The HamburgHammer Column

The Noble escape - relief beats frustration

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Never in doubt! I speak in jest! I suppose most Hammers fans were a bundle of nerves on Saturday, with bums making a noise resembling more than moderate squeaking.

Personally I was confident as Leicester had been in self-destruct mode in the past few weeks. But when it comes to West Ham things of course are never that easy.
We have a tendency to give teams momentum who haven’t won in ten games. Goalscorers with a bit of a barren spell cherish playing us while defenders far too often this season got an easy ride from us.

Saying all that I was mightily relieved to find Leicester still in “kicking a ball casually about on a beach” mood. By now most of you will know about my West Ham watching routine when I follow our games from the comfort of my living room: Screwdriver at the ready to give the nervously wrangling fingers something to hold onto.
“London Calling” blasting from my stereo a few minutes from kickoff (only for home games though).
And a strict rule to enjoy a cold beer (or two) after the game, but only if West Ham have won.
Looking at our stats this season you can see I’ve virtually lived the life of a teetotaller in the last 10 months for that reason. But not on Saturday!

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It was a decent away performance from the lads, minus some shocking individual errors, Cresswell’s moment of handling stupidity the most glaring one. Other than that all players put in shift in, Adrian chipped in with some confident takes and solid saves and overall we did enough to deserve the three points on the day. And how vital those three points were! And wasn’t it just poetic justice that Canning Town’s best footballer ever scored that crucial second goal ?

And no, it wasn’t your regular Noble penalty kick or a ball deflecting in over the line via Captain Fantastic’s magic shin, it was a belter of a volley, textbook technique, with the ball flying off his foot like a homerun off the sweetspot of a baseball bat. Struck with power and precision. I suppose only Noble himself was more surprised than his teammates and the fans it went in like that. Sure, guys like Messi, De Bruyne or Salah probably score these five times in every training session and several times a season in competitive games, but Mark Noble ?

Yes, people keep telling me his legs are gone and he passes only sideways. But if he was to pass more balls into the far corner of the net like this next season, I won’t be complaining too much!

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My first thought when waking up on Sunday morning ? No, not “I need to go to the Khazi” or “I smell bacon from the neighbour’s flat, it must be Sunday!”.
It actually was “West Ham are staying up! Another season of Premier League football!”

Which of course means our club hierarchy now can and HAS TO begin making plans for next season, transfers in, transfers out, Moyes to stay or new guy to come in.
A brutally honest analysis of what went wrong this season, a straight up assessment of who messed up and what can be done so it doesn’t happen again.
Make no mistake: We have been incredibly lucky with staying up this season. We simply cannot rely anymore on three other teams being worse than us.

We’ve been over this numerous times. But our club needs to be run more professionally on and off the pitch. Spending a bit of money is one part of the solution.
But other clubs who have only spent moderately still have been far more successfull on the pitch than us this season, sides like Burnley or Newcastle.
So they must be doing something right. Or at least better than we seem to do.

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The next few weeks surely will be highly interesting for all of us and it should give us a bit of an indication if next season will be more of the same or if finally some changes may be afoot. As fans I feel we do deserve a bit of good fortune after one shambles of a season. The fans who have been supporting us for more than ten years know we have no sense of entitlement at West Ham, not in terms of trophies or top positions in the table anyway.

Basically we want to see a team of players in claret and blue, busting a gut in games against superior opposition, leaving blood, sweat (and sometimes tears) on the pitch.
Most of us are happy with us giving it a go, especially in the cups, but also watching characters like Arnautovic, hard grafters like the Ginger Pele or Noble, young Hammers like Rice and Cullen.

And I’m sure as fans most of us would like to see some better treatment from our board overall, some signs of goodwill, of a genuine desire and effort to improve us as a club and a team. If we are customers now, surely customers deserve better service, care and communication. But again, this has been debated on here already over and over again.

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As you will know by now I will be coming over next weekend for the Everton game, a fixture which now no longer holds significance apart from playing for pride and getting one over our former managerial mastermind. I am still in a bit of a pickle though, I know my way will lead me to the ticket office eventually and I will have to make a decision there and then, maybe a rather spontaneous one too:
Will I renew my season ticket or downgrade to a mere club membership ?

There are two trains of thought here. On the one hand I would like to put my e-cash (club cash) to good use as I am aware it will be lost if I do nothing (I have nearly 100 quid). It pains me to give more money to our owners than necessary, so a club membership would still give me a shot at watching selected games next season.
On the other hand I feel that as fans we have been there before and we will still be there (at least most of us) once GSB are long gone and merely a rather frustrating chapter in our club’s history.

If I give up my season ticket now, God knows how many years it’ll be before I could get another one. And my trips to London, meeting up regularly with some of you good people, still are dear to me and the football on offer doesn’t really change my general happiness when meeting up with fellow fans on matchdays or on a day before or after a matchday too.

