The HamburgHammer Column

Sick, tired and confused - Hammeritis is incurable

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Being ill sucks. Being ill when you’re single is even worse. You have to make your own tea, if you want a bowl of chicken broth you have to prepare it yourself and of course there is also no one to shower you with an avalanche of sympathy…or even simple things like taking your temperature. Not long after I had returned from my recent England trip I was struck down by God knows what kind of virus. I didn’t leave the house again until it was over, so I don’t know what exactly I had caught – and if that bug was a souvenir from London or a local villain from Hamburg.

Result was, I got fever, shivers, body ache, making me sleep for long hours, but not very well, I didn’t eat for two days solid (always a sign that I’m unwell), drank copious amounts of peppermint tea and wasn’t capable of much else than finding a position to lay myself down in a way that made my headache halfway tolerable. In short: I was miserable.

Then West Ham lost to Cardiff and Cordi lost to Altona, not exactly a great remedy in my state of being. Luckily, shortly before the Huddersfield fixture I felt better again, indicated by my desire to cook and devour a meal again.

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After the shamble of a performance at Cardiff I was reasonably sure that even at West Ham lightning wouldn’t strike twice against another club from the bottom end of the table. And in fact it didn’t, lightning did actually strike thrice, as Huddersfield played themselves into a much deserved 3:1 lead.

What the heck was going on there ? Will we ever learn to approach every single PL game with respect for the opposition and the right attitude to boot ?

To be fair though, I was disappointed of course when we went 3:1 down, but I had seen enough of Huddersfield that season to be confident we would score more goals against them. And so we did. When Ogbonna’s header went in I was certain we would get a draw at least. When Hernandez equalised with a nicely converted header I knew we could push for the win. Three points is three points of course, but conceding three against Huddersfield at home, a side who had scored just 15 times in ALL previous league games this season, well, that’s even harder to swallow than your averagely bitter cough syrup.

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However, coming back from any 1:3 deficit within 15 minutes to win a game of football by a 4:3 scoreline, that takes cojones, guts, desire and spirit. We at least showed that after not really showing a lot for 75 minutes. Which is disappointing. But it all comes down to the fact that this is still very much the beginning of the road for Pellegrini, very much a season of transition with a lot of squad makeover work ahead in the summer.

We clearly have a few players in that squad who are no longer in the plans of Pellegrini long-term. There will need to be a complete clear-out in the striking department.
Of the current crop I would only want to keep Hernandez – and not just because he scored two goals against Huddersfield. He is the most natural finisher we have.
Pellegrini’s style of football should make our team create far more opportunities in and around the box next season – and that’s where Hernandez will give you 15-20 goals a season, not as a lone striker, but supported by another striker or at least a few creative and pacy attacking midfielders.

I was happy that our special guests on Saturday, Toddyhammer and Copenhagen Hammer, got to see one hell of a contest, highly entertaining and three points in the bag.
And of course we are still in the race for 7th place, although realistically we will probably finish somewhere between 8th and 10th. Not bad at all for the first season of any new manager at West Ham.

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I am still in the process of making up my mind about renewing my season ticket which would set me back £555 this time. It could be argued that for the clubs ticketing income is just a small bonus anyway these days, dwarfed by TV and sponsorship income. Then again, the board will be happy to test out a new pricing threshold. They will be counting on a few thousand not renewing their season tickets, but if everyone else does, the club would still be quids in.
Of course they will try to increase prices and I’d expect them to get away with it too.

Only if 15K season ticket holders were to pack it in and the club would struggle to sell those tickets elsewhere, they might have a bit of a rethink.
But most fans tend to renew at the end of the day and I can see myself ending up that way too.

Although as of yet I haven’t got a Scooby if and how my travel routine is going to change if and when Brexit finally happens, chances are I will still travel to London 2-3 times a year. I also want to take my brother and nephew to a game, hopefully next season. So in that respect it helps if I have at least one ticket sorted out already.

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Of course I still have a few weeks to ponder that decision. But West Ham is actually the only really bad habit, if you will, in my life as I don’t smoke, I rarely drink and I don’t do drugs. So these little London trips are something I would really hate to give up on. So, we shall see. Bit of a break coming up for West Ham now which gives me a chance to focus a bit on local football again. Which these days ain’t no picnic!

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Both big Hamburg sides lost their respective games, Hamburg SV after being 2:0 up already, so both have lost precious ground in the promotion race in Bundesliga 2.

