The HamburgHammer Column

2018 - more of the same or onwards and upwards ?

Happy New Year to all my fellow Hammers, readers, authors and posters here on WHTID. I hope 2018 will bring you health, good fortune and happiness for yourself and your families.

As for West Ham thankfully the footballing calendar doesn’t leave much time to ponder and reflect too much on points lost and opportunities missed, the West Brom game is already upon us and then there is another little thing to deal with, what was it again ? Ooh, I’m feeling a bit taters, where’s the bloody draft coming from ? Oh yes, of course, the transfer window is open once more.

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While we are still perched dangerously close to the edge of the Premier League cliff (after recent results we are actually in one of the relegation spots for the time being), it’d be foolish to assume there won’t be any transactions for West Ham in the coming weeks. Our squad needs shaking up a bit. Players who haven’t quite delivered or are unhappy with their lot at the club are likely to be shipped out.

Of course most of what’s following is mild (or wild ?) speculation on my part, but that’s all part of the fun of the transfer window, innit ? And God knows, a bit of fun is most welcome at this point, especially when it comes to our cosy little family club/global brand.

So, who will leave ? In my book, quite a few. If we can or will adequately replace them is anyone’s guess, but I would expect Hart to leave after seeing his loan terminated early.

The whole point of him coming to us in the first place was establishing himself as the clear cut Number One goalkeeper with us, booking his ticket for the World Cup in Russia in the process.

As it is though he has rarely impressed on the pitch this season. Granted, it’s not exactly a picnic having to play between the sticks for West Ham and behind our current defenders these days, but still a goalkeeper who aims to be England’s goalkeeper of choice for the World Cup should still be able to win games for his team on the pitch, pulling off unbelievable saves, instilling confidence in his defenders, being a solid rock at the back. Unfortunately Hart hasn’t been able to do that and for that reason has lost his position as regular starter and rightly so.

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I am sure that both West Ham and Joe Hart thought this loan spell would work out a lot differently, but as things stand the deal is no longer working for the player or the club.
I see a parting of ways as the natural thing to do here. I would also expect Diafra Sakho to leave as obviously his heart is no longer in it and he almost seems destined to go anywhere as long as it’s away from West Ham and he finally gets starts (understandably so), be that somewhere else in England or in France.

I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Carroll leave should we receive a decent offer for him as quite frankly, like so many other strikers at the club in recent years, he just hasn’t delivered the goods. Coupled with his injury record he just doesn’t score enough (or create scoring opportunities for others), so he could be out the door as well.
Maybe, just maybe accompanied by Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez.

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The Mexican has scored goals like clockwork everywhere he has plied his trade so far, the common denominator being him scoring all his goals from inside the box. So the secret to get the most out of him is to create plenty of movement (and havoc) near and inside the opposition’s penalty box. For some reason West Ham don’t seem to be able or willing to do that, hence Hernandez is not scoring as often as he’d like to. Also I think he wants and needs more minutes on the pitch and most clubs would be happy to give him just that, knowing what he can do if being played in the right system.
Ayew might be sold as well, but it’d be an exercise in cutting our losses as it sounds impossible that we will recoup anywhere near the fee we paid for him not too long ago.

I am aware that this would require wholesale changes for us upfront and I am also aware that January is a very difficult time to make value for money signings.
In fact, it is difficult to make any signings full stop.
Plus it doesn’t really help if you are asking potential signings to join a relegation battle rather than playing for Europa League qualification.
There is also a chance we may lose some defenders, Collins and Ogbonna being the most likely candidates. This would tie in with Reece Oxford being recalled from Borussia Mönchengladbach, apparently against the expressed wishes of the player himself.

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I have to say I was caught by surprise hearing that Oxford’s loan has been cut short. He was just starting to establish himself over there, finally getting regular starts.
It’s easy to understand why he would want to stay in the Rhineland for now as there are obviously no guarantees he will get more gametime at West Ham.
All we know so far is that Moyes will take a look at him and then decide. Which also applies to Reece Burke and Josh Cullen as both will be recalled from their loans at Bolton to be assessed by the gaffer.

According to rumours both are likely to not make the grade and get sold in this window to generate some funds to add to our transfer kitty. It is always sad when you see a youngster NOT make it and their spells at West Ham coming to an end. But on the other hand it is just part of the circle of life in football. We all know that the vast majority of prospects don’t quite make it in the end, but then again there is still a chance for Burke and Cullen as maybe, just maybe Moyes sees potential and will give them a shot for the remainder of the season. In any case it is cheaper (but also a lot riskier) to play prospects rather than signing new players who already have experience at the top level.

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Having watched several transfer windows under our current board already I have come to basically expect nothing from them when it comes to getting deals over the line, especially for players of a certain quality with a pricetag to match. I just don’t think they still know how to cope in today’s crazy market. Of course from a fan’s perspective the current transfer fees are mindboggling, even for average Premier League players. But the prices are what they are and if you are not prepared to pay the price you won’t get the player as another club will simply step up and pay if they are really interested in getting that particular player.

