The HamburgHammer Column

How in Sir Trevor's name did we finish in 11th place ?

The weekend started stormy for me on Friday evening, literally. Final day of the Hamburg Oberliga season, a final meaningless home game against already relegated opposition. Even the 50 or so spectators who had made their way to the ground more by force of habit rather than uncontrollable enthusiasm for the game didn’t look like they wanted to be there. Neither did the two teams. Due to the very obscure local noise control regulations the game had to be played on the adjoining grass pitch rather than the artificial one usually used on the premises as it was a Friday evening game.

The game was played under a constant supply of drizzling rain. It was as exciting as a wet weekend in Wigan and then middle of the second half with the score at 1:1 the heavens opened for a furious crescendo. Freezing cold water hitting us from all sides, accompanied by heavy thunder and lightning, directly above the pitch. The referee had no other option than to abandon the game (and thus most likely end the season) and to tell the truth not a single soul was unhappy with that. The Concordia lads will now have to do some reshuffling over the summer, replacing some departing players, in order to then strive for promotion again next season.

The Concordia vice president once again told me over a beer he was very much looking forward to joining me on one of my West Ham trips next season with a few more guys from the Cordi hierarchy, so I may be asking you for some help with regard to providing a few tickets for that cause sometime next season.

As for our West Ham game I was in the bizarre situation of not being able to watch via one of my usual streams and I wasn’t confident enough about using some of the other suggestions as I didn’t want to put my laptop at risk of being attacked by spy- or ransomware. So I “watched” the game via the stats screen of the betting site I use which is a bit like watching one of those dodgy first video games that came out on one of those old Atari gaming consoles, but coupled with the WHTID thread it did the trick.

By all accounts we delivered a solid performance with the bare bones outfit we sent out onto that pitch, we were even one man short on the bench – with one of those substitutes being a rather short man too in the shape of my favourite youth player, young Dan Kemp. I was chuffed to bits for the lad even though he didn’t get to play, but we got a good win at Burnley which not only pushed us up the table into a very respectable 11th place but the result alone should send Hammers far and wide into the summer in a much happier mood compared to the mindset we might have had to endure after yet another defeat or draw in that final game.

Apparently we now have an additional £19 million to spend in the summer, either on transfers or to pay off some more debt. I don’t want to go over the season just ended in meticulous detail, and at the hazard of sounding like a broken record I need to reiterate that I consider it a minor miracle how we ended up in 11th place after this shambles of a season.

Now be honest: If I had told you at the start of the season that our best player in recent years, Payet, would leave the club in acrimonious circumstances after going on strike in January, that there would be fighting with rival fans, also among Hammers fans, coupled with trouble concerning the stewarding and fan segregation at the London Stadium, that we would have ELEVEN players out through injury for at least two months each over the course of the season, that our Number One striker Andy Carroll once again would be unavailable for more than half of the games this season, that we would ship goals left, right and center to suffer an unhealthy number of maulings against several sides in the league, then throw in a tax raid at London Stadium hyped up for the media to create maximum effect and finish it off with the lack of effort, pressing and even running shown by our team in far too many games this season – and if I then still offered you 11th place in the table, you wouldn’t just have snatched my arm off, but probably a bit of the shoulder and a leg as well.

We all have differing opinions on who is to blame to what degree for the various issues affecting our club this season. I will make no secret of the fact that I doff my cap to Slaven Bilic for the dignity and courage he displayed in what must have been a season from hell for any manager. I maintain that the best managers in the world would have struggled in the same situation, maybe even crumbled and collapsed under the pressure encountered by Slav. But he rarely moaned or pointed fingers at others. He did his best and carried on managing the team. Although I get the impression that maybe he treats his players too well at times, is too much of a mate rather than the manager and chief in command.
Maybe he needs to put his foot down on them more at times, demanding more effort and fight. But maybe that just isn’t his way. He still offers a lot more good than bad traits as a manager as far as I’m concerned.

Let’s not forget, all of the above while suffering from a bad hip, the pain caused by which I dare not even imagine. Bilic deserves a clean slate now (don’t we all?) and apparently he is headed for the notorious end of season review talks in Sullivan’s office today. For me there can only be one outcome here: Keep Bilic and support him with the money to bring in 3 or 4 quality signings. That’s all we need really. Eliminate the negative factors mentioned above, add quality players where we need them (RB and strikers mainly) and we should be well equipped for a top 8 finish next season.
I would actually consider keeping players like Feghouli, Nordtveit and Fletcher as they have rarely been given a run in the side and I reckon there is enough quality in them to be very decent squad players for us.

