The HamburgHammer Column

The summer transfer window: Shop smart, but take some money with you

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When I was a kid, a month or so before Christmas it was a well worked routine for me and my brother to hand in our respective wish lists to our mom, she then promised to pass it on to Santa on the next trip to the post office, but we were also given the strong and sage advice to be realistic in our expectations.

We certainly shouldn’t count on the bearded fellow and his reindeer pals to regard our pieces of paper as legally binding bucket lists to studiously work down, ticking every item on the lists without fail.

And that’s exactly how it panned out after mom had rung that little bell on Christmas Eve, indicating that the presents were ready to be admired before getting unwrapped.

And as sure as West Ham home games begin with a passionate rendition of Bubbles, every year under the Christmas tree us kids were happy to find some bloody nice presents (plus the customary socks, new pyjamas and underwear which we had never specifically asked for but which were apparently deemed absolutely necessary gifts by our parents regardless, they must have fiddled shamelessly with our lists before passing them on I suppose).

My parents were not exactly loaded, to put it mildly, but they always made sure that Christmas was special for us kids, we always ended up with a fair selection of items from our list, but never ever, as a matter of principle, did we get EVERYTHING that was on the list and deep down us kids knew the score. Which was perfectly fine and acceptable.

It still was worth it though, compiling a decent wish list. An ambitious one at that, with the odd pie in the sky entry to boot. You never know…

The same very much applies to transfer windows at West Ham. By all means, as a fanbase and as manager, we need to be realistic, but we can still aim high and dare to dream!
Ask and you may receive!

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Maybe, every once in a while, the stars and planets will align, you could punch above your weight and still win occasionally, you may be quicker than other clubs for once, right place, right time – or the player may just be enticed into choosing the club after a brilliant interview with the gaffer, outlining his irresistible plans and footballing philosophy at West Ham. Still, it might not be enough. Bigger clubs, offering more money and European/CL football, you know the story.

Take Maxi Gomez. Players with a current asking price of 40 million quid upwards do have a certain quality. Which means other clubs, bigger clubs than us, will have him on their radar too and spending that kind of money is pretty much commonplace for them, and not a big deal, unlike for us.

If I was still in the habit of writing wish lists for Christmas (or West Ham), you can bet your house, your garden shed and your cat on me putting Maxi Gomez pretty high up on that list right now. But I’d be realistic enough to also put some alternative names on the list, just in case.

And I am convinced that Manuel Pellegrini and Mario Husillos have done and are still doing just that. They will be smart enough to have a plan B, C and possibly D too.

My trust in them at this point is sky high and they probably know they won’t be getting £100 million to spend every summer.

They have shown us last summer how they are able to bring in decent quality players for modest amounts. However, this should be no carte blanche for our board to go down Pennypinch Lane all summer. You still need to spend money in the current market to bring in the kind of players that are going to improve our squad and hopefully the starting XI too.

You can’t take money for a used Ford Fiesta to the showroom, expecting to drive off the premises in a shiny new Ferrari. Or at least a reliable Volvo with all the trimmings.

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So, even if you have to miss out on the top names on your list, even the names further down won’t come cheap. That’s par for the course if you’re a Premier League club. We still need to be alert, quick and realistic with our bids in order to be successful.

There are always rival clubs lurking and aiming for the same players and we simply cannot afford to play fancy games with low bids or ridiculous payment terms if we are REALLY interested in signing a player.

Yes, Jordan Hugill could of course be like a new signing for us, but I’d rather we won’t be testing those waters when trying to replace the likes of Carroll, Hernandez and Perez who are all likely to depart in the coming weeks.

Later this week I will make that phone call to the West Ham ticket office, sorting out my e-credits and renewing my season ticket. I will do it in the full knowledge that I have no Scooby at this stage what our team is going to look like come August. I will probably be unimpressed with the players we will have signed by then and maybe even more irritated with the players we may be allowing to leave or sell to the highest bidder. However, from a personal perspective, who we sign or sell can and will not be the clincher why I will be renewing anyway.

It’s just that West Ham are still such a main contributing factor when it comes to planning my trips to London. Yes, it is mainly about meeting friends and mates from the blog, having a jolly good time and also doing things away from football.

But I just cannot imagine not going to a first team game when I’m over while one is scheduled. Time and fixture permitting I will also happily attend a game of our U23s or (hopefully) the West Ham Women’s team, but somehow at this stage I cannot kick the habit of a West Ham matchday when I’m over, despite the stadium and its well established shortcomings as a venue for watching football.

