Match Thread

Match thread: West Ham v Stoke

West Ham v Stoke
FA Premier League
London Stadium
KO: 8pm
TV: Sky Sports
Radio: BBC Five Live

Please comment on the game as it progresses.

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The HamburgHammer Column

A point won in West London - done the hart way

What a weird game that was! Chelsea had about a dozen clear cut opportunities to put this game way beyond West Ham. At times it looked like a training game.
Still we could have nicked the game and Chelsea would not have been in a position to complain because we were disciplined all game and put up a good fight.

Yes, it’s easy to say from my armchair we should have attacked Chelsea more or not given them so much time and space on the pitch to play their brand of football which is a beauty to watch for the neutral without a shadow of a doubt.

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The man of the match decision was not really a contest this time: Finally, Joe Hart gave us the kind of performance we were hoping he would deliver a bit more regularly this season. Of course the way you concede goals heavily depends on the way your defenders do their job, yet a good or even great goalkeeper is at his best when his defenders are beaten and the ball is destined for the top corner.

Hart pulled off about five fantastic saves that gave us the chance to come away from Stamford Bridge with any kind of credible result. Yes, I said before the game Chelsea were there for the taking. But when they outplay you virtually all game, like they did against us, then you have to take the point, make a bow, say Thank You and bugger off!
As a West Ham fan I was expecting things to go wrong at some point in the game and when Cresswell went off injured I just thought “Alright, here we go again, join the queue Aaron and remember: Out of the door. Line on the left. One cross each.” Or something like that, you get the idea!

But there were other instances when strangely we got the rub of the green. Two close offside decisions leading to goals, rightfully not given. Mark Noble who could easily have been given a second yellow after going in all guns blazing into a fierce tackle. Not given. And upfront we were as efficient as your average German factory worker.
One decent chance, one Mexican Little Pea, and boom shakalaka!!!

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Was Moyes a bit negative in his approach, especially first half though ? Maybe, but I’ll give him credit for juggling a thin squad and putting out a team that can still fight.
Injuries keep dragging us down and apart from getting a Director of Football in (pronto please as work on assembling a squad for next season should be well underway already) this area needs to be addressed sharpish.

Just imagine where our team might be in the table if we had only been in a position to play our best starting XI in just ten games or so. Maybe next season!

As it is we have put some more daylight between us and the chasing pack. Six points it is now and if you look at a team like Southampton I can see them getting six points at the most in their remaining games. Which means the Stoke game is still absolutely vital. Arnautovic should be relishing playing against his former teammates and hopefully it’ll be him scoring the goals against Stoke that will help keeping us up.

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I have made the arrangements now to fly over for the Everton game and I am absolutely certain now that we will be mathematically safe at that point anyway.
Still it should be good fun as we also play Manchester United the evening before I fly out. So it’ll be watching that game on the Custard and Jelly, a few hours of sleep (probably), three cups of Rosie and over to Blighty. At that point I will hopefully have made up my mind about whether to renew my season ticket or not.
Still undecided on that front I’m afraid.

Covering the Hamburg football scene this can be handled quickly. St.Pauli are still in a relegation battle while Hamburg SV gave themselves a fighting chance by totally unexpectedly beating 2nd placed Schalke in Hamburg by a 3:2 scoreline. It was also a weekend where I couldn’t muster the effort to watch either Concordia team.
The U23s won 4:0 at home apparently and are virtually guaranteed promotion now to the next level.

While Concordia’s first team have effectively nothing to play for anymore and that’s exactly the vibe they’re giving out, losing yet another game yesterday, 0:2.
It’s also been announced that two more regular starters will leave Concordia in the summer. On top of that the current manager will vacate his place in the dugout to get promoted upstairs to become Cordi’s new DoF, so the search for a new manager has apparently begun with immediate effect.

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So, another long week ahead now before we face Stoke, on Monday evening, under the lights. I hope it’ll be a similar atmosphere and performance like against Southampton. I hope a few of the currently injured players will at least be ready for the matchday squad, like Lanzini or Collins.

For the time being though we can all breathe a bit easier what with the point won at Chelsea. This should be a much more relaxed and jolly week at West Ham, that’s for certain! COYI!!!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Super Mario saves our season - or was it the power of the flat cap ?

Never in doubt! It’s easy to say in hindsight we were always bound to win the Southampton game what with so much riding on this. I had confidently predicted a 3:1 win as I knew that this was last chance saloon time for us.
At some point our team was always likely to take an opponent to the cleaners, as long as the players were approaching the game with the right application and gameplan.

