The HamburgHammer Column

Can we have some balance please ?

Proud. Gutted. Angry. Confused. Confident. This is just a sample of the rollercoaster of emotions I went through during and in the immediate aftermath of the West Brom game. (And it wasn’t much different for the Concordia game the day after.)

Our best striker was out. So we started the game with no outright striker on the pitch. But we had a lot going for us. We had passion, endeavour, spirit, spark, especially in the second half. We even made good use of the length and breadth of the pitch. The atmosphere in the stadium was, from what I could gather at home, rocking.

Even though we didn’t get the win, it was a hugely entertaining game, well worth the price for a ticket.

There were quite a few major incidents all of which were, when in doubt, decided in West Brom’s favour, albeit most of those rightly so. There’s no need for me to go into detail as that has been discussed at length in previous threads. I am sick and tired of having to mention game-defining (bad) calls from the referees every other week. Once again it has cost us points or at least contributed to us losing points. Plus our manager and his assistant who are likely to get some sort of touchline ban for the upcoming games.

I don’t blame Bilic and Nikola Jurcevic, his assistant, for losing their composure. Don’t get me wrong: We battled back, we took the lead with only a few minutes to go and we failed to hang on and bring the points home. That is the responsibility of our players who simply need to show better focus and professionalism. Then again we shouldn’t have been behind in the first place, their player clearly fouling Feghouli in the buildup to their goal in my opinion, you see those given quite regularly.

A first half equaliser for us was waived off by way of a controversial offside call (watching the replay it was still a pretty close call, but maybe the right one actually, still harsh on us) and even their second goal came from a dubious throw in decision a few moments earlier.

Thankfully video referees will eventually arrive and it won’t be a moment too soon and I’ll leave it at that. As for our team I cannot name a single player who didn’t put in a shift and performance. I will write the same now as I would have done if we had indeed won the game as for me that draw was undeserved on West Brom’s part, I very much see West Ham as the morale winners here which doesn’t give us th three points of course but at least we can all be proud of a very decent performance under testing circumstances.

In terms of defending Reid was, as usual, the rock we could depend on, it wasn’t a perfect performance, but a very creditable one again. Noble was my personal MotM.
For all his detractors he was in the middle of everything, covering every blade of grass, driving the team on and without bothering to look up the official stats there can’t have been another player out there touching the ball more often than he did.
Feghouli seems to lack a fanclub at West Ham for the time being, but I reckon he is slowly beginning to win the Hammers faithful over. He did a lot of things against West Brom, and he did a lot of things right, being a constant nuisance to West Brom.

And Lanzini is stepping up beautifully and wearing those Payet boots very well indeed – and I mean that purely in footballing terms. Another class goal. He is our creative outlet and we will hopefully see a lot more from Manuel in the next few years, preferably in a West Ham shirt.
An honourable mention goes to Calleri who showed a lot of effort but looks decidedly lightweight and is unlikely to be a long term fix for us anyway.

Which brings me to the headline of my column. We need some balance here – and not just in terms of calling for Bilic’s head (in some quarters at least) or calling West Ham players mingers after one or two underwhelming performances. No, we definitely need some balance to our squad and that will need to be addressed and sorted out in the summer. No more deluded hoping that our players will not suffer injuries next season. No resting easy in the knowledge that certain players may fill in at RB or upfront for half a season or so.

Right now we have a plethora of midfielders, jostling for gametime in various positions, DM, winger, wingback, attacking midfielder, makeshift striker, but not enough reliable experienced strikers. We have Carroll who is a monster of a forward when he plays, but as we all know he cannot be relied upon staying fit and he cannot even train regularly for fear of straining his delicate bones and muscles. Ankle issues, groin niggles, thigh strains, you name it, he gets it. So we cannot and shouldn’t build our team around Carroll next season.

Same goes for the defending positions, especially the RB spot. Yes, we have players who can fill in there like Kouyate or Nordtveit. But when you consider injuries and off-field issues, we only have Byram who himself is injury prone. At LB Masuaku is only just coming back (from injury, what else?) providing some welcome competition for Cresswell who just hasn’t been the same confident player ever since being kicked heavily into the new season in that summer “friendly” against Karlsruhe.

