The HamburgHammer Column

We're winning in the rain, just winning in the rain

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Riverside picnic with riparian entertainment – that is a key phrase from one famous episode of “Keeping up appearances”, one of my favourite British sitcoms. To this day I’m not entirely sure what exactly this kind of event would look like, but it sounds bloody impressive and is bound to include food!

Fulham of course have in Craven Cottage one of the most traditional football grounds in the entire Premier League, with bags of old-school charm and you cannot deny that the location right by the river adds to the overall appeal.

I have always had a soft spot for Fulham, the Cottagers or Lilywhites – Lilywhites always reminds me of the shop on Piccadilly Circus where in 1996 I used to buy rugby shirts, cricket bats and also had a butcher’s at the new collection of PL shirts at the start of the new season. Strange, the things you remember…

Anyway, the game had another element to it – literally, the elements. It was coming down in buckets, cats, dogs and badgers, with some stair-rods thrown in. Playing football in those conditions is challenging for the players, but it makes watching even more fascinating for the supporter, especially if he can watch from a comfy armchair in a well heated flat, a mug of steaming hot tea in one hand and screwdriver in the other…

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What West Ham gave us was a highly professional, breathtakingly clinical and well-executed team performance. We did what the hosts didn’t on the day: Take our goalscoring opportunities. Fulham had plenty, yet we kept a clean sheet, thanks to some fantastic saves by Fabianski (especially early on in the game) and solid defending on our part which obviously includes our back four in general, but especially our CB partnership of Diop and Balbuena (who was my MotM).
But every West Ham player got stuck in, including Anderson, which was nice to see.

Here is a flair player who is not above tracking back and tackling hard in midfield in order to stop a counter-attack from developing by kicking the ball into touch, good on ya, Felipe! The goals were the end product of two great passing moves, aided by shambolic defending by Fulham, but they were emphatically taken by Snodgrass and Antonio.
Go back in time to the start of the season and we score neither of both opportunities. Snodgrass and Antonio were brimming with confidence though which is why they took care of business the way they did.

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I saw a team out there that was genuinely working and functioning as a unit, players running the extra mile to help out their teammates. Our substitutions were spot on in my view which means that I would have made exactly the same choices as Pellegrini did. It’s all coming together now and for me the astonishing thing is a) how quickly it’s actually happening and b) that we are doing it with nearly an entire team out with long- and medium-term injuries.

That’s my main gripe still and while some injuries are down to freak incidents such as in the cases of Lanzini, Reid and Sanchez, those you can not do a lot about, I was not too thrilled with the signings of both Yarmolenko and Wilshere due to their well documented injury history. Personally, I wouldn’t take these gambles anymore but rather go for players who may be not as good technically but who can give you 30 games a season. Players who are out injured cost wages without being being able to contribute on the pitch.
Other clubs are potentially able to cope with that, we can’t long-term in my humble opinion. Although we seem to do pretty well right now, despite the injury curse still hanging over us.

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Jack Wilshere is an exciting footballer when fit and I love watching him play. However, both of his ankles have now been affected by separate injury issues. I have an uncomfortable inkling he might be heading towards a similar fate that Dean Ashton eventually had to suffer. I’m not saying his career is already over. There will probably be several attempts of comebacks for him on the pitch, playing a few games before succumbing to another knock, hairline crack or ankle sprain. I obviously wish it doesn’t happen like that.

I simply hope that in the not too distant future we will have a season for once where at any given time only 2 or 3 of our players are out simultaneously, and the layoff is weeks rather than months or an entire season. But that would probably involve more rigorous scouting and another overhaul of our training facilities. But that’s a different debate altogether.

Other than the injuries life is pretty good at West Ham these days, innit ? As supporters we can look forward to games rather than dreading another drubbing. We are playing football that is very pleasing on the eye, the players look motivated and as if they’re enjoying themselves a lot out there. Also, we seem to have cut down the number of silly individual mistakes (which more often than not have directly led to us conceding goals).

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For me this all comes down to Manuel Pellegrini, it begins and ends with him. Here is a manager who obviously knows what he is doing. Contrary to some of us fans, myself included, he didn’t panic when we lost four in a row at the start of the season. He had a roadmap of how he wanted us to play and followed through with teaching the players his philosophy and ideas which obviously takes a bit of time – but it’s all bearing fruit now.

Remember this is not even our best starting XI which is playing, still we are winning games now. When your team is taking the pitch full of confidence and with a bit of swagger, results will pretty much take care of themselves. It must be a much more fulfilling feeling coming to training during the week after having won another game.
I suppose as players you don’t ever get bored of winning, you get addicted, you want more of that winning feeling.

