The HamburgHammer Column

Chinese takeaway or eating humble pie ?

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I wish I could have written my column without the need to mention Marko Arnautovic ever again. But of course the Austrian winger turned striker is very much the elephant in the room here and to a degree he affected our game at Bournemouth without even travelling with the team.
That game has been discussed at length on previous threads, it was one of those days, reaffirming certain things about West Ham which unfortunately are still true.

We can go from a sublime performance against a big club to an indifferent or even woeful one in the space of a few days. We can face a team that’s been conceding goals for fun in a recent run of games, yet they come away with a clean sheet after playing us.

Oh yes, Bournemouth also very much appear to be our official bogey team now. I don’t think they were brilliant on the day, but they did the essentials right, mainly scoring when the opportunities were there, which in contrast we didn’t, so you can’t even begrudge them the three points.

It was clear we weren’t quite the same team without Arnautovic. Now, we have obviously had some good results recently when Arnautovic wasn’t available and of course we could also have won this one, with or without the Austrian, but we were struggling all game to adjust with Carroll starting.

And that’s not even taking into account whether the Arnautovic rumours and actions were maybe subconsciously affecting our players on the day.
It certainly doesn’t help team spirit if one of your top players announces publicly on the radio by way of his agent brother that he wants out and paying the town red somewhere in China. Apart from spelling toys being potentially thrown out of prams it definitely throws a massive spanner in the works for our club and the gaffer.

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The game itself was not exactly an advert for the Premier League though. A boring first half, followed by some incredible misses in front of goal on both sides, definitely not a game I would have hurried home for to watch in its entirety if I had known in advance what kind of game it would be.

I had been out to watch some local indoor football featuring the Concordia Women’s team, but again the event was clashing with the West Ham game, so I left early to watch our 0:2 defeat. Which I didn’t expect at all, to be honest.

I mentioned before how I try to retrieve information from every defeat, rather than moping and moaning. Making it part of a learning curve.

Losing games isn’t enjoyable, but Pellegrini will have won a few important insights with this game I reckon. For instance a pointer as to whether it’s a good idea to start Andy Carroll in PL games.

But even more importantly we will get to see how our gaffer will deal with a very unhealthy situation developing at our club in the coming days and weeks.

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Let me say in advance that I am well aware that I don’t know the full details of how things stand, I have to read news and rumours, take it all with a pinch of salt, trying to get a picture of how things might stand in terms of the Arnautovic situation.

What we know is that he wants to leave the club in order to get more money elsewhere. His agent made that fact public which in itself would put the selling club at a massive disadavantage, so that’s bad darts by the player to begin with.

West Ham have a valuation of the player, and rightly so, taking into account Arnautovic’s performances for us, his role in the team and of course the need to replace him adequately if he goes. Now, no matter if there is one club in China interested, two or three, at this point none of said clubs seem to have offered an amount anywhere near our valuation which leads to the unfortunate scenario of having a player who doesn’t want to be here and clubs that want him not willing to pay the kind of money needed to prise him away.

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It is the Payet conundrum all over the again. Now, Payet probably didn’t leave West Ham over money, there were different reasons involved, but the player wanted out and the club he had set his heart on signing for (again) didn’t want to pay anywhere his market value or an amount remotely required to replace the player.

So, what do you do ? The football romantic in me would cry out for seeing some power shifting away from the player to the club. Don’t cave in and sell low. Keep him at the club, if need be, but keep him away from the dressing room. Teach him a lesson about humility.Show him that no player is bigger than the club!
Yep, that felt good! Until you consider that you’re driving down the price for that player that way. It’s not gonna do the player any favours, but it also doesn’t really help your club. It costs money, the player is not going to contribute on the pitch, but on the other hand, maybe, you can prove a point which could help in future when dealing with potential transfers of your best players.

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We were bitten once with Payet. If we get bitten for the second time now with Arnautovic, what is going to keep us from seeing this happening again and again: With Anderson, with Diop, with Rice. The next week will be full of developments of the Arnautovic saga, we shall be nearing a solution, one way or the other.
Personally, I don’t see a way back into the team for him. Arnautovic has betrayed the trust of the club, his teammates, the fans.

