The HamburgHammer Column

All around shambles - the circus is still in town, but the clowns are no longer funny

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I have to apologise to you all before I begin. This column will be neither original nor amusing, the pun quota will be non existent and the number of wise remarks low because, frankly, I’m running out of clever things to say fast here.

I am shell-shocked, dumbfounded, bemused and frustrated. But to a certain degree I feel quite indifferent too. Or maybe just numb. The slump for our club continues regardless. Our team can no longer play football. They look like complete strangers on the pitch.

We concede goals galore and the reason for that is partly our shaky backup goalkeeper. But make no mistake, Roberto is a problem, not the problem.
We don’t defend well as a team which means lack of pressing, chasing, covering the opposition players and it doesn’t apply solely to our defenders, the entire team is guilty in that respect.

As bad as we are at defending we are not much better at attacking. Or even at stringing a few passes together. Crosses are either five metres short or ten metres too long. We cover less distance than any other team in the league.
We have plenty of the ball, but appear to be clueless about what to do with it when we have it.

When you’re already down, being outplayed and outclassed in the pouring rain, at West Ham that is usually the signal for Lady Luck to casually stroll by, raise a knee and take a swing, kicking us in the teeth while giggling like a maniac. In this case both Noble and Lanzini had to leave the game with what looked like serious injuries.

And as fantastic a goalkeeper as Fabianski is, he alone couldn’t have saved us in this slump. Unless he has learned by now how to score goals upfront as well as preventing them down the other end. West Ham are the black mamba of Premier League football, lethally toxic once again. And very grumpy with it.

At least a black mamba knows how to defend itself and strike out at its opponent…we are currently more like a black rabbit with a bad limp, caught in the headlights of a speeding car on a wet road in the middle of the night.

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I don’t remember another West Ham game in the last ten years when I watched proceedings with so little interest and expectation levels at minus 7. The game was on my custard alright, but I was only glancing up occasionally, basically whenever the commentator got a bit excited about something, raising his voice.

I browsed the internet on my tablet. Flicking through the pages of the newspaper. I also was on the phone to my brother for half an hour, during halftime and the first 20 minutes of the second half. I had no shred of hope left in my mind that we might at least score a consolation goal, even if we had played on for an additional two hours. Would it even have mattered ?

Would it bowlocks!

And it began to dawn on me that once again a Burnley game could prove to be a turning point for us. Every West Ham fan for sure remembers THAT game at the London Stadium, on the day of “the march that wasn’t“ with several fans invading the pitch and a corner flag ending up in the center circle.

It might be argued that it was this game that made our board step up their efforts to sign Pellegrini and finally pipe down in terms of rabbiting to the media 24/7. Could Saturday’s horror show prove to be the beginning of the end for Pellegrini already ?

But what, or rather, who next ?

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I wish I could put my finger on what exactly it is that is wrong with our club at the moment. But I now have to concede that Pellegrini is indeed part of the wider problem. Can he still be part of the solution as well though ? I honestly don’t know.

It seems to be the most convenient and common option to follow for a club in freefall to simply change the manager. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. Let’s also not forget how incredibly tight the league still is, with merely four points separating 16th place (us) from 5th (Sheffield United) as things stand.

However, judging on our recent performances, getting any more points on the board at all will be a tall order for our team in its momentary predicament.
A team which actually is still made up of various very decent footballers on paper. Shame we still have to play on grass…

Should any of you good people have any suggestions as to how to get the club back on track, feel free to leave your masterplan in the comments below.

Or if you have anything else in your locker, however random, to cheer up your fellow supporters on this cold and miserable Monday morning (as it is here in Hamburg), please come forward and put a smile back on our collective faces because the team is failing spectacularly to do so at the moment. But still: COYI!!! (What else can we do ?)

I can’t be arsed to post the Hamburg football update this week, most of you aren’t bothered anyway and should I feel better about it later on, I might post the results in the comments in the afternoon or later this evening.

It’s no pleasure cruise being a West Ham fan in November 2019…

Match Report

Has West Ham Expired?

Forest fires are a natural event. They help to clear out or the deadwood, allowing new trees to flourish. West Ham are going down this season – that is my prediction. And it may be a good thing and the only answer. Our move to the London Stadium has turned out to be a disaster and even the first game there against Juventus exposed our problems which have dogged us since. Going down would allow us to clear out the deadwood and have a rebirth.