So I would just like to ask our board to make sure we have all positions in our squad covered adequately next season. Even if that costs money. Proper RBs playing at RB for starters.

Proper strikers who can convert the opportunities we create and who can also stay fit for the vast majority of the season. Preferably players who can grow and develop with the club, not stop gaps filling in for a season or two before retiring.

If we had started the West Brom game with a proper striker, I am convinced we would have won. Our season is now drifting further towards midtable insignificance.
We are too far away to catch the likes of Everton and we won’t be involved in a relegation dogfight. 10th or 9th is where we will finish which, on paper, is fine for a team moving to a new home stadium and losing their superstar creative player midseason in the process as well.

But the question is: Have our board seriously done enough on their part to give our team the best chance and a conducive environment to succeed this season?
I’m really not sure…

Finally, for those of you interested, the Concordia game, kicking off the second half of the season after the end of the winter break, was unfortunately another scissor kick in the guts for yours truly. The lads could have earned themselves a significant cushion at the top of the Oberliga Hamburg table with a win or at least a draw as our fiercest promotion rival unexpectedly lost to a so called lesser side on Friday.

Cordi, however, subsequently failed to do their bit yesterday, losing 2:1 to a lesser side as well, after taking a one goal lead late in the second half, only to see the home team score two late goals in heartbreaking fashion, pouncing on some shocking defensive and goalkeeping blunders on Concordia’s part.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, are Concordia West Ham in disguise ? At least Hamburg SV and St.Pauli won their games, so it’s not all bad…COYI!

The HamburgHammer Column

Smells like Team Spirit - let's finish the season in style!

That’s what the doctor ordered! What a solid performance that was against Southampton and the perfect way really to bounce back from a lackluster, gutless and amateurish display against an admittedly much better (and more expensive) Man City side. We know there still is a massive gulf between us and the top 5 teams in a variety of ways, a gulf which may not be bridged anytime soon, but the win at St.Mary’s once again showed what our lads are capable of if they stick together, fight for each other, run and chase both ball and opposition.

Put the effort in and the rest will follow more often than not. We have seen plenty of effort from every single player. Some were better than others, but not one of our players disappointed. Once again I’m struggling to name merely one MOTM.
Obiang has a strong case obviously with his wonderful goal and sublime pass for Carroll’s strike.
Carroll himself can claim he set us up for the win with his passionate and physical play upfront.
As for all-game running and never say die attitude, have your pick from skipper Mark Noble and new boy Robert Snodgrass.
How about Reid and Fonte keeping things together at the back or Kouyate for busting a gut while filling in at RB ?
Or Feghouli again having a decent game ?

If we can replicate that kind of performance on a more regular basis at our upcoming home games we should finish the season comfortably in midtable, maybe even attempt a late push on Europe if other results go our way. I have no doubt in my mind that Bilic has the team very much behind him. And it was impressive to hear how Bilic also had the away support 100% behind him who were singing his praises all game, loud and clear, a fact which will not have gone unnoticed by Gold and Sullivan.

I will try to actually stop calling the board out all the time, simply because there’s not much point to it – it’s their club, they make the decisions as they deem fit and writing a column or posting numerous comments won’t change their approach to transfer windows or the way they run the club.
I can drape myself in a West Ham flag and hop five times around Hamburg Town Hall on one leg while being blindfolded or I can also post 999 comments on their spending (or rather NOT spending), it’ll have about as much impact as my neighbour’s cat farting during Match of the Day – it won’t change a bloody thing!

So I will try to just enjoy what I see from our lads on the pitch and not get too excited or worked up about things happening off the pitch. Although it needs to be said that all the truly great and successful clubs in England have one thing in common today: They spend huge sums on transfers to improve their squads on a regular basis (70 or 80 million in every summer window at least) and they have top class state-of-the-art training facilities. I’ll leave it to yourself to work out if we do fall into that category yet or how likely we are to tick those boxes in the next few years.

As for the quick Concordia update I didn’t watch them play another midseason break friendly game as yet again it had been scheduled at the same time as the West Ham game, so I got my priorities right and watched our away performance on an online stream while following Concordia’s exploits via Facebook updates from the club.
Cordi were playing Hamburg SV’s development squad on a training pitch right next to Hamburg’s Volksparkstadion (BSB, The Original Russ and VoR will know the venue because they saw those pitches when they were over).