One of the biggest elephants in the room though is the high number of injuries buggering us constantly over the years. We have moved training grounds, so that’s one cause eliminated.
Is it just bad luck or rotten karma ? I don’t really believe that. The most likely reason for me is a combination of inadequate training/warmup routines and a dodgy medical setup. That’s easy for me to say, with no professional background in physiotherapy or medical science, but this constant flow of long-term injuries has been following our club for years now, so the medical team surely warrants some serious looking at during the summer, same as Slaven’s backroom staff.

But it all starts and ends with the owners. They are the ones who ultimately have to decide what kind of club we want to be and how we can achieve that vision, if they have one for West Ham that is. Talk alone will not do anymore. Social media snippets won’t do. Aloof bragging in newspapers about capacity at London Stadium, number of punters on the notorious Waiting List, sizes of digital screens or increasing net worth of West Ham won’t do. In the style of a famous quote by Bill Clinton:
“It’s the football, stupid!”

The Premier League is a money business like never before in its history. If you want to tango with the big boys, you need to spend big and on top of that you need to spend wisely too. If you are very lucky sometimes you can get away with spending reasonably little money as long as you are still spending it extremly smartly. But that surely is a pretty rare event and a makeshift approach that will not get you up the table long term.

Now the summer is upon us then. A long summer with very little football to be found. Of course there is always the silly season, but I sincerely hope West Ham will have learned their lesson and will only come out with stuff once players have actually signed on the dotted line, holding that shirt up while grinning like a Cheshire Cat (why are cats in other counties not capable of the same facial expression I wonder).

So I reckon I won’t be writing my column quite as regularly as normal throughout the summer, unless there is West Ham related stuff to discuss of course. I am still surprised that people actually read my articles and sometimes even seem to enjoy them, so hopefully I can continue in the same vein, with renewed hope and enthusiasm next season.

As a final bit of fun, I’ve been talking in previous comments about a German TV host and comedian being the spitting image (in my view) of our skipper, Canning Town’s own Mark Noble. The guy is called Jan Boehmermann and I have to admit the likeness somewhat varies, depending on what the guy is wearing, from what angle you watch him, how he’s moving etc.

But I still think he looks like one of Mark’s brothers, separated at birth and shipped off to Germany…LOL
Judge for yourselves!

Wishing you all a lovely summer and I hope to see you all again next season!
Or online of course if you occasionally still feel you want to talk about West Ham on a warm summer’s day. COYI!!!

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David Hautzig's Match Report

Burnley 1, West Ham 2. Are You Ready For The Summer?

Last day of the season. A season that most of us cannot wait to see in our rear view mirror. What could today have offered to at least give us something to pay attention to for 90 minutes? Youth. Almost all of my friends on Twitter and various podcasts have agreed that the additional three million pounds we could earn if we finish 11th, which realistically is the highest we could end up due to goal differential, would pale in comparison to the experience a couple of kids could get. I wanted to do a match report that acted as one of those cameras focused on a single player or two. I wanted to follow Rice or Quina. Calleri’s not even in the squad, so Fletcher should have started, right? Then yesterday David Gold put out that truly idiotic Tweet about not playing kids, which made the starting eleven no shock. Thus, since the result itself was of little consequence I saw no reason to focus on details. If something notable happened, I’ll mention it. To be honest, I’m actually looking forward to things like yard work and laundry on the weekends as opposed to what we have experienced.

In the 6th minute, Feghouli had a decent look at goal after a Lanzini cross and forced a save from Heaton. I’m undecided on Feghouli. Good article the other day on The West Ham Way about him. Worth a read if you haven’t seen it.

Cresswell has not had a memorable campaign. No news there. A lot has been down to poor decisions. Like in the 14th minute when he was sent in by Ogbonna down the left. But he tried a low cross that The Road Runner wouldn’t have reached let alone Ayew, while Snodgrass was unmarked ten yards out from goal. The former Hull man looked rightfully annoyed.

