The HamburgHammer Column

Schönen Gruß aus Solingen! Hammers put Blades to the sword

Finally! Another West Ham game – does it always feel like the Hammers haven’t played for months after one of those international breaks ?
Or is it just me ?

Weekends just have a more normal vibe and structure if there’s a West Ham game on, innit ? And despite me going for a bold 3:1 win prediction in the blog’s predictor competition, the closer we got to kick-off, the less I trusted my own prediction. And the game proved that premonition.

Embed from Getty Images

To explain this week’s headline: The first bit is obviously German (the umlaut is a bit of a giveaway there!), it means “Best regards from Solingen”, representing a double entendre.

For about 800 years the city of Solingen (near Düsseldorf) has been known as “The City of Blades”, providing Germans, be they heroes, villains or normal folk, with high-quality knives, swords, hatchets, cutlery, scissors and razorblades.

Maybe a few battle axes too. No wonder the Solingen coat of arms has two crossed swords in it.

The phrase “Sending regards from Solingen” has a more sinister meaning attached to it though, overriding the harmless and friendly greetings to loved ones by a traveller enjoying a long weekend in Solingen.
It means stabbing someone in the back (metaphorically), but also sticking a blade into someone from behind in a very literal sense, usually in search of vengeance, using the shortcut of cold-blooded street justice.

Well, West Ham certainly got their revenge against the Blades for last season (VAR taking away Snodgrass’s goal due to Rice’s handball in the build up), bringing back all three points from Yorkshire
Our “friends“ from Sheffield remain rooted at the bottom of the table, but it was a laboured effort on our part where patience was always going to be key. Sheffield United may be struggling, but they are no pushovers.

For once we had more possession of the ball than in previous games and as could be expected we created numerous opportunities from it. Most of which we wasted. Room for improvement right there.

With Antonio not being risked we knew that it probably wouldn’t be a high scoring game. I totally agree though with Moyes making absolutely sure that Antonio is 100% match fit before even putting him on the bench.

Considering his previous hamstring problems I wouldn’t want to see him being out for 8 weeks or so after being rushed back too early and breaking down again with a big tear of his hammy.
Thank God Haller stepped up and put a Hallerva belter into the top corner for us!

Sue that, you Northern nincompoops! ;-))

Embed from Getty Images.

Haller was involved a lot more in this game and that came largely from his teammates being closer to him, so several knockdowns and headers from Haller found paved the way for goalscoring chances. Like the one Soucek missed in the first half.

The Frenchman also seemed to run a lot more, made some clever interceptions and shielded the ball time and time again to bring others into play. He surely was key in getting West Ham a win that was always bound to amp up the feelgood factor in East London and for Hammers everywhere.

To put his goal into context from a football history angle:
Haller was the first West Ham player to score a winning goal in a top flight league fixture at Bramall Lane since Geoff Hurst did the same in 1968.
My brother was only ten months old at the time and my dad hadn’t yet produced the batch of swimmers of which one was going to result in my birth four years later in 1972.

Embed from Getty Images

What I’m trying to say is: West Ham United have not won in the league (top flight) at Bramall Lane for a loooooooong time. 52 bloody years!
That’s more than five decades, innit ? Although Trigger and his famous broom from “Only Fools and Horses“ might disagree…LOL

So, Haller’s goal was quite something, aside from being a wonderfully directed shot that made the net bulge properly and beautifully just after nearly breaking Ramsdale’s fingertips.
(Doesn’t Ramsdale sound like he should run a fish and chip shop in Doncaster ?)

Embed from Getty Images

The entire team did a good, professional job on the day, but having Ogbonna back was crucial. He is just so calm and composed which seems to be contagious, pardon the pun while we’re in a pandemic, as far as his fellow defenders are concerned.

There were very few heart in underpants moments (as we say in Germany) for West Ham. Yes, McBurnie hit the crossbar, but so did Rice down the other end. Overall, Fabianski had a fairly relaxed afternoon (but still made a few good saves) which was down to the great shape and organisation kept by the entire side.

If you still allow me a paragraph to have a little whinge and moan, it’d be about Bowen who seems to have been running into a few more dead ends lately, taking a selfish shot or dribble when a side pass to a teammate might have been the better option.

If we want to score more goals as a team, we need to be more intelligent in those situations, play better final balls, find an end product more often than we currently do. That goes for the entire team.

We did look very professional towards the end though, milking the clock by keeping the ball near the corner flag. As a football fan I usually hate that kind of approach, but as a West Ham fan I reckon it was the proper thing to do in order to see the game out. *Eyes on the prize And all that!"
As Bilic might have said…

It’s true, David Moyes has really managed to get a lot out of the players he inherited. Remember, Balbuena and Fornals were Pellegrini buys. But it’s Moyes who has turned them into regular starters and contributors.
And that’s what makes him, for the time being at least, the perfect West Ham manager.

Money is likely to be scarce at West Ham for as long as the current lot are running the show, so finding bargains and making the most of the hand you’ve been dealt is going to be vital for the immediate future.
Which includes bringing up players from the U23s if they’re good enough.
Every youngster you integrate into your first team squad is one less signing you need to shell out for in the transfer window.