Which is why I am confident for our last fixture before christmas, the home game against Watford, a side that has gone the opposite path really, starting the season well and going downhill from there. Watford are still probably the strongest of all the sides we have played in the past four weeks. Another good performance is required to keep the points in East London and continue our amazing (and highly satisfying) winning run.

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Perez may be back again for this one, hopefully partnering Chicharito upfront, probably developing another level of chemistry between the two strikers. But even if Perez doesn’t start, Pellegrini seems to have found a way to send out a team desperate to perform and hell-bent on winning the game. At this point we look like a force to be reckoned with. Other teams don’t fancy playing us anymore. Which is a wonderful change in the weather for us. How often in recent past did we provide a much needed boost for failing teams ? Pellegrini appears to have stopped that altogether.
If you want to beat West Ham these days you need to take your chances and play well – despite the festive season West Ham are unlikely to hand out any gifts on the pitch anymore. Long may it continue…COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Winter break for lower league football. All Concordia teams are resting up, returning to training in January and competitive football in February.
Despite a shambolic first half of the season, Concordia’s first team will keep their current manager at the helm, but they have already announced certain player movements, new (hopefully better quality) players will be brought in replacing those who rarely got minutes on the pitch anyway.
Hamburg SV and St.Pauli have both won their respective fixtures and are right in the middle of the promotion battle, HSV waving from top spot in the table, St.Pauli chasing from behind, trying to make up a six point deficit.

The HamburgHammer Column

16 stone, eyes of brown - double H is back in town

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Boom! Another great trip in the bag! In the true sense of Christmas it was all about meeting friends/WHTID family members, having a jolly good time, share some banter while enjoying the odd beverage accompanied by a little snack here and there. Meeting former West Ham legends. Making sure West Ham got the three points against Palace by being the good luck charm I happen to be when watching our boys kick a ball in person. But also not forgetting about our previous/true West Ham home in Green Street.

Don’t be surprised there are no personal photos included here – I think Safehands or BSB posted one of me on a previous thread in which I clean a van, wearing a hi-viz best in a Dagenham car wash.

Apart from that (and my avatar of course) you already know my ugly boat, so in the interest of aesthetics I have decided to leave out the various pics of me clearing another plate of some local delicacy, but don’t you worry, you will hear about it regardless…so, where shall we start ? Maybe at the beginning…

Thursday, December 6th

Even less sleep due to an even earlier start this time, compared to previous trips. As my plane was leaving at 6:30am I had to be at a different bus station this time around, at 4:15am, to get to the airport on time. This would lead to an early night for me as at some point I simply couldn’t keep my minces open anymore later in the afternoon.

I had booked my airbnb room in a house in Stratford, one I had already used before, which was conveniently located in the triangle between Stratford Station, Plaistow, Upton Park and Abbey Road (DLR), hence giving me plenty of options travel-wise.

I went there straight after arrival, dropped my suitcase in my room, freshened up a bit, put on a fresh shirt and was off to my first West Ham related event – meeting up with some WHTIDers in Spitalfields, the hunting ground for a certain bloke named Jack.

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The Ten Bells Pub was my first port of call, a place where every day hundreds of tourists doing the famous Jack the Ripper guided walks convene to hear stories and down a pint in chilling memory of some of Jack’s victims who might well have enjoyed their final ever tipple in that very pub before getting their throats slashed down a badly-lit rotten side street in Whitechapel.

But I digress. First guy there was our own Ennate, easily recognisable even from behind by his quite unique hairstyle (definitely no short back and sides, thank you very much!).

We were joined by CRB, Voice of Reason, Irons1959, TorontoHammer and Iron Liddy (thanks for the West Ham books by the way, nice and unexpected Christmas present that was!).

We shared some banter and then moved on to a place nearby called Williams Ale & Cider House. Quite a lovely venue with a decent menu to pick from.
I went for the quite boring, but nonetheless tasty Fish&Chips. It was a great start to the trip, meeting all of those posters from the blog again and chewing the fat (although my fish didn’t have a lot of it) about West Ham, football, music and life in general. I was back in Stratford late afternoon, had the telly on for a while and tried desperately to stay awake, but I think I lost that fight sometime between 8 and 9pm. Another day with another highlight was beckoning though…

Friday, December 7th

Visiting Newham Bookshop in the Barking Road is part of my routine now whenever I come over to London. So I was obviously relieved to hear that the book shop would indeed NOT close its doors forever but simply move two doors further down and remain open. I had the pleasure of walking into busy refurbishment work, done by brilliant and enthusiastic volunteers, I also met an elderly gentleman in the shop who approached me about this blog and my articles.