Concordia failed to win their home game yesterday, after playing more than 45 minutes against ten men – a 1:1 scoreline was not enough really to make significant strides away from the relegation zone. There is still a seven point cushion for the time being which sounds comfortable enough on paper, but the local league is utterly bonkers and highly unpredictable, so I wouldn’t consider Concordia to be safe just yet…COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

Bonzo's tears, Fabianski's mug and Jellied Eels: HH's final pre-Brexit trip to Blighty

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Now, that was a bit different. My trips always tend to consist of a combination of well practised routines and boxes to tick – this time some of these much cherished routines couldn’t be adhered to unfortunately (more of that further below), but the kind support and spontaneity of people from this blog who simply step up to the plate and deliver time and time again once again guaranteed it was a much cherished and valuable trip after all.

So, if you fancy it, step on and have a butcher’s at what this Kraut Hammer has been up to this time…

Thursday, February 28th

It was basically summer already already when I stepped on that plane very early in the morning at Hamburg Airport and the flight and subsequent transfer to Stratford proceeded without incident.

Irons1959 had kindly offered me the opportunity to stay at his place in Ilford again, so this time around I spent far more time on the Central Line rather than the District Line. Once I was in Ilford around 9am I gave poor 1959 a ring. I say poor because he had been travelling to the Man City game the night before and for obvious reasons hadn’t enjoyed a full night’s sleep when I rang him up, telling him I had arrived. Still, as in the following days, he was good as gold and was ready expecting me at his front door with a nice mug of tea and some first-hand reporting on West Ham’s performance.

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I then made my way to Newham Bookshop (one of those boxes to tick) as I was anxious to finally collect those books I had bought on my last trip shortly before Christmas but which got lost in the post somewhere along the way and never reached Hamburg in the first place. It wasn’t the three books pictured by the way that I picked up and I also found another one which should be a good read, a kind of autobiography by Billy Bragg. I got to know his music from watching West Ham in 1996 as his songs used to be played out over the tannoy during pre-match warmups.

The Newham Bookshop has been done up nicely now, it looks less cluttered but what’s more important is that the excellent staff are still there. They are great to have a chat with, but they also know what they’re doing in terms of recommending books. And the choice of interesting reading material is vast. They are in the running to become Independent Bookshop of the Year as they are among the London finalists already. If you go to their homepage there is a link where you can support them with your vote.
Again, I urge you to go there if you haven’t been yet (or your last time was a while ago). I know some people don’t read much, others do it by ordering stuff online or download books on e-readers. I am old-fashioned in the sense that I like to browse, I like to hold a book, to turn pages made of paper, the feel, the smell, maybe even the subconscious memory of reading tons of book as a kid. Anyway, it was a pleasure to see the Newham Bookshop still around, stronger than before and surely here to stay now for a long time.

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I later got in touch with Dawud who met me in Bow Road early evening to take me to his exhibition in a local library/cafe near the London Stadium. Of course I had seen most of the photos displayed there on this blog already, including the one showing me, the one with Liddy’s claret boots or the shouting lady with the long finger.
The photos were a nice backdrop for a fantastic conversation about Dawud’s talent for capturing great moments and moods on camera, how he does it, but also about West Ham in general and life itself. It was a lovely end to my first day back in London. But it had been a long day, I was cream crackered and needed some sleep. So it was an early night in Ilford.

Friday, March 1st

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This was going to be an exciting day because I was destined to meet Sir Trevor Brooking later, in person! But before that I had no other plans. Unfortunately this was my first WHTID trip where I didn’t get to meet Iron Liddy due to her feeling poorly unfortunately. Our meetings are always interesting and great fun, so of course I was disappointed I had to do without this time, Liddy, I hope you’re feeling better soon and we may meet again eventually.

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Again, Irons1959 came to the rescue. He suggested we could go to the Docklands area, have a nice riverside walk with views on both river and docks and we did just that, alighting at Pontoon Dock DLR Station.

He knew the area quite well as he had been looking at property around there in the recent past and I did totally get why. Being from Hamburg, I like salty air, blowing winds, riverside views and the odd ship coming into view.

So that was a lovely way to while away the hours. Later that afternoon I headed over to Dagenham where another event had been laid on with Hammers legends of the past.
And there are few legends at West Ham bigger than Sir Trevor Brooking…

I had some more time to kill, so headed over to the trusted Pipe Major pub, had a swift half of cider and read a bit more about Brexit in the paper I had bought. I was hoping the journos of the Daily Telegraph might enlighten me why Brexit is a brilliant idea after all, but I was none the wiser really after reading their opinion/comment section.