I heard he apologised to the teammates. Nice one! But it cannot undo the stupidity of allowing his brother to go public with the Chinese whispers. That way he tried to push through a deal under terms to the benefit of himself, his brother and the buying club, but not his current employer West Ham. Again, bad darts that should not be rewarded.

This is a massive test of how far we have come as a club now. Pellegrini appears to share his experiences in football management, his knowledge and his mental prowess with our board. And dealing with star players, with divas and their big egos when it comes to transfer situations like this is a vital part of becoming a bigger and better club.

This is far from over yet. I have seen and heard enough of Arnautovic and his brother to know I want them out of this club. There is a reason why no big club has bothered to sign him up in his career as of yet. That’s because I don’t see him lasting long in an environment where he isn’t the biggest fish in a medium sized pond..
Saying that, he doesn’t seem to last long no matter how big the pond is. He is the textbook example of a modern mercenary footballing maverick who is interested in mainly himself, then himself, then money, then his family, then more money, then himself and maybe also fast cars and the odd flutter on football or the Chinese volleyball league.

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Again, no player is bigger than the club. My trust in Pellegrini is almost limitless at this point and I reckon he will handle this situation in the interest of our club far more than in the interest of the Arnautovic brothers. Rightly so. Wimbledon next in the cup. Perfect opportunity to focus on football again. Score a few goals, gain some confidence and carry on! Who knows ? If I’m in the mood and we reach the next round of the FA Cup, maybe I shall celebrate with a cheeky order of sweet and sour pork from my local Chinese takeaway – before having a flutter on some Chinese volleyball team…COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

The bowl erupts with a spicy handful of Rice, some Cresswell and Nasri Goreng

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That was a West Ham moment for the history books: Declan Rice’s first ever goal in a competitive game for the West Ham first team. It had been a long time coming what with Declan having been a regular starter for a while now – yet when it finally happened all pre-conceived and orchestrated goal celebrations went straight into the Stratford sky – and Declan was suddenly a nine year old kid again who had just kicked a ball between two jumpers in the local park.

Or who had just been told by his parents he’d be getting a new playstation for christmas with a new puppy or kitten thrown in for good measure plus an unlimited supply of Yorkie bars for a year – it was an explosion of pure, unadulterated joy!

Young Declan didn’t know where to turn, what to do, if he should keep running, sliding down, humping the corner flag, jumping into the crowd, whatever! It was utterly infectious and you could see his smile reflected in the beaming faces of his teammates and afterwards even the pundits in the studio couldn’t knock the smiles off their boats!

If you had asked any Hammer to come up with a script for this game, picking our goalscorer in a rare 1:0 home win over Arsenal, I reckon 99% would have gone for the Rice option – the goal really was the “Ricing on the cake” of a fantastic team performance – and it turned the bowl of the London Stadium, often rightfully mocked as soulless, into the kind of cauldron we all know it can be on any special occasion or performance.

The place won’t be rocking like this when we draw 2:2 with Brighton or lose to Burnley, but it can be loud and proud for games like this one!

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Rice’s clean strike was such a glorious sight to witness and even from my armchair in Hamburg I felt the energy on the pitch and in that stadium at that very moment – it was Riceless really, pardon the pun.

For a brief moment football was good again. A young chap who had come through the Chelsea ranks (for a while) first and the West Ham ranks next just so he could develop into a very fine PL player just shy of 20 years old had finally scored his first PL goal. Not just a tap in, but a beautiful shot into the top corner.

And at that point, I’m convinced, he didn’t think about contracts, wages, bonus payments or transfers – he was just totally enjoying the moment, celebrating with his teammates on the pitch and his thousands of supporter mates in the stadium.

It was a strong performance from the entire West Ham team, a slightly less than impressive game from Arnautovic in my view, but more of that further down.