There was also a young girl filling the shelves who is a passionate Hammer too (it was a pleasure meeting you, Etta)…and of course there is Vivian Archer.

She’s raking in all them praises and accolades from left, right and centre and rightly so. She is the good soul, the life blood and heartbeat of this shop.
As on previous trips, I got my cup of tea, my mince pie, we had a lovely chat about West Ham, the local community, Brexit and the new layout of the shop…and of course I ordered my customary three books which will be sent over to Hamburg this time though, due to weight limitations on my luggage thanks to the regulations stipulated in my flight booking.

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If you have never been to Newham Bookshop, GO! It’s only a short Antonio throw-in away from where the Boleyn used to be, on the corner of Green Street and Barking Road, down towards Canning Town, in glorious view of the World Cup Heroes statue.
If you have been to the book shop before, GO AGAIN!

The new shop, once completed, will look a little less cluttered than the original version (I quite liked the cluttered look though, it reminds me of my own basement), so it will have a more orderly layout, but the main thing is still going to be there: An incredible varied selection of interesting reading material plus a friendly and well clued up staff to help out with finding something which is to your taste.

They have loads of books on West Ham, sports and football in general, English and local London history, a gorgeous section for children’s books, classics like Dickens, Kafka or Orwell, modern fiction, philosophy, poetry, religion, photo books and tons more. I dare you to go there and NOT find at least one book you’ll find interesting! You won’t succeed.

I usually come in with the intention of buying one specific title. Which I do get. But I also ALWAYS find something totally surprising, an outside-the-box title, fantastic little nuggets I would probably never find in one of the big chain shops.

If you like reading, go on and treat yourself, take your Mystic Megs down there and let Vivian find some books for you, books you never were aware to be out there in the first place!

I didn’t venture out further into London that day (to a gallery or museum or whatever) as I wanted to keep my energy levels up for the true highlight of the trip.

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Six foot two, eyes of blue, Billy Bonds is after you!
Well, I was going after him really. Although I have obviously never seen him play for us in person as I only became a Hammer in 1996, I think I have a pretty good idea in what regard William Arthur „Billy“ Bonds is held by West Ham fans. I have seen highlights of him on DVD. So I understand that he is one of the best players ever to wear the claret and blue of West Ham. I even know some fans who consider him to be the best former Hammer, full stop, even ahead of Bobby Moore. I will not throw myself into that debate, but I was happy enough to meet the man and hear some great stories of West Ham history. “An Evening with Billy Bonds” it was called, but it was a lot more than that!
I could also conveniently tick another food box as double pie double mash was being served, get in there!

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We had booked a table for ten in a wonderful venue I knew from a previous visit, on the premises of Dagenham&Redbridge FC. The knights of the round table in our case were Iron Liddy, Mr.Lids, Hugh Jardon, Ebi from near Cologne (the most popular WHTID Kraut these days apparently) and his son (who had come over for his first ever visit to the London Stadium), the one and only Nigel Kahn, Russ (the original one), Safehands, BSB and a certain geezer from Hamburg.

Was it sheer luck or fate ? Our table was just opposite the one where Billy Bonds was sat, together with some other former players like Ray Stewart, David Cross, Steve Jones and the host of the evening of course, Tony Gale, my regular commentator for West Ham games when watching from my armchair, clutching me screwdriver!

I could literally stretch out my hand and pat Billy Bonds on the shoulder! He was later kind enough to sign a poster and a photo for me and we also had a little chat about his games in Germany.

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Someone must have told the former players there were Krauts present in the room (Ebi got great cheers, being addressed as Juergen Klopp all evening…LOL) because during a break David Cross came to our table, asked if I was one of the Germans and when I confirmed this he told me all the four words of German he had learned during his career, he also sang a song to me which was apparently in German but which I had never heard before and also couldn’t really understand the words, it sounded Irish to me, however, it was lovely chatting away with a guy whose goals I had only witnessed at home on TV in shape of a “200 West Ham Goals“ DVD.

I was surprised anyway how friendly the whole atmosphere was. The former players/celebrity guests were all totally at ease and highly approachable.
They were in good spirits, willing to have banter with the fans, sign things and crack jokes. I know they were all earning money from this, but they seemed to really enjoy being there. They clearly appreciated the fans.

They sensed the admiration and respect coming from their audience and the supporters reciprocated in similar currency.