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Then it was over to Dagenham&Redbridge’s ground where the event was about to begin. We got in the drinks and our table was seating the most popular Kraut on this blog, Klopp-lookalike Ebi and his son Thomas, there was Russ, Safehands, VoR, BSB, Hugh Jardon (birthday boy!), CRB and the one and only Nigel Kahn. Oh, and the author of this column. It was the usual mix of stories of former players reminiscing about their first game, best goal, best player ever played with or against etc.
It was jolly little games, auctions and finally a Q&A session.

Positives ? Lovely pie and mash. Some good banter between Sir Trevor and presenter Tony Gale (Machine Gun Gale I like to call him due to his unrelenting and quickfire barrage of mocking remarks and punchlines).
Sir Trevor and Tony Cottee signing my West Ham legends poster was good. Having nice chats with the WHTID knights of our round table.

Negatives ? An unruly audience which got rowdier the longer the evening went and the more beers were consumed. People were talking in loud voices over the players trying to tell an anecdote, not giving a hoot if it might spoil things for others.

Boozed up twats were shouting in remarks or new questions while Sir Trevor was still in the middle of answering a previous one. It was highly disrespectful and I was both annoyed and ashamed by it.
Frankly, I was expecting better from West Ham fans, especially when it comes to how we treat proper club legends. Maybe not…or at least not today.
The day after would be different of course, honouring Billy Bonds with naming the most impressive looking stand in the stadium after him.

Thanks a lot to VoR who was kind enough to spare me the nightly bus ride through East London by offering me a seat in his motor, dropping me in Ilford near the doorstep of my Ilford guestroom in Irons1959’s house.

Saturday, March 2nd

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Late kickoff, so plenty of time. Certainly time enough to invite my host to a lovely fry-up in one of his local caffs and to watch the North London derby in a nearby pub afterwards.

It was genuinely the first time I was actively cheering an Arsenal goal!
I suppose any goal scored against Spurs is a good enough reason to cheer.
It was a nice warm-up for later, after the game finishing (with bloody Spurs equalising later unfortunately) I headed over to Stratford to meet in another pub with Safehands, VoR and two of his mates, one of whom was a Newcastle supporter. Still, no punches were thrown…LOL

We were heading over to the stadium a bit later than I would have wanted. As the ceremony of the opening of the new Billy Bonds stand was imminent, I sacrificed my beloved rib roll with hot sauce from The Ribman and went straight to my seat in 227, near the front of the upper tier in the Sir Trevor Brooking stand.

I didn’t actually get to see Bonds cutting the ribbon (the angle on the big screen didn’t show his hands and my view on Bonzo himself was obstructed by other people around him), but I could feel the collective emotion in the air, the outpouring of respect for probably the most revered player who ever wore the claret and blue of West Ham United.
I reckon there weren’t too many occasions in Bonzo’s life when he was shedding tears, this was definitely one. And I was proud that by accident I had picked this game to attend this glorious occasion in person.

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Oh yes, there was a game too that evening! I saw Declan Rice score his second goal and it happened right in front of me. I have to say that the view from my seat is beginning to grow on me. I usually don’t watch my football from behind a goal, but if it allows me to watch West Ham when I’m in London, I’m happy enough with that. The atmosphere ?
It very much depends on the performance, doesn’t it ? Which was similar at the Boleyn to be fair.

I am not a big fan of Stratford as a place though. It’s architecture, shopping center, winebars etc., it doesn’t do a lot for me or the matchday experience. And you could do so much more around the Olympic Park to enhance the atmosphere before and after the games. But I cannot knock the experience of watching the lads perform. Another win in the bag for me, my record at London Stadium still stands proud – only one defeat witnessed there in person for me so far. Just one draw, the rest all wins, lovely jubbly!

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After the game I found my way into the club shop (despite my vow never to set foot in there again until our current owners are gone). The place was absolutely heaving with punters, buying shirts, jackets, duvets and foam fingers. I had to buy a scarf, as requested by the Concordia groundskeeper and for myself I had chosen another West Ham themed coffee mug. They do very nice ones now, of selected players, with the club crest and national flag of said player in the background.

I first thought about taking the Declan Rice one, but once he moves to Man City or Barcelona one or two years from now, it would be hard for me to drink from that cup.
Jack Wilshere ? That mug looked nice too, but the shop staff were telling me that apparently the Wilshere mugs break easily…;-))
So I did in the end decide upon the Fabianski/Poland one. Not only because I have distant relations in Poland, but because Fabianski has probably been our most consistent performer this season. I already have about ten West Ham themed mugs at home, but what the heck! This one is a bloody nice addition.

