The HamburgHammer Column

Hammers hanging behind in Hamburg

Embed from Getty Images

It should have been a glorious footballing feast…in theory. Okay, at the very least we should have beaten those part timers of Altona comfortably, even taking into account the fact that Altona’s season was already in full swing (having played one league and one cup game already) and West Ham were still trying to improve their match fitness mainly without suffering any injuries to our players at this crucial stage with the first league game at Manchester United just around the corner.

I won’t say anything here about the Monday before the game when I welcomed Fallingegirl to my city as he will pen his own guest article on his Hamburg experiences I understand.

On matchday I met up with Liam early in the afternoon, another fellow Hammer from another West Ham forum who had travelled over for the game from Brentwood.
We shook hands at the entrance of St.Pauli’s famous Millerntor Stadion before going on the stadium tour which surprisingly was still on despite St.Pauli being scheduled to play Stoke in a preseason friendly just four hours later.
So it came as no surprise that our group bumped into the busy St.Pauli kitman in the dressing room who promptly but politely threw us out again after two minutes as he had work to do obviously.

It is such an amazing stadium (just under 30k capacity) despite having been modernised on all four sides about five years ago to effectively replace the older stadium that used to stand there in the very same location.

Despite being a state of the art stadium it still oozes the character, values and traditions of the club that resides there. For example they do have a corporate VIP section of course, but even the guests in those areas don’t get a red carpet treatment. They have to enter through a simple cobblestoned entrance and and have to get to their lounges via the same stairs used by supporters sitting in the cheap seats.

The lounges are special insofar as they all look different and the sponsors using them have kitted each one out in a distinctively unique design and style, so there is a pirate themed bar for instance, a chamber resembling a mountain cabin in the Alps, another one recreating the look of the dressing room in the old stadium and many more.

Embed from Getty Images

When I was stepping out onto one of the balconies of a lounge, looking down at the pitch it reminded me of a moment more than two years ago when I was spending the night at the West Ham hotel at Upton Park, admiring the green grass of the Boleyn just below, so close you almost felt you could touch the blades of grass with your fingertips.
I am sure that 90% (or more) of the West Ham fans would love to watch home games from a stadium like the Millerntor where St.Pauli play (only a claret and blue version of course).

After the tour we met up with the radio guy from the local radio station and took the bus over to Altona and as could be expected the buses were absolutely heaving with fans from both sides travelling to the game. My first action was to buy a half and half scarf. I usually despise those matchday souvenirs, to me they represent part of what is wrong with modern football and I never buy them when attending a Premier League game, but this was a special occasion after all, my beloved West Ham playing a team FROM my birthplace and hometown Hamburg IN Hamburg, nevermind it was the wrong Hamburg team, but still…LOL

I still maintain though that the task of organising this game must have been slightly overwhelming for a club of Altona’s stature.
I had a bad feeling already when ordering the tickets for this game online as the process was flawed and people ended up getting the wrong tickets. This manifested itself further when entering the stadium. I had been told in advance that Altona for some reason seemed keen to use an approach based on nationality when segregating fans.
So German fans were supposed to go in the home ends to the other Germans, no matter if they supported West Ham or Altona while apparently English fans only were supposed to be allowed into the designated away section.

Fallingegirl for some reason ended up entering through the main entrance, watching the game surrounded by Altona fans while being in full West Ham gear. Apparently a lot of tickets weren’t actually checked thoroughly by stewards upon stadium entry. Other West Ham fans from Germany in claret and blue were following in Fallingegirl’s footsteps as apparently stewards had told them to do just that. I was already in the away section when the radio guy nearly got me chucked out unwittingly by telling the stewards about the fact I was a local Hammers fan with a German passport he was doing a feature on.

It turned out there were plenty of German Hammers fans there after all, both from Hamburg and the surrounding area which means I am now officially no longer the only Hammer in the village…:-)
I will now try to stay in touch with some of them and hopefully we can find an Irish Bar or something that will allow us to watch West Ham together on a big screen or telly on a more regular basis, we will see.