Embed from Getty Images

There are quite a few things to REALLY like about West Ham at this point:

Next game could be the first in a long time where Moyes can pick any player he wants for the starting XI as every player should be available for selection for the Villa fixture barring unexpected injuries happening in training.

That’s very much down to Moyes and his coaching staff (plus the physios) who seem to have found a way to train and work the players in such a fashion that the players all seem very fit and durable.

Yes, there will always be knocks, niggles and injuries. But this season there seem to be far fewer injuries at West Ham and if they do indeed happen then the players are out for days and weeks, not months. Which is very refreshing to see.

Embed from Getty Images

I also see a team out there following a carefully devised gameplan and keeping to the script for 90 minutes. Disciplined. Organised. With players knowing their roles and executing them for the benefit of the team. When I look at Soucek and Coufal, for instance, I see players that look very settled after only a very short time at the club. I actually can’t quite believe that Coufal hasn’t been with us for three years already. If he told me that his father had been running a Pie&Mash shop in Plaistow for the past 25 years I’d probably be inclined to believe him…

Fish out of water ? Nah! This particular fish seems to be able to adapt to all kinds of conditions and circumstances. I can only guess, but I reckon it’s down to a generally good atmosphere around the team and the dressing room. Having a fellow countryman at the club in Soucek will have helped, obviously. But to me it looks like ALL the players are buying into what the manager and the coaches are doing.
Which is a massive positive.

I also don’t see any big egos, prancing and peacocking around, stinking up the dressing room. Maybe we really don’t need 40m players at West Ham. (I mean in general, not Haller specifically who cannot be blamed for his price tag.)

Maybe we simply need players the manager wants. Players who are not only good at passing a ball, but passing the sugar for the cuppa in the canteen at the training ground, you know, good people, joyous characters, leaders setting the bar for the team, salt of the earth types.

Embed from Getty Images

How could you not want a guy like Soucek at your club, on and off the pitch ? A total professional in terms of playing the game, working hard without making any fuss.

Playing with a smile on his face.
But you’d also expect him to be there quick as a flash for any of his teammates away from football, wouldn’t you ? Lending a helping hand with fitting kitchen cabinets or some other tricky DIY. Or installing a home cinema. Or, being of Czech heritage, showing his English mates how to brew your own beer at home…:-))

All of this has led to West Ham not conceding many goals so far this season (only Spurs and Wolves are better in this regard) which by extension has also given us a positive goal difference.
Which is very un-West Ham at this stage of the campaign.

We are in the top half of the table, in touching distance to the top. With more winnable games around the corner. Villa are to be respected, not feared. I see them on a par with us, with regard to squad depth and quality.

West Ham are likely to go into this game next Monday with not a single player out through injury while Villa will at least have to replace Barkley.

I would love to see Haller and Antonio together, but I’m realistic enough to know that Moyes probably won’t do that. He seems to favour either Antonio or Haller on the pitch, not both in the same line up.
My gut feeling is that both players would benefit from each other offensively. But do we ditch the formation that has served us well so far in order to see the Ant and Seb Monday Night Goalfest ?
(See what I did there ?)

Lockdown still sucks. I haven’t seen my brother in a while. Which also sucks. But West Ham are in a good place these days, football wise.
Long may it continue. COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Let’s get this over with. Both Hamburg teams lost. St.Pauli did so on Saturday, 0:2 at Paderborn. The “Boys in brown” are second from bottom now, firmly rooted in the unforgiving relegation quagmire.

And don’t take anything for granted when it comes to their city rivals Hamburg SV either who lost 3:1 at home yesterday against lowly Bochum.
Their comfortabe points cushion got eaten into, but HSV are still in top spot for the time being. But their first loss this season surely was not expected and has to be regarded as a shock to the system and a serious wake up call.

The HamburgHammer Column

Chill, Winston! Will Reid be back at West Ham in January ?

Embed from Getty Images

First of all, Happy Birthday to my mom, may she rest in peace – today would have been her 83rd birthday. Love you forever, Mom! God knows what she would have made of the crazy times we’re now living in. Especially Covid, quarantine and lockdowns.

Maybe it’s for the better she didn’t have to experience all that crap on top of everything else that was troubling her health towards the end…

All I know is that lockdown is beginning to mess with my mind. We also had another international weekend, so no West Ham game which didn’t help matters. And no Concordia football either of course!

I suppose that goes a long way towards explaining why my dreams are getting really weird and illogical these days. Weirder than usual anyway.

Take my recent dream about a trip to London, bits of which I could still remember after waking up on Saturday morning. Undoubtedly I had been to London since I had walked past some of the famous landmarks that make up the modern London skyline. The skyscrapers in the Docklands, St Paul’s Cathedral, the River Thames and the red buses. Most of the dialogue was in English. Yep, no doubt, London.

Embed from Getty Images

I should have realised early on it was only a dream (but somehow we never can tell the difference while we’re dreaming as even the craziest upside down events seem perfectly normal while you’re slumbering through another REM phase), there were clear giveaway signs that this trip was taking place halfway between the towns of Hogwash and Codswallop.

I was alongside people who are no longer with us. There were celebrities mingling with common people like it was open day at the Golden Globes awards ceremony, with not a single soul batting an eyelid. Nobody was wearing a mask or heeding social distancing rules.
I went to a shop and bought a packet of crisps and a print copy of The Independent (which is only available in digital form these days).