Brilliant questions were being asked (and answered) and, not unexpectedly, Iron Liddy had saved the best for last when asking Billy if he had ever approached his wife in the bedroom with the notorious words *Six foot two, eyes of blue, Billy Bonds is after you!" Cue laughter all around and a slightly embarrassed Bonzo taking it on a very red chin at that point!

Oh, our own Russ was lucky enough to win a lovely West Ham shirt in the raffle, signed by all players of the famous “Boys of 86“ team.
And Ebi spent quite a fortune bidding for and ultimately buying an Upton Park bus sign.

Talking of fortune, that kind of left me when trying to catch (and ultimately miss) the last train back to Stratford. As I didn’t want to spend the night on a park bench, I had to bite the bullet and hire a minicab taking me back to my place for 40 quid. I know better ways to spend £40, a nice curry dinner, a new West Ham jacket, books, whatever.

But ultimately it couldn’t spoil a glorious evening spent with great people, filled with fun, banter and laughter.

Saturday, December 8th

Having arrived back in Stratford by minicab at 2am it was a short night.
I never sleep long on a matchday anyway and this day was no different.
I was hanging around Westfield at noon already, doing some window-shopping until Russ saved me a few hours later, so we quickly walked over to the stadium, had a quick snack and a beer, together with his son and Ray the Hammer.

Usually I sit with BSB or Russ whenever I can, but BSB wasn’t there and Russ was sitting elsewhere, so I was basically on my own watching this one.
I also unfortunately didn’t get to greet Dan Coker and his dad again, neither before nor after the game at the usual meeting point at the 238 steps which was a shame as I always enjoy our conversations.

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What a game! Usually I only bring 1:0 home wins, but this was a five goal thriller, highly entertaining with some beautiful goals scored. And even the first half was captivating, with both teams going for it, despite frustration being the main feeling for the home fans throughout the first 45 minutes.

There were dozens of passes going astray and if we could only have found some better balls into their box, I am sure we would have raced into a lead easily, courtesy of Messrs Hernandez and Perez, even in the first half. The desire to play good football was clearly there for all to see.

Now, West Ham in recent years seem to have developed a tendency to score some absolute screamers against Palace for some unknown reason.
Think Payet’s dipping free kick at the Boleyn (I was behind the goal in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand when that went in!) or Andy Carroll’s bicycle kick.

And now another landmark: Robert Snodgrass scores his first ever league goal for the Hammers and what a beauty it was! Definitely in my personal top 3 of West Ham goals I have seen live and in person.

I thought it would go past the post on the wrong side of goal, the way it was bending. Judging by the slightly delayed goal celebrations in my section of the stadium other fans seemed equally surprised…and delighted when it went in! I couldn’t have written the script for the game any better.

Snodgrass has really beaten the odds, being virtually out of the club’s door already, having to read some silly and nasty remarks about him by the club hierarchy (or their offspring rather) on top of that, only to come back better, more determined and more willing to sweat blood for this team.

I usually don’t care who scores our goals, but I was over the moon that it was Snoddy who turned this game around for us. McMessi he’s called by some now. Braveheart you might call him too although Bravefeet might be more appropriate.

What do they say in East London ? Nobody likes a grass ? Well, we all love our Snodgrass now, don’t we ?

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Chicharito then timed his run wonderfully for an Anderson free kick to score a typical Chicharito goal, pouncing on the rebound, to send the London Stadium crowd into a frenzy that got even louder when Felipe Anderson scored a goal not much later that would make Payet take his ball and walk back home sulking, hanging his head in shame, before washing his hands and sitting down to eat his bowl of pumpkin soup.

Tell me what you like, the moment that ball left Anderson’s foot, curling and dipping towards goal, the guy knew exactly where it was going to hit the net and at that point he was surely already planning his celebration!

It was a great team performance, our players all look happy now (especially during the goal celebrations) and Pellegrini appears to be able to bring out the best in each and every one of them. We try to play football the right way (yes, THAT’S the West Ham way Mr.Allardyce!) and we appear to be able to do it on a more regular basis now.

Nine points out of nine, that, my friends, is what we call a winning streak in football! At West Ham we haven’t been familiar with winning streaks in recent years, but I now feel totally relaxed, optimistic and full of confidence with Pellegrini at the helm. Looks like he’s got the players behind him and if we now could somehow address our injury problems too, who knows how far we may come!

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That victory got celebrated in style with a nice Ruby in a Pakistani restaurant in Whitechapel where Irons1959 had taken me before on a previous trip. This time we were joined spontaneously by Ennate which made it even more enjoyable. We finished off the evening in style in a local pub, watching the first half of the Spurs game.