Cresswell was the left back of old, the kind of player capable of winning HOTY. Ogbonna became a worthy CB partner for the ever reliable Diop in Balbuena’s absence. Zabaleta was the experienced warrior of a hundred battles he usually is for us.

Rice not only scored, but made numerous vital interceptions including a well-timed, goal-saving effort in his own box.
Noble was everywhere and I truly believe we couldn’t have won this game without him.

Nasri showed us that there is no reason why we shouldn’t get to see the best of him in a West Ham shirt very soon – he already chipped in with great reading of the game and several key passes, linking defence and attack – and he isn’t even 100% match fit yet.
Anderson did it all, attacking, tracking back, winning back the ball – or casually re-arranging his gloves while accepting a pass before going past two opponents. It was a joy to behold.

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As for Arnautovic, let me have my say and then I’ll be done with him. He has always been a special character, I mentioned that when we signed him. As a youth footballer, later at Bremen and Stoke, he never was what you would call a textbook professional footballer or teamplayer.

A gifted technician and bulky bulldozer all rolled into one, yes, but also with a massive ego, a touch of a diva about him. Forever moody, totally disinterested in one game, then totally running the show and bringing home the win for his colours for the next one.

You take the good with the bad of course. As long as he wants to be at your club and wants to perform that is. For whatever reason he and his agent brother have now decided that the grass is apparently greener in China and he wants to leave in order to cash in quadruple wages and win trophies.
Very much in that order.

Look, I cannot blame anyone for following the money. It doesn’t even matter if he needs the money for reasons that better remain private or if he simply wants it to safeguard the future of his family for the next 260 years or just improve his personal wealth a bit quicker.

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I am a firm believer though in also doing things the right way. Which also applies to the way you leave a club. Timing, attitude, respect.

No player is bigger than the club, so if he no longer wants to be at West Ham, let him go, but it has to be on West Ham’s terms. The January window is not the best time to lose an important player who still has years to run on his current contract, so if a buying club is really keen to sign their target in January they need to come up with a fee that represents both the current market value of that player plus a January window extra amount on top.

No matter how much his agent/brother tries to argue their case, Arnautovic at this point is worth far more than £35 million, he is one of the top goalscorers in the most-watched league in the world, so as such I would set the baseline at between 50-60 million – and even that is moderate in the current footballing climate.

I wish him all the best of course, but when leaving our club prematurely, surely he cannot be allowed to do a Payet, picking one suitor (and one suitor only), basically dictating terms of any deal, the transfer fee and time of sale.

If the price meets our evaluation, then get rid quickly. At this point Arnautovic hasn’t started to throw his toys out of the pram, yet! But believe me, once he starts doing that you won’t believe how many toys he has in that pram and how far he can hurl them! You don’t want to see that. His performance on Saturday was very average by his standards I reckon.

It’s hard to tell of course if it was just one of those days where he isn’t that interested in general (he does have those) or if he had China on his mind already.

In any case I didn’t see the kind of effort, drive and willingness to run and chase as in any of his better games for us in the past.

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This was such a weird game though. We were playing Arsenal. I already mentioned that wins against them are rare. Usually they pound our goal relentlessly.

Usually we can only stop their attacking prowess by way of illegal means, resulting in a booking or five for us. Still, they usually manage to score two, three, four goals against us anyway.

I remember us beating Arsenal 1:0 at the Emirates in 2007 at the Emirates (Att. 60.098) in another classic encounter. It was a very different game of course, Zamora scored, but Green had to make what felt like 279 saves in order to maintain that clean sheet, it was wave after wave of attack from the Gooners. How we got the win that day I will never fully comprehend.

Not this time though at London Stadium (Att. 59.946). Yes, there were a few tricky moments and Arsenal are still a good side that can move box to box with the ball in no time to launch a shot at goal.

But this time our defenders were always ready with a sliding tackle or a crucial foot blocking any attempt at goal. And we had Fabianski who graced our box with a commanding presence I am still not quite used to, we are still talking about West Ham goalkeepers here.