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And I still need my fix of attending 2-5 games a season of top level football in person which in my case gets provided by West Ham as I don’t attend either of the two big Hamburg clubs’ games unless I have visitors who are keen to go. So, what are my expectations for West Ham’s summer business ?

Similar to my Christmas wish lists back in the day. Please let us have not just the useful, but boring stuff: The socks, new pyjamas and some bloody new underwear. Give us something to get excited about. The latest Playstation. A new stereo system. Tickets for a Nena concert. Maybe a nice West Ham shirt or jacket. I know getting all those presents at once is unrealistic, but at least give us one or two of them. I promise to truly appreciate and even wear the new pyjamas as well then…:-))


Hamburg football update:

Both top Hamburg clubs were out of the promotion race, so their respective results on the final day of league fixtures were pretty much irrelevant. Still, Hamburg SV beat already relegated Duisburg 3:0 at home – one wishes they had been able to perform like this in the previous weeks – promotion would still have been on or already secured then!

St.Pauli lost 1:2 away at Fuerth – which means that the team from Hamburg’s red light district finish the season in solid midtable, after gunning for promotion, same as HSV, for quite a while earlier in the season.

The Concordia first team finished a highly disappointing season with a 2:0 home win against Sasel on Friday evening. The revolving door will be busy this summer as probably only five players of the current squad will still be wearing the famous red and black shirt of Concordia next season. Loads of new, young and hungry recruits are expected to join in the next few weeks, ready to give the Cordi fans more reason to cheer next season.

The Cordi U23s meanwhile shot themselves in the foot, killing off their promotion hopes for good by losing at home to already promoted Muemmelmannsberg. Better luck next time, lads!

And finally, the Concordia Women’s team didn’t actually play, but got honoured on the pitch prior to kick-off at the first team game on Friday, seeing their amazing promotion season acknowledged by the home crowd, and deservedly so.

If you fancy it, have a butcher’s at the highlights of their promotion clinching game at Rahlstedt (and the ensuing celebration) in the videos below and please do watch out for Cordi’s best player and my personal favourite, Michelle “Mini” Hille, wearing the #7 shirt. And if you happen to understand a bit of German, enjoy the commentary too, delivered in the broadest local Hamburg accent you are ever likely to hear…:-)

Oh, and just in case you spot a portly figure with sunglasses on, wearing a grey hoodie and claret West Ham jacket, during the first two minutes of the longer video, guess who that might be…let me give you a hint:
It’s not Winnie-the-Pooh or the guy from the Go Compare advert…;-))

Match highlights:

Rahlstedter SC – Concordia from Wolfgang Neubauer on Vimeo.

After the final whistle:

The HamburgHammer Column

I know what you did last summer - try doing it again!

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If you see more typos in this article than you have been used to in my column (or even the odd factual error), I can explain this…you see, yesterday the Concordia Women’s team celebrated their second promotion in a row, winning 4:0 away at local rivals Rahlstedt (by the way, that’s the borough where Nena of “99 Red Balloons“ fame lives) and I was happy enough to celebrate this great success with them, players, staff and fans, back at Cordi HQ (home ground) and those celebrations did include a choice of beverages which may in some cases have contained traces of alcohol. Although the girls drank a lot more than I did, but who can blame them ?

How often in your career can you celebrate your team getting promoted or winning a Cup ? Exactly. So forgive me that I decided to spend Sunday afternoon worshipping local football and the women’s game, only catching up with West Ham’s exploits at Watford later in the evening, watching some very enjoyable highlights on MotD.

While we are talking personal stuff, the results of my brother’s tissue probe came back – and it’s very much a mixed bag. The bad news is they indeed found some cancerous tissue on his removed adrenal gland, likely to have sprung from his previous cancer of the oesophagus during chemo (which, according to his doctors, is very rare). The good news though is that the cancerous tissue they found was very much dead already which hopefully means it didn’t have the chance to cause any further harm. Either way, they will continue to check my brother’s blood every four weeks now to stay alert and spring into action as soon as there is the slightest sign of the big C trying to make a return. As usual, fingers crossed…

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I was tracking our game online while watching the Cordi U23s lose their game and later during the celebrations with the women’s team.
When I saw our starting XI I was pretty confident we would get a result and we sure did. It’s nice to end a season with a confident performance and I was especially chuffed with our skipper Mark Noble rewarding himself with two goals, crowning one of his best ever seasons for us with a brace.