23rd minute. Poor touch from Lanzini led to Burnley counter. Burnley counter led to poor defending from West Ham. Poor defending from West Ham led to Vokes goal.

Burnley 1
West Ham 0

Whoa. In the 24th minute West Ham looked very good in scoring an equalizer. Fernandes threaded a ball in between a bunch of Burnley defenders to find Ayew, who back heeled the ball to Feghouli running into the box, and the Algerian Freebie finished it. Take a bow guys.

Burnley 1
West Ham 1

Bobby Madley stinks. He really stinks. Westwood should have been sent off in the 31st minute for a high boot into Ginge’s thigh. And that was just one of many reasons the man should consider a career change.

OK Sofiane. I want to like you. I even think there’s an argument that in a stronger side you could be valuable. But considering how good your finish was to score, your sky bound shot in the 33rd from the same area was terrible.

Halftime
Burnley 1
West Ham 1

For all the complaining we do about offside calls, I must say it’s a tough job for the linesman. Early in the second half Ayew was flagged offside and I had no idea how that could be. He was. Other than 100% video technology taking over that call I cannot see how it can improve.

Remember what I said about Feghouli before? How he might be with more quality around him? Ayew might be the same. Clever players need more clever players around them. Their minds work on different wavelengths than players who get “stuck in”. Both are needed. I’m just stream of consciousness writing now.

Something occurred to me around minute 65 when Byram made a nice sliding tackle to break up a Burnley counter and then headed the ball clear from inside our eighteen-yard box. He’s a good young player. I’d be more than happy with him as our second choice right back next season. Slaven was wrong, in my opinion, to screw with the kids confidence by playing everyone but Jack Sullivan at right back earlier in the year.

Back to Ayew. The man is lucky. Which is fine. Famous quote here from an old baseball manager, “I’d rather be lucky than good”. He likely is both. But when the ball bounced softly off the crossbar after a good effort from Fernandes, all Ayew had to do was stand there and put it in. He’s had similar good fortunes not hiding this season.

Burnley 1
West Ham 2

You know what I felt when Lanzini stepped up to take a free kick from 25 yards out in the 82nd minute? The same kind of excited energy I felt when Darth Dimitri used to step up. That’s gotta be a good sign.

Four minutes of added time? From what? At least Rice will have made his senior debut for us in those mysterious minutes.

Final Score
Burnley 1
West Ham 2

We won on the last day of the season for the first time in years. We finished 11th on 45 points. We ended eleven points clear of the drop zone, in stark contrast to the fear I felt going into the Spurs match two weeks ago as Swansea was surging and we were dropping. In a vacuum, that’s not that bad for a season of utter turmoil and angst.

But we don’t live in a vacuum, do we?

There is no way any of you are more interested in what happened at Turf Moor today than what will happen behind the scenes in Stratford starting tomorrow. Bilic in or Bilic out? Batshuayi? Zabaleta? A new keeper? That guy from Belgium? All possible ingredients in what we hope will be a better meal next season. Or as some believe, more decoys while less expensive options are worked on behind the scenes to serve us dressed up fast food.

Here I go again with my damned metaphors. And to make it more annoying, I’m going to delve into my silly food comparisons again.

Our board say they will build a Michelin Starred operation. I believe they sincerely want that to happen. But when chefs set out to do that, they never compromise on the food they use. Every detail is meticulously thought out. Things we might consider mundane, like butter or onions, are sourced as if the success of the entire operation rests on that choice. If something costs more, they simply build that into their financial structure. Guests at such restaurants accept that as part of the deal and don’t blink when the bill comes.

This is not a judgment on my part. Our board do not have to do such things if they don’t want to, or have concluded they can’t based on their comfort level with the financial reality at the club. They are, by and large, good businessmen. Karen Brady could not have achieved what she has without being a very smart woman. If they do spend large sums of money on fees and wages to attract players we would be genuinely excited, and probably a little shocked to see join, then that would be a departure from their past. Can it happen? Yes. Should we expect it? Only if disappointment is an emotion you seek out.

I think Slaven will be back. I think the board will be more judicious in their dealings with the press and supporters regarding transfers this summer. But next season I will only expect a meal that I enjoy, served in a timely manner by pleasant and professional servers. Anything beyond that will be treated as a pleasant surprise.

