The HamburgHammer Column
I had quite a choice of puns this time around with several more in the pipeline to pick from for my column’s headline after our away win against Norwich.
Eventually I simply picked my personal favourite.
Which came to me just after Antonio had scored his second goal just before halftime.
Also in contention were “Canaries buried in goal mine collapse”, “Canaries’ survival hopes have flown south“, “Don’t be Kruel – No Mercy Antonio strikes!”, “The Canaries have ceased to be in the Premier League, this is an ex-canary!“ or, for all you Beatles fans out there, “And your bird can sink”. And how about “Canaries pining for the swords!“ ?
Maybe even “Killing 11 birds with one Antone“.
All brilliant of course…but I needed only one headline…;-))
Shame that these birds have flown now, Norwich are such a lovely source for finding all kinds of witty puns and you all know by now how much I just love my play-on-words. Is punability even a word ? ;-)
If it is, the Canaries are definitely in the Champions League of punability.
Be that as it may, more important than even the funniest pun could ever be is of course the fact West Ham now have three more vital points in the bag! Which spells trouble for both Villa and Bournemouth accordingly, despite the fact they won their respective fixtures too yesterday. But there’s only three games left. Which means every game is a Cup Final now…
OH YES!!! If you had offered West Ham fans the world over this result and performance before kick-off, I bet that Hammers everywhere would have snatched all your arms and legs off without thinking twice, regardless if he or she was following the game in Hackney, Hainault, Huddersfield, Hamburg, Helsinki, Honolulu, Hanoi or Houston.
What they saw was a solid team performance against a home side that was frankly so harmless and tame it was actually painful to watch at times.
Like an experienced and armed hunter walking into a petting zoo of cuddly and furry guinea pigs, bunnies and kittens.
It never felt like an actual contest between equals.
Men against boys more like. With us being the men for a change.
No wonder then that Norwich were the first team this season to have their relegation status officially confirmed. On the strength or rather weakness of that performance they won’t be missed much in the PL except as a courteous opponent dropping plenty of points. And for being very punable of course…;-))
But you can only beat what’s in front of you and our players certainly did their bit to ensure we will see PL football being played at the London Stadium next season after all, be that with fans inside the stadium or not.
Every single player did contribute in a positive way for us. Nobody had a stinker of a game for West Ham. Which was nice and rare to see.
We are not mathematically safe yet, I am aware of that.
But looking at the remaining fixtures, the league table and, more importantly, current form shown over the recent FIVE games played by each team, then Bournemouth and Villa don’t just have still quite a mountain to climb in order to stay up during the final stage of this crazy season, they will have to do it barefoot, without rope, cord or webbing, in a hailstorm with no gloves on, without the guiding light of a headtorch while the peak of the mountain lies somewhere way up shrouded in fog.
They need a lot of other games going in their favour while still winning at least two of their own remaining games. It’ll be incredibly hard for them.
So, in short: I don’t see either of them two reaching the top of that mountain. Neither will be in the Premier League next season.
And I still believe this to be the case despite Villa and Bournemouth winning their respective games yesterday.
They have closed the gap a bit to make things a bit more interesting. I still don’t see enough in both the Villa and the Bournemouth side to keep them up now. Too little too late. I think. And hope.
Where then to start with our win against Norwich ? With Michail Antonio of course! It is rare for any player to score four goals in a single PL game. Even if you are a very good striker. It gets even harder if you’re a West Ham player. We simply don’t score four goals in a game often. We concede four or more, no problem! Scoring them is a different matter.
Still, Antonio did it. Against a woeful defence, granted, but he took his opportunities in clinical fashion. Like the lethal striker he probably is after all despite actually having played mostly as a winger in his career – not to mention the occasional stint at RB. Maybe Antonio is a great goalkeeper as well, who knows ? Maybe we will find out next season. LOL
So Antonio scored four, with a bit more luck it could easily have been seven or eight goals in total for us, with Bowen, Soucek, Fornals and Antonio missing several more opportunities to add to our tally.
You have to go back all the way to September 1981 by the way (I was nine years old at the time) to find the most recent West Ham quadruple goalscorer in a league game for West Ham, prior to Antonio.
It was none other than David “Psycho“ Cross against Spurs.