When I settled down in my armchair at the customary time though, five minutes prior to kickoff, screwdriver at the ready, I had no idea what kind of treat we were all in for.

This was one of those rare games where I didn’t really need the screwdriver at all as even I knew at halftime that Southampton wouldn’t come back from a three goal deficit. With my mind put at ease I was really comfortable watching the second half go by in a fairly relaxed manner (and so were our players…LOL).

After seeing loads of shocking first half performances from our team this season at the London Stadium this one was a masterclass in making your opportunities count and performing exceptionally well just at the time when your collective backs at the club are firmly wedged to the wall.

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At the hazard of repeating the obvious: This was a bona fide team performance with every single player showing effort, guts and endeavour. Southampton may have been a pretty weak opponent on the day, but we made it very hard for them by being in their faces early, running at them, pressing them, hunting them down like a hungry pack of wolves on the prowl.

You couldn’t name a single player for us who didn’t put in a shift, well, Joe Hart didn’t really have a save to make, but that ain’t his fault. All the others were a joy to behold and I didn’t really see us putting a foot wrong all game. It’s a bit unfair to single out players although several would have deserved special mentions, so what the heck!

My Top 3 players on Saturday were Mario, Rice and Kouyate. But I wouldn’t blame any of my readers if they picked someone else, you are also right…-))

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I’m going to nail my colours to the mast here and say that in a few years we may look back and regard Mario’s first goal for West Ham as one of the most important in our (recent) history.

We all knew it was vital for us to score first in the Southampton game what with the toxic connotations of the stadium and sections of the home crowd still ringing in our ears from the Burnley game.

A repeat, maybe in even nastier fashion, was always on the cards if Southampton had scored the first goal.
And defeat might have sent us on a spiral straight down into the Championship for God knows how many years.

As it was, Mario did the honours and it wasn’t just an incredibly vital goal but also a belter, crowning a glorious counter attack of ours, covering the length of the pitch, with Kouyate providing a hell of a run and a peach of a pinpoint pass to Mario’s feet. With so much riding on the first goal and the outcome of this game I am now putting Mario’s goal in my personal Top 5 West Ham goals of all time which obviously also includes this one…

I think we all agree that we have finally seen in the Southampton game the level of effort and positivity on the pitch we were lacking far too often this season.
The players were running and playing their socks off straight from the first whistle and not surprisingly the crowd was right behind them, so it was a symbiosis where the team gave the supporters something to cheer about and that in return lifted the players and so forth. The way it should be really.

We have seen what the players are capable of if they put in the effort. It’s both mesmerising and frustrating to then consider all those lackluster and inept performances we had to endure this season. Our team shouldn’t be fighting relegation at this late stage in the season. I may be tempting fate, but I think the Southampton win has put us into a fairly comfortable position now.

All the teams below us are running out of games and need wins quickly, not just one, but at least two or three to have a chance of survival. What teams like West Brom, Stoke, Huddersfield , Palace or Southampton are lacking now though is momentum. Each of those teams I have just mentioned have gained four points or less from their last five games.

That’s relegation form and bearing in mind their remaining fixtures those teams have now a much higher mountain to climb than us.

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As a sidenote I couldn’t fail but notice both David Gold and Sullivan sporting flat caps while watching the Southampton game. Maybe it was their way to curry some favour with the West Ham fanbase among which you can spot plenty of flat caps on matchdays on a regular basis. Whatever it was, it seemed to do the trick and I’d rather see them sticking with those magic flat caps rather than seeing the usual Russian oligarch model make a return to the directors’ box.

It’s a much happier position for us now to think ahead a bit to figure out what needs to be done in the summer to avoid a repeat of the dismal season (on the whole) we’ve been witnessing so far. Here’s my tuppence worth anyway.

Hire a director of football and let him do his job
Self explanatory really. Our board should provide a budget and then let the DoF get on with it, negotiating deals and making sure our manager (whoever he may be) can secure the targets he wants to improve the team. This obviously can only work though if the DoF is allowed to do what he’s been hired to do and doesn’t merely act as a poster boy to placate the fanbase with the board still pulling the strings in the background regardless.

Sign Declan Rice to a long term deal
He is a special talent, isn’t he ? God knows for how long we will be able to hang onto him. But he looks like the real deal, playing with a maturity and composure well beyond his young years. Is he the best we’ve had since the days of Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard Jr. and Joe Cole ? I think he could well be and I hope he will be a Hammer for years to come. Not just a very decent footballer, but he comes across as a very level-headed and nice guy. Definitely good enough to start games for us now. The boy is ready!

