure) I came back for Arnie’s last game in this stadium.

But forget about that! We’ve all witnessed a really bright and joyous moment in West Ham’s history on Saturday lunch time, as this game will not be remembered because of a forward saying good-bye, but will forever have its special place in history for a young man’s first Premier League goal which sealed a first win at home over Arsenal since 2006! This game marks a giant step forward for Declan Rice grabbing all the headlines in the Sunday papers with a majestic man of the match performance, just two days before his twentieth birthday. “Rice and shine”! What a bright future lies ahead for this graduate from our Academy.

But it’s also a game that was another big step forward for Manuel Pellegrini’s side which played really self-assured and mature against a team they had not beaten at home for almost 13 years. “We played like a big team in the Arsenal win,” the gaffer said after the 1-0 victory, and he couldn’t be more right.

It’s still old West Ham of course, but it’s not “poor old West Ham” that would have conceded an equaliser in injury time, squandering all the good work of the 90 minutes before. Arsenal actually had the ball in the back of the net in the 94th minute, but that goal was ruled out immediately for an offside so blatant that this fact was hardly mentioned in any of the match reports. And just seconds later the referee blew the whistle, and everybody was all but happy in the London Stadium, which this afternoon had been left early only by the folks occupying the away section that had been fairly quiet throughout the game.

It’s getting better all the time

It was a brilliant match day experience, like the one I had enjoyed on my last visits to the Burnley and the Crystal Palace games this season! In my opinion the match day experience in general is getting better and better now in this third year in the new stadium which of course is helped by the team playing so well – and also by the increasing number of food stalls outside the stadium.

I usually get to the stadium from Hackney Wick to avoid the overcrowded Stratford not paying so much attention to the food facilities. But with the lunchtime kick-off we came earlier, first strolled through Westfield before the game and arrived at the concourse much in time. That also gave us the opportunity to look for my ”RapidHammer stone” on Champions’ Place in front of entrance “J” for once, but unfortunately I could not find the stone quick enough in the drizzling rain, and we decided to write to the club on this topic, because it seems that the stones haven’t been laid in the way I had been told when I bought mine.

The atmosphere inside the ground was great, and it was getting better and better throughout the game. It was a brilliant performance of our boys. Just the goal was scored too early after halftime as far as we were concerned, because unfortunately we were back to our seats too late, having queued for a drink for much too long.

A family club

Now that the troubles of last season are behind us, I think we can say that the crowd in the London Stadium is feeling more and more at home there, and that the club has retained (or maybe regained after a difficult transition period) its air of a “family club”. The family has grown bigger and moved to a new house to which we get more and more familiar, and it’s great to see that the house gets filled every time by the members of this worldwide family! Having chosen almost the same seats for all of our visits this season, we’re also feeling more and more like citizens coming home. Wouldn’t want to miss the young but very raucous voice just rows beneath us in every game, shouting “Come on you I’ons” when the place has gone too quiet now and then!

There are lots of families, old and young, and supporters from all over the world! Well, I think we long suffering lot really deserve that the team is playing so well now, rewarding this most committed and loyal support for their endurance and following over land and sea, to the Olympic Stadium on the shores of River Lea! A first home win over Arsenal since 2005, and Declan Rice’s first goal – we’ve witnessed history, who could ask for more this Saturday?

Declan’s goal and this fine win was a real gift, because we can take it easy now that my compatriot from Austria seems to cease sharing with me the love for London and the badge with the two crossed hammers, and is willing to replace one of the hammers by a sickle, with his brother and agent having already set sail for the Chinese Sea.

What could have been …

Of course it is sad that Arnautovic seems to have waved his good-bye right now, because this match really showed for the first (and maybe last) time what an offensive trio of Samir Nasri, Felipe Anderson and Arnie would have been capable of. There were some moments in this game when the three players who are gifted with technical ability and great understanding of the game combined so well that my heart jumped with joy!

Unfortunately I fear we will have to accept that these three musketeers will not be as inseparable as d’Artagnan and his friends were in the French writer Alexandre Dumas’s novel.