But, the first question which needs to be answered. Is, as some people think, West Ham actually dead , extinct, is no more, has passed on, gone to meet its maker, stiff as a board, resting in peace , pushing up daisies, kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin’ choir invisible? This is an ex-club.(Can’t remember where I got all this from)

In the imagination, one retains a Dickensian dream of matchday. The cockney leaving the warmth of his coal fire to go over the road to watch his team. Some walked to Nathans to partake in an eel pie or having a few pints in the Boleyn Tavern prior to watching the game and having a good punch up or banging on the windows of the opposition coach. Walking past street vendors , touts , police horses and steaming horse manure.

Then watching our team of all white boys until 1968, when Clyde Best appeared. Who would have thought black people could play football? And we knew that foreign players were tricky, but all we saw of them was Bert Trautmann, a sort of Kraut.

I can lay claim to my West Ham heritage. I was born in Plaistow hospital and lived on a road off of Green Street. My grandfather attended the cup final of 1923. When I was a boy, I walked up Green Street with our cleaning lady’s husband (my Dad wasn’t interested in football). I watched my three heroes in action – all local boys, bearing in mind West Ham was in Essex in those days.

Most games I attend now are with my ten year old grandson. Now, the question I ask myself is whether he is less attached to the club than I was, bearing in mind some consider it a stiff parrot. In actual fact, he can be described as a West Ham nutcase or perhaps acorn. My son’s dream for him is to make him as enthusiastic for history or geography and the plethora of subjects waiting to be studied. Instead, he is a walking encyclopedia as far as football in concerned. If he is not watching football, he is playing it or FIFA 19.

Many clubs rebuild or move to new stadiums. In the USA, where a club is a franchise, some clubs have even moved cities. The area around the Boleyn Stadium and Newham itself have changed dranmatically. Shops such as Nathans Pie & Mash would have closed anyway, due to landlords raising rents and unaffordable rates.

From the moment, the UK won the right to stage the Olympics in 2012, the fate of West Ham was sealed. This should have been obvious to everybody who was involved in the construction of the London Stadium. Unfortunately, people such as Sebastian Coe were deaf to the calls to design the stadium so that it was adaptable to football. Instead £486 million was laid out on the original construction and then a further, disgusting £274 million on renovations.

The stadium itself is a concrete bowl and the lump of twisted metal which stands beside it, which is apparently a work of art, sums up the West Ham story.

But to say we are dead is totally incorrect. There are many negatives. We have owners who have a past which is shaming and do not engender loyalty. We have a manager who patently is too old for the job and has run out of ideas. We have a stadium where the atmosphere is deficient. We have players who are carpetbaggers, more committed to money than effort. They are unable to give that final 10% which makes all the difference.

But like the clearing in a forest created by a fire, we can rebuild and look forward to a better future. In life, patience is a virtue. A tree grows slowly, but we have tried to circumvent natural growth by lashing out money on sub-standard players and managers, not learning lessons, but making the same mistakes time and time again.

David Hautzig's Match Report

Burnley 3, West Ham 0. Welcome To Our Current Crisis.

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I wish I could be more level headed about us. As Nigel has said to me more times than I can remember, it’s in our DNA. We have an uncanny ability to take better players and managers and instead of raising the whole club to their level, we somehow drag them down to ours. When a work issue came up for me yesterday, causing me to interrupt my Saturday with the family to become a wine delivery guy (at least it’s for my mate and fellow Hammer Alex, aka Poor Bastard), I secretly wished the warehouse people could only meet me in the morning. That would have given me a reason to just skip today altogether. Instead 1pm was offered, so that was that. Without a win in our last 6, another 90 minutes of angst was staring me in the face. And that angst did not even blink.

One of the many observations, or criticisms if you will, of our current system is the way Haller has been isolated up top. Long balls galore for him to win. But that isn’t his game. In the eighth minute Snodgrass did find the Frenchman with a decent pass but Haller couldn’t find his feet and the threat was over.