If Mario continues to improve, keep him!
By all accounts Joao Mario seems to enjoy life at West Ham and is willing to stay beyond this season. He still needs to adjust to the pace and physicality of the league, but if he can deliver more performances like the Southampton one I reckon he may well be worth spending the £27 million which I have seen quoted as the price we may have agreed with Inter to make his move permanent. If we decide the player is right for us and if he wants to stay we need to stop pinching the pennies and spend that kind of money.
Quality players have a price and haggling will only get you so far.

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End the Carroll era at West Ham
Yes, I know he is unplayable on his day. And he only has one year left on his contract. But at some point we just need to cut our losses and move on. There are plenty of strikers out there who can stay healthy for at least 25 or 30 games a season. That alone helps to give yourself a chance of having a 20 goal a season striker, although we all would be quite happy with one scoring double digits.
I have heard Carroll may be in line to play 3 or 4 games for us later this season. Be that as it may, I still see him mainly as a super sub or luxury player now and I’m simply not sure it’s worth it going through yet another typical Andy Carroll season at West Ham beyond this summer.

Name a long term manager
I’m not sure if Moyes is the perfect fit for us really. I see it more like an arrangement that has worked reasonably well for both sides, but not much more than that.
Saying that though I wouldn’t mind if we kept him, but if that happens he needs to be given a long term deal. Players need to know that there is a certain degree of consistency and continuity at a club – and a manager with a one year contract doesn’t provide that.
It changes the whole power setup within a club and makes it harder for a manager to exert any meaningful influence on the players. I have been yearning for a long term strategy at our club for ages now – and we desperately need one. I shall leave it up to your imagination if the current board are the right people to come up with that strategy.

Address the injury problems
It’s not normal, is it ? We are constantly among the top when it comes to having players out injured, including long term injuries. We tend to get a lot of muscle related injuries, Antonio being the most recent example. Is it a case of having too many injury prone players ? Do we rush them back too quickly from injury or don’t warm them up properly before games ? Or could it indeed be training facilities that seem very mediocre for a Premier league club like ours, especially when you compare them to those available at clubs of similar size to us ? Whatever it is, the issues need to be analysed, with external professional advice if need be, and they need to be sorted out.
How many times have we been able this season to field the same starting XI two or three games running ?

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Blimey, this got a lot longer than I had planned, but the Southampton win, coupled with some very nice quality time spent with my brother and his family over the Easter weekend has put me in a jolly good mood. Despite Concordia losing a crazy home game on Good Friday by a 3:4 scoreline. Two Cordi goals were converted penalties, the other one a cornerkick that ended up in goal. Other than that the Cordi players had a shocking game.

To give you an idea that West Ham aren’t the only club that is occasionally being run like circus, allow me to confess to you the bizarre incident that the game I’ve just mentioned kicked off with a seven minute delay because the referee realised just before the first whistle that all four corner flags were missing!!!
For whatever reason, not a single corner flag was out there on the edges of the pitch where it should have been as a matter of principle.
Some players from the substitutes’ bench actually had to run over to the storage room to pick up the flags and put them in their customary spots in the four corners.
Only at Concordia…;-))

And the pre-match comment from the Cordi manager to this column’s author may make some of you smile with glee (he knows me and is aware I’m West Ham).
He approached me, asking me what the f*** was going on at West Ham and that I must be utterly clueless as a supporter for choosing two very strange (and mediocre) clubs to support. Well, like I mentioned before, I didn’t really choose to support either.
In both cases becoming a fan simply happened for me and once you’re smitten you are stuck with them, with no turning back.

Whatever happens at my English and German footballing love respectively, you won’t catch me playing away. I won’t switch my allegiance to Altona or Arsenal, come what may! To quote a certain Karren Brady: “It is what it is!” COYI!!!

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The HamburgHammer Column

The East(er) End Miracle ? Hope resurrected or another nail in our relegation coffin ?

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Another weekend bereft of a competitive West Ham game done and over with, finally we can count the days until another league game for our beloved Hammers kicks off.

And boy, don’t they come any bigger than this one against Southampton! And it’s happening over the Easter Weekend. So it’s obviously tempting to get out all those puns about resurrecting the saviour(s) from the dead, players rising for the occasion, coming back to life, finding themselves in heaven after being nailed to the cross…or should that be nailed by the opposition with a cross ?

Either way our lads can go a long way towards securing their Premier League status by lifting everyone’s spirits and confidence with a win against Southampton.
I hope the long time off has worked to our advantage, we got in some warm weather training in sunny Florida, a practise game against Dagenham&Redbridge and hopefully several productive training sessions, setting our team up for maximum impact against Southampton.

