The HamburgHammer Column

West Ham Disorientated - back to square one

Another defeat that could have been almost predicted beforehand: Leicester hadn’t won away from home all season, so coming to London Stadium obviously gave them the perfect opportunity to end that dismal run. After all, this is what West Ham tend to do, especially this season: We help other clubs gaining some needed momentum.
As a club we are dealing with so many challenges this season that we have basically sacrificed anything remotely resembling home advantage and teams now fancy playing us, never a good sign.

I am deeply worried now to be brutally blunt. Maybe I shouldn’t be, after all we’ve been there before, topsy-turvy, bad seasons always following an outstanding one, players suffering untimely injuries time and time again, players being played out of position, West Ham shooting itself in the foot (or kneecap), West Ham rolling over to gift the opposition easy goals and so forth. Well, this is West Ham for you, many of us used to say in those situations, merely shrugging their shoulders while heading to the bar to order another round of bitter (pun very much intended).

The thing is: While we are still West Ham we obviously are no longer the same old West Ham we used to be. And it all boils down to the stadium move, big Premier League money, fancy talk from the board about the next level. Back in the day fans were rightfully expected to know West Ham’s natural place of making up the numbers without ever challenging for trophies (apart from the very odd cup run), back then we were expected to shrug shoulders and carry on.

The stadium move has changed all that. The owners have changed that. Like it or not, we are now in a 57k, 60k or even 66k stadium and you don’t have to be a fickle plastic fan to demand better on matchday: Better performances, better results, a better stadium experience. As much as I love Bilic I realise that he has to accept a percentage of the blame. I’ve alluded before to the mitigating circumstances of this quite extraordinary season, but he still needs to get more out of the players and this maybe requires him to be a bit more ruthless, to add a bit more bad cop attitude to his Mr.Nice Guy persona.

We keep seeing pics and video on the OS about the players having fun working out on the Rush Green pitches, enjoying their training sessions which isn’t a bad thing as such of course. But I do read about how it’s more like a petting zoo there sometimes, like a family picnic with the feelgood factor going through the roof.
Do the players have it too easy under Bilic ?

Is that why they make it so easy for the opposition during the actual games ?

Having just seen the Leicester game I couldn’t fail but notice the Foxes’ upturn in results after getting rid of Ranieri, the guy that got them a pie in the sky Premier League title.
Player power and all that, it’s not nice, but to quote Karren Brady: It is what it is. I really hope that our team haven’t decided that Bilic is no longer their manager of choice, because if that is the case, then Bilic’s days are numbered without a shadow of a doubt.

I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but I have the distinct feeling that this club is not on the same page on so many levels, dynamics and relationships between manager and players, players and manager, manager and board, fans and board, even the fans themselves are far from being united these days over many issues concerning our club.
Let’s face it: We had a glorious opportunity to build on our fantastic final season at the Boleyn – we had a very good squad, a youngish and enthusiastic manager on board and a new stadium with 50k season tickets sold.

We could and should have used our momentum and build on those foundations. But when have West Ham as a club ever built on a good season ? That’s another thing we simply don’t ever seem to be doing, regardless of where we play, who owns us or who manages us. I have no magic wand here. I don’t know if our fortunes might stop hiding if we replaced Bilic in the summer to bring in someone like Mancini.

I don’t know if we’ll be better off without worrying about Carroll’s fitness in future. What I do know is that our current owners have deliberately pushed to move us to this massive stadium. Make no mistake, that stadium shouts AMBITION and EUROPEAN FOOTBALL at you when you approach it and even when you’re inside it, despite the gaps, distances and shape.

However, do our board actually share that ambition ? Are they genuinely interested to move the club forward ? Or is it all about maximising their personal profit by selling up when the right offer lands at their doorstep, keeping the club in the league while spending the bare minimum ?
I ain’t holding my breath for the summer. For me we are indeed still very much the old West Ham in terms of making up the numbers only.

The only difference being that we are now making up the numbers with massively increased attendances in a stadium that no longer (or at least not at this point in time) gives us a home advantage when we play there. The lure of the London Stadium has been misjudged by the owners, various factors have contributed to give us a disappointing season, our club has no momentum and no unity, but what’s even worse: Our board don’t seem to have a long term strategy.