So, who knows what’ll happen in the next few days until that moment I will finally face the West Ham ticket office staff in Stratford.

It is “West Ham Till I Die“ after all. As our own Longtime Lurker so eloquently put it, there are no conditions attached to that phrase regarding ownership, manager or transfer budget. So I have an inkling what could happen down that ticket office…

I hope to see out the season in style by sharing a beverage or two with some of you guys on Everton matchday, hopefully basking in some glorious London sunshine while cupping our collective ears to the Dudley dinosaur.


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Finally, for those of you interested, a quick update on the footballing situation in my hometown:

Hamburg SV have a very small chance of staying up on the last day of the season next weekend. All they have to do is beat Moenchengladbach at home while having to pray that already relegated FC Cologne can nick an unlikely win at fellow strugglers Wolfsburg. Not impossible of course, but very unlikely though.

FC St.Pauli have won their home tie against Bielefeld, guaranteeing them another stretch in Bundesliga 2 (where they are likely to meet their hated crosstown rivals Hamburg SV next season). Concordia’s first team lost away to Niendorf 0:3 in a meaningless game, I didn’t attend as half the team are leaving in the summer and it shows in their recent performances. A season to forget as Concordia were expecting to challenge at the top, now they will be lucky to finish in 7th place.

Instead I once again attended the Cordi U23’s game, away to Guelzow, out in the countryside (not far from that zoo I mentioned in my column last week actually).
A 60 mile roundtrip, but lovely sunshine all around and a 3:1 win made the trek worthwhile. Cordi’s U23’s promotion was of course already confirmed the previous Sunday, the only question now left is if the lads will be promoted as Champions (likely) or runners-up.

The HamburgHammer Column

Men who stare at goats - and goals. The goats were more fun.

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I did it again. A combination of lovely weather, the prospect of being able to spend another Sunday with my brother and his family (which I no longer take for granted after him going through cancer treatment) and my very modest hopes for anything resembling a respectable result of our boys against the Champions of England made me decide against live football yet again, at least partly.

I managed to watch the first half of the Cordi U23 vs. Bergedorf West game. With Cordi 3:0 up at halftime my brother rang me up, asking if I fancied a day out with him, my sister in law and nephew in a nearby zoo out in the countryside, with an invitation thrown in afterwards for our traditional summer dinner treat of choice, cooked fresh asparagus, new potatoes, Sauce Hollandaise and local ham.

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I can tell you, it was a quality afternoon and certainly more appealing than watching Cordi’s first team stumbling to a meaningless 2:1 victory in front of 72 paying customers (as I read online later that evening). It was also more entertaining than watching our game against Manchester City live on the telly what with the sun doing a splendid job of creating a Caribbean vibe across the flat plains on the southeastern outskirts of Hamburg.

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That zoo was a weird mixture of species, all kinds of bovines (including Galloways), horses, donkeys, pigs, llamas, raccoons, coatis, pheasants, peacocks, parrots, ostriches, zebras (!!!), a massive python, sheep and goats. Weird combo, but wonderful regardless!
It was good fun and there was some fighting going on as well in the animal kingdom, ostriches chasing around some goats, boars fighting over territory and raccoons having a heated argument over their respective position in the feeding line.

Again, as contests these were much more even and fun to watch than what was to follow when I sat down for the rerun of the Manchester City game later in the evening.
As a sidenote I also heard that my nephew is through with judo now, he has found himself a new sporting extravaganza, unfortunately not football, but tennis!
(How did that happen ? Then again, I wouldn’t mind watching my nephew playing in a Wimbledon semifinal one day! Probably better chance of that happening than him making it to the World Cup as a footballer with the Germany team…:-))

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As for the highlights of the West Ham game, well, they were few and far between. Cresswell’s freekick was class obviously. I also cannot fault the effort by our players.
But to be brutally honest, apart from a five minute spell just after we scored, it was never really a contest – and Manchester City didn’t even have to break sweat.
It was men against boys. Man City broke through our midfield and defence at will almost.
I had seen goats earlier in the zoo, here in the shape of the Man City players I saw different goats, as in “greatest of all time” – they surely have some tremendous players.
In contrast we seem to have a fairly high number of donkeys.

There is nothing wrong of course with donkeys, but if the Premier League is the Grand National you are unlikely to compete in that riding a donkey.
A major overhaul is required at our club from top to bottom, on and off the pitch. In that respect the summer dealings should tell us a thing or two…

Back to the game, early in the second half I stopped counting how often we gave back possession immediately after winning back the ball or losing possession after having a throw-in.

To be fair, I don’t think it would have really mattered much if we had played a different formation or starting XI on the day. We were never likely to get anything from this game and maybe it was a small victory we only lost by a three goal margin. Goals could become vital as we are closing in on the finishing line.

It’s tough that we still need to keep our eyes on several other clubs in terms of league survival, but the reasons for that have been debated on here back and forth.
I didn’t expect that our final game against Everton would still hold any significance for our fate, but now it increasingly looks like things may well go down to the wire.

