The HamburgHammer Column

Tragedy strikes at Leicester - when football becomes just a footnote

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I have been thinking long and hard if I should actually be penning my column at all this week. It’s been a sad weekend on various levels after all, with innocent people losing their lives or being in a critical health condition. There was a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh (a city I hold very dear after staying there during a tour attending sporting events in the Chicago/Pittsburgh/Toronto area many years ago and I totally fell in love with the Steel City), then the helicopter of the Leicester owner crashed and burned after the game, pundit Glenn Hoddle had to be brought to the emergency ward after collapsing in the TV studio and even here in Germany the Concordia away game featured a highly emotional minute silence and players wearing black armbands after the honorary president of the home side who was a former player, groundskeeper and manager had died after a long illness just a few days earlier.

So a lot of dying, a lot of sadness, worry and grief for friends and family members of victims and patients, dead, wounded or ill.

What then in relation to all this does it matter if a red card was justified, if the manager got his substitutions right or how unlucky we were in not being able to hold onto our lead despite putting up a good fight being one man down ? Of course it doesn’t really matter. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the events described above.

So I have decided on a bit of a compromise. Yes, let’s talk a bit about the game (as not talking about it doesn’t bring back the dead to life unfortunately, does it ?), but I’ll try to keep it short. I’ll be saying a few things about the West Ham game and that’ll be it. Maybe I can bring up the Hamburg football results later in the comments down below.

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I am immensely proud of our team although it is frustrating of course to concede the equaliser that late and in such fashion, taking such an unlucky deflection off the player who gave us so much hope and joy with his debut goal for the club in the first half. Then again I always felt that a one goal lead would not suffice against Leicester, especially after we went down to ten men. And it also didn’t help of course that there was no Arnautovic available for us, going foxhunting in the Leicester penalty box.

Still, I witnessed a team playing as one. I saw all the effort, desire and fight I want to see from the boys. Noble’s sending off did change the course of the game obviously, it was basically one-way traffic from that point onwards. I can understand if some people label that challenge of his an utterly stupid one, costing his club and his teammates in the process.

When you go into a tackle like that, boot high off the ground, studs showing and you also actually catch the ankle of the opposition player, well, that’s a red card all day and all night long. That kind of tackle is reckless, it can cause nasty ankle injuries and can keep players out for months or the rest of the season.
When you tackle like that you simply cannot control anymore if your opponent’s bones will break or ligaments will tear. That’s why it was necessary to send Noble to the showers early and I’m saying this while still wearing my claret and blue glasses. No complaints from me. And I love Noble to bits.

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Noble, or Mr.West Ham to his friends, is a fighter on the pitch, a hard player, but not a nasty one, out to injure his opponents deliberately. It is just one string to his bow, the way he plays. He always goes into tackles hard, always has, always will. More often than not these tackles work for him and for us, sometimes, quite often, it earns our skipper a well deserved booking and there are also challenges of a more reckless nature where a yellow card no longer fits the crime. Like in the Leicester game.

I’m not convinced you can teach Noble in training to change his tried and trusted approach to tackling. It’s a vital part of the way he plays and if you eliminate that part of his game you risk losing the entire powerhorse character of his performances, pushing on his teammates, keeping intensity high for us, linking our defence with our forward(s) and attacking midfielders. Winning balls, holding up play, passing to start a counter attack.

So, Mark’s challenge wasn’t very clever, but at least it gave us a good test of courage and team togetherness. And the boys can come away from this game with heads held up high. Don’t forget, even shorthanded we had the opportunity to score again and win. Rice once again delivered a MotM-worthy performance. Diangana didn’t look out of place as a starter. Zabaleta is not as fast as he used to be, but he still looked younger than his years, having another fine game. I have no doubt we would have won this if either Noble hadn’t been sent off or if Arnautovic had been playing.

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Our injury list is getting longer and now almost fills an entire team sheet. Not good. But nice for the young players who can step up and show MP what they can do.
I’m still worried about Rice’s future at our club, I’m slowly getting acquainted to the concept he may not be at West Ham for much longer. But this is a discussion for another time.

The next game is just around the corner, Spurs are waiting in the Haribo Cup (or whatever it’s called these days) on Wednesday and it’s a good opportunity for West Ham to start putting together some much needed wins.