Embed from Getty Images

I have spoken before about my disappointment that the West Ham-Concordia game never materialised and my being even more disappointed that Altona were ultimately successful with their bid. I am now more convinced than ever that something doesn’t add up financially here. I actually wrote an email to the local sponsors who were mentioned in the local press when the fixture was announced to get a bit more information on this and how 4th level Altona were actually able to make it all happen.
I wasn’t surprised I never heard back from them…

Again, I cannot confirm the actual match fee asked by West Ham on this blog, but it is a significant sum and surely totally out of the financial reach of a club like Altona.
Even with the help of the local sponsor the match fee would be far too high to warrant the game to go ahead without someone losing money and certainly Altona can’t have earned anything from this in money terms, especially after only selling 5000 tickets when their ground could hold nearly twice as many.

I am convinced that either West Ham lowered their asking price for the match fee to suit Altona or it was a case of someone knowing someone and owing them a business favour. I am highly biased of course as a Concordia fan here, with wounded pride maybe clouding my judgment, but this contest seemed dodgy from the beginning.
I doubt we will ever hear the truth about what really happened there to be honest.

Embed from Getty Images

The game didn’t make a lot of sense in terms of the gulf between the quality of the two teams (even though that gulf of course wasn’t apparent in the game itself). I heard that Altona had to upgrade the dressing room for their visitors at short notice as the standards were not quite up to the standards expected by “posh” West Ham.
Maybe that was part of the problem: West Ham seemed to expect a glorified practise session with spectators in the stands, Altona on the other hand gave them a proper game, wanting it more, running more, being up for it to a degree that apparently surprised or even shocked our players.

There was one punch up in the away section, forcing the police to drop the sausages they were munching on and intervene. Apparently it wasn’t even a West Ham fan causing the aggro but a Halle fan from East Germany sporting fascist tattoos and trying desperately to pick a fight. Halle were even playing a game that day.
So to take the bizarre effort of ordering a ticket for this game weeks ago and then travelling for hours just to pick a fight and ending up being frogmarched out of the ground is quite an impressive display of stupidity.

Football wise there were some positive news for me after all when I learned that Concordia had won their cup game at Wentorf by a 5:0 scoreline.
So at least one of my teams on the night lived up to their status as favourites.

So, what do I take away from the last few preseason days encountered with West Ham ? Well, I was a bit disappointed, with the games itself obviously, but also with the closed training session on Thursday and what seemed to me like players that were not caring about the German fans that much, giving away vibes of being distant, disinterested or bored. To put this into perspective though, I have also heard stories of the team being very good with certain other individuals and kids, making their day in the process.

So maybe I was just unlucky and we were actually discussing this issue during our farewell beers outside a restaurant in Altona on Tuesday evening, me, Fallingegirl, Ebi, the German Hammer from near Cologne and his son Tommy (biggest Tomkins fan on the planet). We all agreed that it’s not really worth it getting attached to the players or expecting any of them to behave in an overly friendly or jolly manner with the fans. You are bound to get disappointed if the players don’t react in the way you would like them to.

Same with the decisions of the board. Owners come and go, but the fans will still be there with new owners in charge. We established there is one thing that really is at the focus for us all when it comes to supporting West Ham and why we will hopefully continue to do so for many years to come: It is the bond between Hammers fans worldwide, helping each other out, having each other’s back, having a good time together and being there for each other.

I have met quite a few new friends in the last few days who share my love for West Ham, fellow Germans, but also from Essex and Greater Manchester. Yes, West Ham are a football club first and foremost and we want to see them win games. Maybe even want to see them get to the next level sometime in our lifetime. But as long as there are still West Ham fans looking out for one another it doesn’t matter too much what happens on the pitch.

We didn’t pick West Ham (or get chosen by West Ham in some cases) for glory or bragging rights. It’s because of, pardon the pathos, being part of the West Ham family.
And the preseason tour of Germany has given me a strong indication that the West Ham family is very much alive and kicking. And that’s the biggest positive I take away from our preseason travels in Germany. COYI!


Financial

Explaining West Ham's £100 million of debt

Embed from Getty Images

West Ham co-owner David Sullivan’s comments that the club is still £100m in debt have caused some confusion among some Hammers supporters.