Having mentioned the phrase “French” now, a word on the possible similarities between Arnie and the unmentionable ex-player we lost two years ago: I don’t think that our Austrian forward will go on strike when negotiations stall and it takes time before the two clubs come to terms. He used to be some kind of an enfant terrible, and behaved like a stupid child in former years, but he has shown signs of having grown much more mature and level-headed in recent years since he’s married and father of two. So he should be professional enough to honour his contract as long as West Ham haven’t reached an agreement which enables them to bring in a fitting replacement (which will not be cheap, that’s for sure!).

Well, I can’t be sure of that of course, but it’s at least what I’m hoping for. But of course I know that “once a Hammer, always a Hammer” unfortunately only applies for the members of the worldwide family of supporters of claret and blue, it does not apply for the players (some of the former ones, and also of the present company excepted of course, Mark and Declan in particular!).

But no matter which players the squad will consist of in February and in the seasons to follow: it’s us, the claret and blue army, who will always remain West Ham through and through!

Come on you Irons !!!


The HamburgHammer Column

The bowl erupts with a spicy handful of Rice, some Cresswell and Nasri Goreng

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That was a West Ham moment for the history books: Declan Rice’s first ever goal in a competitive game for the West Ham first team. It had been a long time coming what with Declan having been a regular starter for a while now – yet when it finally happened all pre-conceived and orchestrated goal celebrations went straight into the Stratford sky – and Declan was suddenly a nine year old kid again who had just kicked a ball between two jumpers in the local park.

Or who had just been told by his parents he’d be getting a new playstation for christmas with a new puppy or kitten thrown in for good measure plus an unlimited supply of Yorkie bars for a year – it was an explosion of pure, unadulterated joy!

Young Declan didn’t know where to turn, what to do, if he should keep running, sliding down, humping the corner flag, jumping into the crowd, whatever! It was utterly infectious and you could see his smile reflected in the beaming faces of his teammates and afterwards even the pundits in the studio couldn’t knock the smiles off their boats!

If you had asked any Hammer to come up with a script for this game, picking our goalscorer in a rare 1:0 home win over Arsenal, I reckon 99% would have gone for the Rice option – the goal really was the “Ricing on the cake” of a fantastic team performance – and it turned the bowl of the London Stadium, often rightfully mocked as soulless, into the kind of cauldron we all know it can be on any special occasion or performance.

The place won’t be rocking like this when we draw 2:2 with Brighton or lose to Burnley, but it can be loud and proud for games like this one!

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Rice’s clean strike was such a glorious sight to witness and even from my armchair in Hamburg I felt the energy on the pitch and in that stadium at that very moment – it was Riceless really, pardon the pun.

For a brief moment football was good again. A young chap who had come through the Chelsea ranks (for a while) first and the West Ham ranks next just so he could develop into a very fine PL player just shy of 20 years old had finally scored his first PL goal. Not just a tap in, but a beautiful shot into the top corner.

And at that point, I’m convinced, he didn’t think about contracts, wages, bonus payments or transfers – he was just totally enjoying the moment, celebrating with his teammates on the pitch and his thousands of supporter mates in the stadium.

It was a strong performance from the entire West Ham team, a slightly less than impressive game from Arnautovic in my view, but more of that further down.

Cresswell was the left back of old, the kind of player capable of winning HOTY. Ogbonna became a worthy CB partner for the ever reliable Diop in Balbuena’s absence. Zabaleta was the experienced warrior of a hundred battles he usually is for us.

Rice not only scored, but made numerous vital interceptions including a well-timed, goal-saving effort in his own box.
Noble was everywhere and I truly believe we couldn’t have won this game without him.

Nasri showed us that there is no reason why we shouldn’t get to see the best of him in a West Ham shirt very soon – he already chipped in with great reading of the game and several key passes, linking defence and attack – and he isn’t even 100% match fit yet.
Anderson did it all, attacking, tracking back, winning back the ball – or casually re-arranging his gloves while accepting a pass before going past two opponents. It was a joy to behold.

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As for Arnautovic, let me have my say and then I’ll be done with him. He has always been a special character, I mentioned that when we signed him. As a youth footballer, later at Bremen and Stoke, he never was what you would call a textbook professional footballer or teamplayer.