Concordia lost 2:5 on the day (Kevin scored again), but I should add that Hamburg SV’s development squad are playing one level above Concordia and for that reason I am not surprised at all my boys didn’t stand much of a chance there. But it surely was a good test before FINALLY the season proper will kick on again next Sunday with Cordi’s first away game in the league in 2017. In the near future we should also learn whether Concordia will actually try to officially throw their hat in the ring for promotion to the next level.

You need some serious backing from sponsors, a lot of administrative effort and also a proper stadium in order to play in the Regionalliga North, but you also don’t want to see them going for it while being short of funds only to find the club on the brink of financial meltdown one year later, so it’s exciting (and nailbiting) times for Concordia too!

In terms of West Ham we will hopefully see our lads deliver a committed performance against West Brom next, similar to the one just witnessed at Southampton. We should slowly see some players getting back into the fold from recent injuries, guys like Sakho, Byram or Arbeloa should be back in training soon.

Talking of which this is my main hope for the next transfer window: PLEASE sign a proper right back (or even two) in the summer, I don’t care what nationality or age they are or which league they currently play in (although they should of course be of a certain standard to begin with).

As long as they are proper RBs and are comfortable in that position, sign them! The RB position has been our weak spot for ages now and this is a major hole we need to fix eventually. Byram will continue to be a risk in terms of being unavailable either through injury or suspension, so at this point we cannot rely on him just yet. Once we have the RB issue sorted we can start worrying about bringing in more strikers again…;-))


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The HamburgHammer Column

Will it be a lively Deadline Day for West Ham? And finally good news on referees

The Payet saga is finally over, thank God for that! I am sure most fans will agree that the main positive in all this is that the guy is gone now. He gave us some lovely memories to cherish, some mindblowingingly beautiful goals and the tricks and flicks Hammers fans love to see in a player. But the more you read about the man the more I believe it was never really meant to be, Payet coming to West Ham was a happy accident, a bizarre twist of fate and it could never last.

I am slightly disappointed we gave in as much as we did on price which at first glance may seem like we simply caved in being faced with an unhappy player only willing to go to one club and one club only, a French club being a match for Sullivan in terms of negotiating and the less said about Payet’s agent the better.
At least we seem to have agreed a decent sell on fee which may result in a very welcome windfall should Payet leave to a bigger club than Marseille in future or follow the scent of the money to Chinese shores – I am sure Payet will be on the move again in a year or two.

We can now focus on the post-Payet era and this will most probably mean seeing more hearty and passionate performances from the lads who actually want to play for our club. In that respect I very much welcome the recent additions of Jose Fonte, Robert Snodgrass and Patsy, sorry, Nathan Holland. I would still like us to make one or two more shrewd signings before the window closes. A striker being top of my list.

Hogan of course comes with a bit of a risk attached to him in the shape of his previously badly injured knee. On the other hand he gives us something different, a guy who by all accounts makes intelligent runs while also being a natural finisher.
But if Bilic isn’t convinced we are unlikely to sign him and may have to look somewhere else.

I hope the club have been doing their homework in the background and have a few alternatives up their sleeves. Maybe also in the defensive department as I am not sure we can rely on Byram staying injury-free all season, not to mention his tendency to collect bookings like other people do stamps or vintage model cars.
Deadline Day as usual will promise much and deliver probably very little, it’s still good fun and it’ll be interesting to see if, how much and how wisely the board will spend the Payet money in the coming hours (or the following summer at least).

A very positive news item which seems to have gone pretty much under the radar is the tests currently being carried out for video refereeing in British football.
It has been confirmed that the use of video technology will be starting in the German Bundesliga as early as next season already.
It can only be a matter of time before the other big leagues in Spain, Italy, France and England of course follow suit as just like with goal line technology there simply aren’t any plausible arguments against it anymore.

As for Britain secret tests for the use of video technology or video refs have taken place this season, covering several Premier League games. The tests were not live though but rather ex-referees watching games in retrospect, finding out if and how a video ref might have been able to change certain decisions on the day.
Unsurprisingly the tests yielded between 2-4 instances per game where a video ref might have been in a position to overturn the decision of the referee on the pitch (or give support to the ref in order for him to get his decision right in the first place).

