The HamburgHammer Column
So it wasn’t the anticipated humiliating defeat from hell yesterday, no double digits, not even a 0:5 scoreline. We actually gave one of the best teams in the world an almighty scare.
Yes, of course Man City dominated possession and especially in the second half there was wave upon wave of attack on our goal, with numerous goalscoring opportunities created (leading to a number of very fine saves by Adrian). I actually believe Man City vastly underestimated our team in the first half which is why they were struggling initially with the crowd getting on their backs accordingly.
We even took a very surprising lead after a well taken header by Ogbonna. But it was obvious we couldn’t hang on. After all, Manchester City as a club are so much more professional than us on every level, on and off the pitch. They do a lot of things right (granted, with some serious financial backing), so I can’t really deny them my respect.
Like most other fans I expected a drubbing of epic proportions. So I changed my game watching routine, trying to do my bit for the cause – I was wearing a West Ham shirt I usually don’t use for armchair purposes.
Then it was out with the screwdriver, in with a tiny pair of tweezers to keep my nerves in check and my fingers busy. I expected us to concede a truckload of goals and I had an inkling the first Man City goal would be one of many, serving to open the floodgates – how wrong I was!
I watched the game by way of muttering to myself with every passing minute that we still hadn’t conceded, like a Buddhist monk saying his mantra: “First minute survived without conceding, COYI! Two minutes gone without conceding, well done lads! Three minutes without conceding, not too bad West Ham!” You get the picture. Once our goal went in I tried to suppress the natural upsurge of hope within myself because I knew that under the circumstances a win or even a draw was still highly unlikely.
Ultimately it was all in vain of course, no points to show for all the effort and considering that even a draw was possible if Sakho had scored with his shot very late in the game we could have approached the upcoming tasks against Chelsea and Arsenal with a lot more swagger.
Still I saw plenty of guts, desire and effort. And organisational shape. Our lads defended really well overall. We managed a number of promising counters. Every player looked up for it. Which is exactly what is required as a bare minimum if we want to stay up.
What do I take from the game ? Well, for me Adrian deserves to keep the shirt after pulling off one great save after another. Hart may be the England goalkeeper, but that doesn’t help West Ham if his performances for us leave a lot to be desired.
He seems to be a goalkeeper on the decline and I’d rather see us keeping faith in Adrian and then sign another goalkeeper in the summer (as it’s probably not feasible to terminate Hart’s loan in January).
Also I was impressed with young Declan Rice. He will benefit from games like these no end and should play more often now. I also feel our defensive setup looked a lot more composed and solid while upfront I prefer it if we play pacy guys like Sakho or Antonio. We don’t have enough pace in the side as it is, if we don’t even use the fast players we still have we might as well not bother turning up for games at all.
At the very least our performance has given me a bit more hope my upcoming visit for the Chelsea and Arsenal fixtures won’t be a total disaster. Usually I tend to enjoy my time away from the actual West Ham game a whole lot more than actually watching the game itself. Maybe, just maybe West Ham will do me a pre-festive favour and pull off one almighty giant killing against either of our London rivals.
I am flying in on Friday morning and I shall be staying in a convenient location close to the stadium, basically situated between Stratford High Street and Abbey Road Station.
Of course I’m looking forward to meeting plenty of you good people again, some of the regulars as usual but also new faces. I’m only flying back to Hamburg the day after the Arsenal game, so there is plenty of time to meet up and share a few drinks and mince pies. Six full days in London, lovely jubbly!
I also understand there will be a feisty encounter between the West Ham U23s and Spurs U23s on Monday evening (December 11th), so this might be a good opportunity for some of you to come over to Dagenham and cheer the boys on!
I for one will make sure I’ll be there!
Just for a brief mention of the issue of the Mayor of London getting involved in renegotiating our stadium deal. I think we can agree that the Olympic Stadium saga has been a comedy of errors, very costly ones at that!
Virtually every mistake that could have been made along the way, from designing and building the place, preserving a post games legacy, the bidding processes, finding a naming rights sponsor, the retractable seating and so forth was made with pinpoint precision, with numerous people getting in on the act – all of them contributing in varying measures to the cul de sac we now find ourselves in.
Nobody seems to be happy with the way the move went, apart from our owners.
The taxpayers are up in arms over the deal of the century, most West Ham fans are underwhelmed with our new home, rival fans are fuming and I can’t see the Newham locals being too impressed with their council flushing millions down the drain.
I can’t see West Ham moving out of that place anytime soon. I can’t see West Ham buying the London Stadium (who should pay for that ?). And I also don’t see the stadium being converted into a proper football stadium. They may probably find an alternative venue for athletics to get rid of the expensive need to switch between modes twice a year. But even then the stadium will remain as a highly disappointing botch job of a multi purpose stadium, a compromise made of brick, mortar and false promises.
Coming to the Cordi update and in accordance with the Game of Thrones TV series I can confirm: Winter has come to town! The Christmas markets are open. In the morning you hear the predictable symphony of people scraping their car windows.
It’s freezing cold. And that traditionally is the time when football in Germany is grinding to a halt, having a two month winter break. That includes Concordia, but on Saturday there was one final home game to be played against Wedel.
There was mulled wine available in the club house, telltale sign that indeed winter is finally here. Also bear in mind that the floodlights at Cordi are notoriously bad (at the far end of the pitch it’s like watching at the London Stadium, you can’t read name and number on the players’ shirts) and it’s easy to understand why only 80 people opted to leave their warm and cosy living rooms in order to buy a ticket for the game in East Hamburg. For those who were brave enough to weather the cold they were duly rewarded with Cordi’s best performance of the season and a 5:1 victory.
Some of the goals came from well worked counter attacks, with some glorious high risk shots from the edge of the box thrown in for good measure. This win was much needed and it brought some smiles to the players and staff which was nice to see before going into the long winter break.
I was happy enough at the final whistle to get invited by some of the local sponsors (who are genuine fans attending every game) who had laid on a dinner for the team in the club house afterwards and it was good to discuss a 5:1 win over roastbeef with fried potatoes, chips and chicken wings (plus beer, wines and softdrinks).
The goalkeeping coach and Everton fan was also there, with his massive Rottweiler called Neville (named after former Everton custodian Southall) in tow. He was obviously happy with Everton’s recent results but also told me he would have prefered Moyes back at Everton instead of Allardyce.
I also discussed West Ham with some of the older sponsors who have been supporting Cordi for 30 or 40 years and these guys are genuine football fans. They were very interested to hear my thoughts on the Premier League, the new stadium and West Ham’s current plight.
At the end of the evening they were all wishing me well for my trip, expressing their hopes West Ham would start winning games again, securing their league status for another season.
So, not long to go now before hitting the airport again. I hope the trip will yield some pre-Christmas pressies for me in the shape of some decent performances from our boys (and maybe the odd point or three). I already know tea and mince pies (and a nice chat) are waiting for me at Newham Bookshop.
And I may give the new West Ham Supporters Club in Stour Place near the stadium a try for a nice pre game breakfast.
Other than that ? No idea, again my itinerary is reasonably empty for the time being, I shall be taking things as they come when I’m over. Some of the best days are there to be had when they are just allowed to happen.
So, the German once again has gone against the natural trait of his fellow countrymen by not having pre-planned every single hour ahead. I reckon the trip will be a good one as usual though. Maybe even a brilliant one. We’ll see.