No fixture fires up more emotion, motivation and expectation than whenever we face our neighbours, the dirty northern barstewards of London. Let’s hope that not only can we regroup after the late equaliser at Leicester, but that we can also finally get the rub of the green for once. I think we deserve a bit of that! COYI!!!

PS: I’m in the process of planning and booking my next visit, likely to be around the Palace game in December. Looking forward already to meeting some of you friendly guys and gals from the blog (again). Remember, Brexit is still a few months away. In other words: Please be kind and treat me well despite being Johnny Foreigner. I hope things are going to be staying pretty much the same between us all after Brexit. After all, we are all still West Ham, regardless of politics, aren’t we ?


The HamburgHammer Column

The return of the badger against the cockerel - we should be on Holby City!

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Please forgive me readers if you happen to find the odd typo or two in this edition of my column – I have been bonkers enough to get up at the ungodly hour of 6am on a Sunday to watch women’s football (more of that further down in the Hamburg section of the article), so I am still knackered as I’m trying to gather my thoughts after our narrow 1:0 defeat against Spurs.

Home games against Spurs are usually the ones I haven’t wanted to miss in recent times and more often than not I’ve seen us dishing out the reverse scoreline at the London Stadium, beating our irritating North London neighbours by one goal to nil (which is the most common scoreline whenever I come over to watch West Ham in person!).

I cannot even put my pinky on the reason why I didn’t make it over for the derby this time around, so if you wanna blame me for the result, go right ahead! I’ve long given up the notion that West Ham are going to win any game just because I happen to be in the stadium in person, I no longer buy into the concept of superstition – it’s bound to bring rotten luck, innit ? ;-))
And so it ultimately turned out on the day, losing Yarmolenko to a nasty injury (ruptured achilles by the looks of it), keeping him out for up to six months – bloomin’ marvellous!

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It looks like that bloody cursed badger is still wielding its otherworldly paws, claws, whatever a badger actually uses to beat up his opponents, by the way, in a fight between badger and cockerel, who is the most likely to win in that particular episode of Animal Fight Club ? Sorry, I am digressing…

To summarise my thoughts about the game: Yes, it wasn’t Spurs’ best line up, but neither was ours (with Lanzini, Wilshere and yes, Andy Carroll still out), but overall we weren’t really second best in the game, were we ?I remember numerous games in the past when Spurs used to wipe the floor with us, not anymore it seems!
I remember two really dangerous goalscoring opportunities from Spurs all game: One led to the goal, the other was kept out with a fantastic double save by Fabianski.
Other than that I felt we had the better scoring chances, Arnautovic fluffing quite a few of them when maybe he could sometimes try and look for a pass to a teammate in a better position rather than trying to score a wonder goal from a tight angle.

The areas where we lost the game I felt were:
a) Offside awareness, or rather lack of it.
b) Being wasteful with our set pieces. A free kick or corner kick should be a distinctive advantage to your team. It’s also an area which can be worked on in training to yield better deliveries into the box more regularly.

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As for the effort I think we tried everything, but it just was (another) one of these days I suppose. But let’s not get too frustrated at this point in time folks!
I would have liked to see us put a few more points in the bank from our games so far, thank you very much! We shouldn’t forget though that we have had to play a ridiculously tough early set of fixtures and we are now approaching a spell with a number of games that should be slightly easier, at least on paper.

I still cannot get my head around our injury luck/curse which has hit us regular like clockwork yet again. I know it happens to other teams as well. Sometimes.
With some players. Occasionally.
With us we start the season with players on the (long term) treatment table, we have a long list of players out throughout the season and I have yet to see us finish a season with a full selection of players to choose from by the manager.

With us the injuries happen left, right and centre, they come thick and fast and they are rarely just knocks that only last a week or two. This season is still young, yet already it is a particularly bad vintage in that regard. Lanzini, Carroll, Reid, Byram, Wilshere, Sanchez and now Yarmolenko – all out at some stage this season for months rather than weeks.
Looking at the U23 level you can also add young Dan Kemp and Nathan Holland to the list who thankfully are both apparently back now from long spells on the sidelines.