Have a good summer.

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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
Radio: WHUFC.com


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

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Lineup Prediction

Lineup Prediction: Burnley v West Ham

Subs: Randolph, Ogbonna, Quinna, Fletcher, Feghouli, Snodgrass, Holland

I’d love to see Tony Martinez on the bench and get a debut. It would really give him so motivation, but I don’t think it will happen. [UPDATE: Apparently he’s not eligible, as you can’t play for two sides in the same transfer window, according to Dan Coker]. This side more or less picks itself. I still cannot believe that Bilic sticks with the hapless Calleri, who surely has to rank as one of the worse centre forwards ever to play for West Ham – and there’s some hot competition for that accolade. He won’t be here next season, so why persevere with him when the talentloaded Ashley Fletcher languishes on the bench.

I suspect this will be a 5-3-2 formation with Cresswell and Byram being given licence to fly down the wings. Just a pity there’s nothing in the centre for them to cross to if Fletcher isn’t in the side. Declan Rice should make his full debut in the centre of defence as Reid is out injured. It’s possible Ogbonna might get the nod, but why risk him in the last game of the season if he doesn’t need to be risked.

Burnley have done very well at home and we will do well to win this game given our resources. Given our goal difference the best we can do is climb one place to 11th. But lose and we could drop to 16th.

You have until 1.55pm to enter the final Predictor League of the season.

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Burnley v West Ham

Hello and welcome to the 46th and final match preview of an often challenging but nonetheless significant season in the history of West Ham United, one that began researching obscure Slovenian opposition back in July and closes with the Hammers comfortably safe in the Premier League.

Blast from the past

In today’s preview, we travel back to 19th February 1980: Kenny Rogers was number one with ‘Coward Of The County’, Star Trek: The Motion Picture was in UK cinemas and, in the week which saw the broadcast of the first ever episode of Yes Minister, West Ham United beat Burnley away from home by one goal to nil.

Alan Devonshire (pictured above) scored the only goal of the game in front of 10,610 spectators for a Tuesday night encounter at Turf Moor. It was Dev’s second of six goals from 49 matches that season. David ‘Psycho’ Cross would be the Irons’ top goalscorer with 18 goals in 53 matches in 1979/80.

The victory was the Hammers’ fifth consecutive triumph in all competitions in a six-match winning run but, after this streak, they would not win in the league again for another seven games, until 5th April. West Ham would go on to finish 7th in a 1979/80 campaign that saw them win the FA Cup with a 1-0 triumph over Arsenal at Wembley. 21-year-old centre-back Alvin Martin was voted Hammer of the Year with 20-year-old right-back Ray Stewart runner-up. Burnley finished 21st and were relegated alongside Charlton and Fulham.

West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Frank Lampard, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Paul Brush, Jimmy Neighbour, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, David Cross.

Club Connections

A small collection of players have turned out for the Hammers and the Clarets. They include:

Goalkeepers: Tommy Hampson, Herman Conway and Frank Birchenough.

Defenders: Tyrone Mears, Joe Gallagher, David Unsworth, Jack Tresadern, Jon Harley and Mitchell Thomas.

Midfielders: Junior Stanislas, Reg Attwell and Matt Taylor.

Strikers: Alan Taylor, Sam Jennings, Walter Pollard, Ian Wright, Ian Moore and Zavon Hines.

John Bond played for the Hammers and managed the Clarets.

Today’s focus, though, falls on a player who enjoyed spells at both clubs in the 2000s. Luke Chadwick began his career at Manchester United, scoring two goals in 25 appearances for the Red Devils, while also spending loan periods with Antwerp and Reading.

With David Beckham blocking his route to the Manchester United first team, Chadwick joined Lancastrian neighbours Burnley on loan for the 2003/04 campaign – he failed to have much of an impact at Turf Moor as the Clarets spent the season at the wrong end of the First Division and only just avoided relegation to England’s third tier. The winger made a total of 40 appearances for Burnley, scoring six goals.