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In order to celebrate our great win against Newcastle and also to thank Irons1959 for his hospitality I invited him to one of his favourite curry houses in Wanstead, a tiny corner shop basically with no more than 14 seats, but the food was lovely, especially the naan breads, although I never knew that Jalfrezi could be quite so hot. They didn’t do yoghurt-based drinks, so I had to ask for a glass of ice water to make the spicyness bearable. We arrived back at his place just in time to watch the highlights of our game again on Match of the Day. Overall, a very emotional but successful matchday!

Sunday, March 3rd

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This time I really was in limbo. You see, the Sunday routine for my trips to London, thanks to our most favourite cabbie BSB, used to be coming to his place, order a pizza, watch some football or cricket, chat away or do things in and around Dagenham. This time though he had to fulfill family duties, looking after his grandchildren.
So no trip on the District Line eastbound for me this time. BUT: Out of nowhere came the Longtime Lurker, offering me an escape route to Leigh-on-Sea.

Iron Liddy kindly passed my number on to the Lurker, he told me how to get there and one stop before Leigh-on-Sea he stepped onto the train to greet me. He lives locally and again I can totally see why he likes it there. In a way Leigh-on-Sea reminded me of places my family used to go on weekends when I was a kid, seaside towns with sweeping winds, seagulls dancing in the sky and nicking chips from unsuspecting humans, narrow streets of cobblestone winding their ways along the seafront, with pubs, shops and seafood restaurant and stalls lining the streets.

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The Lurker of course knew that I love my food. So he went and got us a sample platter of, wait for it, whelks, cockles and…..jellied eels!!!
My final box to tick in terms of London traditional food, the Marmite of the sea, the proverbial East London love it or hate it dish!

We were doing it in ascending order, starting with the potentially least challenging option, the cockles, moving up a level to the whelks before taking on the ultimate challenge of the jellied eels.

I passed every stage with flying colours. As a Hamburger I have eaten plenty of seafood in my time, even as a kid. There are few fruits of the oceans and rivers I haven’t tried. Any kind of seafood is usually a big hit with me. So while all three of the above dishes were unknown to me as of yet, I found them all pleasant enough.

Cockles don’t really have a distinctive taste, they have a slightly dodgy, soft texture and you only get a hint of saltiness from the sea. The whelks I found similar to mushrooms really, with a similarly chewy texture, but again a very mild, almost bland taste. You could still get a whiff of the salty seas it came from.

And then the jellied eels! Smoked eel is a very traditional food in Hamburg, we used to have it regularly on New Year’s Eve. The jellied version ? I’m not a big fan of jelly and I think they rather overdid it with the quantity of the jelly, but the eel itself was lovely, the little piece of fishbone was easy enough to tackle and remove.

Maybe the Lurker was hoping for me gagging, my face distorting in agony or repulsion, but it was none of the sort. Jellied eels will never be my favourite dish, but I would order them again in future.
It would be better though if they were removing half of the jelly. More eel, less jelly, then it might be a more appealing dish to more people.

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After that we had a few beers in the brilliant Crooked Billet pub, a perfect setting for some really interesting conversations with the Lurker on West Ham, Europe, Brexit and beautiful cities to visit. Hopefully the Lurker will find himself on a business call in Hamburg in the near future so I can return some of his very kind and generous hospitality.
Thanks Lurker for a brilliant afternoon in a wonderful setting. Back in Ilford storm Freya was beginning to cause havoc, but Irons1959 was already waiting for me with a most welcome hot mug of tea. Watching MotD2 I didn’t miss much by not watching the Liverpool derby…

Monday, March 4th

Usually I hate days of departure as I’m too anxious about potentially missing the flight, so I tend to not do any sightseeing on the final day. But thanks to Irons 1959 this time was different. He had told me the day before already that the Docklands Museum was well worth a visit and that’s where we went. Of course it’s too much information in there to digest in two hours or so, but the setting alone in an old warehouse with wooden beams and ceilings was magnificent.

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I come from a port town myself, so I have an affinity to all things maritime, the sea and the vessels that sail on it. As I also intend to bring my brother and nephew over to London eventually, I also immediately thought how this would be the kind of place for them too. Absolutely fascinating exhibitions in there although of course they couldn’t refrain from mentioning the war! Mind you, in Hamburg there are quite a few places too that do just that. Hamburg got flattened in the war too, you know…

Irons1959 then had an inkling he couldn’t send me on the way with an empty stomach, so he rustled up a quick lunch which was highly appreciated before dropping me off at Barkingside Station for the quick tube ride to Stratford before heading back to Stansted Airport. That flight back got very exciting/frightening when we were descending during the Hamburg approach, encountering strong winds, leading to the heaviest turbulences I have ever encountered on a flight before (was it storm Freya again ?).

