The HamburgHammer Column
It’s not often that your team wins a Cup Final in February. But apparently we did just that yesterday. I’m not quite sure if it was Spurs’ Cup Final or ours, but we did win this somehow.
Although looking at the stats and considering how much of a workout my matchday screwdriver had to endure, I’m still a bit baffled how we managed to get all three points regardless.
Dare I say it ? This is what good teams do. They get a narrow lead over the line, by hook or by crook, even if they’ve been under the cosh for long spells in a game.
Talking about being under the cosh, I’m not gonna lie to you, but I didn’t sleep at all the night before, tossing and turning in my Futon style bed, gazing at the alarm clock on the bedside table every five minutes, never getting a proper dose of shut-eye until the sun was up again on Sunday.
It wasn’t just pre-match nerves either. This is a big week coming up for my family (more of that later) and once those meandering thoughts and lingering worries are beginning to direct a tense film drama of their own inside your head, sleep becomes an elusive commodity…
Valecnici, that’s a useful Czech word, describing our team as a whole in this game against Spurs – it means “Warriors”. And that’s what the lads were yesterday, to a man. Like Soucek who had to briefly leave the pitch after a clash of heads in order to get a nasty cut above his eye fixed up, leaving us a man short for what seemed like eternity, but apparently was little more than five minutes. I was almost certain Spurs would exploit that fact and punish us. They didn’t.
For the rest of the game Spurs laid siege on our goal, they had 69% possession, a whopping 20 shots, 4 of them on goal. West Ham only had 31% of the ball (it seemed even less than that to me, watching on the old custard and jelly), only 4 shots in total, ALL of them on goal.
The truly important stat though, the one that got spelled out in all the major headlines is the one about West Ham scoring twice and Spurs only once. Did we bend ? Absolutely.
Did we break ? No, we didn’t. Not this time. Still hard to beat. Thanks to Moyes. Warriors.
There’s no denying it: West Ham were riding their luck, especially in the second half. A combination of brave defending (Coufal taking one for the team late on, Rice racing back into the box to clear a ball and save the day), some fantastic saves by Fabianski and a great defensive contribution by the left goalpost (from Fabianski’s POV) kept Tottenham’s equaliser from materialising.
No Lanzini moment for them, no equaliser in dramatic fashion, rotten luck, Spurs! NOT sorry about that! LOL
When Spurs started collecting yellow cards early on as if they were going out of fashion with Mourinho busting the odd blood vessel or two down the sideline, I was expecting the game to go south for Spurs and Mourinho ending up in the stands once more. We didn’t exactly cruise after going 2:0 up. Spurs kept pushing, turning the screw further.
But we actually won by doing something very un-West Ham-like – we scored early in both halves, catching Spurs flat-footed both times. Again, that’s the sign of a strong team. As much as I was hoping we would keep Kane, Son and Bale quiet all game, I knew deep down that this was unlikely, if not impossible to do.
Even when not on top form they are still fantastic players who can turn a game on its head in a matter of seconds. And they nearly did. But “nearly“ is the little brother of “better luck next time“ and the poor cousin of “close, but no cigar!“, especially in football.
This time, luck was on our side and this is now one of those rare seasons where Spurs have failed to beat us at least once. God knows what’ll happen to our North London neighbours should they also fail to qualify for European football…
I don’t have to go over each individual player’s contribution to this famous victory, they all did their bit, everyone put in a shift. Nobody more so than Jesse Lingard once again.
He really gives us that extra bit of quality, that desire and big team winning mentality we have been crying out for for years. He took his goal really well and he even got to celebrate it twice with his teammates, thanks to VAR. For me it was never really in doubt that the play was onside, even in real time it looked like a perfectly good goal to me.
I thought it would knock the stuffing out of Tottenham much more than it did though…several nervy moments and substitutions later we had the win in the bag. Sweet, mate!
And here we are then, sitting beautifully in 4th place. Best team in London.
It looks bizarre, it seems unreal. But his ain’t a fluke. Not anymore. Yes, we still have to play Man City, Man United and Leicester. But we can approach any and every game with confidence, pride and a bit of swagger these days. The season is far from over yet, of course. We aren’t even mathematically safe yet. There may be setbacks lurking.
However, this team now reminds me of a shark that’s been starving for prey for too long and which has finally smelled fresh traces of claret in the water. Thanks to players like Soucek, Coufal and Lingard the entire squad have acquired a taste for winning, a desire to train that little bit harder, to look after themselves more while trying to become better performers from one game to the next. It’s a refreshing change from seeing the likes of Carroll or Wilshere taking the club for a ride.
This is a watershed moment for our club in my opinion. Moyes is key in all this. He’s the one with a clear and strategic plan and the right ideas about how to push this great club forward. I read some quotes from our gaffer, talking about how having Rice at West Ham helps himself and this club as a whole to be more ambitious. Because Rice is rightfullyambitious and hungry for success, Moyes feels added pressure to bring better players in to keep the likes of Rice happy.