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Strangely enough I am looking forward to this game. A lot actually. I would expect our players to be really up and hungry for this one after the long break.
And while the scenes at the Burnley game weren’t exactly a pleasant experience for the players I am sure everyone in the team now has a pretty good idea what’s at stake and what is required here. I expect nothing less than 100% effort, desire and determination on Saturday.

Southampton are in a similarly (fragile) position as us: They have underperformed for long stretches throughout the season, they are fighting desperately for survival and they need wins, draws alone will no longer do. So I’m expecting one hell of a game here, with plenty of incidents and hopefully three points for us, with no unwanted off-field issues, pitch invasions or crowd trouble to spoil the occasion. It’s not rocket science to predict that an early goal or some good football from our lads early on will help to get and keep the fans onside for this one.

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We should have a pretty decent squad available for Southampton with Masuaku coming back into the side after sitting out the last six games due to his untimely impression of a llama, performed in the Cup game against Wigan. To say he has been missed is a bit of an understatement. Also returning, after a lengthy spell out due to an ankle injury, is Edimilson Fernandes and while I wouldn’t expect the young Swiss midfielder to start against Southampton he will at least be a useful option to have on the bench.

Let’s not forget that we are still in the driving seat and masters of our own destiny here. Other teams down there have to better our results to get past us in the survival race and while the whole thing at this point is too close to call I’d rather be three points above a relegation place than three points worse off. But make no mistake: Nothing but victory against the Saints will do. Yes, it may be Easter and all that, but this time I hope the Saints will go marching out with zero points when they head back down the M3 after the game.

We can all start to worry about who might be our manager next season or which player we might buy (or sell) in the summer once we know which league we shall be playing in.
Until that happens we can only cheer on the boys in the stadium (or from afar) and hope that this will be enough to get our team over the finishing line.
I am nailing my colours to the mast here, predicting a 3:1 win for us. I don’t even consider a draw or defeat as a realistic option here, maybe against better knowledge, but there you go.

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As for my local football, it was a quite unusual weekend for me.On Saturday I decided to watch my other local team, playing away to Barmbek as I like that particular ground and there was no meaningful English football on the telly. With over 400 clubs in and around Hamburg to choose from I am in the comfortable position to have 10 clubs within a 4 mile radius of my flat to choose from, so whenever I am keen for some lower league football there is ALWAYS a match on nearby, throughout the weekend.
The game itself didn’t have many highlights, apart from the famous home made meatball rolls, available in the ground, and my local team playing in their bright orange “Holland-style” away shirts. Game was won 2:0, but was more remarkable for some bad and late tackles rather than breathtaking football moves.
Then again, what do you expect from 8th level football ?

Sunday for the first time in many moons I missed a regular first team Concordia league game, not through illness, but after a deliberate decision to visit my brother at rehab again before he can finally return home on Thursday. As Concordia can no longer finish higher than 5th in the table this season, rendering their remaining games pretty much meaningless, I decided to give this one a miss and spend the afternoon with my bro. Sundays in a rehab facility can be incredibly tedious, so I figured I was of better use to him than Concordia. I must have missed a cracker though, 3:3 scoreline with some absolute stunners. But you can’t have it all.

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Although a home win against Southampton surely isn’t too much to ask for really, is it ? COYI!!!

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The HamburgHammer Column

No more razzle dazzle - hard graft and focus will do

Having two weekends in a row with no West Ham game sucks, but that’s what happens when one is a weekend reserved for FA Cup games (and you’re already out because you decided to prioritise the league fixtures) followed by another international weekend (once again with limited activity for West Ham players these days – does anyone actually LIKE international weekends ?).

Of course the world of West Ham never really stops turning and there are loads of things still happening, mainly off the pitch, for our glorious club at the moment.

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I won’t be talking about the board too much (again) at this point as most of the national British media have now kindly taken over having a butchers at why exactly our club may be in its current predicament, on the pitch and off it.

I understand representatives of WHUISA (which I have been a member of ever since it was founded) have been invited to a meeting with David Sullivan tomorrow to ask some questions.

Whether this will ultimately take the predictable route which previous meetings with other fan groups have travelled on or if it will indeed lead to the board sitting up and take notice for a change remains to be seen. I won’t be holding my breath, but it’d be plain rude of WHUISA not to sit down with the main shareholder and give it a right good go. What’ll happen with our club further down the road, in the summer, should be a different matter – right now the game against Southampton takes the utmost importance.

The media sometimes tends to label too many games as relegation six-pointers in order to drum up interest, sell papers or get viewing figures.
The Southampton game though promises to be nailbiting stuff, squeaky bum style, with both teams needing the three points desperately.