Winning 4:1 away at Watford surely will give every supporter a positive send off into the summer and it might also help our transfer business having finished in the top half of the table.

As for the season gone by at our beloved Hammers, as expected, it was very much a transitional first season for Manuel Pellegrini and his staff. In typical West Ham fashion we had our fair share of bumps and potholes along the way, crazy games, terrible refereeing decisions, topsy-turvy performances, an ever expanding list of injuries, quite a few of them long-term, some unnecessary drama over Arnautovic’s dreams of trophies in China, in short:

Another rollercoaster season at good old West Ham. Or is that West Ham London now ? I sometimes get confused about that…

Overall I was reasonably happy with proceedings at our club. When we lost the first four games, I was mildly nervous. Then again, I have never before seen a more ridiculously difficult fixture calendar for the first eight weeks or so of a season than West Ham were given this time around. Once again we lost to teams we should have put away while winning against sides you would have expected to wipe the floor with a side like ours, expected to make up the numbers and stand in awe, admiring the big clubs with their assortment of superstar players.

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I only managed to fly over for two games this season, but both were crackers and significant in their own special way – and tying in with my penchant for being a good luck charm when travelling to watch West Ham, both games brought wins for the claret and blue cause, first the thrilling 3:2 against Crystal Palace with a stunning goal from Snodgrass and another beauty from Felipe Anderson which got the West Ham goal of the season award actually.

And later in March I felt utterly privileged to be inside London Stadium when the Billy Bonds Stand was opened prior to the Newcastle game. I was happy when Declan Rice signed his long term deal, but I was even more elated when I saw him score his first goal for the first team with a powerful header, right in front of me, watching from Section 227 at the front of the upper tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking. I don’t get to see a lot of West Ham games in person, but somehow I seem to have a talent of choosing special ones when I come over and boy, did I make those two count this season!

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I won’t mention all the negative stuff that happened to us over the course of the season (again), but will rather go and turn those into positives, with the sincere hopes that plenty of things will improve for us next season.

A) Because I’m an optimist in general. And…
B) because we are due a little helping of good fortune for once.

No way will we ever have as many players missing as many games through injury again as we did this season. Injuries will still happen of course, but I’m hopeful that guys like Wilshere, Lanzini, Yarmolenko and Sanchez will play a lot more games for us now they have overcome their recent injuries. Andy Carroll of course is no longer our problem, so let’s hope he takes his season ticket for the treatment room with him instead of passing it on to a teammate who is staying at the club.

VAR is going to help us take away at least some of the big club bias, deliberately or subconsciously handed out by the PL referees. I wouldn’t expect it to be a massive factor, but overall it should help a team like ours, rather than making things any worse really.

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As for the upcoming transfer period, I understand that Pellegrini, Husillos and Sullivan will all be in transfer mode as of today, rather than booking a beach holiday or taking a flight back home anytime soon. Last summer was the right idea and I applaud the board for it. They hired a new manager and gave the guy substantial funds to start building a decent squad. We were obviously unlucky that some of those signings were out through injury most of the season (see above), but I firmly believe that Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Sanchez are fantastic players and we will get to see the best of them next season.

I know last summer was a decent transfer window for us overall and we need to keep doing it, not necessarily with the exact same level of expenditure, but similar.
Pellegrini and Husillos will hopefully unearth the odd bargain or diamond in the rough, like Balbuena, Fabianski, also Diop. But we cannot expect every new signing to be a bargain or free transfer.

Take our apparent top target Maxi Gomez. His side may or may not be relegated, that doesn’t really tell us anything about his quality as a a striker as football is very much a team sport and no one, not even Messi, can win games and trophies all by himself. Gomez is still young (which should be one of our key priorities when signing players these days), but he has already shown enough quality, scoring goals regularly with not much support from his teammates, to drive his asking price up.

It’ll be interesting to see if we will really spend around £40 million for Gomez, blowing the main chunk of our transfer budget on just one player. Pellegrini seems to be very keen on Gomez, so we’ll see. It’s good to hear they have their targets lined up, trying to sign some of them early to make sure they get a full preseason with their teammates.
Almost as interesting as who comes is the question of who will be leaving and who might be staying after all.

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Quite a few of these decisions apparently will be taken as early as this week, so as usual things will remain tense and interesting at West Ham throughout the entire summer.
As in previous summers I will continue to write my column as often as possible, provided there are enough news and transfers during the week to warrant an article throughout the hot and sunny months without any football.