I don’t recall the actual details of the business I was engulfed in throughout the dream or why I was even in London in the first place. The spooky thing is that West Ham had no part to play in that dream whatsoever. I didn’t go to a game. I didn’t walk anywhere near the stadium. I didn’t buy any West Ham related gear or trinkets in the club shop. I didn’t talk all things West Ham in the pub. I didn’t even watch the Daggers or the U23s with BSB.
Not even a bizarre attempt to buy a West Ham shirt over the Pizza Express counter in Upminster or something similarly surreal.

When I woke up, I was properly confused. What the hell was that !?
A trip to London with not a single chapter dedicated to my beloved West Ham ? This was bonkers!
Or had I merely “forgotten“ the West Ham bits this time around once I had my eyes open ? Unlikely.

Again, it must have been due to lockdown fever and the associated ramifications…thank God there’s a West Ham game again next weekend!

Embed from Getty Images

As there is no match to review, I had to think of something else to write about. And as it so happens, I have recently managed to catch a glimpse of the odd MLS game, some of them involving our very own Winston Wiremu Reid, playing for his loan club Sporting Kansas City.

Embed from Getty Images

Legend has it that Kansas City has the most fountains in the world outside of Rome, Italy. That’s why they call it “City of Fountains“. I thought you might want to know that.

It’s also one of the undisputed BBQ capitals of the USA apparently. I was very pleased to learn that! One more destination for my post-pandemic bucket list right there!

Embed from Getty Images

Oh, and the name Wiremu is obviously a nod to Reid’s Maori heritage – it means “Determined protector” or “Helmet of determination“.
Is it any wonder he turned out a very solid centre back ?
A more boring, but equally true explanation claims it’s simply the Kiwis’ version of the name William. Or the German equivalent Wilhelm. Take your pick.

As most of you will know he suffered a freak injury in a nasty incident against Swansea City in March 2018. When he collapsed, in a state of unconsciousness, with the knee buckling under his full body weight, at the time that challenge looked like a potentially career ending impact.

Embed from Getty Images

His loan move to Kansas City in that respect seemed like the culmination of a long road back to recovery and playing professional football again.
An opportunity to prove to the world he could still play and continue to have a career in the game.

Whenever I watched him play for KC he was head and shoulders about most of the other players on the pitch which is no surprise.
The MLS have a few star players, with previous experience at big clubs in Europe, but they are still the exception. Most of the squad players are local youngsters, ex-players from college teams or from South America.
The league is improving year after year, but in terms of quality there is still an ocean, literally, between the MLS and the Premier League.

The KC gaffer as well as the local pundits were in unison how Reid was reading the game beautifully, orchestrating his teammates, being very vocal in doing so and, living up to his name, protecting his goal with determination and experience.
That’s no actual quote, but the general gist of their praise.

Embed from Getty Images

Now, I had to tell porkies if I said Reid did play every game for Sporting Kansas City. He did not. There was the odd niggle, a groin issue here, a slight knock there which made him miss a game occasionally or be rested. But nothing major keeping him out for longer than one game.

Once the MLS resumed with their schedule, Reid was the lynchpin, the leader on the pitch taking Sporting KC on a memorable run (8 games played from October onwards, six wins, one draw, one defeat) that saw them finish in top spot of the Western Conference and in pole position for the playoffs.

These will begin next weekend with a game against San Jose Earthquakes, in a knock-out format which will see Sporting having to win four more games to be crowned champions in the home of the brave.

Reid will undoubtedly be a key starter for them and if they make it to the final in December, Winston Reid will have been one of the main reasons for their success this season.

Strong in the challenge, with the ability to play the ball out of danger with grace rather than blind force plus the vast experience of knowing where to position himself and who to mark, he has often looked like a man amongst boys, playing in the MLS. He really needs to compete against PL opposition again.

Embed from Getty Images

So, is there a way back for Reid to get his body back into a claret and blue shirt in January ? In my humble opinion, it’s a big, fat YES, PLEASE!!!

If he gets through the next few games at KC alright, he will be match fit and probably on an emotional high after playing in a final (hopefully!).

He is an experienced defender with serious PL credentials and he’s under contract at West Ham for another 30 months. Which means we’re paying a big chunk of his substantial wages anyway. He might as well play for us.

And you can never really have enough good defenders in the PL. Especially a team like ours that now favours playing five at the back, so we need three CBs in every game now.

What present events seem to be telling us is that it’s very easy to lose players this season: Through injury or from catching Covid while on international duty or dancing on a table at a wedding in Cairo surrounded by 50 guests wearing tuxedos or after a few days bronzing and partying in the Dubai sun.

If you are then in a position to bring on someone like Winston Reid, to form a partnership at the back with the likes of Ogbonna, Balbuena, Diop or Cresswell, you give your side a proper chance to carry on regardless without really losing much in terms of quality and experience.

Embed from Getty Images

Is he still good enough though to stay toe to toe with young and pacy PL strikers in 2021 ? Only one way to find out. Get him back at West Ham and put him through his paces at Rush Green. I think he can still defend against most of what PL opponents are ready to throw at him. Probably not necessarily against the top PL strikers, but these would cause any defender in the league headaches and serious Barney at times to be fair.