You can bring in a new manager every two years and replace half of your squad in the same period of time, it doesn’t exactly foster progress at your club if there is no coherent long-term strategy in place. As a club we never really had a sense of entitlement in our past. And I certainly don’t expect us to play European football anytime soon. But I expect us to act like a professional club playing Premier League football would. Is that too much too ask ?

Or am I just supposed to enjoy a club that continues to be run like a circus ? Let’s see how we conduct our transfer business in the summer.
Get your act together West Ham and get on the same page, please! COYI!

PS: Concordia’s game was cancelled due to a waterlogged pitch.

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The HamburgHammer Column

Bad on the break, bold in the face of adversity and bathwater

This has been a tough weekend in terms of watching football for me personally. It was also tough to read some post match reactions some of which went well over the top in my view. Like most if not all West Ham fans I have been frustrated with that Bournemouth defeat. This game has instantly turned into a pub quiz question for all eternity as the hosts failed to convert two penalties in one half against West Ham, but still did enough to win the game. These days you merely need to hit West Ham on the counter a few times, chances are that two or three counters will be enough to get the job done.

That needs to be addressed urgently, same as the overall defensive performance as we are shipping goals at the back like there was a competition going gifting a free holiday on Bora Bora to the most casual back four in the league. That is the job of the manager, especially if he used to be a defender himself. Bilic needs to sort this out and I am confident he will do just that. But to call him incompetent now or not up to the job is ridiculous. I have mentioned before how he has his flaws and isn’t the finished article yet.

Sit down though for a minute and consider the quite unique and incredibly daunting circumstances this season, the move to the new stadium with all the surrounding headlines, violent clashes between fans and fans, fans and stewards, not to forget the shenanigans of the remountable seating, the standing up/sitting down debate plus the fact of course it’s unfamiliar surroundings and a new pitch for the players and the manager too. Then add the Payet saga, resulting in the technically most gifted star player being removed from the equation.
Mix in constant injuries to various players and you have a recipe for a disastrous season. Do we actually have a home advantage this season? In your dreams…

That we are still midtable at this stage of the season is a minor miracle in my view and to tell you the truth, I believe that we can and should thank Bilic for keeping things together behind the scenes and taking all that crap on the chin while carrying on with things. We can all discuss what WE might do differently, who WE would play, in what position, who WE would make skipper and so on.
Getting rid of Bilic though at the end of the season,especially this one, would be very much throwing the baby out with the bathwater in my view.

And who would we bring in as manager next who is better than Bilic, willing to work with a modest transfer kitty and willing to work under our current owners?

Take the RB spot. Yes, I want one too. One who can play there week in and week out. A proper RB, not a makeshift one who is actually a winger or holding midfielder.
We have Arbeloa, but he apparently fell out with Bilic over something and as for Byram maybe Bilic thought he was further along in his development as he actually is.
Let’s not forget that Byram is still pretty young at 23, so he has plenty to learn. As he is still the best we have right now, I would throw him in and start him at RB for the rest of the season.

In the summer we can bring in one or even two guys, ideally an experienced one like Zabaleta and a young prospect like Kevin Malcuit. With Byram (who might go out on loan) we’d have three RBs, but frankly after the nightmarish RB situation we’ve been enduring for so long I’d rather have another RB or two in the squad just to make sure we never fall short again at the position.

The secret of success at the back is consistency. The most successful teams play the same back four for the vast majority of games and this is what we need to try and achieve eventually, if not this season than surely after the summer.

I have to admit I was wincing in pain when I saw Snodgrass rolling over on his ankle. Thankfully he was able to carry on shortly after. When I was younger, playing baseball for a local team, I did just the same in winter training one day, twisting my ankle while stepping onto the edge of the gym mat. I clearly remember the pain, the feeling of wanting to be sick right there and then plus the fact I couldn’t put weight on the foot for two or three months. Knowing West Ham’s luck I feared the worst for Snodgrass, same as when Antonio fell awkwardly on his shoulder. Alas, in both cases we seem to have had a lucky escape there.

Coming back to Bilic I can understand that all eyes will be on him for the rest of the season now as people won’t be happy with him signing a contract extension if we see more performances like the Bournemouth one. I agree he has to deliver and get more out of these players now and if unpopular decisions have to be made, then so be it.

It’s not up to me to make those choices and I don’t envy Bilic, but I still think Slav deserves credit for the way he has handled this clusterBEEP of a season so far.