Once more it’s been a pleasure writing for you guys and gals again this season and I wanna thank you for putting up with my ramblings and viewpoints. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update:

Hamburg SV lost at Paderborn and St.Pauli shared a goalless draw with Bochum at home to eliminate any remaining morsel of hope for promotion.
Terrible for my hometown to have not a single Bundesliga 1 club from Hamburg two seasons in a row.

Concordia’s first team lost again, 2:5 away to relegation rivals Wedel and they only have other results going their way to thank for having narrowly escaped relegation. Only just. Shocking.

The U23’s haven’t helped their promotion hopes with their latest defeat, it’s still mathematically doable, but not very likely with just two games left.

The Cordi Women’s team could have lost their final league fixture 0:5 – and still have gone up regardless. Which is not the way you want to clinch promotion though, is it ?

So the girls won in style and I was happy to see them go up to the next level. It’s all they deserve really after only losing twice and conceding just nine goals all season.

They play some wonderful attack-minded football and are a great bunch of people too, the players, manager and staff. I got to talk a bit more in depth with a number of them during the promotion festivities and their skipper made a really nice point when she said that the team really acknowledged and valued supporters like me who come and watch their games regularly, time permitting – it would give the entire team a real push to perform and play well.

They genuinely appreciate the fans who support them at the games and all the players do take notice when the fans are there with them – and when they are not.

I know the ladies’ game is not for everyone, but I’ve had the pleasure of watching some bloody nice ball skills, attacking moves, combinations and goals this season, courtesy of the Cordi girls, so it’s a case really of the players and the fans feeding off each other’s effort and passion.
It’s the way it should be really.

Approaching midnight, with everyone leaving, I learned in passing that the Cordi skipper (a lovely young woman by the way and physio by trade) and her fiance live just a little more than an Antonio throw-in away from my flat, so in order to save them the cab fare I dropped them off at their front door, less than 250 meters from mine (luckily enough I had only had one pint of beer the entire afternoon/evening plus buffet food, so I was fine to drive).

That’s why I love my local football just as much as I do West Ham, but in a completely different way, as unlike the stars of the Premier League the local players (and especially the women) are normal folk like you and me, approachable, likeable and they sometimes even live two streets away from your own. I doubt many West Ham fans have recently had the opportunity to offer one of our players a ride home, unless they drive a cab of course…LOL

COYI!!! Enjoy the summer, y’all!

The HamburgHammer Column

Sinner beats Saints - this is the West Ham we want to see more often

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I was late to the party this time and I missed the first goal as a result of it. When I joined the game about 17 minutes after kick-off, according to my online football score site of choice, Arnautovic had given us the 1:0 lead just one minute before I switched on the telly. So, he can still score after all…

You see, it was community work day at our local sports club again and once more I was helping to mend and put up new strawmat fences around the club premises, toiling away for six hours in what was literally like four seasons in one day: We had sunshine, hail, snow, rain and everything in between, but needs must and I was happy enough to do my bit for the community.

And I wasn’t going to disregard any speed limits just so I could get back home in time for kick-off. After all, this was simply our final league game at home for the season.

Relegation was out of the question, so was finishing in 7th place. So while of course we want to finish as high as possible in terms of league position, this one felt like a pre-season game somehow. When I joined the game in progress it looked to me like players were reluctant to tackle like they might have done if relegation had still been a realistic outcome. It all had the air of a friendly kickabout really.

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Once again it has to be said that it was pretty much a complete performance from the entire team, with no real weak links in sight. And that despite Anderson and Rice both missing the game through illness/feeling poorly.

The guys replacing them did their job and apart from one spell in the game we made Southampton look second best in almost every regard. Oh, if only we had seen that level of effort and intent in games against Huddersfield, Burnley or Everton, this season could have gone a lot more smoothly than it has.

For the first time in ages Pellegrini had actually a decent choice of players to pick from for the game. For me, the main ingredient and key to our success next season will be to somehow keep our injury situation in check. If we could just half the number of games missed by our players through injury that alone will go a long way towards giving us more consistency, more swagger, more points on the board.

Arnautovic of course was the main story of the game, nearly scoring a hattrick, after going through a long barren spell, looking once again very much like the Arnautovic of old who used to enjoy his football at West Ham, banging in goals for fun. If we can have back this player more often again I’d be as happy as the next West Ham fan to keep him at the club which might happen now anyway.

I think deep down Arnautovic knows the whole China affair was handled fairly shoddily by himself and his agent brother, he turned from our star man into Mr.Unpopular quicker than it takes to sing Bubbles and it wasn’t a good situation, not for the club, not for the player and certainly not for the fans. But everyone deserves a second chance. Including Mr.Arnautovic, provided he gives his all for the club and his teammates again, focusing on West Ham rather than pondering which club to sign for next.