Embed from Getty Images

Let’s not forget that apparently money is scarce for West Ham at this point. So, why spend 20m or 30m quid for a defender when we already have a pretty decent option under contract in Winston Reid ? I know we also signed Craig Dawson on loan (and that the gaffer and teammates seem to have been impressed with the guy after seeing Dawson really busting a gut in training sessions recently). But again, you can never have enough good defenders in the PL, can you ? It’s down to Moyes, of course.

But bringing Reid back to West Ham does seem to make plenty of sense, when you look at all the angles here. If it doesn’t work at least both West Ham and Reid know what’s the score and can make a final call about his West Ham future next summer.

Embed from Getty Images

So, Sheffield United next. The Blades. The Tevezgate derby. For some reason, the whole Tevezgate thing has paled pretty much into insignificance for me personally.

There is a new reason though why I want us desperately to beat Sheffield United next weekend. And that is because of the ridiculous way that our goal against them last season (scored by Snodgrass) was ruled out because a Sheffield player had headed the ball onto Rice’s hand not far from the centre circle in the build up to the goal.

Last season the rule of course made it possible (or even mandatory) to chalk off that goal, this year the rule has been amended so that the goal would likely be allowed to stand if it were to happen again in similar fashion.
If the handball doesn’t happen “immediately“ before the goal is scored, if the handball doesn’t provide the direct assist for the goalscorer, referees should allow goals like the one Snodgrass scored against the Blades.

Let’s hope though that this time we can beat them fair and square, with no need for VAR to step in. We should be able to field a pretty strong side as Ogbonna is rumoured to be back in training already and maybe Antonio too will be fit enough to be an option for the bench at least.
No Yarmolenko who has to self-isolate because of testing positive for Covid unfortunately.

Another chance then maybe for Haller to prove that indeed he is a good player who knows where the opposing goal is…even if he doesn’t play for the Ivory Coast national side…COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

Look Man, West Ham do get lucky sometimes!

Embed from Getty Images

That was not for the faint of heart! Maybe it’s because I spent too much time recently following television coverage of election day, no, election week in the USA, way into the wee hours, day after day.
Or rather night after night.
So I was a bit bleary-eyed. A bit on edge.

How often can you honestly say you’re watching history being made in real time ? And strictly speaking that one still is not quite over yet, unlike our game against Fulham. Unless Scott Parker intends to appeal to the United States Supreme Court over Haller’s offside position seconds before our goal, but I doubt they are in charge of PL jurisdiction.

The Fulham game looked like being over going into injury time still goalless.
And I thought that goalless the game would remain.
Then we scored…and it looked like game over again. Then the 4 minutes of injury time had ticked away …and surely this time it was over. The final whistle would blow and that would be it. I could put the screwdriver down and relax.

But no, too close to call, in fact there was a call, a late VAR call…PENALTY to Fulham! Oh, bugger! As my fluffy friend Winnie the Pooh might have said, if he was a West Ham fan. We know he’s a bear of very little brains, so who knows ? Maybe he watches baseball. ;-))

So, a late equaliser then, with the last kick of the game. Football can be cruel. I’m sure the football gods must be giggling to themselves a lot, watching down on us overly emotional supporters.

And then young Ademola Lookman must have had a brainfart of epic proportions. I can’t remember seeing a penalty taken in that cocky manner by a player this young in a long time. Not in a competitive game anyway.
I was too flabbergasted to celebrate initially. Or pity the guy.

Doing a Panenka with the last kick of the game that could, should, no, simply HAD TO give Fulham a late and probably deserved equaliser:
REALLY ??? They look so cheeky and cool when they come off, when they don’t there isn’t a hole on this planet big enough to hide the shame.

The name Ademola has Yoruba origins and means “King/Crown along with wealth”.
Good luck with all that, son, if you keep doing things like that!

To be fair though, the lad is young and looking at his tweet directed at his teammates he has already learned his lesson and held his hands up.
Lookman will get over this and develop into a very decent PL player (not quite sure about king status though) and I reckon he will not try a Panenka penalty in a competitive game again anytime soon…

Embed from Getty Images

So, no crown for Lookman. Certainly no cigar! But consolation from our general, Fabian Balbuena who showed himself to not only being a very good defender, but also a good sportsman.He was one of the first to give the young lad some words of encouragement. Which was lovely to see.
My stream had been very erratic and jumpy throughout, a bit like our performance.

Did we underestimate Fulham ? Were they playing with a new spring in their step after their recent win ? It was end to end stuff. And exciting to watch for a neutral.
Which I am not.

So quite often I couldn’t quite believe how clueless we were at times with the ball, trying to figure out a way to breach the Lilywhite’s wall. (Forgive me, after watching days of US election week coverage I have fallen in love with the Game of Thrones-style vernacular they were using on the telly…the Blue Wall, doesn’t that just sound like something being crushed by dragons or undead creatures from the North ?)

Even Moyes said afterwards our crossing was terrible. We didn’t play that bad really, surely the effort was clear to see for the entire game, we looked just a bit unfortunate or puzzled at times, bereft of ideas against a quite impressive Fulham side. I didn’t quite expect the Cottagers to be such a handful.