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Can anyone remember the last time a West Ham manager could genuinely pick our strongest side for a game ? I can’t. And while I know it’s as futile to bemoan our injury luck as it is trying to teach an asthmatic to play the trombone, I still find this utterly baffling and incredibly frustrating. But the show must go on and the injury situation obviously opens a path for other players to grab their opportunity with both feet: Guys like Grady Diangana, Nathan Holland, Antonio all should feature plenty in the upcoming games and if our lads can develop a “Now more than ever!”-attitude we should be able to get something good out of the shower of rotten luck that’s been raining on us in the early part of the season! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV drew 0:0 at home with Bochum, HSV are now two points from top spot and in 4th place currently. Their local rivals St.Pauli can overtake them if they win their away game later this evening at Duisburg.
Concordia’s first team drew a tough fixture against Barmbek on Friday, 1:1. It was intense, with Cordi losing their best defender within the first five minutes to what looks like a nasty ankle injury after getting caught late in a tackle. Cordi also had a player sent off near the end after a second bookable offence and their keeper secured the draw in the dying minutes when saving a penalty, caused by our new American midfielder who made his debut as a substitute.
Cordi’s U23s won a tight game 2:1 and at least remain an outside candidate for promotion.

I cannot remember the last time I got up at 6am on a Sunday. But I woke at that time for some reason and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided I might just as well drive into town to cheer on the Concordia girls in their early bird away fixture at the unusual kick off time of 9am in what is Hamburg’s hipster area of Sternschanze (think of Soho, but with more kebab shops and tramps). The girls in red and black won at a canter, 9:0 which was both bloody nice to watch and highly unexpected too against that particular opposition.

Why have I begun watching more women’s football in recent weeks ? Because they have this wonderful young lady named Michelle Hille in the team who is a joy to watch.
She is technically very gifted which is no surprise as she’s been kicking a football for ten years now and she has even played for a team as high up as the second level of women’s football in Germany before and as a fan of the game I can just marvel open-mouthed at what she can do with a ball, getting past three or four players at ease with a deft touch, a cheeky dummy, a backheel. Unlike Ronaldo though she can take a tackle or two as opponents have to foul her regularly in order to stop her in her tracks, if they can reach her that is…

She’s playing with a big smile on her face all the time, cracking the odd joke on the pitch a la John Moncur, she is a fantastic team player as well and still she’s not much taller than your average parking meter, about five feet being generous which has earned her the fitting nickname “Mini”.
She’s only 21 years old at this point and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her go places in the game, either in Germany or abroad. It’s so easy to fall out of love with football, especially when following the big leagues these days.

That’s why I love watching the women’s game too now even at the lower league level as the Cordi girls are displaying on the pitch all the fun, determination, spirit of fair play and unswerving joy to partake in the beautiful game that’s been lacking from the professional game all too often I find.


The HamburgHammer Column

Is our record stuck ? Is it really our destiny to see our best young talent blossom elsewhere ?

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Maybe it’s because Concordia lost a nightmare of a game on Friday evening by a 2:4 scoreline in which basically every single goal conceded by the home team was a direct result of a serious blunder by a Cordi defender or goalkeeper. If a weekend starts like this and it’s an international weekend on top of that I tend to find my mind wandering first and wondering second. And more often than not worrying is not far behind.

When there’s no West Ham league game on, you still get the usual rumours about players getting injured or recovering from injury. As for the January transfer window apparently Manuel Pellegrini is already busy compiling his wishlist which appears to include a new striker or two (one name being mentioned in that respect is former Hammer Jermain Defoe who is no longer flavour of the month at his current club and now seems desperate to finish his career back at the club where it all began for him), a defensive midfielder (that old chestnut again) and also a left back with neither Masuaku nor Cresswell representing quite what Pellegrini wants and expects from his full backs.

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My main concern at this point though is Declan Rice. It is an issue that really bothers me the most by far when it comes to West Ham at the moment. I am of course talking about the new contract that still hasn’t been signed yet. I have been raving about young Declan for a while now and in my happy West Ham related dreams (those where I grin from one ear to the other as opposed to waking up in a puddle of cold sweat) he is our future captain, leading out our team for games against international opposition in the Europa League or even Champions League (admittedly those dreams are few and far between and since I don’t smoke pot either they are even rarer than they could be).

So if it was up to me, which of course it ain’t, I’d offer Declan a deal that reflects his actual status as a regular starter in our team for league games in the Premier League.
In my book, that means parity with other starters in our team, regardless of his young years and modest growth of facial hair. Hence a decent basic wage of around 40k appears to be in order here, plus bonus payments in relation to hitting appearance targets, for goals scored, assists provided, clean sheets won etc.