Cross is a wonderful man, not just because he scored four times against our friends from North London (a feat very likely to guarantee yourself instant legend status at West Ham), but because I got to meet him and have a chinwag at an event in Dagenham a while ago and Cross is such an easy guy to root for, very approachable and chatty, with both feet firmly on the ground and still a big West Ham fan of course. Not a Psycho at all these days…
Saturday was very much Antonio’s day but every player in our team put a proper shift in. To be fair, Norwich pretty much handed our players the key to the city on a velvet pillow, our lads had so much space and time on the pitch that it was not only almost farcical at times.
I was also already chilled and completely at ease once we had managed to score the first goal at Carrow Road.
It felt like game, set and match there and then.
From that point onwards Norwich looked like a relegated team, a beaten side. And not even a good one at that!
Of course we didn’t have a perfect performance, not every pass of ours found a teammate, not every shot was on target, but we looked composed throughout and all that confidence which was gushing from the Norwich players in buckets seemed to get soaked up readily and gratefully by the boys in claret and blue.
If only we could play like this more often against better sides too. But at least our team should now be able to approach the upcoming games with a bit of swagger and freedom. Maybe play with a bit weight lifted from the players’ minds and shoulders, to perform more freely and just enjoy their football again. As that would translate into the fans as well being able to enjoy watching West Ham afresh.
A key player for us on Saturday was Mark Noble who always seems so much better and more driven when starting a game after a short spell on the bench. He was also being played in a more advanced role which I thinks suits our Mr.West Ham just fine. When he has to do a lot of defending, tackling and sliding his socks off in the midfield engine room he tends to pick up (unnecessary) yellow cards from late tackles and such like and he is also not really in a position then to play key passes near the opposition’s box.
Playing further forward on the other hand allows him to chase defenders around, win balls for the team and bring others into play with pinpoint passes or chipped balls into the danger zone. He looks more efficient that way, it’s definitely a role Noble might and should play more often now and also next season.
I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself mentally in terms of next season. I’m pretty sure we’ll be playing in the PL. I’m also certain we might be losing a player or two that our fans will not be happy to see depart. Rice being the obvious elephant in the room. Anderson another name on the list. Or Sebastien Haller. Some fans may also wonder if we will actually be able to sign Soucek on a permanent deal or if a bigger club will step up now, trying to tap up the Czech midfield maestro and strike a deal with him and Slavia, thus nicking him away from Stratford.
We will see. What will be will be. Financially it’s paramount for our club to still be in a plush and comfy seat in one of the carriages of the big money gravy train bearing the Premier League logo.
You don’t want the turmoil and financial chaos associated with another relegation at West Ham, not in the current climate, not while we’re playing home games at the London Stadium, not while we’re trying to find new owners in the short to medium term.
Sullivan and Gold won’t be around forever and they neither have the funds nor the nous to take this club further.
Can David Moyes take this club further ? I have never been his biggest fan. Never have been, unlikely to ever be in future. But more than anything at this point in time we need stability and continuity at the position for a while.
I certainly hope that Moyes is the kind of manager who can spot some decent and affordable talent from the Championship (Bowen) and abroad (Soucek) while also bringing more youngsters closer to and into our future first team matchday squads. That’s, in my view, how Moyes can really help our club with steadying the ship. Building a younger, hungrier and cheaper squad in financially trying circumstances at West Ham while making sure we don’t find ourselves in a relegation dogfight time and time again.
A lot of other issues are up to the board though which is where our real limitations a s a club currently lie. But that’s a discussion we’ve been having on here a lot in recent years.
My gut feeling tells me it’ll soon pop up again in conversation on here, especially once the transfer ballyhoo starts rearing its head once more in a few weeks’ time.
Right, Watford next. Loads of players available for selection, maybe even Anderson and Snodgrass. Guys like Wilshere, Lanzini, Yarmolenko, Haller, all itching for a start in a crucial game against local rivals and current neighbours in the league table. Another very winnable game for us.
A point will probably be enough for us in the end, thanks to our cushion and goal difference, and push us over the finish line. I would very much prefer though if we took the momentum and swagger of the Norwich performance right into the Watford game and get another three points. This season has been a gruesome test of endurance for our fanbase and a rollercoaster of emotions, Alton Towers Nemesis style, in more ways than one.
Let’s reward the faithful Hammers fans wherever they may be with another good performance, more goals and our next PL win. COYI!!!