I want to thank Irons1959 for his repeated hospitality and company which really put the icing on a very tasty matchday cake.
Having a telly in my room I could even watch our goals again in all their glory on MotD before hitting the pillow.

Sunday, December 9th

No museum. No gallery. No street market. No Sunday walk in Hyde Park. Dagenham it was and that can only mean one thing: BSB time, starting with Full English at his tried and trusted caff. After losing a World Cup related bet, BSB treated me to a plate of one of the various set breakfast options and this time around I was desperate to try some Black Pudding with it…for the very first time.

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Black Pudding is quite popular in Germany too, only in my neck of the woods we don’t fry it up for brekkie, we have it cold-cut style with bread, like you’d have it when ordering a Ploughman’s. I had never tried Black Pudding before, cold or fried up, but I absolutely loved it. The taste gets even better when you try to forget what’s actually in it…LOL

After that it was back to BSB’s place (which feels a bit like home from home almost, thanks to BSB), having long chats, watching some of the afternoon’s football, getting text updates on my tablet that Concordia were losing their cup game 2:5 and the Cordi women’s team winning 5:0, and then BSB’s lovely missus Karen arrived to get busy in the kitchen preparing one hell of a Sunday/Christmas roast dinner with all the trimmings and pints of gravy to go with it. Now, some of you know me, I love my food and it shows. I can eat big portions if absolutely necessary…,-))

But even I couldn’t finish that enormous pile of food arriving from Karen’s kitchen. It was one of the loveliest roast dinners I ever had, but at some point even my tummy was waving the white flag in desperate surrender. Anyway, it was all the hospitality and more I had experienced with our most favourite cabbie on previous trips and at one point he has to come back to Hamburg so I can repay him accordingly with some generosity of mine.

Monday, December 10th

Did I happen to tell you I hate days of departure ? Not just because of leaving London behind (and missing it already).

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I headed to Westfield around noon, picked up some papers and a nice West Ham 2019 calendar and got myself to the airport with plenty of time to spare. And then things got delayed, for more than an hour. There were turbulences during the flight over the channel, so it got a bit bumpy. The plane’s parking position at Hamburg airport was so far away it could have been Bremen. In passport control things got held up by elderly Turkish people in wheelchairs due to a language barrier, it took the staff ages to find someone who could translate. Then I missed my connecting bus and had to take a detour by tube and an alternative bus route.

The bells of my local church were tolling half an hour to midnight when I entered my road. Knackered, but happy I went back into my flat, my head full of memories, emotions and thoughts. I’m actually planning another pre-Brexit trip now, maybe for the Newcastle game. Talking of Brexit, the news of the parliament vote being cancelled for the time being was the first news that greeted me when watching the late night news. God knows what’ll happen next! Which also applies to West Ham of course! COYI!!!

Thanks to each and everyone of you who shared time, banter, food, drink and joy with me during my stay! You all know who you are and your kindness is both cherished and appreciated by this particular Kraut Hammer…

The HamburgHammer Column

Bringing goals to Newcastle - give Pea a chance!

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When Javier Hernandez aka Chicharito (Little Pea) runs towards the camera, arms stretched out wide and grinning like a cat that’s found a free bag of treats unexpectedly it is good news for any West Ham fan. You see, my internet stream was a bit stop/start and I actually missed our first goal, but the goal celebration was there for all to see and, boy, was it nice to watch that (plus the replay of the goal later on)!

At the risk of repeating what’s been said on here in previous threads, discussing the game, that was a thoroughly enjoyable performance. There was nothing random or lucky about that away win. Newcastle is not exactly an easy place to come to, especially not for West Ham. St.James’ Park has rarely been a happy hunting ground for us in the past, but this time around the Magpies didn’t exactly spread their wings, reason being we didn’t really allow them to.

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Balbuena and Diop had another masterclass at the back, with Fabianski mopping up with some well timed interceptions.. Rice was again playing with a maturity and swagger beyond his years, just as reliable as Dan Coker’s match previews are enjoyable and superbly researched.

Special praise has to go to Noble, he kept our intensity up which was no mean feat after seeing one of the more ridiculous bookings you could ever hope to witness. Time wasting when taking a set piece, really ? Nothing to do maybe with the Newcastle player standing right in front of the ball to begin with ? Whatever. I was concerned that Nobes might well lose his composure, go into a rash challenge, slide into his opponent with a passionately high boot, but no – he played 85 minutes and in my book his performance was crucial for our overall success.