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I read an interesting theory from one of the so-called club insiders on social media that the club feel they have been burned in recent years with generous deals for players like Carroll, Reid or Hernandez.
After seeing those players collecting considerable piles of cash despite being on the treatment table or in the gym a lot more often than on the pitch, our board now seems to favour a different approach for future contract negotiations: A lower basic wage, with significantly higher additional payments in shape of appearance fees, bonuses for goals etc., which means that players who perform well regularly can earn more than they can today while those who rarely play or who are injured a lot would earn significantly less than they currently do.

It sounds like very clever concept of course as it enhances competition for places (with everyone keen on raking in the appearance fee to begin with) and it may also push the players to go for more goals, or keep more clean sheets, as that automatically translates to higher wages.

And of course there is a bit of a security blanket there as well since players in the new contract scenario will only earn half of their regular basic wage if they are out injured, unable to contribute on the pitch. Problem of course is, this concept doesn’t work in isolation, other clubs need to follow a similar strategy, otherwise the players will simply shrug their shoulders and sign for a club that will still offer them the accustomed, tried and tested generous terms.

Us trying to be the forerunners here looks to me like trying to change a flat tire while the car is still moving in third gear.

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I really wish to see us one day become a club that manages to hold on to their top talent, to seize that window of opportunity and keep a golden generation together at West Ham for once, see those youngsters developing and playing their best football of their career not at the Liverpools, Arsenals, Chelseas and Manchesters of this world, but West Ham, playing on the same pitch with quality players joining the club from elsewhere in the transfer window.
We all probably ask ourselves occasionally: What if Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick had all been West Ham players during their peak years, exchanging passes on the pitch with a certain Paolo DiCanio in his prime ? What in Bobby Moore’s name could or might have been ?

The harsh reality is that money talks. And international football and ambition to win things also have a thing or two to say. In combination it merely means that the best players will end up with other top players at big clubs for generous wages. When I put on my common sense hat I know this is the most likely path young Declan Rice will take. Arnautovic too will end up at a big club eventually if the right offer finally comes his way. It saddens me, but I have stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy or the Cookie Monster, same as I’m no longer expecting a unicorn to arrive in my back garden anytime soon, doing a poo on the meadow of shiny new 100 Euro notes morning, noon and dinner.

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I keep reading how Declan loves it at West Ham and would love to stay, and that only demands fair treatment in a financial sense. I don’t know him enough as a person to be in a position to predict how much of this is just clever negotiating tactics or if his head might have already been turned elsewhere. The question is: If we allow players like Rice to get away while haggling over 20K a week or so (which is peanuts for a PL club in 2018 to be fair), then what chance do we have of ever growing as a team ?

How much would it cost, in terms of wages and in terms of a transfer fee, to bring in even an average PL level holding midfielder needed as replacement if we were to lose Rice to a bigger club ? It won’t be cheap, that’s for sure. And it’ll cost far more than just money, it’ll also lose our club a ton of goodwill, reputation and status.
How our club solves the Declan Rice conundrum will be a useful pointer as to where this club is headed.

If Declan Rice really is the next Rio Ferdinand, I hope against hope we will get to see the best of him in a West Ham shirt. I know we have been burned with some other players and their mindblowing contracts in the recent past. But fear of history repeating itself is not a good advisor. Declan Rice is the kind of player you want to build a team around.
Let’s give him the dosh a player of that ilk deserves, COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Due to the international break HSV and St.Pauli were off. Concordia’s first team lost 2:4, as mentioned already, at home to Dassendorf (the Man City equivalent in this league).
The U23s won a close game, 3:2 away, while the women’s team humiliated their opponents by a 19:0 scoreline on Sunday afternoon (yes, that’s no typo, NINETEEN goals!).