Rumours are that the use of video technology could be implemented in the Premier League very quickly now, probably even next season in tandem with the Bundesliga.
I have mentioned before that I see this as a measure long overdue to get rid of the vast majority of bad refereeing decisions affecting the future and livelihoods of clubs, players, managers and club employees too.

The introduction of video technology to football is one of my pet topics really and I shall be very glad when it’s finally part of our favourite sport too after being a successful feature in other sports like Cricket, Rugby, Tennis, Ice Hockey, American Football and Baseball. Better late than never! You can of course debate the details of it.
Do you give managers the opportunity to appeal to the video referee once or twice per game ?
Do you implement a rule that every single goal scored or red card issued will be automatically refered to the verdict of the video ref to rubberstamp the decision on the pitch ?
Or will we hardly notice a change because the video referee will be in the referees ear anyway during the game, making sure the decisions are the right ones to begin with ?

One things’s certain: The various offside goals given in Man United’s favour this season should be a thing of the past once video technology is up and running.
Just like with goal line technology it will be hard for managers or players of big clubs to intimidate or mess with a video referee sitting in a secluded office/studio which may not even be in the stadium but in a sort of headquarter covering all the games, like they do in Ice Hockey where the Toronto headquarters house a multitude of screens showing every game from every angle as it happens with the decisions being filtered through to the referees in the respective stadiums/arenas.

The next few days will be very interesting now of course, first Transfer Deadline Day, then a very exciting home game against Man City where we will hopefully witness our team showing spirit and togetherness again and maybe also get a glimpse at our new signings too. I for one can’t wait.


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The HamburgHammer Column

Beg, steal and Boro - where do we go from here ?

Being a West Ham fan is never dull, innit ? Another win, this time a very credible away success at Middlesbrough, plenty of rumours as could be expected of course during this time of the season and yes, the yellow-bellied toad from Reunion, is still officially a West Ham player. We have signed two new players (Fonte and Holland), will lose at least one in the coming days (Calleri), there will be more transfer rumours during the week and later today the BBC will broadcast another little nugget about the Olympic Stadium on the telly, about taxpayers’ money being wasted and no doubt the BBC (funded by the taxpayer too of course) will be pointing fingers at West Ham as the main culprit yet again.

But let’s try and keep things somewhat organised: Quick Concordia update, my lads won another winter break friendly on Saturday afternoon (Our Kevin scored again) which I obviously couldn’t attend because I wanted to watch our game as it happened, screwdriver in hand, cup of tea and a biscuit sitting ready on the living-room table. And what a thrilling game to watch it was, end to end stuff and finally a game where we created numerous chances while playing some nice free-flowing, counter-attacking football.

Just like in the Palace game it was a proper team performance and nice to see. Carroll looks fitter and hungrier than ever – and when he does he seems like he can’t and won’t stop scoring, but forever hovering above is his tendency to suffer yet another knock or even lengthy injury layoff. All we can do is keep our fingers crossed that he can find a way, in tandem with the West Ham physios and medical team, to keep himself sharp and healthy. His playing style however is so refreshingly passionate and all guns blazing that injuries will always be part of the Carroll package I reckon.

It’d be unfair to just single out Carroll here, the entire team did their bit to get the three points, but one has to say our bench looked incredibly thin/young again.
Yes, Calleri came on, had a decent cameo appearance and even scored his first goal for the Hammers (I’m sure he will claim it despite the deflection taking the ball into the opposite corner), but it looks like the first may also be his last as rumour has it he will fly to Las Palmas and join them on yet another loan deal after all.
Which, coupled with Carroll’s tendency to get injured, Sakho’s current injury absence and Browne being out on loan, means we do need a signing or two upfront.

After lengthy contract negotiations with Brentford it seemed like we had a deal agreed for Scott Hogan, but apparently West Ham or rather Bilic weren’t sure about him, being concerned about his previous knee injuries, and it now looks like Watford might have stepped in, offering a better deal and more money upfront.
Then again it could all be smokes and mirrors, bluff and counterbluff, it is that time of year again after all.