A minute later the long day I feared looked to have begun. Burnley won their second corner in quick succession when Roberto inexplicably decided to punch the ball away when he should have just caught it. Burnley won that corner, although replays show it should have been a goal kick. The set piece from McNeil flew over Rice, Tarkowski headed it to Barnes right in front of the goal, and that was that. With goalkeeping and defending like that, screaming about the corner that should not have been is slightly pointless.

Burnley 1
West Ham 0

The bulk of the action remained in the West Ham half, and if Cresswell hadn’t gotten his head on another McNeill delivery Barnes might very well have made it 2-0. An injury to Noble meant Yarmolenko was inserted, but everyone started to look the same to me in those purple kits. Burnley moved the ball around, made crunching tackles, and we looked powerless to do anything about it.

There was a moment in the 27th minute that kind of summed us up. Anderson ran with the ball on the left. He had space. But he tried to roll a low pass to Haller in the box, and just like that any semblance of an attack just vanished. Minutes later a burst of speed from Fredericks on the right forced Mee to put the ball out for a West Ham corner. That in and of itself was the only thing worth mentioning because Burnley cleared the ball easily.

Yarmolenko won another corner in the 34th minute. OK. Let’s move on.

I admit I had no idea who Dwight McNeill was before today. Now I will see him in my many West Ham nightmares. His delivery into the box over a sea of West Ham defenders that Wood headed past Roberto should have made it 2-0. But VAR ruled an armpit was ahead of the pass and the goal was disallowed. Regardless, the cross was world class.

It didn’t matter in the end because Balbuena made a shocking error in the 44th minute when he completely misplayed a ball from Roberto and allowed McNeill to make a much easier pass to Wood in the box and it was officially a second goal.

Burnley 2
West Ham 0

The second half started brighter for West Ham in relative terms. We didn’t concede a third goal from the opening kick, Yarmolenko and Haller took actual shots on goal, and we passed the ball from player to player without looking ridiculous. My stream did start to act wonky, coming in and out, and time would tell if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

Turned out it was a good thing. My phone app told me that Burnley had scored again, and that Roberto was at fault. When the stream eventually caught up with reality, I saw a howler worthy of a million YouTube hits. So for the second time in two weeks, I quit before the final whistle.

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No more details, although Nigel told me Roberto made some wonderfully ironic classy saves near the end.

Final Score
Burnley 3
West Ham 0

So. Here we are again. In full blown crisis mode, a relegation battle at our doorstep. With an international break next weekend, dollars to donuts I can guarantee that stories will emerge about any number of people. Pellegrini, Husillos, Sullivan, you name it. And if anyone acts surprised, I have a bridge to sell you. That’s how our club has behaved ever since the current regime took over. That does not mean I’m laying the current meltdown at their doorstep. I truly don’t know where the majority of the blame lies.

I just know the supporters bear the brunt of the pain.

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Match Thread

Match Thread: Burnley v West Ham

Burnley v West Ham
FA Premier League
Turf Moor
KO 3pm
TV: None

Please use this thread to comment on the game as it progresses.

Opposition Q & A

Opposition Q&A with Burnley

Well we’re in the doldrums again. Over the years we’ve had worse starts and ended up mid-table, but things are not currently looking good. This weekend we travel away to play against a Burnley team who are always up for a game. They lost to Sheffield United 3 – 0 last week and will be looking for a better result at home. We will be hoping to end our losing streak. Ahead of the game I spoke once again to Tony Scoles, editor of Uptheclarets to discuss everything Claret and Blue.

Hi Tony, good to talk again. In general are you satisfied with Burnley’s position when you consider that most of the past 45 years you’ve been in the lower leagues, or do you think ‘forget all that we’re in the Premier League and we’ve got to keep on improving.’?
You can never be blasé about Burnley being in the Premier League. I was brought up at a time when we were one of the country’s top teams but they were different days. Yes, we would love to keep improving and that is always the aim but we know we are probably the smallest club in the Premier League and I think any fair minded Burnley fan will think we are doing OK right now, a fourth successive season here and with that Europa League adventure last season.

How do you rate your recent purchases/loans and are any of them forging a permanent place in the Burnley line-up?
Only Erik Pieters of the summer signings has been able to win a regular place and that was due to a pre-season injury otherwise he would have had to wait like the others. Jay Rodriguez has been in for the last three games because of injuries but those two apart the team we’ve been turning out are players who have been here for three years and more.