The club have put a fixed release fee into his new contract apparently, just in case, but I somehow doubt that any club is going to pay that fee in the summer, rumoured to be around the £45 million mark.

And Arnautovic has recently signed a contract extension with better terms now – so at this point it makes a lot of sense for both sides to make this arrangement work.

Surround Arnautovic with decent players that allow him to score his fair share of goals and he should be happy enough to stay and contribute.

He is a very useful player to have at the club, if he is in the mood and right frame of mind, although I don’t see him as our main guy anymore or a player we cannot afford to lose.
I don’t mind him staying though…provided he has learned his lesson.

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Arnautovic was fantastic against the Saints, but he still wasn’t the best player for West Ham on Saturday, that honour goes to Ryan Fredericks. I didn’t see him put a foot wrong against Southampton, he also scored his first PL goal and even though I missed the first 16 minutes of the game, I did read up his match stats later and those were pretty amazing bordering on quite unbelievable. With Zabaleta also staying for another season I reckon RB looks like a fairly settled position for us next season.

Which I am holding high hopes for, maybe against previous experience and sample size at West Ham. I have also decided to renew my season ticket, so I shall give the ticket office a call in the next few weeks. It will make things easier also in terms of getting tickets for a game should my brother join me for one of my trips to London as that will obviously be one box to tick then.

I couldn’t take him to East London without us going to see a West Ham game.
Other boxes to tick will be jellied eels, pie and mash and an afternoon down by the sea.

Talking of my brother, we are still expecting back the results of his medical procedure – he spent five days in hospital after getting his adrenal gland removed. They sent some tissue of his away for further analysis, so we shall soon know if he needs any further treatment or if any health problem has now been fixed by removing the organ in question altogether…fingers crossed…

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I am an optimist in general which strangely enough also applies to my view on West Ham next season. Can we have the same bad luck (or worse) again with injuries ? Surely not.

Will we have the same number of refereeing calls go against us, costing us points or will we see an improvement there thanks to VAR ? We shall see.

Also, don’t forget that most of our players will stay at the club, so they should have some chemistry developing now with players knowing the running and passing patterns of their teammates which should make for better football on a more regular basis next season. Plus, the manager knows the players now and vice versa.

I know our transfer budget will be limited due to our financial constraints, but if players like Yarmolenko, Sanchez and Wilshere are available to play more often than they have this season (which shouldn’t be that difficult to achieve) we already are a stronger team that way without even signing someone.

If we manage to keep the core, the spine of our team at West Ham (Fabianski, Diop, Balbuena, Anderson, Lanzini and yes, Arnautovic too), then we have a solid foundation to build on.

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We need additions to the squad of course, with a number of players leaving, and we need to replace those players with better quality which will not be cheap. We will find a few South American under-the-radar bargains, yes. But I’m sure Pellegrini also has some transfer targets lined up who will have their market price. As usual, the summer at West Ham will be interesting to say the least. One more game left now for the first team and a great opportunity to finish the season on a high by winning yet another London derby away from home…COYI!!!

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I also have to express my heartfelt congratulations for a very solid and brave performance by the West Ham Women’s team on Saturday in the FA Cup Final at Wembley.
In the end City’s superior quality and fitness levels across the team prevailed, but we gave them an almighty scare and they had to work far harder than they probably expected.

I enjoyed watching that game a lot and funnily enough my matchday watching routine was basically the same as when following our first team: I had my West Ham shirt on, I had my screwdriver wandering from one hand to the other to calm my nerves and whenever West Ham were creating a scoring opportunity I was out of the armchair moving towards the telly, trying to get that ball over the line by sheer willpower. Alas, it was not to be this time – but surely for our women’s team this was merely the beginning of an exciting journey, not the end. All part of the learning curve.

Hopefully on a future trip the fixture calendar will be kind and I can also take in a game of Kate Longhurst and her teammates – as you all know by now I have developed quite a liking for the women’s game in the past two years and I reckon things can only get bigger and better for the ladies’ game in general. Long may it continue!

Hamburg football update:

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Things have not gone well for Hamburg football in recent weeks. Hamburg SV lost 0:3 at home to Ingolstadt in disastrous fashion and they are failing to pick up points just as it matters most as we approach the final games of the campaign. At this rate HSV will struggle to even make 3rd place which would give them a shot at promotion through the playoffs. St.Pauli also lost again and they too only have little hope left to get 3rd place. At one point there was a possibility both Hamburg clubs might get promoted this season, now it looks highly likely both will remain in Bundesliga 2. Shame.