I’ve alluded to the various challenges Bilic had to deal with and I reckon most managers would have struggled mightily under the circumstances. A certain Mr.Allardyce managed to survive FIVE years at West Ham. And some fans are losing patience with Bilic after not even two ???
Do we want a new manager now everytime we hit a bit of a slump ? I seem to remember West Ham used to be a club that didn’t sack their managers, indeed we haven’t had very many over the course of our history.

I like that approach of longevity, giving a manager time to instill his philosophy, build a team around a spine of players and not having to look over his shoulder every time his team hit a bump in the road. To be fair, in this day and age managers of course need to be prepared for the sack much more readily than in the past whatwith the money now involved, the constant social media and press coverage and the expectancy of fans wanting more of everything quicker.

Things in football aren’t as easy as us fans sometimes seem to think. I for one will be patient and hope Bilic stays for a long time as I believe we will reap the benefits long term if we give the man our continued support.

At the same time Bilic needs to find several solutions for various issues on the pitch And later in the summer we need to strengthen the squad significantly and I hope and pray that the board and Bilic will work hand in hand to make the next transfer window a successful one.

As for Concordia there’s not much to cheer about anymore either. Yesterday yet another game was lost, 1:2 at home in the East Hamburg derby against Condor.
The lads scored an own goal after five minutes and missed three or four sitters at the other end.

The Cordi Boys have lost 4 out of 5 after the winter break, are six points behind the league leaders and can pretty much kiss goodbye to any realistic hopes of achieving promotion now, although chances were always slim anyway in terms of finding a sufficient number of sponsors, securing the kind of money needed to play in the Regionalliga and of course groundsharing a suitable stadium meeting the criteria of the 4th level of German football.

As with West Ham it is hard for me to put the finger on what went wrong exactly, in the first half of the season Concordia couldn’t stop scoring, now they can’t hit a barn door from five yards out. But what can a football fan do other than simply watch the next game and hope for a better result ? Which is exactly what I’m striving to do…COYI!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Getting ready to stand still or laying foundations for the next step?

I can’t feel too much disappointment about the Chelsea defeat really. Chelsea are where they are for a good reason, their squad is one of the most expensive in the League and they are led by a very shrewd and experienced manager. If you want to beat Chelsea this season you need a near perfect performance from your side with a minimum number of mistakes plus some luck on top of that and maybe also Chelsea having a bad day at the office at the same time. Too much to ask really and all academic as soon as we made those costly mistakes gifting them their goals.

Teams like Chelsea don’t need written invitations when presented with goalscoring opportunities like this, they pounce, they perform, they punish, calm, cold-blooded, clinical, it’s what they do.

The 1:2 scoreline doesn’t quite reflect that it was very much men against boys on the night, we had as much possession as we did because Chelsea allowed that to happen and because they pretty well knew that we lacked the kind of pace needed to be a hazard to them, pardon the pun. Chelsea have more hazards than just Hazard. That’s the problem here.

The game simply showed the gulf that exists between a small elite group of clubs and the rest making up the numbers, merely jogging along, quite literally. Just playing in a massive stadium, especially if you only rent it, doesn’t really change matters in that respect. It also doesn’t miraculously make players want to play for West Ham, there are other factors which are much more at the forefront of players’ minds than the stadium they play in. West Ham over the last 12 months had to learn this the hard way it seems…

I actually wanted to focus on a lot of positives coming out during the last few days in terms of West Ham United. The best news from my point of view is that Bilic will sign a contract extension soon. It appears to be just a rolling contract rather than a five year deal, but we all know that long term deals don’t prevent a club hierarchy from sacking a manager two months later if need be. It also doesn’t really force a manager to stay put despite getting more attractive offers from bigger clubs.

As you know I consider Bilic to be pretty much a perfect fit for our club. Don’t confuse this with me saying Bilic is the perfect manager, he is not, he has his flaws, he makes mistakes. And he still needs more experience (which comes with making said mistakes and learning from them). But he is a person oozing class and charisma. As a manager he continues to learn and he clearly loves West Ham.

A love which is being reciprocated tenfold by the vast majority of our fanbase.
As a manager he is not the finished article yet, in truth very few managers are and they do already have jobs at big clubs paying them a fortune anyway, so I am more than happy to see Bilic at the helm of West Ham for the next two seasons at least.