Overall this was as comfortable a performance as it can be against Arsenal.
I have to admit, when I was working that screwdriver in my hands during the latter stages of the game, I still kept thinking, despite all the calmness, this is still West Ham, we will concede the equaliser in injury time, just our luck!
An Arsenal player will have a late desperation shot going wide, it will hit a sliding Ogbonna on his bum and trickle in, hugging the inside of the post in the process (with no defender standing on guard there, obviously!).

Not this time!

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We really played with a lot of confidence, with a bit of swagger, showing some big club mentality on that even bigger pitch. And all of that is down to Manuel Pellegrini, the old Chilean fox who has seen and heard it all in his long career, I’m sure. He’s probably got all them t-shirts neatly folded up in his cupboard to prove it.

Nothing seems to be capable of flustering or distracting him.
Not losing the first four games of the season on the trot. Not having ten vital players out with injury. Not having his topscorer angling for an untimely January transfer.

With Pellegrini this club is in good and very capable hands. Thank you Mr.Gold and Mr.Sullivan for bringing this man to West Ham and supporting him with decent funds in his first transfer window.

Very well done! Just one request: Don’t mess this up and revert to type anytime soon. Keep up the support of this very competent football man and you shall reap the rewards.

Pellegrini is just in the early stages of building this team, fulfilling his vision of playing good football at West Ham, football that’s pleasing on the eye and makes for good reading in the PL table.
I have complete trust in him to manage our squad and complete trust when it comes to letting players go and replacing them with better options.

Long may it continue! COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Winter break is still on, but Concordia have stepped up their training regime, winning their first outdoor friendly by a 4:0 scoreline.
I didin’t see the game though as there was an inconvenient overlap with the West Ham game against Arsenal – and I didn’t want to miss Rice’s first goal while attending a rather meaningless training game…;-))

Click here to view the leaderboard

The HamburgHammer Column

2 goals, 1 Cup - and (still) plenty of injured players

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So, the new year has arrived…and West Ham haven’t slipped over the first banana skin lurking on the pavement towards Wembley aka the third round of the FA Cup.
I remember us going out against minnows too often on those occasions, Wrexham springs to mind, way back when I was still living in Barking. Or Allardyce feeding the kids to the wolves of Nottingham Forest to the tune of a 0:5 defeat.

For that reason I shall always be grateful for a cup game win for West Ham. Thrashings of lesser sides do still happen of course in the competition, but they are rare and it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things if we go into the next round after beating Brum by 2:0 or 5:1. It’s more vital that certain players got a well deserved rest while others got some much needed gametime to improve match fitness. Nasri got more than an hour and looked very promising and Carroll lasted for much longer than the 30 minutes Pellegrini had claimed he was capable of delivering.

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Some people said it was a boring game. I can’t agree. I thought Brum were very brave out there, pushing us hard all the way. Yes, we wasted opportunities galore again, but we had a lot of the ball and bear in mind this was a very unusual line up for us which needed some bedding in. And of course things didn’t get any easier when Arnautovic came off as a precautionary measure, giving Carroll a chance to show us what he can do.

He didn’t really show us anything we didn’t know already. We had the collective deja vu feeling of “here we go again” when he quickly went down like a lead balloon after what seemed like a pretty standard challenge, clutching his shoulder. As a West Ham fan you immediately think: “Is it gonna be just a minor injury (two weeks), a regular one (2-3 months) or a serious impact injury (rest of the season and way beyond) ?”

Then there was a long spell when the game pretty much passed Carroll by.
He was not quick enough, he couldn’t hold up the ball well and he missed an absolute sitter, put to him on a plate beautifully by Anderson. That’s one side of Carroll. And then he gave us his trademark leaping salmon routine. Showing us his other side. Powerful header, well placed, no doubt about it, unplayable, 2:0, game, set and match, next round, here we come!

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I have mentioned before that I reckon Carroll’s time at West Ham is coming to a natural end, with his contract expiring and the Geordie not really fitting the profile of a Pellegrini-style forward. Let’s take every contribution of his as a bonus, as a little bit of reward for all the times he was out injured for us over the years while still drawing the kind of wages you’d associate with a player who is pretty much leading the charts in all major performance categories for his team.