Shame is also the keyword about Concordia’s 1:3 home defeat on Friday evening against Curslack. A lackluster performance, with players shouting abuse at their teammates and fans getting utterly frustrated and disillusioned with it all, same as the manager, all of whom shared one thought during and after the game: That nobody really wanted to be there.

A complete waste of time, money and oxygen. If there weren’t three other REALLY crap teams in the same division this season, surely Concordia would have deserved relegation this season, that’s how bad the football has been all season long.

At least the U23s won, keeping alive their slim mathematical hopes of promotion. The women’s team could rest this weekend in preparation for their final game next Sunday away at third placed Rahlstedt, a game which under normal circumstances should confirm Concordia’s second promotion in a row. If they avoid defeat they are up.
And even if they lose they can still get promoted if their rivals don’t win their remaining fixture at a canter. So, at Concordia, same as with West Ham, somehow the women have put their male counterparts in the shade with their achievements this season…

The HamburgHammer Column

A housewarming for the ages - but the homeowner didn't enjoy it

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YEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!! Indeed, it’s happened again! We were all having another party on Saturday when Tottenham f***ed it up.
Are we becoming a bit of a bogey side for Spurs ?

No matter what you may think about our season as a whole, winning away at Spurs always adds a bit of spice to proceedings.

But this one was even a little bit more special. We scored the first goal that Spurs ever conceded in the young history of their shiny new stadium. Coupled with the fact we managed to keep a clean sheet as well we also presented Tottenham with their first ever defeat in that shiny new stadium.

I’m sure t-shirts spelling out that fact will be available in the West Ham club shop fairly soon. And coffee mugs. And framed pictures of Antonio’s weird but wonderful goal celebration.

That was some house-warming party over there in North London, but not one the homeowners/hosts will have been too happy about. Traditionally, in the olden days before central heating, guests for housewarmings used to flock to a dwelling that had just been built or moved into by a family and bring with them some firewood as a gift and thus help making a fire in every available fire place within that house to get it all nice, warm and comfy in there, hence the term housewarming.

In plenty of European countries, including my own, guests also brought as gifts bread and salt, representing good fortune for the lodgers or homeowners and also the hope they’d always have food on their table in their new home.

Well, there was certainly salt involved in our derby win, in the form of tears for the home supporters. Yes, Spurs had a few injured players, but so did we. Did they maybe hold back in their performance, with one eye already on their CL game tomorrow ? Maybe.

But as an opposition team you can only put a shift in when the first whistle goes, work your socks off and hope for the best in order to beat what’s in front of you.

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And that’s just what West Ham did. I cannot single out just one player for West Ham here as it was pretty much a complete performance from everyone. Diop got MotM and indeed he had a glorious game. Personally I was incredibly impressed with Noble, Fredericks, Balbuena, Antonio and the second-half version of Arnautovic.

It was always going to take a complete performance like this, a big team mentality and effort galore in order to even earn a point away at Tottenham, nevermind all three! But make no mistake, this wasn’t simply a case of Spurs having a bad day at the office, and if it was, then the main reason for it was our players being in the same office with them at the same time, being a constant nuisance, dropping all their paperclips on the floor, hiding their staplers, breaking their photocopier and shutting down their phone lines and computers.

To let you into a slightly spooky secret: Aside from the notorious matchday screwdriver, there is another routine of mine when we play. I have an old West Ham poster calendar gracing my living-room wall (I won’t throw it away as long as some players pictured in there still play for us), it’s so old it has pictures of Zaza, Ayew, Payet and James Collins in it. Before every game I change the calendar to show a picture of a player who is in the starting line-up for us and who is also in a good run of form. Or who I have high hopes for doing something special for us on the pitch in the upcoming game.

In recent weeks it always was Ogbonna, but he didn’t start against Spurs, so guess who I happened to choose to replace him on my wall for the derby on Saturday ?

Yep. No other than Antonio, the first player scoring an away goal at the New White Hart Lane (or whatever it’s called now). But don’t ask me now about the lottery numbers for next week. Or horses, I know sweet FA about those! :-))

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I’m sure you’ll all agree that we’d love to see the same kind of effort and determination from our lads in every single game instead of just a few big day occasions like derby games against Spurs.