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On the one hand of course it’s exciting to attend a game with potentially so much riding on it. On the other hand I could do without seeing us getting relegated on the last day of the season. In any case I shall be meeting some of you good people again and that in itself is always pretty much a win-win situation.

To finish on a positive, I heard the Cordi U23s finished their game with a 4:1 scoreline which means they will definitely be promoted to the next level (Kreisliga).
Which is good news for the lads as they are a bunch of smashing guys, playing football the right way. That promotion will also guarantee that there will be far more interesting games next season for the fans as the competing teams will be of much better quality so the fixtures will be proper contests.

Unlike far too many of West Ham’s games throughout the current season unfortunately. Let’s hope things will get better for The Hammers somehow! COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

Gunned back to earth - and Rice is human after all

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If you wanna blame anyone for the defeat against Arsenal, just blame me. Usually I watch our games live whenever I can – this Sunday though I deliberately opted against that routine and decided to put the lovely weather in Hamburg to good use and take my brother and ten year old nephew out between the dikes on the southeastern outskirts of town to watch Concordia’s U23s wallop the poor local side by a 10:0 scoreline.

The game was more noteworthy for my little nephew entertaining the travelling away support of about 20 people with his comments, questions and jocular remarks, some of them were hilarious without my nephew even realising, but that’s always the joy when taking a kid to a football game.
For instance, the Concordia president was there too in order to watch his own son play, sitting three metres away from us, but that didn’t stop my nephew exclaiming how the U23s were playing so much better this season compared to Cordi’s first team. Well, he was right of course and the club president saw the funny side of it too and couldn’t suppress a grin.

My nephew by the way still is at odds with the rules of the game in terms of the ref awarding a penalty.
Little Daniel still thinks a penalty kick should happen every time a particularly nasty foul or tackle happens, regardless of where on the pitch said foul has been committed.
FIFA better watch out, there’s a new FIFA president in the making here…:-))

Anyway, it’s nice to watch a team that plays football the right way (albeit against inferior opposition) and it’s also nice to have a promotion celebration to look forward to – I reckon next weekend Cordi’s U23s will be mathematically certain to go up. For every other club I hold an interest in it is still squeaky bum time.
Both Hamburg clubs are in relegation dogfights and even our beloved West Ham ain’t quite out of the woods either.

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When returning home I had managed not to hear or read anything about our game, so I could then settle down in my armchair, waving my screwdriver in tune to Bubbles being sung by the travelling Hammers and to be fair, I saw a highly entertaining match from both teams and up to the 80th minute I was fairly certain we could come away from Arsenal with a credible draw. Not so fast my not quite so young Hammer!

That second Arsenal goal broke our collective spirit and determination. Young Declan Rice who was quite superb again up to that point decided to duck out of what looked like the easiest of clearances in front of his own goal, leaving it to Joe Hart to watch the ball trundling into the net.
Lack of communication there and totally unnecessary. When the ball is that close to your own goal you need to deal with it somehow.

You either have set up a routine in training how to act in those situations. Or you make yourself heard loud and clear, so both goalkeeper and defender are on the same page.
It’s frustrating to have lost the game in that fashion (I didn’t even register the goals that still followed) because I think we saw a very decent overall performance from the lads.
Unfortunately a game doesn’t last 79 minutes and when you shoot yourself in the foot like our team did you cannot expect to get away with it in the Premier League.

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I ain’t going to tear into Rice, he is young, still learning the game and boy, will he learn from that blunder! In my eyes he is a future West Ham captain, a player well worth building a team around (if we can keep him that long that is) and the kind of guy fans love rooting for. Rice is the player we must hang on to and keep happy at all costs.
I wonder how Rice’s future is going to pan out.

Moyes though is another safety-first manager for me. Defensive minded, very cautious, averse to taking a bit of a risk. There isn’t much that pains me more than to see our striker isolated upfront time and time again, be that Arnautovic or Carroll. You can see the frustration when they look up, from a promising attacking position, trying to locate their nearest teammate only to find him twenty or thirty metres behind. If it was up to me, I’d look for a more attack-minded, a more positive manager.

With the shortened transfer period this summer our club should be busy building our squad for next season already. Not knowing our league status for sure yet doesn’t help obviously. Not knowing who our manager will be doesn’t help either. I’m sure a decision will be made in due course one way or another and we know the board will have their own priorities which may differ from what the fans, the players or even the pundits may want. So all we can do is wait and hope.

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Not long to go until I’m over again for the Everton fixture. I am confident we won’t necessarily need the points at that stage. But I’d be very happy to see another of my now customary 1:0 home wins. COYI!!!

Match Thread

Match thread: West Ham v Stoke

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

Please comment on the game as it progresses.

The HamburgHammer Column

A point won in West London - done the hart way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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