Which leads me back nicely to my pet topic as far as our great club is concerned – and that of course is the burden of the badger. The ridiculously long list of injured players.

I honestly don’t remember the last time a West Ham manager could pick his strongest team because there were either no injured players at all or those that were injured were only second-stringers or bench warmers anyway.

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None of us has a Scooby how good a West Ham team could be that has Diop, Balbuena, Rice, Lanzini, Wilshere, Yarmolenko, Anderson, Arnautovic and/or Hernandez together on the pitch at the same time.
I for one cannot wait to find out.

There seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel (and hopefully it’s not just the lights of another train approaching) insofar as Fredericks, Hernandez and Balbuena have all been rumoured to be nearing a return to training this week.

Of course this doesn’t necessarily mean those players will start games again straight away. But at least chances are they will be part of the upcoming matchday squads which should give us a strong bench. And that is what we need if we have to turn games around again which may be quite useful as we have been the kind of team recently to concede a goal or two first before starting to play some football with interest and intent.

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For me the persisting injury issue at our club is something that needs to be addressed by Pellegrini, at least a process needs to be started where everything at the club needs to be geared towards minimising the risk of players getting injured and improving the chances of getting players back to fitness as quickly and as effectively as possible.

I am under no illusions here, injuries are part of football, always have, always will. Some unfortunate knocks and challenges you can do little or nothing about.

But you can try to create a training environment that is state-of-the-art, not just for the sake of having a nice looking facility to present to new players but also to provide the best training and medical support you can get for a team expected to perform in the Premier League. It also requires the scouting network to monitor players thoroughly with regard to their injury history before signing them, evaluating whether a deal is worth a gamble or not.

In the short term this will cost a bit of money (as shown by plenty of clubs in England and beyond), but clubs are still building those modern training complexes and I suppose they have a good reason for it. Also in a economical sense. If you can keep your players healthy and fit, you don’t need to buy or loan replacements…money saved!
You can field your best side more often which should translate into better understanding on the pitch, better performances, more wins, better league position…more money in the bank from TV deals, merchandise sales etc.

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I think it’s something we shouldn’t even have to discuss, talking about a PL club willing to improve and go places. If you are a PL club at a certain point you need to not only keep talking about being one but acting like one too, looking like one, training like one, presenting yourself like one.
With Pellegrini in my book we have a very good, highly experienced and skilled football managaer, with a good pedigree and the knowledge of how it’s done.

I am confident he can at the very least start a process where we can begin to get the injury shenanigans under control to reach a normal degree, in comparison to other clubs. Having the highest number of injured players in the league for one season can be bad luck. If it happens several seasons in a row that excuse alone won’t wash any longer.

Arsenal coming up next weekend, a game I’m looking forward to a lot. Because most would expect Arsenal to win. We always seem to fancy those occasions and for some reason the players seem to be more up for those big local derbies. It’s a game I would expect to be high on intensity, high on incident and high on drama. Let’s hope we see a strong starting XI, a strong bench and a rocking London Stadium! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update
Concordia have started the new year in style, winning the traditional Wandsbek Cup (indoor football tournament with ten teams from East Hamburg) for the fourth time in a row, beating the same opponent in the final for the third year in a row. I had my brother and my nephew with me and it was good fun overall. Things got a bit heated betweens certain sets of fans though and my little nephew nearly got into a shouting match with some rival fans who were saying nasty things about Concordia.
He was close to dishing out some colourful language and x-rated expletives back to them – I wonder where he got those from – but his dad and uncle told him to rise above it and focus on the fact that Concordia won their first (and most probably only) trophy of the season.
The Concordia teams are kicking off with their regular training schedules this week.
HSV and St.Pauli are still in the winter break.