A gifted technician and bulky bulldozer all rolled into one, yes, but also with a massive ego, a touch of a diva about him. Forever moody, totally disinterested in one game, then totally running the show and bringing home the win for his colours for the next one.

You take the good with the bad of course. As long as he wants to be at your club and wants to perform that is. For whatever reason he and his agent brother have now decided that the grass is apparently greener in China and he wants to leave in order to cash in quadruple wages and win trophies.
Very much in that order.

Look, I cannot blame anyone for following the money. It doesn’t even matter if he needs the money for reasons that better remain private or if he simply wants it to safeguard the future of his family for the next 260 years or just improve his personal wealth a bit quicker.

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I am a firm believer though in also doing things the right way. Which also applies to the way you leave a club. Timing, attitude, respect.

No player is bigger than the club, so if he no longer wants to be at West Ham, let him go, but it has to be on West Ham’s terms. The January window is not the best time to lose an important player who still has years to run on his current contract, so if a buying club is really keen to sign their target in January they need to come up with a fee that represents both the current market value of that player plus a January window extra amount on top.

No matter how much his agent/brother tries to argue their case, Arnautovic at this point is worth far more than £35 million, he is one of the top goalscorers in the most-watched league in the world, so as such I would set the baseline at between 50-60 million – and even that is moderate in the current footballing climate.

I wish him all the best of course, but when leaving our club prematurely, surely he cannot be allowed to do a Payet, picking one suitor (and one suitor only), basically dictating terms of any deal, the transfer fee and time of sale.

If the price meets our evaluation, then get rid quickly. At this point Arnautovic hasn’t started to throw his toys out of the pram, yet! But believe me, once he starts doing that you won’t believe how many toys he has in that pram and how far he can hurl them! You don’t want to see that. His performance on Saturday was very average by his standards I reckon.

It’s hard to tell of course if it was just one of those days where he isn’t that interested in general (he does have those) or if he had China on his mind already.

In any case I didn’t see the kind of effort, drive and willingness to run and chase as in any of his better games for us in the past.

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This was such a weird game though. We were playing Arsenal. I already mentioned that wins against them are rare. Usually they pound our goal relentlessly.

Usually we can only stop their attacking prowess by way of illegal means, resulting in a booking or five for us. Still, they usually manage to score two, three, four goals against us anyway.

I remember us beating Arsenal 1:0 at the Emirates in 2007 at the Emirates (Att. 60.098) in another classic encounter. It was a very different game of course, Zamora scored, but Green had to make what felt like 279 saves in order to maintain that clean sheet, it was wave after wave of attack from the Gooners. How we got the win that day I will never fully comprehend.

Not this time though at London Stadium (Att. 59.946). Yes, there were a few tricky moments and Arsenal are still a good side that can move box to box with the ball in no time to launch a shot at goal.

But this time our defenders were always ready with a sliding tackle or a crucial foot blocking any attempt at goal. And we had Fabianski who graced our box with a commanding presence I am still not quite used to, we are still talking about West Ham goalkeepers here.

Overall this was as comfortable a performance as it can be against Arsenal.
I have to admit, when I was working that screwdriver in my hands during the latter stages of the game, I still kept thinking, despite all the calmness, this is still West Ham, we will concede the equaliser in injury time, just our luck!
An Arsenal player will have a late desperation shot going wide, it will hit a sliding Ogbonna on his bum and trickle in, hugging the inside of the post in the process (with no defender standing on guard there, obviously!).

Not this time!

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We really played with a lot of confidence, with a bit of swagger, showing some big club mentality on that even bigger pitch. And all of that is down to Manuel Pellegrini, the old Chilean fox who has seen and heard it all in his long career, I’m sure. He’s probably got all them t-shirts neatly folded up in his cupboard to prove it.

Nothing seems to be capable of flustering or distracting him.
Not losing the first four games of the season on the trot. Not having ten vital players out with injury. Not having his topscorer angling for an untimely January transfer.

With Pellegrini this club is in good and very capable hands. Thank you Mr.Gold and Mr.Sullivan for bringing this man to West Ham and supporting him with decent funds in his first transfer window.