The wings were moving heavily, the plane was bouncing and dipping unexpectedly like mad, it felt like riding the Nemesis in Alton Towers, only when you are on a Ryanair flight you have far less legroom than riding the Nemesis where your legs are dangling in the air freely. Still, we got down all in one piece and I got back home shortly after 11pm.
Although I was knackered I did watch the highlights of the Newcastle game again before hitting the pillow, dreaming of my next trip to London again. COYI!!!

As you may have guessed, my biggest gratitude this time belongs to Irons 1959 who provided accommodation, tea and toast in abundance (and other food) plus plenty of useful suggestions and historical background too. He, like others before him, has shown what the West Ham family is all about and I hope I can repay some of his kindness if he comes to my town (again) one day. And I also want to say Thank You to the Longtime Lurker too, that afternoon was an unexpected, but highly satisfying highlight of this trip which proves that sometimes the best experiences are those you don’t plan and organise but rather those where you improvise and go with the flow. Cheers mate!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Cottagers cheesed off - and HH looking forward to Magpies & Mash

Three vital points won in another one of those potential banana skin contests. Fulham gave us an almighty scare or two, especially early on in the game when they could have been up 2:0 within the first ten minutes if it hadn’t been for Fabianski pulling off yet another fantastic save…with his face, so he probably didn’t know a lot about it, but he surely felt it, he took a painful one for the team and that “save” was probably more meaningful in terms of winning this game than the “Hand of Pea” goal, more of that further down.

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I was happy with the win because on another day we could easily have lost that. Fulham are fighting for their lives near the bottom of the league table and what with their abysmal away record coupled with our reputation for being the perfect host in terms of helping out struggling sides, I kind of expected a disaster waiting to happen, especially after the first ten minutes. But credit where it’s due, we created chances, we did play some decent football during several spells along the way and we ultimately secured all three points.

Was it a great performance or anywhere near perfect ? Of course not! But it was an entertaining enough contest with plenty of incident. We have been discussing at length on previous threads the Hernandez goal. Did he really cheat or was it unintentional that the ball went in via a detour off his arm ?

Tricky one for me. Deep in this football romantic’s heart I love to see players showing displays of proper fair play, like Di Canio catching that ball (still in play at that point) all those years ago when the Everton goalkeeper was down injured. That was a proud moment for every Hammer near and far, over land and sea!

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I don’t think it was intentional handball by Hernandez, in my view he meant to head the ball straight into the net, but the header went astray, hitting the arm. There would have been no cause of complaint really if the ref hadn’t given that goal and I can fully appreciate why the Fulham players were unhappy with the decision. VAR will take some of those uncertainties away from next season. Some of them, not all. I understand FIFA are also currently working on clarifying the regulations concerning handball incidents, making it a bit easier for referees to make those calls and of course VAR will also assist in that respect.

What I get the hump with here is the hypocrisy involved, mainly on part of the pundits, the sporting media and some fans. Cheating is a part of the game, it’s always been there and even after the introduction of VAR players will still try to manipulate and fool the referee, there will still be divers, players feigning injury, players trying to get their opposite number sent off.

I don’t condone it. But it should be criticised and punished evenly, regardless of the crest on the shirt of the culprit or the status of the offender as a superstar player.

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To see, hear or read how Sky Sports are reporting certain incidents differently, depending on whether the player is Liverpool or Leicester, Manchester Utd. or West Ham, is neither professional nor fair.

It’s big team bias and the media may think it’s fine because most among their target audience probably do support one of the big teams. But that doesn’t make it right.

I didn’t hear too much talk about cheating when Liverpool’s blatant offside goal against us was allowed to stand. It got brief mentions halfway through match reports, but not in bold headline letters, as in the case of Chicharito’s goal. But again, VAR will take care of the more blatant incidents, and it should take away the element of big team bias somewhat.

My personal highlight of the game, unsurprisingly as most of you will agree, was to see Lanzini back on the pitch again. Not just back on the pitch way earlier than most of us would have anticipated, but back on the pitch with a vengeance, looking hungry, sharp and fearless. Coming back from a knee injury can’t be easy and it must play tricks on a player’s mind when returning to the pitch, but Lanzini in his brief cameo looked as if he had been out there with his teammates all along, picking passes and making runs all season.