There aren’t many shrewd deals available anymore out there and the only thing that might push our board towards spending a fair amount of cash is the fear of actually getting relegated. That indeed would be horrible for our club on so many levels. It also would instantly devalue the board’s investment significantly and if anything, they won’t allow that to happen if they can avoid that.

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I will welcome any new signing at the club with wide open arms, a lot of hope and yes, also a modicum of optimism. It’s been said before, all it takes is two wins on the bounce and we’d be very much back in business. It’s very tight in the table and it’s easy to make up or drop several places in the table with just a few results.
I am absolutely certain that we will stay up but I am equally certain that it’s going to be a struggle for the rest of the season. We will always hover in and around the relegation places, that’s just the way the season seems to be shaping up.

West Brom next then. Again, a very winnable game, but as we know that alone should give us plenty of reasons to approach this fixture with caution. There are no easy games for us this season. Have we ever dominated the opposition in a game in the past 18 months, winning at a canter or having the opposition under the kosh for the entire game ?
I don’t think so. I expect a tense affair, a scrappy game, but hopefully one we can win regardless, even if it may not be beautiful.

I’m looking forward to the West Brom game, the rollercoaster of emotions that is the January transfer window and of course to writing some more articles for you good people in 2018. I hope they will still be about Premier League football once August 2018 comes around…COYI!!!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Lary Potters and travelling on the road to recovery

This was one awesome performance from our boys at Stoke, never an easy place to go and get a result. It certainly made this German sausage muncher smile which is no easy feat as I was trying to keep my imported English man flu under wraps, literally covering under a warm blanket, sipping one mug of herbal tea after another.
But I was curious to see what West Ham team exactly was gonna show up, the one that got us four points out of games against three of the top sides in the league or the lackluster one that self imploded against Everton.

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It was a joy to see us getting Stoke frustrated, both their team and the home crowd. Once again we kept our solidity at the back, not giving them much in terms of clear cut goalscoring opportunities. They hit the post once and Shawcross headed over the crossbar from close range. That was pretty much it.
Every single player put in a shift, out of 10 I wouldn’t want to score any of our players below 8, although Adrian in fairness didn’t have much to do at all, so on the back of Stoke’s overall harmlessness he maybe only gets a 7.

The penalty for us has been discussed at length, for me it wasn’t a blatant dive, but a harsh penalty to concede. If that had been the other way round I’d have been fuming.
But it’s one of those you see given time and time again and I won’t complain that this time it was us who benefitted from it. Sure I’d prefer if our players didn’t go down easily.
In that respect Lanzini was probably milking it a bit. Then again the defender gave the referee a decision to make which is just what he did.
How many times have our defenders been in the same boat, barely making contact with the opposition player in the box, yet being penalised with a penalty kick (and sometimes a red card as well) ?

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It is rare for West Ham these days to have a number of players who could have been crowned as man of the match, but for me there were several candidates this time, the obvious one being Arnautovic. Now, don’t get me wrong, having spoken to him in preseason and having read stories about him from his Bremen days he doesn’t strike me as a pleasant character. I still think he is somewhat of a p****, but he is our p**** now and it surely is better to have him on your team than the other side.

It’s easy to see he didn’t leave Stoke on friendly terms the way the crowd greeted him and also the fact that no Stoke player approached him during warming up to shake his hand nad have a bit of banter. Not a lot of love lost between them methinks. So they were dishing it out to him big time, winding him up at every opportunity as Arnautovic seemed to feed from that more and more, getting one chance after another – in truth he could have scored three or four.

The way he celebrated his goal extensively and did the crossed hammers in front of the Stoke fans is not the kind of clever behaviour more polite, professional or level-headed players would have displayed. But Arnautovic is who he is and he was giving it back to them in buckets. And I loved it! Long may his good form continue now!

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My second MotM candidate has to be Masuaku. Where has this guy been all the time ? (On the bench most often, I know, but that’s not where he should be on current form)
To see him charging down the wing, ball close to his feet, doing his little flicks and tricks and delivering decent crosses galore is a beauty to behold.
He’s apparently got his own song now as well – and deservedly so. He has been one of the main reasons for our recent revival.

You also cannot ignore Lanzini who was quiet in recent games but really lit up this one. He was at the heart of the penalty that set us on the road to victory. His mesmerising flick to Arnautovic set up the second goal which knocked the stuffing out of the Potters. And he also was involved in most of our numerous counterattacking moves.
Which also very much applies to…..please welcome to the stage, young Master Rice!

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When he had to take over from the injured Noble I wasn’t sure if this was the right kind of game for Rice. Critical phase of the game. Hostile home crowd. Physical opposition.
This could have gone badly wrong. But what do I know ? I’m just an undersized German, wrapped in a blanket, mending a running nose…:-))

Rice was magnificent. He slotted into Noble’s position as if he had been playing there for two full seasons already. He was calm and composed way beyond his 18 years.
Maybe it’s the flu, but I didn’t see him set a foot wrong all game. Saying that, Collins also slotted back into the team seamlessly and added some welcome old head experience to our backline.