Very well done! Just one request: Don’t mess this up and revert to type anytime soon. Keep up the support of this very competent football man and you shall reap the rewards.

Pellegrini is just in the early stages of building this team, fulfilling his vision of playing good football at West Ham, football that’s pleasing on the eye and makes for good reading in the PL table.
I have complete trust in him to manage our squad and complete trust when it comes to letting players go and replacing them with better options.

Long may it continue! COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Winter break is still on, but Concordia have stepped up their training regime, winning their first outdoor friendly by a 4:0 scoreline.
I didin’t see the game though as there was an inconvenient overlap with the West Ham game against Arsenal – and I didn’t want to miss Rice’s first goal while attending a rather meaningless training game…;-))

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The Blind Hammer Column

Feedback Invited On Accessibility

Blind Hammer invites feedback on Accessibility Support at West Ham.

This week will see another meeting of the Disabled Supporters Advisory Board. (DSAB). I sit on this Board to represent and promote the interest of supporters who are blind, visually Impaired and those with hearing impairments. I am, though, like all Board members interested in all aspects of Accessibility. I can try and represent any Accessibility issues raised here.

The DSAB Board provides the club with feedback to improve its services.

Anybody who has positive or negative feedback that they would like me to address can do so by either posting comments below or can email me privately.
To prevent web robots picking up my email address you need to create an email address out of daj.griffith and then add the at gmail.com suffix.

Comments, questions and emails need to reach me by the absolute latest lunchtime on Wednesday 16th January so that I can organise their submission to the Board. Ideally you should send in messages by Tuesday 15th January.

For fuller information about Accessibility at West Ham you can download the West Ham Accessibility Statement from my Sendspace server on https://www.sendspace.com/pro/dl/uuiteb
To contact the West Ham Accessibility Team you should call 0333 030 0174 or email accessibility@westhamunited.co.uk

Below is a sketch of some of the services West Ham provides. Specific details and advice should be confirmed with the Accessibility Team.

Accessing Support
Disabled supporters need to register with the Accessibility Team to receive support. This will normally involve providing some evidence of Impairment. Support is also provided for senior citizens, fans with mobility difficulties or temporary injuries and pregnant mothers.

Tickets
Concessionary Tickets are available for Supporters with qualifying Disability. If there is a need for personal assistance in relation to disability the club will normally provide a complementary free second Carer’s ticket.
Support is also provided for Disabled Supporters through a dedicated Ticket Purchase line.

Accessibility Shuttle Bus Service
18 complimentary Accessibility shuttle buses run from Stratford and Stratford International to and from the Stadium. There is also a service for away supporters. Bus permits are available from the Accessibility Team. A permit would also be issued for a personal assistant if required. This is a popular and heavily used service so some queuing is likely but the service does appear to be continually improving. Chairs are now available on request for supporters who need them in the queue.

Car Parking
The Club has limited provision for car parking at the Stadium. 49 accessible parking spaces including six for away supporters have been reserved. Spaces are allocated seasonally and a waiting list is in place.

Drop-off facility
You should contact the Accessibility team to enquire about a pick-up/drop-off facility using a car or Taxi.

*Seating *
There are 253 wheelchair accessible spaces in the stadium. West ham does not set any upper limit to the number of Ambulant Disabled Supporters they will assist.

*Match day Assistance *
Disabled Supporter Assistants (DSA) are on hand to assist supporters before,
During and after the match. DSAs are identifiable as they wear a high visibility pink stewards Vest.

Audio Commentary Service
A free Audio commentary service organised by the “Insightful Irons” is available to all partially-sighted and blind supporters. You should contact the Accessibility Team in advance of a match day if interested for any particular game. Headsets are now available on season long loan for season ticket holders.

Notes on the DSAB
The Board Membership was established by application in 2017. The composition was independently determined by existing Disabled supporters on the main SAB who act as Joint chair. They have attempted to ensure a wide representation of impairment insights but this will be continually reviewed.

This is a brief summary only. Please contact the Accessibility Team or consult the Accessibility Statement for fuller details. If you have any queries and concerns then do not hesitate to also contact me direct either below by comment or privately by email.

COYI
David Griffith


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Declan Rice Goal Seals Hammers Win Against Arsenal


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