Defoe may or may not come, I’m sure we are still waiting and hoping he will submit a transfer request, but I wouldn’t want to bet my house on a deal happening, Defoe remains Sunderland’s only hope to preserve their top-flight status this season. So we do need a striker and maybe our club are following up different options as we speak, probably even working on a quick, behind the scenes deal like we did with Jose Fonte.

That came a bit out of the claret and blue and it was done, apparently, in a fashion I find exemplary. Due to Ogbonna needing season ending surgery to repair his knee (hats off to Angelo, he played through the pain barrier all season, obviously suffering in his performances as a byproduct of carrying that injury, but still played on regardless because we needed him, now, THAT is professionalism and sacrifice, talk about taking one for the team! Take notice, Monsieur Payet!) we identified Fonte and signed him for a few million less surely, due to keeping the Ogbonna injury secret enough not to impact contract negotiations.

We now have another very solid, experienced CB who may be just the ideal partner for Reid. I’m confident Fonte has still another two or three good seasons at the top level in him and don’t underestimate the fact he used to be Southampton’s skipper too. It can’t hurt to have a seasoned veteran like him in the side, not just for his footballing skills and reading of the game on the pitch, but also his ability to teach and lead the youngsters off it. A great signing at a reasonable price.

Talking of which I know it is unwise to get sucked into all those transfer rumours in the January window, with social media spreading rumours about bids submitted, rejected, re-submitted and so forth. It seems to be the modus operandi of our owners though to do what we all seem to criticise Marseille for in their pursuit of Dimitri Payet, insulting a selling club with lowball offers that in no way reflect the quality and skill level of the player in question.

I know I tend to be naive in many ways, however, I still think there is long-term merit in submitting realistic bids in the transfer market, showing respect and appreciation for the player and the selling club alike. I am not talking about throwing money away left, right and center or hopelessly overpaying on average players. But don’t insult the other party in a potential deal by making offers that are so far off the mark that you are essentially just wasting everyone’s time. As a side effect you may also cheese the player off if you merely offer a pittance to sign him as that would suggest you don’t really rate the player that much anyway.

Which brings me to Payet. Apparently various sources are claiming other clubs in France have woken up to Payet’s availability, Nice may be interested in an initial loan while PSG have apparently also put their nose in now. Which can only be good in terms of finally establishing a proper market for the player, if only to drive the price up to a more realistic level for Marseille who seem to remain Payet’s favourite option. It would be nice to see Payet accept a bit of a compromise solution here and go to any other club in France apart from Marseille as that would make sure that West Ham get a fair transfer fee for him – I think it is what our club very much deserve for helping massively to make him the player he is today.

We’ll see how things develop further in this matter. Where then do West Ham go from here, after two wins on the trot for the rest of the season ? Well, I shall make some not very bold predictions here.

a) We will not get relegated.
b) We will not qualify for European competition.
c) Andy Carroll will miss more games through injury this season.
d) We will finish the season with a positive goal difference.

Looking at those predictions one might argue we don’t need to make any more signings in January at all
(I think we have just signed one for the future in England U19 midfielder Nathan Holland, an attacking midfielder from the Everton Academy). But I would warn against that approach. Surely we need to try to finish the season in a positive fashion, on a high, and climb the table as much as possible. For our summer transfer negotiations we need to ride the crest of a wave of confidence. And we need to spend.

We have seen this season that just being a Premier League team in London, playing in a massive stadium alone doesn’t attract top players. It also doesn’t make top players want to stay. The simple truth is, you need money, and a lot of it, to attract top players, especially if you cannot offer Europa League or CL football.

So that means that eventually our board will need to spend some serious money if they are indeed serious about taking West Ham to the next level.
I wasn’t unhappy with the previous level to be honest, happy with the occasional decent cup run at the Boleyn, surviving most seasons in midtable obscurity while sometimes having an extraordinary one. But our owners, for better or worse, decided to go ahead with the stadium move. That now means that the previous level will no longer do, we need to aim higher and show ambition. And like it or not, we will only be taken seriously if we are prepared to invest in the club and the team.