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The other two subs probably didn’t play long enough to deserve MotM plaudits, but I felt both did their jobs remarkably well and surely helped us bringing three points back to East London. Hernandez was a nuisance straight away and tried to set up goals for his teammates in a very unselfish manner. Which ultimately helped Diafra Sakho who could and should have scored three really, but the one he actually DID score was a nice move all around.

It was great to see the team rallying round to celebrate with him. For many he is already halfway out the door, being lined up for a move in January. Be that as it may, as a player I’d hate to lose him as it won’t be easy to replace his quality with the kind of money we are likely to get for him, should he be sold to France.

So, we continue on the road to recovery with some more winnable games coming up, including to the cup game against Arsenal. If we put the same kind of effort in and perform as a unit we should come away with more points and wins from the remaining December fixtures. I’m certainly a lot more confident than two weeks ago!

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Talking briefly about some rumours that two highly touted youth players could be heading out in the near future, namely Reece Oxford and Domingos Quina.
Oxford has just begun to start some games for Borussia Mönchengladbach and they have a history of bringing out the best in young players.
I have heard stories that after his brief appearances for our first team Oxford might have become a bit too big for his boots already and it is far more his attitude than his ability that will decide his future at West Ham.
Maybe a permanent transfer to Mönchengladbach can be a win-win situation for all concerned, provided of course the price is right.

The same applies to Domingos Quina, a highly rated midfielder from Portugal. His agent, like many of his profession, seems to be a bit of a wheeler and dealer, so him apparently asking for a massive payrise for his client could just be posturing and bravado. It depends on whether we trust the player enough to make it as a Premier League player in the near future.

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I like nothing more than seeing a player coming up through the ranks and establishing himself in the first team. I reckon Rice will be one of them.
As for all the other hopefuls most of them remain as just that: Hopefuls who never make it above League One or Championship level.
As a fan you always hope they can succeed but the fact is they rarely do.

The thing with Oxford and Quina is that there seems to be interest from other clubs which means West Ham will have a decision to make. Cash in with a modest fee now, in the hope they eventually won’t make it or keep the faith and reap the rewards a few years down the line, either by having them as established first team players at West Ham or being able to sell them for a much higher fee, watching a bidding war from several big clubs. It’s a gamble either way, but I hope the Academy will continue to be an integral part of our beloved club.

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Having had some good results recently the proof will still be in the pudding this January, with the upcoming transfer window. If we don’t support Moyes with bringing in some decent signings it will tell us once again what the board are about. You can’t just sit back and do nothing because we have finally managed to collect some points.
Strengthening the team should ALWAYS be one of your priorities running the club, no matter if you are fighting relegation, sitting comfortably in midtable or challenging for the Europa league places.

But that is a concern for January. Right now I’m finally enjoying watching our games again – and thank God it’s no longer from behind the sofa in shock and horror!
Right, need to make another cuppa…COYI!!!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Stratford Diary: Popcorn, how to turn(er) a season around and forever eating bubble

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Another highly enthralling and exciting trip in the bag, with a lot of surprise experiences along the way. It was a trip where I hadn’t exactly overloaded my travel itinerary.
In fact nothing at all was scheduled in advance, apart from the home games against Chelsea and Arsenal of course, but other than that I was aware it was the busy Christmas period, so I knew my friends from the blog might not be able to be at my disposal 24/7 resulting in my having to improvise somewhat – but that led to some other good experiences, so it was eventually another worthwhile trip.

But let’s try to start, well, from the start. First day.

Friday, December 8th – Day of departure
Another early morning on the bus and tube to the airport. And the first scare of several to follow. Due to some family related health issues my nerves were playing tricks on me. So I briefly forgot my suitcase after I had just finished the security procedures at Hamburg airport. For five minutes I panicked, but got assisted brilliantly by airport staff and after retracing my steps I found my luggage sound and safe where I had left it. So I could board the flight to Heathrow on time, ready to start my trip.

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The trip from Heathrow to Stratford is a lengthy one at the best of times. But if you get on the wrong DLR train on top of that it gets even worse. Still, I made it to my airbnb accommodation by way of Abbey Road Station (not the Beatles one though but the one in East London). My hosts were a lovely Colombian lady (sometimes hard to understand, especially as she sometimes was talking in Spanish to me for no apparent reason and with no regard to the fact I don’t speak or understand Spanish) and her husband whose parents were of West Indian heritage, but he was born and raised in Whitechapel, it doesn’t get more Cockney than that surely, we had some nice chats during my stay and he made me laugh after I talked to him about the Arsenal game the next morning.

I told him about the goalless draw and he asked when the replay would now take place, being unaware that there are no replays for draws in league fixtures.
Not a football fan then I suppose…:-))
I made use of the excellent transport links and took a bus to Upton Park, briefly mourned the vast emptiness that used to be the Boleyn Ground and got some grub.
As there were no customers in Nathan’s Pie&Mash Shop I decided to have some fish&chips at Ercan Fish Bar in the Barking Road before moving on to the Newham Bookshop.