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He even got into positions to score which of course would have been the icing on the cake, but we don’t want to get too greedy here. Our squad looks a lot better now in terms of strong options on the bench too, with Lanzini, Balbuena and Nasri back in the frame – and an outside chance of seeing Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Sanchez too returning before the season is over.

Manchester City away next (on the day before I’m flying over to London again, it’s about time!) and another of those “Can’t get anything from this anyway, so why bother travelling oop north at all?” games.

I say: Bring it on! Everyone is expecting a 6:1 thrashing anyway, so what’s the point of worrying or going all rabbit in the headlights ? This game is a free shot for us. Manchester City have the far stronger squad and they are competing for the title whereas we are trying hard to finish in 8th or 7th place.

But the pressure for City to win (with Liverpool and Spurs still breathing down their necks) is immense and with West Ham ANYTHING can happen. Yes, it could be 6:1 to them.

Or 1:0 to us, with a City player getting sent off and us scoring from a penalty. That’s the undying appeal of football: Most of the time we simply don’t know what’s gonna happen.

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So, I shall be flying to London once more on Thursday (last pre-Brexit visit by the look of things), looking forward to the Newcastle game and meeting some of you lovely folks in person again. I have a few plans already (seeing Dawud’s photo exhibition for a start, visiting Newham Bookshop as usual, getting a rib roll covered in hot sauce from The Ribman before the game), but the itinerary is nowhere near written in stone.

Apart from a definite appointment with my three trusted East London friends: Pie & Mash & Liquor. I may even bump into Sir Trevor Brooking along the way if I have a bit of Donald Duck (Cockney alert!)…;-))

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Either way, my trips to London rarely disappoint and that’s not exclusively down to the food or football but to a large extent due to some pretty special people I initially came in contact with on here before later sharing time, banter, laughter and food with me in person.

Kudos to all those salt of the earth Hammers, you all know who you are! All of you have a long-term open invitation to come over to my town whenever you fancy a nice long weekend – I will certainly try to return some of your hospitality and kindness if you do decide to have a butcher’s at how Hamburgers live. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: The “boys in brown“ of St.Pauli won a fierce contest 1:0 against Ingolstadt and they are staying hot in pursuit of promotion, possibly by way of a two-leg playoff final against the 16th placed side from Bundesliga 1 which is likely to be against one of Stuttgart, Hannover or Reece Oxford’s Augsburg.

Hamburg SV lost 1:2 at bogey team Regensburg after leading 1:0 until late in the second half and had two players sent off. They failed to consolidate their position as league leaders.

Meanwhile the Concordia lads lost their away game 0:5.
I left that game early with my mate (with the score 0:5 after 71 minutes), so we could catch the second half of the Cordi Women’s team’s home game – funnily enough they won 5:0.

The HamburgHammer Column

Panic at Palace ? No, patience will pay off for us...eventually

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I only watched the last 60 minutes of our game. You see, it was Concordia’s first league game of 2019, the lads are in a bit of bother league position wise, so I had to be there with them really. Thankfully, the Cordi boys won 3:2 in a weird rollercoaster of a contest, on a wet and windy day, on a heavy, soggy grass pitch.

One player from each team got sent off with two yellows, there were 11 yellows in total, my lads took a 2:0 lead, then ended up conceding the equaliser in the 90th minute only to crown the last attack of the game in the 95th minute in style with a glorious header, giving them a much needed away win against relegation rivals. Phew!

In between I had ascertained our starting XI for the Palace game and I was happy to see our lineup before getting back to the car. I then dropped off a fellow fan near his place and drove home as quickly as German traffic laws would permit.

When I parked my car it was the 25th minute of the game and it was still goalless. So far so good. Up the stairs to the second floor, into my flat, telly on and we had just taken a 1:0 lead through a Mark Noble penalty. I was both chuffed and dumbfounded – we never get penalties, do we ?

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I was impressed with what I saw from us until halftime. Nice fluid play, endeavour, the team was very much up for it, just like a few days before against Liverpool.
I don’t know what happened in the second half really, why we only manage on rare occasions to play a game where our performance levels are solid in both halves.
Second half it was backs to the wall stuff, relentless pressure from Palace and to see them waste a number of clear cut opportunities was relieving to see on the one hand, but shocking on the other, when seen through the eyes of any neutral fan potentially watching the game.