There have also been rumours of contract extensions including better terms for both Antonio and Obiang. It’s all they deserve really and while I am not as naive to think this will be enough to fend off the interest from the vultures at bigger clubs come the summer, at least it is an expression of acknowledgment from our board of those players’ contributions to our performances this season.

It’s all you can do as club owners in order to keep players happy really and persuade them to stay at West Ham rather than riding the bench at Chelsea or Man United.
Oh yes, there actually is another thing you can do: Add some quality in the summer by signing proper players that significantly and immediately improve the team.

That costs money obviously and if, as Mark Noble claimed after the final game at the Boleyn, the club is indeed no longer being run like a circus, then our transfer dealings need to change significantly:

a) Don’t announce to all and sundry how much money is in the transfer kitty.
b) Don’t announce your targets publicly until the moment they have changed their status from target to new signing, holding up the shirt as West Ham players, grinning from ear to ear on the OS.
c) Go for realistic targets you actually have a chance of signing, not guys who will only sign for clubs playing CL football. Don’t waste time on pie in the sky players.
d) Make realistic offers if you are really interested in signing someone. Don’t make a lowball offer that only insults both the player and the selling club. You can haggle for a leather jacket on a Turkish street market. You cannot haggle in the same manner for a player of Premier League standard.

On another note there will be a lot of Rice on the menu at Rush Green in the coming years, Declan Rice that is. The young Irish defender has signed a new deal that will keep him at the club until 2020. I cannot claim to have seen him play a lot obviously, only on the rare occasions when I have had the pleasure to see our development squad play.
But he already was on the bench for our first team for our Boxing Day win against Swansea. He also has captained the U23 side which also says a lot about the development of the player.

Of course there can be no guarantees. Declan’s best position is CB and in first team terms there are Reid, Ogbonna, Fonte and Collins ahead of him in the pecking order.
Plus other young prospects like Oxford and Burke. So Rice will have an uphill struggle to force his way into the side. But if he has what it takes it’s going to happen eventually. Another plus is his versatility. From what I’ve read he can also play as a holding midfielder and is a decent taker of set pieces. It’ll be exciting to see his progression in the near future.

As for the progression of our club in general it really boils down to what the owners do, starting with the upcoming transfer window. Will there be a real statement of intent in the summer or more business as usual ? Good quality signings and highly rated prospects or more dodgy loan deals/players taken from the scrapheap of other clubs?

Like many others I ordered the DVD of “Iron Men”, the docudrama portraying some West Ham characters and diehard fans throughout our final Boleyn season.
I can’t wait to watch it in full, but the trailer already gave away a fascinating quote from Karren Brady:

For our supporters this is a church, a holy place. It’s a huge responsibility to take that away from them.

That quote bears massive significance as it shows that the board was very aware of what Upton Park means to the fans. Some will say the very fact we moved to London Stadium which isn’t a football stadium at all shows that the board failed in terms of taking responsibility.

Others will be a bit more patient, give us a bit more time to settle in the new surroundings. I can live with this compromise of a stadium as long as it’s balanced out by a squad worthy of playing in a 60k or even 66k stadium where the pitch is as far removed from the first row of seats as it is. We’ve gone from a very beloved smallish church with rusty old charme to a giant but somewhat cold and artificial cathedral.

To stay in the picture I now want one hell of a priest exciting the crowd, sorry, congregation from his pulpit with some outstanding performances. Plus a great choir with silky voices, praising the footballing gods by singing glorious hymns that will make the people come back for more time and time again.

The Boleyn is almost gone now and we will never play there again. The London Stadium will change and evolve over time, but will it ever be a proper football stadium?
I’m not convinced we will still see the same stadium there in 40 or 50 years and I doubt the running track will stay much longer than 10 years. But if we are to remain in a massive stadium such as this the owners need to deliver in terms of the quality of players wearing the West Ham shirt.

Our club has changed almost beyond recognition as it is. The board have taken the deliberate decision to take away the holy place from the fans. They really need to get their act together now. Otherwise the London Stadium will be a holy place for an entirely different reason than the Boleyn was. The London Stadium could be holy as there may soon be plenty of holes of unsold seats throughout the stadium if we continue to field midtable teams.

We didn’t make this move to be midtable. We didn’t make the move to tread water. The summer will be crucial. It’ll tell us a lot about the owners. COYI!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Sweet and sour - Is Carroll China bound ?