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As usual I was made to feel welcome with open arms, a cup of Rosie, mince pies and a good chat. Needless to say I returned the favour and got myself some West Ham and general football related books. I also filled out a petition card to the local MP to keep the statue at its current location.
I feel it belongs there and is one of the few remaining objects that remind us that West Ham United FC used to be such an important part of this neighbourhood.
If we want a statue there our board should commission a new one (can’t be costing the world) and put that at London Stadium, but not the original one.

Either way I returned to Stratford late afternoon for a quick “Welcome back to London” pint in a pub I passed on the way (I think it was the “Queen’s Head” on West Ham Lane) and then settled down in my room for the rest of the evening as I knew an early kickoff was awaiting the next day – and I wanted to be ready for that.

Saturday, December 9th – Matchday 1 – Chelsea at home
I didn’t expect anything from the two games I was going to attend. I fully expected zero points and two almighty drubbings. And even that was being optimistic in my book.
But I was looking forward to it anyway as it meant meeting some of my good friends from the blog again, in this instance BSB and Russ (still the original one).
As my lodging was en route they picked me up in Arthingworth Street (E15) and when I got into the motor I was greeted with a familiar tune.

Yes, the unofficial Hamburg anthem sung by Hans Albers, the one I had treated them with upon their arrival to my town. It was a nice touch although to be frank I would have prefered a London themed ditty like “London Calling”, “Streets of London” or “The Battle of Barking”. But you can’t have everything…;-))
After parking the car near the stadium we ventured into Stour Space where the Supporters Club has found its new home. I had recently become a member and was desperate to try it out and I found it to be pleasant and cosy enough, with a good group of fellow Hammers in there to share a pre-match drink and some banter before taking the short walk into the stadium.

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Luckily enough I could sit with the gang again (BSB, Russ, VOR and Gramsci), so I had a reasonably decent view of our demolition of Chelsea, never in doubt that one!
I kept asking myself during the game: Where do those aliens actually live who abducted our team and replaced them with clones that could play organised and utterly professional football against one of the top sides in the country ?

We kept our shape, we kept a clean sheet, Adrian had a reasonably quiet 90 minutes and the outfield players all looked like they gave a monkey’s. That effort didn’t go unnoticed by the crowd who created a brilliant wall of noise at times, the rocking atmosphere we had been missing for so long. It’s still not a football stadium.
But that fact becomes far less important when the team are playing their collective guts out.
It was a pleasure seeing yet another of my customary 1:0 wins at London Stadium and just as lovely to meet HammersWest in person who had travelled all the way from her surely much warmer home base in California.

As nobody else had time and desire for a pub crawl I joined BSB at his little palace in Dagenham East where we settled down for some football watching, rabbitting on about football (and life) before ordering some giant pizzas to celebrate our win over Chelsea in style.

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It had been a long day, but BSB was good enough to drive me “home” to Stratford later that evening which was obviously very kind. He’s a gentleman anyway, but I suppose our win had put him in a jolly good mood as well.

Sunday, December 10th
Essentially this was going to be a lazy Sunday as I couldn’t be bovvered to venture out on my own if I could avoid it and BSB once again offered his hospitality as there was a triple bill of football on the telly, and why not! First though it was a Full English for us at one of the best caffs the Enjoy Cafe in Dagenham.
I enjoyed my breakfast with a nice helping of bubble on the plate, despite initially not being entirely sure what it actually was.
Once again though my threadbare nerves were playing up as just before we left I couldn’t find my wallet. I knew that I had taken it to the cafe as I had been handing some money to BSB when we ordered our food.

I checked the usual pockets and went into full panic mode with BSB staying unbelievably calm. In my mind a terrible movie was being played out, with some geezer nicking my wallet from the table where I had left it unattended for a few seconds, containing not only my money and cash card, but also my ID.
The next stage of my inner movie saw me having to inactivate my cash card and go to the embassy to sort out new documents so I could actually get back on the plane and travel back to Hamburg. Still BSB remained totally calm, claiming he couldn’t imagine the wallet getting nicked just like that.

And then I found it, in a pocket of my jacket I never use. So why did I use it this time ? Well, we had switched tables just before our orders arrived and my jacket was hanging over the chair. So I suppose when I put the wallet back into the jacket I wasn’t actually wearing I must have used the nearest pocket which wasn’t the regular one.
Once my blood pressure had returned to customary levels we could settle down in BSB’s living room, enjoying a triple bill of football (including the brilliant personality analysis of Jose Mourinho from Oasis founder and Man City nut Noel Gallagher).

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We could then enjoy his wife Karen’s famous chili con carne, BSB still claims it was beef, I reckon it was a concoction of squirrel, badger and peacock, but either way it was yummy and if it is yummy I will eat it…:-))

Monday, December 11th – Matchday cancelled
Bugger! If there was one game I had been looking forward to for this trip it was our U23’s game against their Spurs counterparts on Monday evening in that great little football ground in Dagenham, but the snow bomb that had exploded the previous day made sure the pitch was waterlogged and in no condition for the fixture to go ahead.
BSB gave me those news just as I had left Tate Britain. Yes, you read that correctly. Usually during my trips I don’t do touristy stuff in London anymore, but I made an exception this time as I didn’t want to stay in Stratford all day and as I am a massive fan of William Turner’s paintings I was keen to see some of them again, having last seen them probably ten years ago.