Embed from Getty Images

Let’s quickly deal with Seb Haller. I thought he wasn’t brilliant. But neither was the rest of the team, attacking wise. Haller brought down the ball in fantastic fashion several times, only to see his teammates failing to do anything of consequence with the opportunity. Haller surely showed more fight, got stuck in more, helped out defensively too. He looked like he wanted to be there.

But it was also clear to me that Moyes still wasn’t prepared to tweak the system for Haller. It’s a separate question if Moyes should do so and why.

As things stand I don’t see Haller being able to show us his best which is down to a combination of West Ham not playing in a way that is conducive to showcasing and utilising Haller’s strengths and the player getting frustrated because of that fact. I can see a parting of ways in January which will hopefully suit all parties concerned.

I have argued before how Haller could be a very good striker for us, lethal even. But as the club/manager is unlikely to go down that route there isn’t much point of keeping Haller, as much as it pains me to say it.

Embed from Getty Images

I didn’t expect us to score, it just felt like one of those days. Then Benrahma and Lanzini came on and we got a very late opportunity. Yes, Haller was offside and in other games we have seen similar situations being deemed offside by the referee. Then again, due to the referees’ being very inconsistent when making those calls, we have also seen instances where play was allowed to carry on.

Benrahma unselfishly played a brilliant pass to Soucek who was in perfect position to slot the ball into the net. Wonderful team goal.
The penalty was controversial because it was very soft and because the incidence happened after injury time had actually passed (although it’s in the discretion of the ref to add some additional time on top as we all know).

But this time we were the lucky ones and it sends us into the international break with a smile and a decent position in the league table. Antonio should be available again when we face our dear friends at Sheffield United in just under two weeks. Ogbonna left the game due to what looked like a groin issue. Early reports seem to point towards a minor know which could see him missing out on joining his Italian teammates, but he should be good to start against Sheffield United in 13 days.

Embed from Getty Images

Diop, of course, is a very decent replacement to have available, but that would then mean that Dawson will be on the West Ham bench after all!
And who knows ? He might turn out a solid enough player for us, should we ever be in a situation where we need him to come on and step up.

It’s a pity though that there is an international break again. I don’t care much for national team football outside the tournaments themselves and we are in partial lockdown,
so I really would love another West Ham game next weekend.

Guess I will have to find myself another book to provide weekend thrills. A West Ham equivalent of a page turner. We’ll see about that…COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Starting with St.Pauli who played Bilic’s former club Karlsruhe yesterday. The “Boys in brown” were in urgent need of a win to climb the table. Not happening. They lost 0:3 which puts them in 17th place for now, one place from the bottom. Then again, only three points below 7th place, so tight margins in Bundesliga 2.

Hamburg SV will face Kiel away in a North German derby game later this evening and again, if you have BT Sport 2 and fancy it, you can watch that game live, kick-off is 7:30pm.
HSV are fun to watch so far this season, for a change, and games against Kiel are always feisty affairs, so I would recommend you have a butcher’s!

The HamburgHammer Column

Collapsing Mo says AH!!! Liverpool win by being Liverpool

Embed from Getty Images

Early admission here on my part: When I was a kid I was a massive Beatles fan. My classmates in contrast were ecstatic about whoever was top of the pop charts in 1982 or 1983, having a crush on or wanting to be like Nena, Paul Young, Rod Stewart or Kajagoogoo.

I, meanwhile, basically got most of my early understanding of English from listening to Beatles songs on cassette (children, if you don’t know what a cassette is, ask your parents or grandparents) rather than during boring English lessons at school, reading about the bog standard Clark family and their exploits in Epping for the umpteenth time. The course book contained exciting dialogue under evocative headers such as “Do you like rice pudding ?“, “Let’s swap!“ or “At the department store“.

I learned the difference between there, their and they’re this way, granted.

Embed from Getty Images

The music and words of The Beatles were more appealing, though.
“The Fool on the Hill“ was lyrics wise a bit deep for a 10-year old just starting to learn English. Still, I could have listened to those songs eight days a week and although I wasn’t living at Penny Lane and didn’t have a Ticket to Ride either, I still built myself a very impressive drum kit out of my mom’s discarded boxes of washing powder plus some other household leftovers. I even arduously painted the Beatles logo on the front in big black felt pen letters, just as I had seen on several of the 15 posters or so which were gracing my room’s walls. And then I tried to drum along to the songs like a German amateur Ringo Starr, struggling to keep up at times.
Especially after “playing“ for more than an hour.

I obviously knew The Beatles were from Liverpool, that they had started their career in the music clubs of the St.Pauli area in my hometown and that they were musical icons still a decade after their break-up.

So I figured that Liverpool must be the best place in Britain, if not the world. Hallowed ground. The inofficial capital of cool.

Now, after more than 25 years of being a Hammer I don’t really like Liverpool anymore. They may eat Labskaus (or Lobscouse) as us Hamburgers are quite fond of doing, but in footballing terms Liverpool are seriously getting on my nerves.

It’s not just their sense of entitlement either. Or their tendency to assume a role of the forever victimised outsiders. It’s more their unnecessary resorting to cheap tricks and downright cheating when their players have more than enough quality to beat an opponent fair and square.