This was always going to be a transitional season. It’s rare for a new management team to come into a club and hit the ground running. It’d be nice though if we could finish the season on a high note, ending up in the Top 10 of the table as this would also improve our chances to keep players at West Ham and also convince prospective targets to join us in the summer.

No doubt there will be a significant number of players leaving and joining the club, but as long as we end up with a better team overall at the start of next season compared to the end of this season, I won’t be complaining. As for the win against Spurs I have to praise the entire team and Pellegrini as well, he got the tactics spot on and it’s no mean feat to keep a clean sheet against Spurs at their place, regardless of Kane playing or not.

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On a quick personal note, plse keep your fingers crossed for my brother later today, around noon. He’ll be under the knife at his local hospital (again) as they found something on his adrenal gland during a recent scan that doesn’t belong there.

They are not sure what it is and after his recent bout against cancer they are not prepared to take any chances. They will cut out whatever it may be and then they will know (or find out quickly) what it actually is. Indications are that it is not related to his previous cancer. It’s also unlikely it is a new form of cancer as they didn’t spot any blood vessels on the scans and cancer cells apparently tend to have blood vessels around that area. So hopefully it’ll be something benign or just some internal bruising due to him falling on the stairs at his house recently, hitting the floor hard.

So forgive me if our win against Spurs hasn’t put me in a complete state of unfettered joy and happiness…

Plse also keep in mind that our U23s are playing tonight. They have to beat table toppers Everton if they want to have any chance of staying up (and sending Spurs U23s down in the process). A double over Spurs within a matter of days ? Sounds pretty great to my ears…COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update:

St.Pauli came from behind to beat Regensburg at home, the win keeping alive their mathematical chances to get 3rd place which would give them a two-leg playoff promotion final against the 16th placed team from Bundesliga 1.
Hamburg SV are officially in crisis mode, losing 0:2 at Union Berlin.
For the first time in ages they now find themselves in unfamiliar territory, just outside the promotion places. This will go to the wire.

Concordia’s first team, meanwhile, already seem to be on a beach in Spain or Thailand already, losing 0:4 at Barmbek on Friday evening. It has been a shocker of a season for them and they can only be grateful there are some really crap teams in the same division this season. That alone will save them from relegation this year.
The U23s won in a fierce and dramatic contest, 2:1 away at Wentorf (three red cards in total, most of them for verbal dissent) to keep their slim promotion hopes alive.

The Cordi Women’s team virtually secured their promotion with a 26:0 defeat against nine (!!!) very brave opponents from Bramfeld. Instead of not even showing up, the away side tried their best, but as a team, quality-wise, they never stood a chance against Concordia, even if it had been 11 against 11.
Cordi needed to score plenty to make up an inferior goal difference to keep their promotion rivals at bay. With one game to go they are three points ahead, and also have superior goal difference now (by 9 goals), so promotion is almost in the bag. Nearly there…

The HamburgHammer Column

VAR, huh, yeah! What is it good for ? A few more points for the Hammers probably!

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Happy Easter everyone! This will be a slightly different column than usual because it’s the Easter weekend and I suppose we all have friends and family to meet, trips to the countryside scheduled or maybe a nice lunch or dinner with mates with the odd bevvy thrown in for good measure.

Plus, after the Leicester game, I do actually begin to run out of explanations or clever words, none that haven’t been said a thousand times before anyway…I will not talk about the entire game, but rather one of the key moments affecting the outcome.

We’ve seen all this before of course, beautiful new claret carpet or not. A combination of inadequate West Ham defending and some mind-boggingly bad calls by the refereeing crew gave us a 2:2 draw against the Foxes that felt very much like a defeat.

Had Perez’s second goal, scored from a definite onside position, been allowed to stand as it should have as per the rules of the game, we would have raced into a 3:1 lead with only a few minutes to spare and I doubt even Leicester would have come back from that scoreline within a matter of minutes…

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I know the offside rule is quite difficult to get right for the human eye to begin with. With some passes you have to watch the ball being struck, say, fourty or fifty yards to your left AND at the very same moment compare the position of two or more players you are either in line with (if you are a decent linesman) or who are further upfield from you.

In any case the human eye is not constructed in such a way to confidently make that call. I suppose evolution didn’t consider this a vital skill to have for humans in order to survive. Football and offside positions may be important to us now, they weren’t for our ancestors leaving their caves to hunt for deer or sabre-toothed cats.

That’s why it is so handy to have all them cameras inside the big league stadiums nowadays.
They represent useful technology, capable of things that humans can only dream of.