Arnautovic was enthusiastic, but luck wasn’t really on his side this time.
My three players who had the biggest surprise/wow factor ratio against Newcastle were Cresswell at left back with undoubtedly his most assured performance in a very long time (until coming off through injury, hopefully it’s a minor knock rather than a major injury).
Secondly Robert Snodgrass who has really grabbed his second chance with all hands and feet – I love to see players do that after having a tough initial spell at a club.

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The cross for the first goal was pinpoint accurate and it was very much acknowledged as such by Chicharito’s goal celebration. The way he was gesturing to Snodgrass first and hugging him next did say to Snodders and the entire team “Put balls like that on a plate and into the box for me and I will score those for you nine times out of ten!”
Hernandez was clinical again for the second goal and Felipe Anderson’s third also was a very composed finish.

Wait, it looks like it’s actually between four players competing for my MotM honours: Cresswell, Snodgrass, Anderson and Hernandez. On balance though and for sheer impact it has to go to the Mexican with the lethal touch. It’s amazing he has scored every single one of his many PL goals from inside the box. Natural finisher, poacher, goal hanger, call it what you will, Hernandez is just that and more – and if he’s given the service he will make the net bulge time and time again.

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It’s all too easy to forget that Newcastle did win three games in a row before playing us. So to get the win there is one thing. To win by a three goal margin takes it to another level.

Add a clean sheet and it was basically your proverbial textbook away performance. Looking at the upcoming fixtures (and with a few more healthy squad options available for Pellegrini to pick from) we have a massive opportunity now to climb the table over the course of this month.

Our players look as if they are finally beginning to gel, you can see the way that Pellegrini wants them to play and with our players finally getting some wins and a dose of renewed confidence it could indeed turn out to be a highly enjoyable end to an eventful 2018 for the Hammers.

As you all know by now, my next visit to Blighty is just around the corner now and as with previous visits the meet-ups with the WHTID family are almost more important than the actual match. Then again, a feisty local derby is always worth coming to London for and after having met some groundhopping Palace fans in Hamburg during a Concordia game a while ago, my desire to see us beat the Eagles has gone up another notch.

I am very excited to get back to London and what with Concordia struggling heavily this season I now hope West Ham can pick up the pieces and cheer me up a bit (I know it’s very brave to actually turn to West Ham of all clubs with the purpose of finding reason to cheer).

I am confident that seeing some of you guys and gals again will also lighten up my mood, not to mention the odd pie&mash, full English and a pint or two to toast the mighty Hammers and the loyal WHTID faithful.
I can’t wait. COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV won their game to maintain top spot in Bundesliga 2 for the time being. St.Pauli lost a bit of ground in the promotion race after conceding a late equaliser against Dresden (and having the stadium toilets smashed on top of that by rampaging away fans). As for Concordia, I will really need A LOT of cheering up after this weekend. First I saw the first team lose in a very local derby at relegation rivals Condor by a humiliating scoreline of 1:6. I am at a loss to comprehend this defeat and I am at a loss to understand WHY Concordia are fighting relegation this season rather than playing in the upper reaches of midtable as expected.
The women’s team also lost their away fixture against their fiercest rival (this time for promotion), 2:4 in a pretty nasty contest with players suffering plenty of knocks and bruises which is quite rare for the women’s game. That promotion battle will be exciting to watch in 2019 – with both teams level on points now, with the Cordi girls being in second place due to a slightly worse goal difference.

The HamburgHammer Column

That was no champagne supernova from West Ham, but I won't look back in anger

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When I saw the camera zooming in on Noel Gallagher in the crowd at the London Stadium during our by now customary thrashing at the hands of Manchester City, several thoughts were running through my head:

a) He really loves his football, doesn’t he ?
b) Does he cut his own hair or are there no reasonably priced hairdressers still in business in Manchester ?
c) Like with any other Man City fan, I don’ begrudge him City’s wonderful style of football and their current success – they supported their club during their lengthy crap spells, they are proper fans through thick and thin and why shouldn’t they enjoy the ride ?

Plus of course, for a pun-dit like me (see what I did there ?) the Oasis songbook alone affords your average football fan a multitude of colourful puns and plays on words that can be put to good use for any football-related analysis.

See my headline for starters. Cigarettes and alcohol probably were the choices of post-game remedy for many disappointed Hammers on Saturday evening.

Some mights say that we just gotta roll with it, move forward little by little. We need to stop crying our heart out, our board surely have a Masterplan lying around somewhere and if we stand by the team we may not live forever, but might probably be able to keep the dream alive, do you know what I mean ?