The HamburgHammer Column

A Shock Of Seagulls - Hammers left with bird poo on their face

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Let me say this straight up: Seagulls are not my favourite animals, never have, never will. Which is weird because I should have got used to them from an early age as they were around me ever since I was a kid. They were around when my dad took us kids down the harbour district in Hamburg. They were around when we boarded the ferry on our way to our home from home in Denmark. And then there was an episode later on during a trip to Scotland when I was up in Oban (famous for its malt whisky and, weirdly enough, a local copy of the Colosseum in Rome called McCaig’s Tower), trying to have lunch, enjoying the views at the waterfront.
When I say trying it means I didn’t even get a bite of my freshly bought prawn-mayo sarnie because as soon as I had sat down at the pier I was attacked by one giant barsteward of a seagull, heading straight for my face, flapping its wings in my eyes – and the strategy, tried and tested on 101 shocked and dumb tourists worked a treat again: I dropped the sandwich, prawns and all, trying to fend off the seagull which eventually made a hasty exit to enjoy a free lunch.
And I had yet another reason to hate that particular species of bird.

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Then of course there’s another flock of seagulls, they play in blue and white and steal points from unsuspecting football teams. Our game down the south coast could best be described as floodlight robbery (as opposed to daylight robbery as it was dark already). To be fair, Brighton converted virtually their only goalscoring opportunity after Yarmolenko had cheaply lost the ball in midfield, a few quick seconds later the ball was in the net as the hosts grabbed that chance with both hands (or should that be feet ? Or wings even ?) while West Ham unfortunately couldn’t grasp any of their numerous opportunities on the day.

Brighton got on my nerves though with their time wasting antics. I know some may call this professional, other teams would do the same thing in that situation and so forth, but still I don’t like to see that, not from my team, not from any team, you know players handing over the ball to a teammate for a throw-in and then spending another 10 or 20 seconds choosing a target to throw to.

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Talking of throw-ins, it dawned on me in this particular game how wasteful we appear to be when it comes to throw-ins and freekicks. These should give us an advantage, however, more often than not our throw-ins do seem to end up at the opposition’s feet a lot and we had several good freekick opportunities which were disappointingly put well over the bar by the likes of Anderson and Arnautovic.

I suppose this goes to prove that even those multi-million £ players are human after all, but I still think that a PL player should be able to hit the target with a freekick from the edge of the box. We had so many decent chances that I still believed we might actually win the game even ten minutes from time.
It wasn’t that West Ham were particularly bad, we did enough in my opinion to win that game, but when even your talisman goalscorer misses from two yards out you just have to accept that this simply wasn’t our day.

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I didn’t enjoy the final result and this wasn’t a complete team performance like the ones we had seen in previous games, but I still saw enough to give me hope.
I reckon Brighton were riding their luck on Friday and they are probably still wondering now how in God’s name they managed to pull this off while West Ham are probably still cursing their luck. With yet another international break coming up (they really suck, don’t they ?) our players will just have to continue to gel on the training pitch first and in games after that.

Dare I say it ? As far as defeats go, at least this was an entertaining one. Utterly frustrating of course, but entertaining nonetheless. It wasn’t the kind of defeat that left me in fear of our upcoming games. On the contrary it made me eager to see more games, to see how this team will continue to come together, to develop, to improve (hopefully) and to build a solid foundation upon which to build even further. Not all players that did play against Brighton may be part of the long-term journey but I hope and pray Declan Rice will be one for the Hammers’ faithful to enjoy for a long time.

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Whenever I see the lad making one good decision after another out there on the pitch during games and then remember he is still only 19 years of age my imagination goes AWOL, contemplating how good he may become three or four years down the line. It is a joy to behold, watching someone do his thing who was quite clearly born to be a footballer. Nice to see him (still) do it in a claret and blue shirt. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV won an incredibly important away game 2:1 at Darmstadt to put them back into an automatic promotion spot.
St.Pauli won their home game 3:1 on Sunday and are back among the pack chasing for promotion.
The Concordia first team played out an absolute nail-biter of a contest on Friday evening, a real advertisement for lower league football, by coming back from 0:2 and 1:3 deficits to draw the game 3:3 under the lights. Cheeky equaliser from Cordi’s top goalscorer, Benjamin Bambur, one minute from time, when the opposing goalkeeper was dropping the ball down at his feet after a save, preparing to kick it upfield, looking down the pitch where to direct the ball, without realising that the Cordi striker was still lurking behind his back. Bambur nicked the ball from the feet of the surprised goalie, took two or three sideway steps to the left and dispatched the ball in the bottom right corner. Despite protests from the hosts, the referee allowed the goal to stand, so this ended up being a draw that very much felt like a win. A performance full of cojones and never-say-die attitude by the Cordi lads!
Same applies to the U23s who have stopped a run of bad results by finally winning again, 6:0 at home. Promotion still looks like a massive ask for the youngsters this season.
The Concordia women’s team won again, 5:0 away, they are well on their way towards promotion to the next level.