Where if anywhere do you think you most need strengthening and will you be looking to buy in the winter transfer window?
I doubt we will be looking to do much, if any, business in January but if we do it will be the continuing theme of just strengthening the squad. We certainly won’t be pushing the boat out to bring in any expensive players, that’s just not our way.

Who have been the best three Burnley players for you over the past few years?
I think Steven Defour would have been top of this list had he not suffered with injuries almost constantly throughout his time with us. I’d certainly have Ben Mee in my top three. He’s been a constant performer in the centre of defence and I’d also include Ashley Barnes who has become a very good striker for us. It’s difficult picking players out but I’d probably add Tom Heaton who is now with Villa. He was our captain and a damn good goalkeeper for us.

Who have been the best three Premier League players you have seen at Turf Moor over this time period?
Undoubtedly we’ve seen some quality but it’s so difficult to pick out players from one performance so I’d be tempted to go with the obvious players such as Sergio Aguero who always seems to score against us. The ones that have stood out though in one game were Cesc Fabregas and Samuel Eto’o who probably turned in his one good Everton performance against us.

Give us the current feeling towards Sean Dyche if you wouldn’t mind. From the outside it looks as though you are a perfect fit.
He’s just completed seven years with us. When he arrived we were struggling in the Championship but he’s given us two promotions, with 93 points in each, and five seasons so far in the Premier League. That’s probably as perfect as it gets. There were some questioning him at this time last year when we were seriously struggling but I can’t think of anyone I would prefer managing us.

It looks as though once again Liverpool and Manchester City will fight between themselves for the league title, who do you pick to win it, and who will join these two in the Champions League positions?
It’s a toss of a coin almost for the title and should Liverpool win this weekend against Manchester City it would take them into a very healthy position. I think, right now, my money, if I were a betting man, would be on Liverpool.
Who else in the Championship League positions? Spurs seem to be blowing up, there are problems at Arsenal and Manchester United are simply just not good enough. That opens the door to the likes of Leicester who are looking good and I think they might just make it with Chelsea.

Where do you think Burnley will finish the season? I won’t ask where you think we’ll end up!
I think we’ll be OK and clear of the relegation back. We are good enough to get up into the top ten but that’s a big ask so I’ll say around 12th. I’ll let you decide on West Ham.

Who are your early picks for relegation? Your selections at a similar time last year proved prophetic!
Hopefully that meant I went for Cardiff, Fulham and Huddersfield a year ago at a time when we were right down there. I think, this season, I’ll have to be boring and go for the current bottom three. Norwich are a certainty for me given the number of goals they give away, something has gone seriously wrong at Watford and I think Southampton are a poor, poor side.

How are you enjoying the introduction of VAR into the Premier League this season?
I believe this is one of the worst changes ever introduced into the game. We’ve fallen victim to it more than once with two ridiculous decisions not to overturn poor decisions on penalties and then the pure farce of our equaliser being ruled out at Leicester when it wronged a previously correct decision. I decided I would give it a chance and not judge too soon but if I were making the decision as to what to do with it then I’d suspend it immediately. It’s destroying the game.

How are Burnley going to line up against West Ham on Saturday? Prediction for players and line-up please.
This is a difficult one in this particular week with Sean Dyche having suggested changes after our performance at Sheffield United last week. I do think there will be a couple, could be even more, but we will play 4-4-2 I think and the likely line up is Pope, Lowton, Tarkowski, Mee, Taylor, Hendrick, Westwood, Cork, McNeil, Barnes, Wood.

I suppose you’ll look at our fixture and the next two against Palace and Watford as a chance to get some points on the board leading up to Christmas, but I suppose you might also have included Sheffield United in that list as well. Are you going to get back to winning ways against us? Prediction for score?
I very much hope we are going to get back to winning ways. Sheffield United was bitterly disappointing but tomorrow is another day and a repeat of last season’s 2-0 win will go down just fine.

Well many thanks to Tony again for his time and thoughts. There’s no way on earth that I’ll predict a West Ham win this week so the most I can hope for is a 1 – 1 draw! COYI

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