It has been discussed at length in previous threads how lenient the referee was towards at least two of their players who could (or should) both have taken an early shower, getting double yellows. I think it was McArthur and that geezer with the Yugoslavian name. I know refs have a difficult job, but is it really asking too much to properly apply the rules of the game ? In both cases the offences were punishable by bookings, the fact it would mean the second one and an automatic sending off shouldn’t make a difference really.

On balance of play of course we cannot complain really. We wasted a lot of opportunities in the first half, Palace did the same second half but got very lucky with Zaha being successful with a shot from close range that was unintentionally deflected into the net by Diop. It’s a travesty that it only took a tactical appeal ploy by Palace to give Zaha the opportunity to play in the game to begin with. And in another game Dops’s deflection might have easily gone out for a corner kick. But again, overall an away point is not to be sneered at and it keeps our momentum going.

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We now have a bit of a break which should allow some of the walking wounded returning to training or even into matchday squads when our next fixture comes around.
I understand there is a chance Lanzini may be ready for the bench at least against Fulham. Balbuena may have an outside shot too to be available again sooner than anticipated. Nasri definitely should be ready to get picked by our manager at least to be a bench option. Wilshere ? God knows if he will resume training again soon or if they may decide to shut him down completely till the summer in order to heal properly which might be the more sensible and conservative approach.

I wasn’t the first to mention it, but it’s very much true that this is indeed a transitional season for us anyway. You can’t bring in a new manager, with a new team of staff, a whole new philosophy of training and playing, and expect him to work wonders straight away. If anything, I can only applaud Mr.Pellegrini for the job he has done so far.
Look at what he had to deal with so far this season.

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Almost from the first game we had a minimum of five players out, at some stage it was 10-11, basically an entire team. And not just bench fillers either. We had some dodgy calls from referees, potentially costing us more points. We had the distraction with Arnautovic’s “will he-won’t he” get a transfer to China. Still, there we are, mid-February, practically safe already, with a shot at 8th place, maybe even 7th, should things go well for us for a change.

I am really happy we have Pellegrini at the helm and I cannot wait to see what he can do with a team once our injury situation clears up significantly. For sure he will continue to shape our squad according to his plans in the summer. And hopefully at one stage we will have a deep and solid team at West Ham which will require the manager only to make little adjustments when it comes to transfer windows. Next time we may still have to bring in six new players or so, shipping several out at the same time.
In future, hopefully, it will only be 3-4 per summer.

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Let me express my deepest sympathy and commiserations for the friends and family of Mabel Arnold. I would like to pay my respect to what must have been a truly remarkable lady. I obviously haven’t really met her in person, but from what I heard and saw I would have loved to have a chat with her. I became aware of her at the Palace game at the Boleyn, the 2:2 draw in which Payet scored THAT impossible freekick. Her birthday was announced and she was put on the big screen, waving to the crowd.

Already I had a bit in common with her because I was looking forward to celebrating my own birthday with a few of my WHTID mates (my birthday is just one day after Mabel’s).
It is a thrilling thought to consider how long she has been supporting the club, what West Ham as a club looked like when she started following them and what the club has become now in the year 2019. Consider all the players, the managers, the owners, arriving at the club, spending some time here and then leaving again. Not Mabel.
Part of the inventory. West Ham through and through.

Am I overdoing it by suggesting that the remaining stand of the London Stadium should be named in her honour ? I know that usually stands are named after legendary players or managers, but in this case for me it makes perfect sense. Will there ever be another fan in England who will have supported his club through thick and thin for as many years as Mabel did ? I doubt it. She nearly made it to 103 years. But even at 102 years of age that’s still a bloody good innings if you ask me!

May she forever be blowing pretty bubbles in the glorious surroundings of Heaven. I bet Bobby Moore or John Lyall were expecting her at the gates to show her around.
RIP Mabel Arnold – West Ham legend.


The HamburgHammer Column

Klopp's gorra cob on as Hammers redeem themselves with gutsy performance

When I went out for that birthday buffet dinner at that Chinese place with my brother’s family on Friday evening, I thought trying what grilled zebra tasted like would be far more exciting as watching us get butchered against Liverpool on Monday Night Football 72 hours later.

Wrong on both counts!

First of all, zebra is not all it’s cracked to be, it tastes a bit like horse with a hint of peperoni sausage. I don’t know why it’s such a big hit with lions – I certainly wouldn’t order it again.

And as for that Liverpool game ? Well, how many among our fanbase would have predicted a lucky draw for the Scousers ? Me neither. Realistically, especially after our previous three games, I reckon less than 10% believed we would get even a point from this.