The HamburgHammer Column

Olé Olé West Ham - who needs the Special One when you have Pellegrini?

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What a difference two weeks make! Like London buses, no win for ages, then two against top opposition in quick succession. After a forgettable start to the season we have suddenly kickstarted our collective backsides into gear and all of a sudden things are no longer looking gloomy but rather peachy.
I shall tell you about my weird viewing experience of the game and indeed it was kind of surreal.
As it was a lunchtime kickoff I had made sure that all the grocery shopping had been done in advance, the tea was on the table two minutes before kickoff and I settled down in first my beloved West Ham vintage shirt, favourite armchair second, screwdriver at the ready, eager to watch the game.

Of course you know by now we took a very early lead after a wonderful move (with a hint of offside though, but we’ll take getting the rub of the green for once after suffering loads of similar decisions going against us in the past), finished off by a clever backheeler from Felipe Anderson. 1:0 West Ham and my tea was still too hot to drink at that point! Throughout the entire game we passed the ball around neatly and I found myself casually playing around with the screwdriver, moving it gently from one hand to the other instead of nervously clutching it as usual.

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Then my brother rang for a chat, with the game in full flow, telling me about taking his family to a spontaneous holiday abroad next weekend, about the destination, the beach, my nephew looking forward to it and so forth.

I was polite enough not to tell him that I had the game on, but after 15 minutes he caught bits of the commentary in the background anyway, quickly asked about the score and hung up to let me watch in peace. Thing is, usually I would have said my apologies and finished that call right away (with the promise to call back later) in order to focus on the game, but this one felt different. We looked so composed and in control that I was feeling confident about multi-tasking, talking on the phone while watching West Ham battling against Manchester United and cursing opposition players at the same time. Unheard of!

There was still room for a sophisticated selection of German and English expletives and swearwords, but that was more related to Jose Mourinho showing up on the telly unexpectedly. You may not believe me, but when the board went up at the end of the second half, showing four minutes, I was disappointed. ONLY FOUR ???

I wanted to watch another six minutes of that. Or eight. Or 25. I didn’t want this game to end because it was such a professional, complete and scintillating team performance on our part. It was simply wonderful! I was sure we could score again if we played just a bit longer. That’s what I meant about the surreal viewing experience.
Even when the Mancs got their goal back I wasn’t a shivering wreck as in so many other similar instances. I knew deep down the win was ours.

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It was just that kind of day.
Our second goal happened to be the kind of comedy gold deflection that usually hits the West Ham net, not this time though.
As with his other recently scored effort, Yarmolenko was once again doing what I reckon seems to be his trademark move, that is setting up to shoot, then delaying for a second or two, shifting with the ball, close to his feet, just a meter or two further, then shooting, ever so slightly confusing defenders and goalkeeper alike in the process.

Again, it seemed to do the trick, the ball took an almighty deflection and sailed agonisingly slowly over de Gea who could only watch the ball bulging the top corner netting. 2:0!!!

A few words about Jose Mourinho. I don’t like the guy. His idea of respect seems to be a one way street where everyone simply has to admire the things he has done, titles he’s won, trophies he’s bought, sorry brought, to his respective clubs.

He is hard enough to bear when winning. He is an utter disgrace when losing though. Of course Manchester United only lost the game because of a borderline offside (which wasn’t given), an unfortunate deflection/own goal plus a slight push in the build-up to our third goal.

It obviously had nothing to do with the fact we were all over the Red Devils for the vast majority of the game. Pull the other one, Jose! People are no longer falling for your crap post-game analyses. You’re getting boring and predictable.

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It is very rare to hear Olés ringing around the London Stadium, not from Hammers fans anyway, as all too often in the past few seasons we could barely keep the ball long enough to string even three passes together.

This time though at times we kept and moved the ball as if in a training session drill and the Olés were as nice to hear as they were thoroughly deserved. Danny Murphy put it beautifully in his MotD verdict when he claimed that West Ham had been playing this one like a proper league game while Manchester United had performed as if it was merely a testimonial.
(Maybe it was one, in a way, as I can’t see Mourinho staying at Old Trafford for much longer if he doesn’t get back to winning ways soon.)