The HamburgHammer Column

Too cocky for the clarets ? Hammers end 2018 with a whimper

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That was not what I had expected. And please don’t blame my brother either. He had agreed to watch the game with me (he supports the Hammers too now, due to my supporting them) and pretty much everything was pointing towards a West Ham win, stats, previous performances, run of form, even our starting XI on paper looked a handful for a team like Burnley. But this game has come as a timely reminder to NEVER get too cocky when it comes to football in general, especially when West Ham are concerned.

I won’t go too much into analysing the game, that can be dealt with fairly quickly. From the first whistle we were never at the races. There was no sense of urgency, no fight, no guts, no desire and precious little effort on our part.
Our players looked sluggish and were second to almost every ball.

Burnley, on the other hand, couldn’t believe their luck. They could pass at will, had almost the entire midfield to themselves and despite wasting numerous opportunities (some of which were saved really well by Fabianski, in my view the West Ham player who left the pitch with the most credit by far on the day) Burnley still managed to score twice. That’s a team, by the way, that had only won once in their previous twelve attempts.

Once again, as so often in our history, West Ham had managed to make a very average outfit, to put it mildly, look like Liverpool or Barcelona on one of their better days.

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I thought we had reached a stage by now where we don’t act as convenient confidence boosters for struggling sides anymore, but that’s exactly what we did. I wasn’t overly concerned when we conceded first, after all we had shown in previous games how to turn around scorelines quickly, what with the quality and pace we have in our side now.

But still there was not much of a fight. No collective rolling up of sleeves and making things difficult for Burnley. I cannot for the life of me understand how Burnley managed to keep a clean sheet against us.

Maybe it’s because we decided to head our very few goalscoring chances straight towards their keeper. I don’t think putting Heaton in goal instead of Hart made too much of a difference on the day.

We simply didn’t offer enough, at both ends of the pitch and Burnley might have kept that clean sheet even if they had played their U16 goalkeeper.
It was that bad a game from us. Burnley didn’t play like a relegation candidate, we did.

My brother and I had talked a lot early on in the game, then we began complaining and cursing, we were soon shouting and gesturing wildly at the screen, we wanted West Ham to fight back and put Burnley under pressure.

Towards the end of the game we were merely shaking our heads. I couldn’t believe our display of non-performance and my brother couldn’t either, especially after seeing the highlights of the Southampton game earlier.

It was a bad day at the office, but what’s more important: It was a big opportunity wasted and Pellegrini needs to find out why the entire team capitulated the way they did. Were they just tired and exhausted due to far too many injuries among our squad ? Did they underestimate the opposition and task at hand right from the first whistle ?

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I just hope we can use this game as part of our learning curve, making sure we approach every single game against every opposition team with the same level of desire, effort and application. If we can do that, this shambolic performance will at least serve a purpose for us for the rest of the season.
We cannot approach games against Brighton or Birmingham with the same lackluster and careless attitude.

But let’s put the Burnley game in perspective. We are still in a good position to climb the table as we enter 2019. Hopefully, with some players finally returning from injury, we can continue to grow and improve as a team.

And Pellegrini in my book is the perfect manager to make sure we do just that. I reckon he was in a foul mood after the Burnley game, he will let the players know in no uncertain terms what he thought of that performance and will push them hard in the upcoming training sessions to make amends.

We are not yet the kind of team unfortunately that will ALWAYS beat the so-called lesser teams, we simply aren’t quite there yet. But the journey will be an exciting one for sure!

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So when I usher in the new year later with a glass of bubbly and a jam filled Berliner (traditional German donut traditionally eaten after midnight at New Year) I will not dwell on the Burnley defeat anymore but focus instead on the wonderful news that Declan Rice has committed at least his near future to West Ham, surely one of the best news for the club since we brought Pellegrini to the club in the summer.
It promises to be another highly interesting year for West Ham fans worldwide – COYI!!!

I’d like to wish every single WHTID reader, author and contributor a very Happy New Year! May 2019 bring you health, joy and good fortune in abundance! It’s been a pleasure writing for you all! Looking forward to talking West Ham with you in 2019. Bring it on!