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To think that Liverpool only got the point by way of a CLEAR offside situation leading to their only goal, West Ham fans might even bemoan their luck. But let’s take nothing away from the performance of our lads. There was 100% effort right from the first whistle.

West Ham fans are in general a very modest bunch. We don’t build castles in the clouds and rarely have pies in the skies. Our trophy cabinet has plenty of spare room to fill.

All we ask is to see our players breaking sweat out there on the pitch, putting some good effort and honest graft into it during a game, running, fighting, trying to play some neat football too if possible and generally giving it bifters. Which apparently is a Liverpudlian phrase meaning “giving it your best shot”.
Which is exactly what we did last night!

We made it really hard for the league leaders. I reckon that several times during the game they couldn’t quite believe what hit them. Our set pieces were lighting a fuse in the Liverpool penalty box time and time again.
Antonio scored our equaliser after one of those clever training ground moves.

Earlier we almost saw Hernandez score his first ever PL goal from OUTSIDE the box. Cresswell had a decent effort on goal and overall had another great game at LB. While Rice could have easily got his second PL goal heading over a wide open net. Noble too had a great game.

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I have a confession to make: Before our game kicked off the St.Pauli game was on, one of those feisty Hamburg-Berlin affairs, this time in the shape of the St.Pauli-Union Berlin variety. St.Pauli were in the lead at the time when West Ham were kicking off, the Pauli game was exciting and briefly I was toying with the idea of playing away for once and checking on the many goals Liverpool were bound to score via online score alerts.

As I was planning on writing my column though I DID watch our game of course, all of it – St.Pauli still won a wild one, 3:2, with the winning goal coming from a penalty in injury time. When our game started I was watching it in bite-sized one minute segments, moving that screwdriver in my hands, saying out loudly with every passing minute “Still goalless, we’re doing alright, still goalless”.

When they did score their offside goal and it was still given, I will admit, I expected the floodgates to open. But one of those smartly executed set pieces was enough to get the score level again.

And after that of course we had a few more opportunities to maybe even nick a cheeky win. But I don’t want to get too greedy here. Nicking is not our expertise, is it ? It’s an artform oop north though. Not yesterday it wasn’t.
Not enough for three points anyway.

Our team on the other hand won back a lot of goodwill with that performance after the previous feeble surrenders.

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This was proof they can compete against ANY team in this league, provided they bring the will, desire and application shown against Liverpool. Thing is, it needs to be the same level of effort against the Newcastles and Palaces of this world, not just when playing Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool. Maybe we shouldn’t tell the players in advance who the opposition is, but they all have smartphones, so I suppose they’d still find out somehow…LOL

My man of the match, my pick from a vast choice of great performances, was Felipe Anderson. He is like Payet, but with the willingness to track back, win balls and put a foot in if necessary. Shame some of his passes had a bit too much mustard on them to reach their target. But he was pivotal in winning that point for us. Much more important than the point though is the feelgood factor and confidence that performance will give our club as a whole.

Did you miss Arnautovic out there ? I honestly didn’t. I was happy to see Fredericks play – and a very solid job he did for us out there. I cannot name a single bad performance really. Special mention has to go yet again to Fabianski. He has managed to allow me to remain seated calmly in my armchair whenever a ball sails into our box. The way our favourite Pole is commanding his territory is both amazing and great to see.

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As it’s getting late here, I won’t be saying too much on the Arnautovic issue again or our very quiet deadline day business in terms of transfers.
It is what it is.

In Pellegrini I trust, he has to cope with between 8-10 injured players at all times and still 7th place is well in grasp, despite the injuries, despite Arnautovic kitting out his prams with an arsenal of toys, already having thrown some in the process.

Again, we cannot undo the Wimbledon or Wolves performance. But as a team our players can roll their collective sleeves up and play every remaining game this season as if we were facing Juergen Klopp’s Liverpool. That’s the least we should expect. From my armchair the atmosphere at the London Stadium sounded magnificent, it was loud, it was proud, it had a ring of the Boleyn to it during famous wins witnessed there.

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The season also starts again for my Concordia lads next Saturday. For the time being they will be fighting relegation unfortunately. As for West Ham though, I would expect Pellegrini to give that fight for 7th place a proper go, with whoever among our squad is still standing and available to play. I applaud him for setting up our team for a glorious draw against the league leaders that felt like a win actually. It’s nice to see that at least our manager isn’t planning on seeing our season petering out anytime soon.


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