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As museums tend to overwhelm me I joined two guided tours that gave me some nice insights and also pointed me to some of the many highlights in the gallery.
Did you know that Tate Britain was erected on the site of a former prison ? That Mr.Tate made his fortune from selling sugar to the world in large quantities ? And that William Turner bequeathed most of his paintings and sketches to the British nation rather than selling them so that normal folk can now marvel at them rather than just millionaires and posh people ? No ? Neither did I.

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I had to improvise later on as the West Ham U23 game wasn’t on. So I grabbed a bite to eat in Stratford before going to see a film at Stratford East Picturehouse.
What film did I choose ? Well, I was feeling a bit lonely as a foreigner in London and I like my food, so I chose Paddington 2.
I could empathise with a peckish visitor in London and I was happy enough that the film was taking me to various locations in and around London (including a prison) and unsurprisingly food was again a major theme throughout. Just my kind of flick!

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As it was an early evening showing it was a bit if a bizarre experience as I was watching the film in the company of just two other paying customers. At least that minimised the chances of somebody spoiling things for the rest by fiddling around with their smartphones all the time. Very enjoyable film. Money well spent. And I finally got to eat some popcorn in Stratford! I wouldn’t dream of buying the stuff when watching West Ham, but a cinema surely is the perfect environment for munching some popcorn!

Tuesday, December 12th
I returned to the arts again, having enjoyed myself so much the day before, so I started out in Tate Modern, being greeted in the giant turbine hall by grown up people swinging about on various swings, like on a playground. Apparently this is a statement from the artist how swinging can solve most of our current problems in the world, therefore some of the swings will soon be moved to various locations in London and Britain. Maybe if readers of this blog do some copious swinging it will help West Ham to stay up!

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I cannot claim to be an expert on art, but I have to confess I struggle somewhat with modern art. Some of the stuff at Tate Modern looked right ridiculous, weird or even disturbing to me. Some of the items looked like my ten year old nephew might have done a better job. There was a thing called “Yellow Curve”, an oil painting that looked like a plain yellow triangular shape (which in fact wasn’t triangular, but that’s not the point). maybe I just don’t get it. Maybe there IS nothing to get actually. Maybe it’s just supposed to look nice on a wall. Which it kind of did.

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I then got a message that Iron Liddy, Longtime Lurker and a surprise guest (or two) would be meeting me later that evening for a drink. That gave me the chance to return to Tate Britain first and do the guided tour of Turner I had missed the day before. It was highly entertaining (I bought three books on Turner alone from the museum shop afterwards) and after the tour I got chatting to the tour guide (who was obviously a big Turner fan too) who enquired if I had come to London just for the Turners.

When I told her I was there mainly for footballing reasons she asked what club I was supporting. When I told her West Ham she smiled and said her son was an Arsenal fan which added some personal spice for the derby the following day. As nice as that lady was and even though we both shared a fondness for certain paintings I wanted our boys to demolish her son’s team on the pitch of the London Stadium on Wednesday. But first it was off to my old stomping ground in Barking.

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I had a drink or two with Liddy and the Lurker in The Barking Dog pub (which brought back some memories from when I was actually living there, in Barking that is, not in the pub!). It was great to see them again and they helped me to keep my chin up despite the already mentioned family issue of mine. Thanks for that guy and gal!
We then hopped on the District Line for the quick ride to Upminster where I could put another face to a name when Hugh Jardon joined our round in the pub.
To be followed by Mr.Lids shortly after who had just finished his weekly dose of playing indoors three a side football.

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We talked football and West Ham all evening and all had a jolly good time. I had the good fortune that the Lurker put me on the fast train to West Ham, so that I was back in Stratford in no time, ready for a good night’s sleep before another matchday!

Wednesday, December 13th – Matchday 2 – Arsenal at home
Yes, the night was a bit rough to be fair as I rarely drink more than two pints these days and it had been more than two the previous evening. So I didn’t venture out to Central London on my final full day in England, instead I began to pack my bags and lay low before it was time to walk over towards the stadium. This time I actually managed to find The Ribman (who had eluded me somehow at the Chelsea game) and I got my customary pork roll with hot sauce, of course we also shared some banter.
I told him that his stall was one of the few good things about the London Stadium and he just grinned at me. I suppose he hears that a lot!

Before kickoff I met briefly with some more regulars from on here, including Ray the Hammer, CRB, Irons1959 and his sister, AndyHammer (if I’m not mistaken) plus Dan Coker and his dad. Nice as usual, but unfortunately I couldn’t deliver another 1:0 home win. A goalless draw against Arsenal was another welcome result though, helping to consolidate our climb away from the relegation zone, so I was quite happy with that result under the circumstances.

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After the game I quickly said Hello to the guys from West Ham Fan TV. It was interesting to see them doing all their reaction videos and fancams, also how they were interviewing their counterparts from Arsenal Fan TV and vice versa. It seemed like everyone was recording with their smartphones to create content for their individual channels on social media.