He told Jim White on Talksport last week:

“It’s a difficult one because we’re not a bottomless pit. We still have to balance the books and we still have £100million of debt.”

Many still believed the board promised that the club would be debt free when they sold the Boleyn Ground

In fact those original comments were talking about external bank debt although I accept that was not precisely highlighted at the time. Gold later clarified on social media last year by saying

“We never said we would be free of debt, we said we would be free of BANK debt which we now are. dg”

In simple terms, you can’t clear a £100m debt unless you make £100m of profit so they have merely moved much of the external bank debt to shareholder loans which will now mature in January 2020.

Many disgruntled fans will always believe it is all smoke and mirrors but below I will try to explain five straight forward key numbers from West Ham financial accounts for the six years following the Gold and Sullivan take over to explain why we haven’t paid off the £100m of debt.

The key numbers are turnover (the amount West Ham earned in the year), Operating profit or loss for the year before player trading and interest and the general profit/loss after player trading and interest payments are taken into account.

The figures below show the club earned £665m in six years after the takeover and made a net operating profit of £97m but it spent a further £124m net on transfers and another £31m in interest payments creating an overall loss of a further £59.5m over those six years.

In 2010 West Ham had £110m of debts made up of £50m owed to banks £40m owed to other clubs and £20m owed to Sheffield United. In 2016 the ‘£100m of debts’ is made of £61.4m owed to two Davids from shareholder loans and £35.5m to other clubs for transfers so just under £97m.

As for the sale of the Boleyn Ground for £38m last year. £15m went to the LLDC for the conversion of the London Stadium £15m went to banks to pay off loans mortgaged against the Boleyn Ground and the remaining £8m went to fit out the new shop and offices at the London Stadium plus the WestHamification of the stadium includinf the cleart and blue seats.

First published on ClaretandHugh.info


Talking Point

Why is the Guardian Anti-West Ham?

Blind Hammer responds to Guardian criticisms of West Ham.

I am a Guardian Reader but have to confess I am becoming increasingly fed up with the negativity of some of the comments published by this August institution about West Ham. Some of this criticism is childish, snarling and frankly unacceptable. The Guardian’s “Fiver” Sports Newsletter thinks it is clever to now resort to name calling, referring to our club as “Taxpayers United”, joining with the BBC in promulgating a theory that if you repeat a lie often enough people will believe it. Apparently the Guardian is blind to the overt measures taken by Spurs to secure Tax payers money as reported by Sean Whetstone a couple of weeks ago, preferring to only launch their barbs with a single eyed determination at West Ham. It appears that the Guardian also somehow now believes fervently that West Ham should be responsible for funding the nation’s commitment to Athletics at the London Stadium. This is the lazy lie which the Guardian and others are pushing about the Stadium’s financial problems, that these are sole responsibility of West Ham cheating the Taxpayer when any fair analysis would recognise that it is only with West Ham that the stadium has any future at all. It is the multi-use of the stadium for Athletics which is creating a financial crisis.

This snarling criticism was echoed by a recent piece by Jacob Steinberg in which he sought to belittle the business done by West Ham in the transfer market this summer. The piece is interesting because I have personally been unaware of the Guardian taking up any agenda against other clubs for their transfer business, beyond reflecting on the general lack of business done. Only West Ham appears to have received criticism for the actual signings made.

If we are to believe Steinberg West Ham has indulged in “short terminism”, signing players approaching the end of their Careers.

This flimsy and poorly argued piece by Steinberg is barely worth taking seriously but for the record he includes the signing of Joe Hart at 30 as an example of short terminism. He then goes on to criticise West Ham for not only signing a player at an advanced age but one who career is in decline. Steinberg appears desperate for what he describes as a ”glamorous“ signing to go sour.

Steinberg does not seem to reflect that if there is this risk then West Ham have done extremely good business by only signing Hart on loan. If things go sour, as he suggests, then the damage to West Ham will be minimised. If on the other hand things go well, then West Ham will be in prime position to consolidate the Hart signing with a buy option. I personally think it is extremely unlikely that if Hart does well, that he would want to jeopardise his international place, by returning to a so called “bigger club” to warm their bench. To describe the signing of a 30 year old keeper as short term by Steinberg would be laughed off as plain silly by most football pundits. Hart could easily have 7-8 years as a West Ham Goalkeeper ahead of him.

