The HamburgHammer Column
At least not another embarrassing defeat. In previous seasons, under normal circumstances, a 1:1 draw at home against Leicester would not have yielded the kind of enthusiastic support and raucous noise from the West Ham home crowd. But from what I could gather from the comfort of my sofa the atmosphere at the London Stadium last Friday was fantastic, a proper defiant reaction from our fanbase, displaying a fierce in the trenches corral mentality.
The current circumstances at West Ham are anything but normal, but at least the fans did their bit and it seemed to rub off on the team who gave a much more spirited performance. They looked like they actually gave a monkey’s.
The effort was certainly there, the running was a lot better, the pressing too and while there was still a clear lack of creative quality in our side this should come back in due course once the new gaffer has settled in properly and the team begin playing with more confidence and according to a clearly defined gameplan.
There has been a lot of talk in recent days about former members of the ICF taking things into their own hands in terms of letting the board know that most of our supporters are anything but happy (and why that is the case), so those guys will try and compile a list of the most pressing issues and tell the owners accordingly. It is then up to the board to act upon the suggestions from the fanbase or face significant backlash in the shape of various fan protests over the coming weeks and months.
I applaud those guys for their efforts and wish them every success, alas I am less than hopeful it will have the desired effect. The board will follow their financial roadmap to the letter, cashing in their interest payments for another three or four years until they can sell the club without the shackles of having to share a portion of their profit with the LLDC/taxpayer. Then – and only then – will they seriously consider getting out of the club.
I take a degree of comfort though from the thought that there will still be a West Ham worth rooting for in some shape or form once the current lot are gone and hopefully the latest initiative from the “Real West Ham Fans” group will help in uniting our fanbase again, making sure that as much of our club’s soul as possible can be preserved, despite the actions of the current owners.
I am confident that there are still plenty of sons and daughters out there who will follow in the footsteps of their parents, uncles, aunties and grandparents and grow up to be staunch West Ham supporters. West Ham are more than just a football club and it still has a place in the hearts of thousands of people all over the globe. That must count for something.
I have no doubt that our team is good enough to see out the season with a modicum of professional pride and reach the beckoning shore of Premier League safety.
It will probably not quite be another Great Escape a la Tevez, we look far too minimalistic on the pitch for that, so it’ll be more like a Late Escape than a great one, but escape we will. Of that I have no doubt.
The upcoming Everton game should be a thrilling encounter as surely Everton too are nowhere near where they expected to be in the table at the start of the season.
The pressure on them should be even bigger than on us which might work in our favour on the night. We should also have players returning back into the fold, like Hernandez and Antonio, giving us a few more options in terms of how to approach the game.
It looks to me like a switch has finally been flicked and I have no doubt that both results and performances will continue to improve as long as the players persist with showing better effort and application as that alone can and will trigger the kind of support from the Hammers faithful that is paramount if we want to maintain our league status.
In other, local German news I told you in a previous column about the agreement of the local Regionalliga Southwest to play the Chinese U20 side in a series of friendly games, not affecting the league table, but giving the lower league clubs some much needed financial boost while affording the Chinese players the opportunity to play some competitive games to get themselves ready for the Olympic Games.
There was a lot of criticism even before a ball was kicked, now the experiment has been stopped until further notice due to some football fans deciding to make a political statement by taking Tibetan flags to the first game of the Chinese team which obviously didn’t go down with their players, officials and the football authorities back home.
On the one hand of course you could argue that sporting events like these should not be overshadowed by political campaigning.
On the other hand there is the right of free speech in Western Europe, so taking a flag to football should not be a reason to eject supporters from the venue or abandon the game. Then again West Ham fans have learned in recent weeks that you don’t have to take a Tibetan flag to the stadium to get yourself in a spot of bother.
I never thought the idea with the Chinese U20 team playing in Germany was a brilliant one to pursue and if a Tibetan flag in the crowd is all it takes to rile up the visitors then maybe they should get their Olympic preparations done elsewhere.
To quickly update you on Reece Oxford and his exploits at a team from Germany (Borussia Moenchengladbach) his loan club surprisingly managed to deal the mighty Bayern Munich its first defeat in what felt like five years or so, beating them 2:1. Moenchengladbach are now only five points behind the league leaders from Munich and The Foals Eleven (as they are affectionately known in the country of the sausage munchers) are well on course to secure Champions league football coming to the Rhineland next season.
It’s not ideal for Reece Oxford on the face of it as Moenchengladbach have no reason whatsoever to play him as things are going very well as they are at the moment, without Oxford getting any significant gametime. On the other hand they are known for developing and bringing through youngsters in a very strategic and patient manner, so his time may come, but Moenchengladbach may take their time in watching his progress and maybe even decide to buy him if they are convinced he is right for them.
They certainly won’t be playing him just to do West Ham any favours.
As for the quick Concordia update (haters, please skip this section accordingly), the trip to Buchholz in Lower Saxony (representing the longest away trip of the season with their ground being 30 miles away from my flat) yielded mixed results. On the pitch it was an unmitigated disaster, with Cordi losing 0:4 to a side fighting relegation.
Concordia this season are certainly not pulling their weight and at this rate can forget any ambitions of going up one level at the end of the season. Not good.
Talking of weight though, for a food aficionado like me Buchholz offer a unique selling point to the carnivorous groundhopper: Grilled sausages made from horsemeat.
In the Oberliga Hamburg no other club serves these, but Lower Saxony is horse country, hence their unusual (and very tasty) offer on the matchday menu.
Before you kill me, I don’t have a special bond with horses. I never spent any holidays on a ranch as a kid, I have never ridden a horse in my life, I don’t bet on horses and I also eat pork, veal, beef or chicken. And besides, Cordi only play away at Buchholz once a season, so please forgive me if I treat myself to a horsemeat based snack once a year. And believe me, right now I am particularly grateful for any treat I can get.
Which brings me to a bit of a parish notice, closing out my column for this week. In the upcoming weeks my column may be a lot shorter than usual. There may even be certain weeks where I won’t feel like penning an article at all. This is due to personal circumstances/family reasons. Quite simply, I may be absent-minded when it comes to West Ham in the next few weeks/months (although I will still come over for the Chelsea and Arsenal games), so please accept my apologies should my column not go up quite as regularly as you have been accustomed to.