Embed from Getty Images

Should I be more sympathetic just because they’re being managed by a fellow countryman, the walking toothpaste advert Jürgen Klopp ?
Should Jennifer Lawrence be seductively soaking herself with a loofah in my bathtub just because I can offer plenty of hot water with some top notch Lavender & Rosewood-scented bath foam in it ?

Embed from Getty Images

Answer: Probably yes, but, in reality, NO, get real!!! :-))

I think West Ham did cope well with Liverpool, all things considered.
Say what you like about the reigning champions, their injury list, their weakened defence: They still have a ridiculously dangerous forward line and midfielders providing plenty of attacking prowess plus the ability to keep the ball.

72% possession and 828 passes tell their own story.
Still, they only just secured all three points.

The penalty was always going to go their way though as Masuaku did actually make clear contact with Salah in the box and most PL strikers these days will automatically hit the ground like a wet bag of turnips as players have been conditioned, like Pavlov’s dog, to heed the basic equation that goes Contact with defender in the box + heavy fall + loud scream in agony = penalty.

Nine times out of ten. The tenth time is usually a West Ham striker seeing his very reasonable penalty shout waived off a la Antonio against Man City.

I do even sympathise with Salah to a degree as when I was a kid and wanted my bigger and stronger brother to get in trouble after giving me an almighty Chinese Burn I also sometimes resorted to playacting by pretending to be very hurt, rather overdoing it with my anguished yells bellowed out in shameful pain, just to get my parents’ attention and put them on the case. Pathetic really, I know, but it did work occasionally.

Not always. Sometimes it backfired, with my dad being the strictest of refs at times who just gave the both of us a clip round the ears, usually on Saturday, early evening, telling us to knock it off as he wanted to watch the Sportschau in peace. Oh, the inconsistency of parents and their punishment. Like bloody PL referees they were.

And of course no VAR allowed back then!

Embed from Getty Images

Four Nails had given us an early lead. Lovely worked goal, but scored waaaaaaaayyyyy too early to really bother Liverpool much. The Scousers always have a penalty and a late winner in them, you know. It’s just what they do. They are also loved to bits by pundits up and down the country, almost cheering them on even during what should be impartial commentary. It’s not Liverpool TV. If you want to be part of their club channel, feel free to apply for a role there. BT and Sky are watched by other fans as well, you know ?

I’m sometimes surprised the commentators don’t get caught waving little Liverpool flags emphatically in their little commentary booths when the camera is zooming in on them. It makes my toenails curl up in loathing despair.

Embed from Getty Images

But the media of course got the result they all wanted and craved for.
A draw or, God forbid, a West Ham win was never in the script on Saturday evening. But make no mistake, folks. We were in it.

Even when Haller came off after almost 75 minutes, we were still level. We weren’t cruising at that stage, of course we weren’t. Liverpool were sending wave upon wave of attack at us and when they do that, more often than not, a late winner arrives. Again, it’s what Liverpool do. Especially at Anfield. With fans in the Kop or not.

Let me give you a “Best Of” of my recent comments on Seb Haller, a player I still have high hopes for in a West Ham shirt. He didn’t set the world alight on Saturday against Liverpool, but in a game with not a lot of possession for the Hammers he frankly was always unlikely to be MotM material.

I added the clip above to remind us all of what Haller can do in that area of the pitch which is basically his natural place of work, his office as it were. That’s the opposition’s box. That’s where his strengths come to the fore.
That’s where we need to see him more often with teammates in close proximity to get the best out of him.

Look, I get it. He often looks like a lazy, French sulker extraordinaire out there. You sometimes even saw that gloomy expression on his boat in Frankfurt goal celebrations. Like others, I am also prone to sometimes reading too much into body language of players.

I know he doesn’t run a lot in the centre area of the pitch, he doesn’t close down defenders, sprinting from one to the other for 90 minutes in the faint hope of nicking the ball off them.
(By the way, nicking the ball is only half the trick, you’d also need a teammate close by to make the move count and score.)

There are other strikers out there who are very good at running around for 90 minutes, harassing defenders. However, most of them then can’t do with the ball what Haller is capable of once the attacking move arrives in the penalty box.

Embed from Getty Images

Moreover, Haller actually DOES track back and help out in defence occasionally. He sometimes puts a feisty tackle in. But not often. Why ? Because that’s not his bloody role to play on the pitch! He is not suited as a lone striker. He is not suited to chasing Liverpool defenders all over the park with no support from his teammates to make the most of the situation should Haller actually win the ball.

Yes, we probably bought the wrong player here. If we intend to further cultivate a style of counter attacking football with pace, with limited possession of the ball throughout games, then Haller is not your ideal focal point upfront.

I can only tell you what my mate, the Frankfurt diehard, told me when we signed Haller and he does know a thing or two because before the pandemic he used to travel to Frankfurt games regularly, home and away, being on first name terms with some of the hardcore local supporters.

And he said that Haller’s nonchalant way of running, or rather jogging, around the pitch can be misleading. He said Haller was a proper team player, working his socks off to bring teammates into play and that he was the most unselfish player any manager could ever want in his team.

If it so far hasn’t worked out for him at West Ham I put that down to our tactics not bringing out the best in our record signing which in return has fuelled Haller’s frustration. It may even have affected his love for the game.