Are our owners prepared to do that ? Or are we just happy enough to bumble along and avoid relegation while waiting for the filthy rich investor in shining armour, riding into Stratford on his Arabian (or Qatari) steed and make an offer to the Davids they simply cannot refuse ? I suppose our upcoming transfer dealings will give us a bit of an indication in that respect.

What do West Ham fans want, after the stadium move? I cannot and will not speak for everybody, I can only tell you what I want. For me the team is everything, playing positive attacking football, running, fighting, tackling for each other. I am not sure if we will ever be a club, stockpiling £40 million players like Chelsea, Man United or Arsenal.

Maybe that just isn’t in our DNA. I like the way Bilic acts, works and conducts himself. I want him to be a permanent fixture at West Ham.

And I want him to sign the right kind of player in future, one who will give his all for the greater good of the team, who will be happy to improve the play of their teammates and make them look good on the pitch too instead of just aiming to improve his own stats. Proper team players, ideally ones who will gladly settle at our club and be happy enough to play the best football of their careers at West Ham, rather than just seeing us as a convenient stepping stone for a move to another club where the grass may be even greener than the one covering the pitch at London Stadium.

Oh, and let’s see what that upcoming investigation by Mayor Khan will bring to light. Things at the stadium surely haven’t gone according to plan so far, neither for West Ham nor for the taxpayer. Will an ultimate sale to West Ham be the best option financially ? Will that even be feasible ? And at what stage will West Ham fans be able to call the new place home ? There are easier questions to muse about on a Monday I presume, but at least things have picked up at our club again. Which makes everything else a bit easier as well. At least for this German Mockney…:-)


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The HamburgHammer Column

Brave Bilic the key to better days ahead

Take a bow Slaven Bilic! Our manager has been through what must have been a few miserable months, capped by the last seven days which surely will have been not your average rollercoaster of emotions for our Croatian manager, more like the Nemesis ride at Alton Towers. Now, initially I had planned to try and write my column without even mentioning Dimitri Payet just in order to prove a point. But frankly, while a lot of us may consider him to be history already and prefer to move on without ever hearing his name again, the truth is that he is still legally a West Ham player and until his sale has been completed he is still the massive bullfrog (or yellow-bellied toad if you prefer) in the room so to speak, so he will of course feature in my column after all.

But first things first! What a fantastic team performance that was. That’s right, TEAM. Which translates as Together Everyone Achieves More. The keyword being together.
Our team hasn’t been together for a long time, I would say not from the very start of the season, coinciding with Payet’s return from the Euro Championships.
Where surely he was tapped up, maybe multiple times. I’m sure by now everyone will have read about how our club and also Bilic bent over backwards in order to make Monsieur Payet feel wanted, loved, appreciated – hindsight is a wonderful thing, and in hindsight it appears that we have rather overdone the royalty treatment.

We’ll see what comes out eventually about Payet’s true motives of wanting to leave NOW rather than wait for the summer when apparently West Ham were quite ready to sell him at that point for the right price, not wishing to stand in the way of an unhappy or homesick player.
The way though in which Payet basically shat on everything he had at our club, not acknowledging the role of our club in making him the household name he is in international football today is truly sad. And a bit pathetic.

From the very beginning he was welcomed and worshipped like a true legend by the Hammers fans, it felt as if he had been at West Ham for years already rather than being a new signing. It indeed was a love affair, alas affairs tend to usually end a) rather quickly and b) rarely on amicable terms – the love between the player and the club, manager and fans is totally lost now for obvious reasons.

But you know what? It’s a mighty relief to finally have identified the main root of our problems this season, at least in terms of the team (ignoring the stadium move for a minute). It looks like indeed Payet’s special treatment he got from the club and management drove a massive wedge right through the dressing room and also the training pitch at Rush Green. It must have been so frustrating for the other players seeing it all being about Payet without our star player backing up all that admiration (and money) with even halfway decent performances on the pitch. The rest of the team obviously felt disrespected and undervalued – and all over a guy who essentially has been a one season wonder for us. Yet the board tied him down to an improved long-term deal while refusing to afford our manager the same courtesy, citing their desire to find out if Bilic was a one season wonder first…

We will now see if the club are willing to let Payet rot for half a season in order to get the right price for our prize asset or cave in and sell on the cheap, just to get rid. With Chinese clubs becoming interested in him too now Payet can not expect to go back to Marseille for ten million quid and six bottles of vintage claret, although both he and Marseille for sure would prefer that of course. I want the club to show some backbone here, sending out a clear massage to the world that no West Ham player (no matter how good he is) can just down tools and strop in order to push through a transfer to his prefered destination for peanuts despite having signed a long-term contract (and a loyalty bonus of 1 million quid too) just recently.