I walked back to Stratford Station with the lads and had a chat with one of their main presenters, Ryan Archer, who is a Canning Town boy, and as I have stayed in that area during a previous trip we had a chinwag about what Canning Town used to be like during his childhood, growing up there – and we also agreed that West Ham were looking as if they had now turned a corner and could steer their way to a midtable position.

The West Ham Fan TV crew is a good bunch and I can really recommend their stuff on Youtube. It’s an especially good watch for overseas supporters like me who can only attend so many games in person. Keep up the good work lads!

Thursday, December 14th – Day of return to Hamburg
Back to Heathrow Airport midday, killing time at the airport with the flight back being delayed for over an hour. Still, it was a very decent trip, albeit it a slightly different and improvised one this time. I still find myself enjoying going back to London immensely. It may not be the most beautiful place in the world or the best city to live in, but without a doubt it is probably the most interesting city there is.

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As for West Ham ? Well, the matchday experience is beginning to grow on me. I still don’t like the stadium much, but I will continue to watch my beloved Hammers, if I can get a ticket. Not sure if I will buy another season ticket, I may just as well buy a club membership and buy single tickets if and when required.
Thank God our team is looking much better now and on course for staying up. Of course I would also watch us in the Championship. But staying in the Premier League will make my future trips slightly more appealing of course. COYI!

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The HamburgHammer Column

Finally some pride and passion (with rice in the side) - there is still life in West Ham!

So it wasn’t the anticipated humiliating defeat from hell yesterday, no double digits, not even a 0:5 scoreline. We actually gave one of the best teams in the world an almighty scare.

Yes, of course Man City dominated possession and especially in the second half there was wave upon wave of attack on our goal, with numerous goalscoring opportunities created (leading to a number of very fine saves by Adrian). I actually believe Man City vastly underestimated our team in the first half which is why they were struggling initially with the crowd getting on their backs accordingly.

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We even took a very surprising lead after a well taken header by Ogbonna. But it was obvious we couldn’t hang on. After all, Manchester City as a club are so much more professional than us on every level, on and off the pitch. They do a lot of things right (granted, with some serious financial backing), so I can’t really deny them my respect.

Like most other fans I expected a drubbing of epic proportions. So I changed my game watching routine, trying to do my bit for the cause – I was wearing a West Ham shirt I usually don’t use for armchair purposes.

Then it was out with the screwdriver, in with a tiny pair of tweezers to keep my nerves in check and my fingers busy. I expected us to concede a truckload of goals and I had an inkling the first Man City goal would be one of many, serving to open the floodgates – how wrong I was!

I watched the game by way of muttering to myself with every passing minute that we still hadn’t conceded, like a Buddhist monk saying his mantra: “First minute survived without conceding, COYI! Two minutes gone without conceding, well done lads! Three minutes without conceding, not too bad West Ham!” You get the picture. Once our goal went in I tried to suppress the natural upsurge of hope within myself because I knew that under the circumstances a win or even a draw was still highly unlikely.

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Ultimately it was all in vain of course, no points to show for all the effort and considering that even a draw was possible if Sakho had scored with his shot very late in the game we could have approached the upcoming tasks against Chelsea and Arsenal with a lot more swagger.

Still I saw plenty of guts, desire and effort. And organisational shape. Our lads defended really well overall. We managed a number of promising counters. Every player looked up for it. Which is exactly what is required as a bare minimum if we want to stay up.

What do I take from the game ? Well, for me Adrian deserves to keep the shirt after pulling off one great save after another. Hart may be the England goalkeeper, but that doesn’t help West Ham if his performances for us leave a lot to be desired.

He seems to be a goalkeeper on the decline and I’d rather see us keeping faith in Adrian and then sign another goalkeeper in the summer (as it’s probably not feasible to terminate Hart’s loan in January).

Also I was impressed with young Declan Rice. He will benefit from games like these no end and should play more often now. I also feel our defensive setup looked a lot more composed and solid while upfront I prefer it if we play pacy guys like Sakho or Antonio. We don’t have enough pace in the side as it is, if we don’t even use the fast players we still have we might as well not bother turning up for games at all.

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At the very least our performance has given me a bit more hope my upcoming visit for the Chelsea and Arsenal fixtures won’t be a total disaster. Usually I tend to enjoy my time away from the actual West Ham game a whole lot more than actually watching the game itself. Maybe, just maybe West Ham will do me a pre-festive favour and pull off one almighty giant killing against either of our London rivals.

I am flying in on Friday morning and I shall be staying in a convenient location close to the stadium, basically situated between Stratford High Street and Abbey Road Station.

Of course I’m looking forward to meeting plenty of you good people again, some of the regulars as usual but also new faces. I’m only flying back to Hamburg the day after the Arsenal game, so there is plenty of time to meet up and share a few drinks and mince pies. Six full days in London, lovely jubbly!

I also understand there will be a feisty encounter between the West Ham U23s and Spurs U23s on Monday evening (December 11th), so this might be a good opportunity for some of you to come over to Dagenham and cheer the boys on!
I for one will make sure I’ll be there!