It can’t be fun to be asked to adapt to a role that simply isn’t yours. I doubt that any record signing at any club would expect to be asked upon arrival to be something they are not or play a role they haven’t done before. Call me old fashioned, but I reckon if you make someone your record signing then you bloody well scout him several times in person before signing him, you watch hours of tape and if you then decide this is the guy you want, you try to make it as comfortable and straightforward as possible for the geezer to settle in, on and off the pitch.
You treat your record signing with respect and dignity. Have we done that with Haller ? Or have we been negligent as a club ?

Please don’t complain about his apparent laziness when running, he’s never done much of that at Frankfurt and still scored plenty of goals (33) while assisting some more (19) in the 77 games he featured in for Eintracht.
That’s pretty good numbers for a lazy minger.

You don’t hire Lewis Hamilton and then ask him to drive the Nissan Micra to the corner shop to buy a newspaper and a can of Tango. I know many on here will shake their heads at this point and disagree mightily.
Fair enough. I say: Give Haller the next two games at least, against teams that don’t have 70% possession. And judge him after that.

If he hasn’t scored or provided any assists in those two games, by all means get the wheels in motion for a January sale at a knockdown price.
But please: Give the chap a fair crack of the whip here. It took a while to find the right position for Antonio who has been with us for ages now.
He wasn’t scoring for fun in his first two seasons with us either. Keep that in mind, folks!

Embed from Getty Images

A quick word on Covid-19. Starting today, Germany is going into another (partial) lockdown. Most shops, sports facilities, fitness clubs, swimming pools, bars and restaurants will be closed for the entire month. All lower level football has been suspended. Bundesliga games will be played behind closed doors again. People are being told to keep contacts to others to a minimum. Meaning that you basically move in a fairly small circle around your humble abode, only getting out when you really have to, for the weekly shop, to buy medicine or in order to get some exercise in the local park.

I managed to buy a dozen toilet rolls and other essentials on Saturday which should see me through the month. I still vividly remember how empty most shelves were in my local Aldi or Lidl during the first lockdown, so I made sure this time that I wouldn’t be caught in an offside position by my dear neighbours clearing the shelves before I could get there.

This now means a return to reading plenty of books (there is still a stack of must-read-if-I-find-the-time material on my bedside table) and of course watching the USA Election Night coverage on Tuesday night. Shall I buy some popcorn for that ? Or should I stack up on tissues and schnapps to face the music ? We’ll see.
At least there will also still be PL football. For the time being that is. And after West Ham’s difficult early fixtures I am now curious to see what our lads can do against teams who are not Liverpool, Manchester City or Arsenal. COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Short one this time. NO lower league football, which means NO Concordia, NO Cordi U23s and certainly NO game for the Cordi Women’s team.
Only the little business of another Hamburg derby on Friday evening which ended in a 2:2 draw in front of 1000 fans inside the 57K stadium.

The point keeps Hamburg SV at the top of the table while St.Pauli not only lose their inner-city bragging rights after winning the previous two derby games, the club from Hamburg’s sinful mile (Reeperbahn and the surrounding red light district), are now also languishing in the midtable section on 7 points. They are at a crossroads at this point and could still get sucked into another relegation battle this season.

The HamburgHammer Column

Hammers continue to impress - and remain above Manchester clubs in table!

Embed from Getty Images

Another great point against very strong opposition!

This was another strange matchday experience for me. The Cordi away game was taking place at the same time as our game against City, more of that further down below.
I had promised to write a match report for that one, so I was obliged to go and watch really. I started driving back from Dassendorf (apple and potato peasant country on the southeastern fringes of Hamburg) when our game had just finished.

My phone was switched off to be on the safe side, even though I had instructed my mates not to tell me anything about the West Ham game, in case they had heard scorelines beforehand. I rushed up the stairs to my flat with my index fingers placed firmly inside my earholes to watch the recording of our performance.

Despite the Cordi result I was in a good mood because it had so far been a beautiful day, stunning in fact, cold as October days can be, but sunny. And driving back home to the city along those lovely country roads, the foliage of the forest trees on the side of the road was showing off in all alluring colours and tones under the sun, green, red, brown, yellow and everything in between. Think Indian Summer in New Hampshire or the Scottish Highlands and you’re getting the idea.

Embed from Getty Images

In times of once again lurking lockdowns and Covid I sometimes need these little offerings of joy and beauty to feast my eyes and senses upon – the ones we tend to take for granted, allowing them to pass us by unnoticed – and that achingly beautiful autumnal drive through the countryside was just what the doctor ordered. Magnificent!

Embed from Getty Images

When I sat down in my comfy chair with my mug of Rosie, watching our game, I had an inkling that Man City would have most of the possession.
I knew we’d have to give a top all-round team performance to get a result.
In recent times, we have conceded 4 or 5 goals on average against City. Not this time though.

Great effort and desire from the boys all around. Tactics spot on. Disciplined at the back. Not to mention our irresistible counter attacking football which caused City the odd headache.

None bigger than our opening gambit. The bicycle kick by Antonio after great play by Sous Chef and a pinpoint cross from Czech Mate was a sight to behold!

It’ll give Lanzini’s effort a run for its money for Goal of the Month.