Pablo Zabaleta is the other allegedly geriatric players that Steinberg takes aim at. At 32 he is another person apparently up for a last big “pay-day” in a retirement home. Steinberg queries whether West Ham can cope with more slow players, referring to the evident lack of athleticism in the team last season. Now at 32 Pablo Zabaleta will have to answer some questions this season, though the prospects look reasonable, if pre-season is anything to go by. Age, as we know from many examples, including those at our club, is not necessarily a guide to fitness. Billy Bonds at 32 was clearly the fittest player at our club at the time.

However I do not recall Steinberg lining up to criticise Manchester United when they signed Zlatan Ibrahimovi? on an even shorter term contract last year at 35. Nobody is ridiculing Manchester United when they say that they may offer Zlatan Ibrahimovi? another contract in |January if he recovers from his knee ligament injury. It is apparently perfectly acceptable for Manchester United to invest in proven international class players at the end of their careers whilst it is foolish for West Ham to do the same.

Steinberg’s criticism of Arnautovic seems to revolve around the fact that Stoke paid only £2 million for him 4 years ago, and that he is at the giddying advanced age of 28. Now Steinberg’s carping now descends to the silly. 28 are considered by most to be the age at which most footballers are at their peak. The problem for West Ham over the years is that their transfer business has recruited players not at their peak, but players who are either young and unproven, or older and at the end of their careers. Any fair evaluation of the recruitment of Arnautovic would recognise this fact. The fact that he cost only £2 million 4 years ago is just irrelevant. There are hundreds of players who have increased their transfer value whilst playing for a club. Nobody blinks an eye if Chelsea or Manchester City pays a higher transfer fee for a player at his peak who was previously recruited for a lesser fee. Why should it be a problem for West Ham?

Hernandez at 29 is apparently another who is ready for the rest home and the lazy life. Whilst it would have been great to have signed Hernandez at 27, when we first wanted him, to suggest he is over the hill now is again carping. I have seen no articles from Steinberg pointing his ammunition at Bournemouth for signing the 34 year old Jermaine Defoe. If Hernandez has anything like the fitness levels he apparently naturally holds we have a player who can reasonably perform for the next 3-4 years at least. Steinberg’s gloomy assessment of Hernandez’s age does not appear to be shared by other football commentators. Commentators writing for the fan base of Manchester United, Tottenham and Arsenal have all bemoaned the fact that West Ham has achieved the Hernandez coup, when they clearly feel he could have done a job for them. But then according to Steinberg all these commentators from other clubs are presumably also lacking judgement, falling into the “short terminism trap.

There is a risk in all transfer business and we will have to see how these recruitments pan out. It is also possible that the club may still, late in the window, invest in more speculative players for the future. Any fair analysis of West Ham transfer policy over the last few seasons would recognise that this is what they have done. Ashley Fletcher was recently sold for a profit, Lanzini’s worth has climbed astronomically since her was signed. Fernandez and Arthur Masuaku all look like proven PL quality signings on the cheap, as was Cheikhou Kouyaté. Even Payer realised a 250% transfer rise in value whilst at West Ham.

The investment in the Academy appears to be finally paying off with a crop of youngsters who may just possibly form the core of another “golden generation” of West ham youngsters. The investment the club makes year in, year out, in its Academy is the very opposite of short terminism.

So in my view it is time for the guardian to recover some it alleged spirit of “balanced reporting” and stop their anti-West Ham bias and sniping.

COYI

David Griffith.

He

St


Competition

Join the WestHamTillIDie Fantasy League 2017/18

WestHamTillIDie today officially launches its league for next season’s Premier League Fantasy Football and invites you to take part and submit a team.

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 this code 1283349-316242 into the relevant box. You need to register before the season starts on Friday 11th August.

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


Match Thread

Match Thread: Altona 93 v West Ham

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


Copyright © 2017 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.