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Most of the game has been discussed at length in the previous threads. It was men against boys. It looked very much like a preseason training kickabout.
The goals Man City scored against us looked EXACTLY like moves from a preseason training kickabout. I was only surprised at how little time it took Man City to race into a 3:0 lead. Nobody can really be surprised at Manchester City scoring four goals in 90 minutes against anyone.
That’s how good they are.

Stuff that! They are superb. They are not just on another level. Maybe not even on just another planet. But possibly on another planet in another galaxy far far away. So I won’t be moping and moaning the fact we lost by a scoreline of 0:4. Of course our defending looked abysmal, albeit against top quality opposition. Still, we didn’t defend the way a PL team should.
I will cut our team some serious slack though, offensively we did ask a few questions of them, creating some good openings, but again, our conversion rate in terms of decent goalscoring opportunities was terrible. Against lesser opposition we must now begin to tuck those chances away, our lads will need to work their socks off in order to start winning games and climbing that table.

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There is a lot of business ahead for us in the January window, both in terms of getting rid of unwanted players (like Oxford), and addressing our squad imbalance, not least due to mounting injury issues. We need another fullback or two (ones that can actually defend), a defensive midfielder and a creative option too by the looks of it as it could well be that Lanzini may have to sit out the rest of the season after all.

Better to allow the injury to heal properly I suppose instead of rushing him back too early…with a knee injury being able to walk and run between cones again is the easy bit, but getting back to a level where you can play football in a highly competitive environment such as the PL is a different matter entirely.

I suppose this is what might have happened with Lanzini: Reasonably quick and steady progress which has hit a wall suddenly, just as Lanzini is returning to the football pitch for some more intense training drills.

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Not long to go now before another trip to the airport for my pre-Christmas West Ham trip for the Palace game. I may have to actually break my vow of never buying merchandise again from the club shop while the current board are still in charge – I met my brother recently and he told me that his son, my nephew, was crestfallen because little Daniel had finally outgrown his Farewell Boleyn West Ham shirt with his name and #2 on the back.

He apparently wore that shirt a lot on various occasions because he absolutely loved it (not many kids in his school wearing claret and blue as you can imagine), so I suppose I may have to get him a bigger West Ham garment, maybe a goalkeeper’s shirt this time. Or a sweatshirt or something like that…I’m just glad I seem to have succeeded in at least making West Ham his favourite club in England, I may not be able to stop him from supporting PSG, AC Milan or Real Madrid one day, but I have pretty much nullified the chance he will ever cheer for Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester United or Spurs…it’s important to cherish the little things in life…LOL


Hamburg football update: St.Pauli failed to protect a 1:0 lead and conceded a late equaliser, drawing 1:1 at Regensburg. They are in third place in the Bundesliga 2 table, only three points away from table toppers Cologne and well on course for a promotion battle. Hamburg SV will play Union Berlin later this evening. They need a draw or a win to take top spot away from Cologne.

Concordia’s first team finally won a game again, 3:1 at home against Rugenbergen. The result has helped the lads to pull away from the relegation zone for now, with only one more league and one cup game to play this year before the winter break. The U23s won 3:1 away to Reinbek, but their chances of promotion remain strictly mathematical at this point as they have lost five games already this season. History pretty much dictates that you don’t get promoted to the next level if you lose five games or more in any given season. But we’ll see.
And the Cordi women’s team got called off as the opposition team couldn’t find 11 fit players to start the game. This now means that the game will be awarded to Concordia with a 3:0 scoreline which is a bit unfair as goal difference may well be crucial when deciding which team gets promoted or not. I know that the girls were keen to play and win by a higher margin, so that 3:0 win by armchair decision doesn’t really do them any favours…

The HamburgHammer Column

Broken mirrors, damaged hopes and the upcoming trip home from home

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In case you’re wondering about the weird headline and the accompanying photo above, well, another international weekend came and went which means no West Ham game to discuss, all I gathered from German national side football was that apparently us Krauts got relegated from the A tier of the Nations League into the B tier.
That doesn’t really seem to translate into being the footballing version of Armageddon though, at least the press coverage over here was fairly tame, so I suppose it’s not overly devastating.