The HamburgHammer Column

Nightmare on Elk Street - Watford try to spoil Christmas for Hammers

Allow me first of all to wish everyone at WHTID, readers, lurkers, posters, contributors and authors alike a Merry Christmas and some days filled with peace and joy surrounded by friends and family members. May Santa treat you all kindly this year!

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As the big day in German Christmas festivities is indeed December 24th (which is today) it means that by the time you’re reading this I may already be on my way to my brother’s house to assist with some final preparations before we will all go to the afternoon church service, to be followed by the moderate exchange of some presents and what promises to be the traditional feast of goose, red cabbage and potatoes/dumplings with gravy, with baked apples and custard for afters.

Christmas of course could have started early with a fifth win in a row against Watford, but it wasn’t to be. This time it was us wasting numerous goalscoring opportunities, hitting the woodwork (which is actually plastic these days, innit ?), the grass or thin air, everything but the back of the net while Watford ended up being the more clinical side on the day, greedily taking all points with them from Stratford to their neck of the woods.

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Maybe it’s because I’m looking forward to Christmas a lot, but I won’t be allowing myself to get overly frustrated about this defeat. Yes, I was on the edge of my armchair for almost the entire game, my screwdriver was going into overdrive as time was ticking away and we still couldn’t put one over the line. It was a highly entertaining game, intense, end to end stuff, terrific pace – a great advert for the Premier League. But West Ham lost, not just one of our best defenders to injury but also the game as a whole.

You won’t find me jumping for joy obviously, but I will gladly put this game into perspective. Watford are indeed a much better side than I was prepared to give them credit for before kick off. I will never join the Hamburg branch of the Troy Deeney fanclub, neither in this life nor the next, but they worked incredibly hard for this and as a football fan I simply have to doff my cap to them. Overall I felt we deserved a point, but then again they scored and we didn’t, so one cannot exactly insist upon Watford not deserving the three points.

Before the game I didn’t know too much about Watford, other than there is the Elton John link of course – even people with only a passing interest in football know that!
But I wasn’t aware that Watford had so many nicknames: The Hornets, The Golden Boys, The ‘Orns and probably a few more. They also have an elk’s head on their crest. Or is it a moose or deer ?

Maybe it’s a local thing – we at West Ham have our (cursed) badgers, they have immigrants of the deer variety from Scandinavia apparently. ..;-))
At least it makes their crest quite original and unique that way…

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The great thing about Christmas, at least in England, is the fact that it is a very busy time football-wise. So rather than dwelling on the Watford defeat, our boys can nibble on their christmas puddings before taking the pitch again and making amends straight away. I am quite optimistic for a variety of reasons.
For once we seem to be a team this season that is quite good at bouncing back. The players will have hated that defeat against Watford, so they will be very much up for the next game, albeit against a born again Southampton side who will be tricky to play against, them having a new spring in their step after the arrival of Mr.Little-Hut-of-Hares.

We should have some of the injured players back for that one, Arnautovic could feature if things go well in training, Perez could be back too. I somehow don’t see us shooting blanks in two consecutive games, so fingers crossed we shall go back to winning ways soon. I have treated myself this Christmas and booked flights for the upcoming game against Newcastle which will still fall into the pre-Brexit period.

But that is still quite a few weeks away, I must dash as I have an appointment with a crispy leg of goose with dumplings and red cabbage. I hope my next column will be about a great performance and yet another win for the might Hammers again! Enjoy the festive season and thanks for reading! COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: St.Pauli won again, so they are really making a bit of a statement here in terms of promotion to the Bundesliga proper at the end of the season. Long may it continue. Hamburg SV hit a bump in the road, losing away in the northern derby at Holstein Kiel.

The next Concordia highlight will be the traditional local Indoor Tournament with ten teams from East Hamburg competing against each other on January 6th. As a special treat (and also a more useful present as a pair of socks or a voucher for a clothes shop) my brother and my nephew will join me for that event, so it should be another thing to look forward to. Concordia have won the previous two tournaments, so I’m hoping for three in a row.

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