This is what Moyes said just recently:
Declan is pushing me to improve the team, because I’m looking at him and saying, ‘You’re an England international, possibly future England captain and you want me to get you good players.’ I think Declan will always be here as long as he thinks I’m going to try to do that.
And it’s true. Rice could become a legend at West Ham – if we can keep him at the club that is and keep him happy. As unlikely as that may sound at this point, he will have no reason to leave as long as West Ham are heading in the right direction. With European or even CL football beckoning and starting every game for us, with Moyes adding to the quality of the squad, why would Rice want to leave ?
I’d go one further . We all know how Rice grew up a Chelsea fan, how they ditched him as a youth team player because they were convinced he’d never be good enough to make it into the PL. Well, they got that one slightly wrong, didn’t they ? Rice, by the way, was magnificent against Tottenham.
Playing for your childhood club must be a dream come true if it happens, I am ready to believe that. But Rice is making some great progress and wonderful memories at West Ham NOW as a man. He’s no longer the kid that used to cheer when Lampard or John Terry scored a goal.
He’s clearly enjoying playing for West Ham and why wouldn’t he ? He’s been our player for a while now, U23s and first team. Chelsea may have been his first football love. But not everybody gets to marry his first love from teenage days in real and adult life. My bedroom used to be plastered with Nena posters on every wall during my teenager years, today I listen to many other artists and have given up any desire or hope to hold hands with the singer of “99 Red Balloons“ at the end of the aisle, exchanging vows in front of a clergyman.
I can see a similar process at work for Declan Rice and his relationship with his boyhood crush Chelsea.
There is every chance that Rice is no longer simply a West Ham player at this stage. I wouldn’t be surprised to seeing him becoming more and more of a West Ham supporter who happens to wear the claret and blue shirt while playing his football, if it hasn’t already happened. A fan on the pitch, just like Mark Noble used to be and still is occasionally.
Playing every game and being skipper of your team must make a difference. I can see Moyes making Rice the focal point of his improved future West Ham team. Build the team around him.
Let’s hope Moyes will indeed be in a position to bring in more good players in future to keep this club on the right track.
Moyes has mentioned what he thinks is essential to turn this club around. A proper scouting network and recruitment policy. Signing young and hungry players rather than big name players looking for one final hurrah, paired with a big wage packet.
Players who are good at football AND sound as human beings and teammates. Pillars of the dressing room rather than pillocks on Instagram.
I reckon this is going to be a bloody exciting ride if Moyes is allowed to make more decisions concerning the club’s future.
If he gets proper backing in words and action, who knows what he can achieve for the Hammers ?
I am really grateful we won our derby game because it has lifted my mood just in time for what is going to be a crucial week for me personally. My brother is having to face yet another medical procedure on Thursday to finally get rid of his cancer. It’s minimally invasive surgery this time, so he should be in and out of hospital quickly.
My brother is obviously hoping that this is gonna be the final operation required in order to kick the tumour into touch once and for all. Fingers crossed and all that. Your kind thoughts and expressions of support have been most welcome and sincerely appreciated, thank you all for your words of encouragement, positive vibes and prayers, bless you all!
Somehow wins against Spurs are always that little bit extra special, aren’t they ? It’s only three points on paper, same as the previous win against Sheffield United.
But it does feel more like six or nine points really, this one. Not just because it was a derby win. More in terms of being a statement of intent.
A line drawn in the sand.
In the form of an impressive run of results with victories coming in different shapes and sizes. And not just against relegation strugglers. Pundits are finally sitting up, taking notice. West Ham, on current form, can no longer be ignored.
And what’s even more uplifting to see is that this bunch of players is in no danger of losing contact with solid ground, these guys aren’t getting cocky, too big for their boots or ahead of themselves.
But winning breeds confidence. And bigger confidence makes winning more likely. Which raises the confidence levels even more.
Have we got anything to lose against Man City ? Not really. As long as we don’t suffer a thrashing by three or four goals, there is no shame if we were to lose against them. Most other teams do. But one thing I’m sure of is that Man City will know they’ve been in a game once the final whistle has sounded.
It’s great to be a Hammer in February 2021.
Especially after also winning Spurs’ Cup Final this year. COYI!!!
Hamburg football update: Isn’t football weirdly wonderful ? When a team topping the table travels to the worst team in the league and still manages to lose by a scoreline of 2:3, then we are all being reminded once again what is so great about the beautiful game: You just don’t know what’s gonna happen over 90+ minutes.
Hamburg SV of course have a long history of losing this type of fixture.
They can beat three top teams in a row, only to suffer an embarrassing defeat at the hands of a Würzburg team that is (still) very much destined for the drop at the end of the season and rightly so. Hamburger SV are still occupying top spot though for the time being, thanks to their superior goal difference over both Bochum and Kiel who are also on 42 points, just like HSV. What a promotion race this is already shaping up to be, with Fürth and Karlsruhe also still very much in the hunt…
St.Pauli, meanwhile have apparently forgotten how to lose at football, they have now won four in a row after beating Darmstadt 3:2 and they firmly got their minces peeled on the top half of the Bundesliga 2 table rather than another dreaded relegation dogfight.