On a personal level I was more concerned in recent days when one morning finding bits and pieces of my side mirror on the hood of my car, with a card from the local nick attached to my door, telling me to give the fuzz a call. Turns out that a sweeper car from the Hamburg street cleaning department hit my mirror on the way past, so the police gave my case a file number and the necessary contacts at the city cleaning unit, claims department, and we shall see how this will move forward now. I suppose they’ll simply be paying for a new mirror. And it could have been a lot worse of course…

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Other than that, the christmas decorations have finally begun to crop up again here in Hamburg, with all them christmas markets in tow, it’s getting really cold outside, dark and grim, the Cordi boys lost 1:4 on Friday (it’s a relegation scrap now this season instead of transitional midtable progress), the women’s team though won 3:0 on Sunday, I’ve been reading articles and watching some TV programmes on the latest Brexit developments (all with one eye on future trips to watch West Ham) and on Saturday I helped my best mate to dismantle a big boy of a wardrobe and carry all them heavy door, side and mirror bits down into the basement through a narrow stairwell.

International weekends have a lot to answer for. First they deny us our God given right to watch a West Ham game over the weekend, secondly it gives plenty of journos and social media accounts freedom to let their imagination run riot and put rumours out there that can quickly gain momentum with no other major football headlines available in order to keep the rumours in check.

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Does Arnautovic really demand £200k a week in wages at West Ham now, threatening to push for a transfer to one of the big sides otherwise ? Apparently there is a bit of truth in it insofar as not only Arnautovic but plenty of players are quite irritated at the fact that Chicharito is on £140k a week without playing anywhere near enough to warrant that kind of financial reward. First of all, I doubt we will be paying any player at our club 200k a week anytime soon, that’s just not the kind of wage bracket for a single player a club like ours can sustain.

The Arnautovic rumour is at the very least highlighting the fact that for a while now the wage structure at our club appears to have been all over the place, upside down and in reverse with high-earners being out injured a lot, warming the bench or playing for the U23s while some of those who play regularly and consistently well for the first team can only look forward to a comparative pittance at the end of the week or month. Comparative in terms of their teammates, not your average plumber, cab driver or insurance clerk of course…

It is an issue that cannot be solved at short notice, but it still needs addressing as this can cause regular unwanted and unnecessary divisions in the dressing room. We have enough on our plate with the performances of our players on the pitch, we don’t need unrest within the squad over unfair wages on top of that. Players these days have a very fine sense of how much they are being paid in relation to their own performances and those of their teammates. If they feel left behind in the financial pecking order, bad things are likely to rear their heads sooner or later.

On a positive note I was very happy indeed to see Lanzini being back in light training, running between cones and also kicking a ball without showing any ill effects. It will be good to have him back in the fold next year. Unfortunately Fredericks now appears to be out for three or four months with an ankle injury. So another position there that needs sorting out in the January window.
What is it with this club and long term injuries ?

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Not long to go now before I am back for another visit (about time), for the Palace game, and with christmas approaching fast I’m expecting a lovely wintery atmosphere in London, with some mince pies thrown into the bargain, the odd cup of mulled wine and some jolly good banter with some members of the WHTID family.

I also hope to make it back to the Tate Britain, to say goodbye (maybe for a longer while) to the Turner collection of paintings there, my absolute favourites, and what with Brexit approaching fast, who knows when’s the next time I can feast my eyes on the original paintings, not just pictures in a book or those replicas hanging on my wall behind cheap glass frames.

You know that for me London always has and still feels like a home from home and the Turner paintings at Tate Britain are very much part of that homely feeling. Whenever I step into my flat, the first thing I see is Turner’s account of The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons.
(Don’t read too much into it, I’m neither against British politicians as such nor am I a pyromaniac, I just always liked the painting due to the powerful colours.)

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I really do hope that my regular London visits can and will pretty much continue as usual, Brexit or not. For purely egotistical reasons I still want to see my friends and mates and I also want to watch a few West Ham games in person every season.

A pretty lame reason maybe to be against Brexit, granted! But for a bit of fun, if you fancy it, this is a sarcastic look at Brexit from the “Heute Show”, a spoof news programme on German telly, subtitled for your convenience (the subtitles are accurate, let me assure you!).

Of course some of it is over the top, but, unfortunately, there is also a fair degree of truth in there. I suppose Telegraph and Daily Mail readers will disagree…maybe this can still provide a bit of balance and context in a humorous way…;-)

I for one will definitely be trying to boost your local economy while I’m over, enjoying some (okay, not some, plenty!) lovely food and drink, buying some books and newspapers, maybe even some West Ham gear, it’s Christmas after all! I can’t wait to be back! What are you saying ? Oh yes, we play Manchester City next. We shall get trounced. Not unlikely, is it ?

Then again, this is West Ham, so a 1:0 home win it is! COYI!!!

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