If that kind of performance is Manuel Pellegrini’s idea of how he wants us to play from now on, then, wait a second, I’ve got some dribble coming out of the corners of my mouth, hang on…okay, that’s better! Now, where was I ?

Oh yes, wonderful football, especially our third goal. That pass from Mark Noble, are you having a bubble, me old China ? If that pass had been coming from any player in a Liverpool, Chelsea or Man City shirt, the corresponding highlight reel would still be playing on SSN now.

As it is, it was only Mark Noble, his pass splitting the Man U defence like Moses did the waves of the Red Sea (and I’m not talking about the Chelsea winger who used to play for us on loan for a while) and Arnautovic found himself with acres of space and virtually the entire goalmouth to aim for.

I almost wondered if being spoilt for choice like this would confuse Arnie and he might hit the ball straight at de Gea, but as cool as a gurkerl (that’s local Austrian vernacular for cucumber) he stroked the ball into the net not long after Man United had scored what ended up being nothing more than a consolation goal for them.

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No West Ham player on the day, none of the starters anyway, deserved a mark below 8. Starting with Fabianski, he didn’t really have that much to do. But he pulled off one world class reaction save from a header and as usual he was oozing confidence which must rub off on his defenders. Fabianski is the commanding presence in our penalty box we have been lacking for far too long at our club.

Our back four too are really getting to know each other it seems – and it shows on the pitch. We look extremly settled at the back now and I wouldn’t change a thing at this point: Zabaleta, Diop, Balbuena and Masuaku should be our starters, injury and suspension permitting of course.

What can I say about our midfield three of Noble, Rice and Obiang ? Not enough I suppose. To make a Manchester United midfield look this downright ordinary is quite a feat and I sincerely hope Rice will eventually sign that long-term deal and he will be our skipper one day, playing for us for many years to come. To see a 19 year old playing like a seasoned pro is a rare privilege indeed and players of that ilk certainly don’t grow on trees.

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It was also good to see Felipe Anderson score his first goal as a Hammer while Arnautovic and Yarmolenko simply continue to be a pain in the bum for opposing defenders, so our attacking side of the ball looks highly promising these days as well.

And I couldn’t moan about any of our substitutes on Saturday either, effort- or otherwise. Snodgrass looks like a player reborn and I loved the touch of celebrating our third goal by hoisting the #15 Sanchez shirt.

If it was about the young Hammers fan who died at the age of just 15 it would have been a classy tribute, same as it would have been if meant for the injured Carlos Sanchez.

Here is one player who didn’t really have a textbook start to his West Ham career on the pitch, then suffering what looks like a lengthy injury-induced spell on the sidelines, yet the regular starters haven’t forgotten their despaired teammate! Looks like we have a close-knit dressing room spirit again.

On top of that t was another great example of Pellegrini’s man management skills when he gave young Grady Diangana his league debut, after shining earlier in the 8:0 Carabao Cup drubbing of Macclesfield.
So the youngsters are getting their opportunities to play in a first team squad full of confidence, team spirit and togetherness.

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This should come in handy for the upcoming tasks, a tough away game at Brighton (who made us look really bad last season and are owed a generous slice of revenge) and later in the month the Carabao Cup tie at home against Tottenham. A strong opponent for sure, but with our team heading in the right direction under our current manager I actually fear no one – and it should be one hell of a game, midweek, under the lights, good crowd, local derby, that’s the way we like it! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: The much awaited feisty Hamburg derby between HSV and St.Pauli ended in a damp squib of a goalless draw, but thankfully there has apparently been not much fighting in the streets before or after the game between both sets of fans.
Concordia’s first team won, as expected, on Friday evening against the worst club in the league by a 5:0 scoreline, the Women’s team won their home fixture the day after at a canter 11:0 (with the opposing manager asking the ref to blow the whistle ten minutes early with the score at 8:0 because his girls didn’t want to continue getting thrashed on the pitch) and the Cordi U23s can virtually kiss their promotion hopes goodbye after losing their third game of the season, 2:3 away at Glinde.
Shame about that, but otherwise things are looking up at both West Ham and Concordia!


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