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With West Brom and Stoke losing we can put some daylight between us and another relegation rival if we beat Southampton, how we get that win is secondary, but beat them we must.

I reckon the vast majority of our fans are very much aware what’s at stake here and I would think the atmosphere, while being tense, could also be fantastic, bordering cauldron level, if only our team put the effort in and give the fans something worth cheering for early on.

Not even a goal necessarily, although that’d obviously help a lot, but a tenacious tackle, a fine passing combination, a cracking shot on goal, you get the picture.
A sign from the players that they want the win as much as the fans. Relegation would do neither the club nor the players any favours and whatever our club may have to go through in the next few months and years, it’ll be easier ftom the position of playing in the Premier League rather than the Championship.

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Now, I’m well aware of the new manager initial boost theory and while Southampton have some decent players and while Mark Hughes may have certain qualities as a manager, Southampton are where they are in the table for a reason. I know we lost 3:0 against Burnley, but I see them as a much better drilled and organised side than Southampton are this season. With the right application, a positive mindset and the encouragement from the home crowd hopefully we will ask Southampton a few questions on the pitch.

It’s not like Southampton have momentum on their side right now and surely David Moyes and his coaching staff have enough time now to put our team in the best shape and frame of mind for the Southampton game. Phase 1 was the warm weather break in Miami. Actually I don’t mind that move. You could argue whether a trip to Tenerife or Malta might have done the same, but the general idea of having a bit of a reboot, a change of scenery, a change of routine might do the lads the world of good.

The players will know themselves they have vastly underperformed this season, they don’t need to read a blog or online fanzine to know that. But now Phase 2 has to kick in, you’ve had your week in the sun, now go out on the cold and wet training pitch in Blighty and work on the basics needed to beat Southampton.
Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing Arnautovic and Hernandez back together from the first whistle. Also it will definitely help to finally have Masuaku back in the fold.
Somehow we have looked a much better team all around whenever he’s been on the pitch for us.

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I also would like to see an attacking lineup, even though this may leave us a bit more open at the back. But I wouldn’t expect us to keep a clean sheet these days anyway and would rather see us counter that with a lot of pace, physical presence and plenty of positivity further up the field. I’d also like to think the home crowd would respond to attacking football a lot more and surely we need the crowd on or team’s side rather than their backs.

I still have no doubt we can escape relegation through a combination of honest graft, effort and a healthy dose of good luck. Don’t forget, new manager or not, Southampton won’t arrive in London brimming with confidence. It’s our job to make sure they won’t be gaining any confidence from playing us.

That’s my West Ham thoughts for the Southampton game which still seems lightyears away. On a personal level, the weekend was mostly successful. I visited my brother at his rehab clinic again (where he will get a week’s extension to fatten him up a bit more in preparation for his final cycle of chemo).
I was trying to help with the fattening up bit by bringing some cake and we then settled down in his room with the radio on, listening to the Bundesliga Soccer Saturday programme, being elated with Hamburg SV taking a 1:0 lead at halftime only to lose 1:2 against Hertha Berlin eventually, relegation beckoning ever more fiercely now!

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The new Hamburg manager (Hamburg have now gone through 18 managers in 11 years) tried something new, a VERY young team with an average age of 23.98 years, the youngest Hamburg team fielded in 44 years, but it just wasn’t enough. The team frankly isn’t Bundesliga standard and the only positive I can take from the situation is that there is going to be another Hamburg derby next season, albeit in Bundesliga 2, between Hamburg SV and FC St.Pauli.

My Sunday was spent by watching a Concordia doubleheader with both teams winning in the freezing cold East Hamburg sunshine, but arctic winds coming in from God knows where made me question my sanity more than once while spending almost four hours alongside two God forsaken artificial pitches, watching lower league football.
But nothing warms you up better than seeing you team win (apart from some chips, hot coffee and some mulled wine!) and Cordi 2 won their away game 3:1 while Cordi’s first team beat FC Suederelbe (the Millwall equivalent of the Oberliga Hamburg) by a 2:0 scoreline.

Cordi 2 is now almost guaranteed promotion to the next level while Cordi 1 are bound to save some face late on in the season by stringing some wins together which will probably lead to a 4th or 5th place finish at the end of the season, representing failed ambition (as they were hoping to get promoted this season), but that’s football.
And frankly, with an average attendance of 150 people at home games it’s hardly comparable to West Ham’s woes in the Premier League.

Who knows what this week will bring to our much beloved West Ham United ? Good news on a postcard please! COYI!!!

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