How did that Watford game end in a draw ? We played a lot of very decent stuff while lacking some cutting edge upfront and let’s face it: As much effort as Kouyate put in, he is pretty much wasted filling in at RB and while Antonio gave the Watford defenders some headaches on the day he is no out and out striker. Still we gave a good account, playing the right way, positive, attack minded. Zarate, of course, had to win an early and very soft penalty, basically winning Watford their first and only goal.

Considering the way that former players tend to come back and haunt us I almost expected Behrami to score a hattrick against us, but the day Behrami scores three goals in a single game (other than against his kid in his own backyard) will the the day that Donald Trump announces he’s becoming a full time vegan.
I have been impressed with the development of Feghouli in recent games. There is a lot to like about the way he chases about the pitch, both when we are attack and also when we have to defend. He looks a very tidy and useful player to me and just like Obiang before him it could be another case of a guy coming in from abroad simply requiring a bit more time to adapt and needing a run of games in the side before showing their worth to the cause.

One main reason why we failed again to take all three points was Andy Carroll missing out yet again. There have been rumours that our board was ready to sell him to one of three interested clubs in China before the close of their transfer deadline tomorrow. If the money is right it would make a lot of sense from the club’s perspective to cash in and use that money to buy a striker in the summer who can play the vast majority of games during the season instead of just half of them.

We have been discussing the fact for ages that Carroll on his day is unplayable, a nightmare to defend against and a very special asset to have. But all of that counts for little if his body is too fragile to take training sessions and the rigours of regular gametime in the Premier League. It doesn’t matter though if a transfer would be convenient for the board, Carroll would have to be open to a move to the country of crispy duck, fried rice and green tea. With his wife and kids pretty much settled in London now I can’t really see Carroll uprooting his family for the sake of another million or so in the bank.

It was great to see Ayew getting his goal, poaching the way he did. We all know that Ayew is a very good player to have (and we surely spent a lot of money to secure his services), so hopefully he will start to feature more regularly now. We definitely need to find ways to score goals without Carroll in the side because we simply cannot rely on him to play every game for us. In that respect Carroll’s absence may be a blessing in disguise as it forces us to be a bit more creative and clever when it comes to scoring goals.

We should have Sakho back soon enough too and we also have Ayew, Calleri and Fletcher, so there should be no reason whatsoever to keep playing Antonio upfront.
Same with Kouyate. Throw Byram in to play RB time and time again. If he is not available, play Arbeloa while he is still here. In the summer we should definitely spend 10 million on so on a proper RB who knows how to defend properly.

In general though we have quite a decent squad already, a solid foundation to build on with a strong spine throughout the lineup. As long as we get our transfers spot on in the summer we should have good things coming our way. And with Bilic at the helm our football should be pleasing on the eye too which is more important to me personally than the odd position higher up in the table. Ideally of course good football and winning games will go hand in hand anyway.

As for Concordia it has to be said that surely the Oberliga Hamburg promises to be a lot more exciting for the remainder of the season than the Premier League where it’s pretty much guaranteed West Ham will finish anywhere between 8th and 12th. Concordia unfortunately have lost their points cushion in recent weeks after losing twice in a row. Sunday’s home game against Buxtehude, the last placed team in the league table, once again showed how entertaining local football can be. You wouldn’t expect a game between the first and the last placed team in the table to be a close encounter, would you? But it surely wasn’t for the faint of heart…

Buxtehude took the lead against the run of play inside the first ten minutes, but had a player sent off for deliberate handball after 30 minutes (he was the last defender), allowing Cordi to race into a 2:1 lead early in the second half, only for my lads conceding the 2:2 equaliser in the 75th minute in very sloppy fashion. Stunned silence from the disappointingly low crowd of about 100 paying punters, well, I blame the atrocious weather for the embarrassing turnout.

As all the promotion rivals had won their games Concordia seriously could not afford to lose or even draw this! Thankfully Cordi shifted properly into gear after the equaliser, finally making the man advantage count, scoring four goals in the final 15 minutes, ending the day with a satisfactory 6:2 scoreline. We now have four teams fighting for promotion, all pretty much on the same number of points, with Concordia staying in first place thanks to their impressive goal difference.

It’s now another rather long wait until West Ham play again when we will take on Chelsea on Monday Night a week from now. As always, I’m cautiously but hopelessly optimistic we could get a result on our day. Hopefully the Leaping Geordie will be back for this one. COYI!

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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!

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