Players are on long-term contracts for a reason. They can ask for a transfer obviously if they no longer wish to stay, but certainly not on their terms. Clubs need to be protected in a way that they get at least their fair share should a player want to leave well before reaching the expiry date of his contract.

So, to finish off the Payet issue: Sell him as quickly as possible, yes, but only for a price that mirrors his true market value for his next club. That is much closer to 35 or 40 million rather than 20 in my book. With China involved maybe even 50 million. How our owners will decide to spend that kind of money, if they spend any that is, is anybody’s guess though.
I’m confident we will make at least a few signings in January, not necessarily for NOW as we are pretty much safe from relegation already, but maybe we will pick up some players for the future (like Hogan) now in order to not miss out on them in the summer (similar to what we did when we picked up Byram).

It was a pleasure to see our team perform, well, like a team on Saturday, especially in the second half. All the players suddenly seemed to have found another gear or two being freed from the shackles of forever running about in the shadow of the French Messiah (he’s not really, just a very naughty boy!). The lads played (and celebrated the goals) like a team should, together, happy to sweat blood and guts for each other. It also seemed to unite the crowd at London Stadium and Lanzini’s jump into the stands was a nice touch.
(Although only West Ham players seem to get punished with a booking for this kind of thing these days.)

I am not sure if Lanzini did it on a whim or whether it was premeditated (as a nod to the Tevez celebration after he scored his first for West Ham or as a subtle hint in the direction of a sulking Frenchman that he was neither needed nor wanted back in the team anymore). Either way, it felt incredible to hear the whole ground singing Slaven’s praise and boy, did the man deserve it!
If there is one guy this club should be built around, if our fanbase should rally round one chap capable of putting some pride back into this club it is not a player, but our manager.

Sure, he makes mistakes too as he is only a human being after all (trying to turn Antonio into a RB obviously was a massive clanger). But for me he is the perfect link connecting us to the passion, traditions and values that are so dear to loyal Hammers fans all over the globe. If we want things to improve for us in the next few years, we need to make sure to keep Bilic at West Ham for a long time, so rather than throwing money at another bigger than his boots primadonna player I would offer Bilic a contract extension NOW.
Send out a signal that Bilic is our man for the future and then bloody support him with transfer funds too. It’ll be money well spent in my view.
(Well, Bilic didn’t know that Tore would get a long-term injury at West Ham, did he ?)

A final word needs to be said about Andy Carroll. That was a world class goal indeed and it’s highly encouraging to see him score goals like that because it very much proves that on his day he is so much more than just a battering ram, thundering in headers or knocking balls down for his teammates. We may have to wait for another goal of that quality at London Stadium for another 20 years or so.

The key for him will be to look after himself and stay injury-free, then the sky will be the limit for him really. Oh yes, also try to play with two strikers more in future.
I don’t even think it matters that much if it is Sakho, Fletcher, Martinez, Calleri (or Hogan?) – as long as you have another outlet upfront, staying close to Carroll, pouncing to exploit any space or opportunity created by Carroll’s presence we will begin to score more goals on a regular basis.

What a great feeling to be talking about positives again for a change! It’s vital now that our board don’t rest on their laurels or sit on their hands and wallets. Our fanbase deserve to see investment in our team. Our manager deserves support in his endeavour to build a great team. A great team for West Ham will always be more about players working well as a unit, a well-oiled machine, rather than trying to keep superstar primadonnas happy. Maybe that just isn’t the West Ham way.

Maybe it’s a lesson learned the hard way with Payet. Maybe we don’t need 40 million quid players after all, even in a 60.000 seater stadium. Maybe we just need to sing more songs for Bilic and keep him happy, it’s certainly worth a try! COYI!

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