Fantastic play from scorer and provider. As far as the excitement factor goes, Carroll’s overhead kick against Palace was more emotional as there was a full stadium to appreciate and applaud the goal when that one hit the back of the net.

Antonio’s effort though was much better in terms of sheer technique as the defender was all over him and Antonio had to get his balance, positioning and execution spot on in order to pull it off. Which, thankfully, he did with aplomb!

Embed from Getty Images

Just WOW!!! Now we had something to defend or rather protect.
Because City were getting better, seeing more of the ball, putting West Ham under the cosh for a while, yet we still were creating opportunities of our own.

We had managed to mark Aguero out of the game in the first half, but even taking into account Manchester’s injury list, it is ridiculously impressive to see whom City can still bring on when they take off the likes of Aguero, Silva or Walker.

One of the new arrivals, Foden, put City level. An equaliser was always likely to happen because they are spoilt rotten with quality footballers from top to bottom, the lucky barstewards! One might argue that their bottom half of the squad could still win trophies competing in most European leagues as things stand.

All it takes for them in order to score a goal from nowhere is just one quick pass, one mesmerising touch, one moment of brilliance. And Foden’s effort was just that. A top class finish. But I wasn’t overly concerned. Or worried. West Ham were playing well. As well as we haven’t seen them perform in many years.

Yes, the pundits were waxing lyrical about the Mancunians putting the squeeze on West Ham. Especially when Antonio had to come off, with what appeared to be a hamstring issue or just cramp. We saw the introduction of Yarmolenko and Haller. Who weren’t overly efficient, but put in a shift nonetheless.

Embed from Getty Images

We still were dangerous on the break and with a bit of luck might even have nicked this one. I’ll say this again: We could have beaten Manchester City!

That’s against the team that had put 22 goals past us on their previous 5 visits to the London Stadium. To put that into context for you: Manchester City needed all of their their last 20 away games at Upton Park to get to the 22 goal mark.

It goes to show how far City have come as a team over the last 15 years and how much we have struggled in terms of results at the new gaff so far.

A point against City was not to be expected. And is something to be proud of and respected.

We continue our impressive points haul throughout this incredibly testing early list of fixtures. Oh, I didn’t actually get to watch the final 7 minutes as somehow my stream had downed tools at that stage. So I had to check out the final result old school style, on teletext. Rarely have I been this nervous pushing the numbers 530 on my remote control to check the PL scores…

Another point in the bag, we are sitting very comfortably in midtable still, above both Manchester clubs, bless them, with another big game approaching fast next Saturday, away at Anfield. Liverpool without VVD are not their usual confident/arrogant self. I reckon we can give them an almighty scare and cause them a few problems as well.

Things are looking good for Moyes and the players at the moment and the mood around the training sessions must be positively buzzing at this point. Long may it continue! COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Good weekend for the big Hamburg clubs. Hamburg SV came back from 0:1 down against bottom club Würzburger Kickers to win 3:1. That’s 15 points from a possible 15, folks! A perfect start to the season. Top spot in the league table and already an impressive five-point cushion between themselves and Kiel in 2nd place.

St.Pauli did a bit of a West Ham, coming back from a two-goal deficit in the final ten minutes to draw 2:2 away to Darmstadt, equalising with a last-gasp penalty. They’re sitting comfortably in a heavily crowded middle section of the league table.

Embed from Getty Images

Concordia lost 0:4 away to Dassendorf which sounds like a brutal and humiliating surrender. It really wasn’t. Several television crews were present as Martin Harnik was making his Dassendorf debut as a starter. Until recently the 33-year-old striker had been playing for Werder Bremen in the Bundesliga. On Saturday he was no longer playing against Dortmund or Mönchengladbach in front of a 50k capacity crowd but against lowly Concordia with a mere 300 souls watching from the sidelines (that was the maximum capacity allowed due to Covid) – how the mighty fall…;-))

It was goalless at halftime. Cordi had plenty of opportunities, but wasn’t effective enough with the final ball. Once Dassendorf had scored their first (through Harnik of course, putting the ball over the line with a backheeler, like the experienced old trooper he is) there was only ever going to be one winner. Both teams were still playing attacking, football but only the home side were putting their chances away. It wasn’t a 4:0 performance at all. I am not happy of course when my team loses by four goals, but this one was just down to a very unlucky second half. It could have been a 2:2 really. or a 4:4. Games like these happen. Better luck next time, Cordi are in 4th place now.

Sunday football was being played out in relentless rain: Cats, dogs, hares and badgers, not nice. The Cordi U23s won anyway, away to Stapelfeld, 5:0, easy one that. After that I had a bit of driving to do from that stadium to Cordi’s home ground in order to just catch the start of the second half of the Cordi Women’s team’s home game against Tornesch and, BOOM, another win, 3:2! The girls are sitting midtable now after winning their last two games in a row. Looks like they might be able to avoid a relegation struggle after all…

BREAKING NEWS: Due to the current spikes in new cases of Covid in and around Hamburg the local FA has just announced that ALL lower league football will be suspended until further notice.
Which means no more Concordia games for the time being…:-(

Copyright © 2020 Iain Dale Limited. Terms and conditions. Cookies.
Website by Russell Brown.