The 23-year-old Chadwick signed for Alan Pardew’s West Ham on a free transfer at the start of the 2004/05 season and made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 home win against Reading on 10th August 2004, setting up Teddy Sheringham for the late winner. He played the majority of games before Christmas on the right wing and scored his only goal for the club in a 1-1 draw with Leeds in a televised Friday night match, opening the scoring by bundling home after a Marlon Harewood header had been blocked (this goal can be seen in my video below). Leeds ruined Chadwick’s night however, equalising through an injury-time penalty by David Healy after the Northern Ireland striker had blatantly dived to win the spot-kick. Injury disrupted the rest of Chadwick’s season as the Hammers won promotion back to the top flight by beating Preston in the play-off final in Cardiff. His final appearance for the Hammers was as a substitute in a 1-0 win at Stoke on 19th April 2005.

After 36 appearances and one goal for West Ham, Chadwick joined Stoke, initially on loan at the start of the 2005/06 season. Following impressive performances, this move was made permanent the following January for a fee of £100,000. Chadwick won many admirers amongst the Stoke faithful but fitness issues again caught up with him, fainting due to dehydration against Southend on the opening day of the 2006/07 season. Chadwick’s former assistant manager at Upton Park, Peter Grant, took the winger to Norwich as Stoke more than doubled their money on the England Under-21 international.

After leaving Norwich in 2008, Chadwick made 210 appearances for MK Dons, scoring 17 goals, before getting his dream move to boyhood club Cambridge United in the spring of 2014. Discussing his debut for Cambridge against Welling in March that year, Chadwick told BBC Radio Cambridgeshire:

“I remember coming on in a Champions League quarter-final against Munich. That was quite a nerve-wracking and an incredible experience. But this is the biggest one now. The missus buys me the Cambridge kit every Christmas or my birthday. I’ve had it the last 10 to 15 years, so to wear one in a proper game was a great feeling. I still think I’ve got years left in me. My body will tell me when it is time to stop. Ideally, I’ve got three, four, five or six years left. You never know in this game, I just want to be successful here.”

Chadwick helped Cambridge win promotion back into the Football League in May 2014 after a nine-year exile for the club and played for them in League Two in the 2014/15 season. After leaving Cambridge, Chadwick signed for Isthmian League Division One North side Soham Town Rangers in November 2015 and spent one season at Soham. Now 36, Chadwick is a full-time coach at the Cambridge United Academy.

Referee

The referee on Saturday will be Bobby Madley. The Yorkshire-based official will take charge of a West Ham game for the seventh time in the Premier League, having also refereed our 2-1 victory at Manchester City in September 2015 and our 2-0 home win over Liverpool in January 2016. Madley’s most controversial appointment with the Irons saw him award Chelsea a last-minute penalty at Stamford Bridge last season which saw the Blues salvage a 2-2 draw – replays showed that Michail Antonio’s foul on Reuben Loftus-Cheek had occurred outside the penalty area.

The 31-year-old has refereed three Hammers matches this season, these being the 1-0 home wins against Sunderland in October and Burnley in December, as well as the 3-2 defeat at Bournemouth in March, when he awarded the home side two penalties which were both missed. Madley has been the man in the middle on a previous occasion when the Hammers travelled to Burnley – Matt Taylor and Jack Collison converted one spot-kick each in a 2-0 League Cup fourth round win at Turf Moor in October 2013, while Keith Treacy was sent off for the hosts for his involvement in the second penalty incident.

Possible line-ups

Burnley centre-backs Ben Mee and Michael Keane face late fitness tests, while Dean Marney is a long-term absentee. The Clarets have won just twice in 15 league and cup games since January, losing eight times. Burnley’s only home victory against the Hammers in the last 39 years was a 2-1 win in February 2010.

West Ham United’s squad is beset by injuries – Winston Reid joins Cheikhou Kouyate, Mark Noble, Pedro Obiang, Michail Antonio, Gokhan Tore, Andy Carroll and Diafra Sakho in the treatment room. Arthur Masuaku faces a late fitness test on a foot injury while Under-23 captain Declan Rice travels with the squad and could make his first team debut. The Hammers have dropped 22 points from winning positions this term, more than any other Premier League side.

Possible Burnley XI: Heaton; Lowton, Long, Tarkowski, Ward; Boyd, Hendrick, Westwood, Arfield; Barnes, Vokes.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Fonte, Rice, Collins; Byram, Nordtveit, Fernandes, Cresswell; Lanzini, Ayew; Calleri.

Enjoy the game – Come On You Irons!

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