They allow you to freeze the pictures at the exact time of the ball or cross leaving the foot, you can follow computer drawn lines (or the cut of the grass sometimes) to determine if the striker was level or already in front of the defender at that exact moment.

In Perez’s case it was not even a close call. That situation will be called onside in probably 95% of games, for whatever reason in this particular game West Ham (once again) were on the receiving end of a result-changing dodgy call.

Don’t get me wrong, I know West Ham are to blame for not scoring more goals when we were all over Leicester earlier in the game, we also hit the post and could have made sure that no wayward decision of the referee would take victory away from us, we failed to do that, so the blame cannot be put solely at the referee’s/linesman’s door.

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VAR will make sure that the most blatant calls will be overturned – and rightly so. It shouldn’t take too long to do, especially if the decision is reasonably clear as in Perez’s case (or the Liverpool/Milner offside goal against us that was allowed to stand). Will it give us less controversial incidents to discuss after the game, on a blog or in the pub ?
Probably, but I will gladly take that sacrifice in exchange for more correct calls happening in football games that determine the fates of players, managers, staff and fans everywhere. So contrary to the lyrics of the famous “War“ song by Edwin Starr (or Bruce Springsteen if you prefer his version), for me the next line after the question what it is good for my reply in terms of VAR will certainly not be “Absolutely nothing!”.

On the contrary, VAR will change the game for the better like in many other sports where VAR works really well. I suppose in not a single sport was VAR introduced as just a nice-to-have gimmick

It costs money, it takes a certain amount of time, it can be complicated, it changes the flow of a game. But other sports would not have introduced VAR as a crucial part to their game if they hadn’t seen a necessity to do that. The same very much applies to football.

Too much is depending on referee calls in football today to just brush blatantly wrong calls aside as “part of the game”. If things are wrong, you put them right.

A while ago the back pass rule was changed, so goalkeepers could no longer pick up back passes from their defenders time and time again, slowing the game down, making it very tedious to watch sometimes – I recently watched a game from the Seventies on DVD and it was back passes galore and it made me wonder why it took them so long to change that rule.

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Or take goal-line technology. A brilliant improvement for the game and one that’s been so successful that I’m asking myself why it wasn’t invented ten years earlier.

I for one will be looking forward a lot to VAR coming to the PL next season. As a West Ham fan I know we will keep losing games. We always have and as a club we find ever more elaborated ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. That is fine and I got plenty of practise of getting used to it, it’s annoying but in most cases, by now, water off a duck’s back. But losing a game because a linesman didn’t pay attention or missed his appointment wit Specsavers ? Or due to a referee trying to prove a point, basking in his own sense of importance, trying to give an edge to the big side on the pitch as surely they deserve to get the win more than one of those unglamourous and skint sides who are just there to make up the numbers ?

VAR will not completely get rid of big team bias. But the referees will have to think a lot harder (and be clever about it) if they still want to give the big sides the edge.
I can live with the remaining games of the season being played without VAR in operation. We have missed the motorway exit for 7th place now for sure, so let’s just beat Spurs (a first win at that stadium as the away team surely is a massive incentive in itself) and get this bloody season over with! Once VAR is up and running, we can easily find other stuff to get riled up about…VAR will not keep fans from getting the hump…COYI!!!

Hamburg football update:

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Fairly unsuccessful weekend for the big clubs. HSV could only draw against relegation candidates Aue while St.Pauli got a tonking at Heidenheim (losing 0:3).
HSV are still in 2nd place but they will feel clubs like Union Berlin or Paderborn breathing down their necks for promotion while St.Pauli have actually played themselves out of contention at this point.

As for Concordia the women’s team didn’t play, the first team will play away to Buchholz this afternoon, 30 miles to the south of Hamburg, against the club famous for being the only club in this league to serve horsemeat sausages at their games, well, it’s an area famous for breeding horses, so I suppose it’s no surprise it’s a local delicacy there.
If I go to the game, I will give the sausage a miss though – those recent fatalities around various racecourses around Britain made me have a rethink.

The big news for the Cordi U23s was their extra time cup win on Good Friday to give them a place in the local Holsten Cup Final. The price at stake is mostly symbolic, it’ll be about 250 quid or so for the club coffers, a few crates of free beer, courtesy of the sponsor and a shiny little trophy for the cabinet. For the boys though it’s obviously a big thing, especially as their opposition will be a side from a league above them. And it will be nice for them to play in front of a crowd of 500 for a change – and not 50 as for regular league games…

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