The HamburgHammer Column
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.
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.
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.
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 ?