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Just for a brief mention of the issue of the Mayor of London getting involved in renegotiating our stadium deal. I think we can agree that the Olympic Stadium saga has been a comedy of errors, very costly ones at that!

Virtually every mistake that could have been made along the way, from designing and building the place, preserving a post games legacy, the bidding processes, finding a naming rights sponsor, the retractable seating and so forth was made with pinpoint precision, with numerous people getting in on the act – all of them contributing in varying measures to the cul de sac we now find ourselves in.

Nobody seems to be happy with the way the move went, apart from our owners.
The taxpayers are up in arms over the deal of the century, most West Ham fans are underwhelmed with our new home, rival fans are fuming and I can’t see the Newham locals being too impressed with their council flushing millions down the drain.

I can’t see West Ham moving out of that place anytime soon. I can’t see West Ham buying the London Stadium (who should pay for that ?). And I also don’t see the stadium being converted into a proper football stadium. They may probably find an alternative venue for athletics to get rid of the expensive need to switch between modes twice a year. But even then the stadium will remain as a highly disappointing botch job of a multi purpose stadium, a compromise made of brick, mortar and false promises.

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Coming to the Cordi update and in accordance with the Game of Thrones TV series I can confirm: Winter has come to town! The Christmas markets are open. In the morning you hear the predictable symphony of people scraping their car windows.

It’s freezing cold. And that traditionally is the time when football in Germany is grinding to a halt, having a two month winter break. That includes Concordia, but on Saturday there was one final home game to be played against Wedel.

There was mulled wine available in the club house, telltale sign that indeed winter is finally here. Also bear in mind that the floodlights at Cordi are notoriously bad (at the far end of the pitch it’s like watching at the London Stadium, you can’t read name and number on the players’ shirts) and it’s easy to understand why only 80 people opted to leave their warm and cosy living rooms in order to buy a ticket for the game in East Hamburg. For those who were brave enough to weather the cold they were duly rewarded with Cordi’s best performance of the season and a 5:1 victory.

Some of the goals came from well worked counter attacks, with some glorious high risk shots from the edge of the box thrown in for good measure. This win was much needed and it brought some smiles to the players and staff which was nice to see before going into the long winter break.

I was happy enough at the final whistle to get invited by some of the local sponsors (who are genuine fans attending every game) who had laid on a dinner for the team in the club house afterwards and it was good to discuss a 5:1 win over roastbeef with fried potatoes, chips and chicken wings (plus beer, wines and softdrinks).

The goalkeeping coach and Everton fan was also there, with his massive Rottweiler called Neville (named after former Everton custodian Southall) in tow. He was obviously happy with Everton’s recent results but also told me he would have prefered Moyes back at Everton instead of Allardyce.

I also discussed West Ham with some of the older sponsors who have been supporting Cordi for 30 or 40 years and these guys are genuine football fans. They were very interested to hear my thoughts on the Premier League, the new stadium and West Ham’s current plight.

At the end of the evening they were all wishing me well for my trip, expressing their hopes West Ham would start winning games again, securing their league status for another season.

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So, not long to go now before hitting the airport again. I hope the trip will yield some pre-Christmas pressies for me in the shape of some decent performances from our boys (and maybe the odd point or three). I already know tea and mince pies (and a nice chat) are waiting for me at Newham Bookshop.
And I may give the new West Ham Supporters Club in Stour Place near the stadium a try for a nice pre game breakfast.

Other than that ? No idea, again my itinerary is reasonably empty for the time being, I shall be taking things as they come when I’m over. Some of the best days are there to be had when they are just allowed to happen.

So, the German once again has gone against the natural trait of his fellow countrymen by not having pre-planned every single hour ahead. I reckon the trip will be a good one as usual though. Maybe even a brilliant one. We’ll see.


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The HamburgHammer Column

There will always be a West Ham and anyway, we will stay up this season!

At least not another embarrassing defeat. In previous seasons, under normal circumstances, a 1:1 draw at home against Leicester would not have yielded the kind of enthusiastic support and raucous noise from the West Ham home crowd. But from what I could gather from the comfort of my sofa the atmosphere at the London Stadium last Friday was fantastic, a proper defiant reaction from our fanbase, displaying a fierce in the trenches corral mentality.

The current circumstances at West Ham are anything but normal, but at least the fans did their bit and it seemed to rub off on the team who gave a much more spirited performance. They looked like they actually gave a monkey’s.
The effort was certainly there, the running was a lot better, the pressing too and while there was still a clear lack of creative quality in our side this should come back in due course once the new gaffer has settled in properly and the team begin playing with more confidence and according to a clearly defined gameplan.

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There has been a lot of talk in recent days about former members of the ICF taking things into their own hands in terms of letting the board know that most of our supporters are anything but happy (and why that is the case), so those guys will try and compile a list of the most pressing issues and tell the owners accordingly. It is then up to the board to act upon the suggestions from the fanbase or face significant backlash in the shape of various fan protests over the coming weeks and months.

I applaud those guys for their efforts and wish them every success, alas I am less than hopeful it will have the desired effect. The board will follow their financial roadmap to the letter, cashing in their interest payments for another three or four years until they can sell the club without the shackles of having to share a portion of their profit with the LLDC/taxpayer. Then – and only then – will they seriously consider getting out of the club.

I take a degree of comfort though from the thought that there will still be a West Ham worth rooting for in some shape or form once the current lot are gone and hopefully the latest initiative from the “Real West Ham Fans” group will help in uniting our fanbase again, making sure that as much of our club’s soul as possible can be preserved, despite the actions of the current owners.

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I am confident that there are still plenty of sons and daughters out there who will follow in the footsteps of their parents, uncles, aunties and grandparents and grow up to be staunch West Ham supporters. West Ham are more than just a football club and it still has a place in the hearts of thousands of people all over the globe. That must count for something.

I have no doubt that our team is good enough to see out the season with a modicum of professional pride and reach the beckoning shore of Premier League safety.
It will probably not quite be another Great Escape a la Tevez, we look far too minimalistic on the pitch for that, so it’ll be more like a Late Escape than a great one, but escape we will. Of that I have no doubt.

The upcoming Everton game should be a thrilling encounter as surely Everton too are nowhere near where they expected to be in the table at the start of the season.
The pressure on them should be even bigger than on us which might work in our favour on the night. We should also have players returning back into the fold, like Hernandez and Antonio, giving us a few more options in terms of how to approach the game.

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It looks to me like a switch has finally been flicked and I have no doubt that both results and performances will continue to improve as long as the players persist with showing better effort and application as that alone can and will trigger the kind of support from the Hammers faithful that is paramount if we want to maintain our league status.

In other, local German news I told you in a previous column about the agreement of the local Regionalliga Southwest to play the Chinese U20 side in a series of friendly games, not affecting the league table, but giving the lower league clubs some much needed financial boost while affording the Chinese players the opportunity to play some competitive games to get themselves ready for the Olympic Games.

There was a lot of criticism even before a ball was kicked, now the experiment has been stopped until further notice due to some football fans deciding to make a political statement by taking Tibetan flags to the first game of the Chinese team which obviously didn’t go down with their players, officials and the football authorities back home.
On the one hand of course you could argue that sporting events like these should not be overshadowed by political campaigning.

On the other hand there is the right of free speech in Western Europe, so taking a flag to football should not be a reason to eject supporters from the venue or abandon the game. Then again West Ham fans have learned in recent weeks that you don’t have to take a Tibetan flag to the stadium to get yourself in a spot of bother.
I never thought the idea with the Chinese U20 team playing in Germany was a brilliant one to pursue and if a Tibetan flag in the crowd is all it takes to rile up the visitors then maybe they should get their Olympic preparations done elsewhere.

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To quickly update you on Reece Oxford and his exploits at a team from Germany (Borussia Moenchengladbach) his loan club surprisingly managed to deal the mighty Bayern Munich its first defeat in what felt like five years or so, beating them 2:1. Moenchengladbach are now only five points behind the league leaders from Munich and The Foals Eleven (as they are affectionately known in the country of the sausage munchers) are well on course to secure Champions league football coming to the Rhineland next season.

It’s not ideal for Reece Oxford on the face of it as Moenchengladbach have no reason whatsoever to play him as things are going very well as they are at the moment, without Oxford getting any significant gametime. On the other hand they are known for developing and bringing through youngsters in a very strategic and patient manner, so his time may come, but Moenchengladbach may take their time in watching his progress and maybe even decide to buy him if they are convinced he is right for them.
They certainly won’t be playing him just to do West Ham any favours.

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As for the quick Concordia update (haters, please skip this section accordingly), the trip to Buchholz in Lower Saxony (representing the longest away trip of the season with their ground being 30 miles away from my flat) yielded mixed results. On the pitch it was an unmitigated disaster, with Cordi losing 0:4 to a side fighting relegation.
Concordia this season are certainly not pulling their weight and at this rate can forget any ambitions of going up one level at the end of the season. Not good.
Talking of weight though, for a food aficionado like me Buchholz offer a unique selling point to the carnivorous groundhopper: Grilled sausages made from horsemeat.
In the Oberliga Hamburg no other club serves these, but Lower Saxony is horse country, hence their unusual (and very tasty) offer on the matchday menu.

Before you kill me, I don’t have a special bond with horses. I never spent any holidays on a ranch as a kid, I have never ridden a horse in my life, I don’t bet on horses and I also eat pork, veal, beef or chicken. And besides, Cordi only play away at Buchholz once a season, so please forgive me if I treat myself to a horsemeat based snack once a year. And believe me, right now I am particularly grateful for any treat I can get.

Which brings me to a bit of a parish notice, closing out my column for this week. In the upcoming weeks my column may be a lot shorter than usual. There may even be certain weeks where I won’t feel like penning an article at all. This is due to personal circumstances/family reasons. Quite simply, I may be absent-minded when it comes to West Ham in the next few weeks/months (although I will still come over for the Chelsea and Arsenal games), so please accept my apologies should my column not go up quite as regularly as you have been accustomed to.


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