The HamburgHammer Column

West Ham's hart transfer window

Slowly things have started to move closer towards the season starting proper. At least this is true for the Concordia lads who had another run out, playing two short games (45 minutes each) in a mini tournament up the Baltic Sea coast in Timmendorf, apparently losing both games. The season begins in earnest, sort of, with a cup tie this Friday against lowly Stapelfeld again, that’s the team we already beat 7:0 in preseason if you remember.

Oh yes, the Concordia 2nd team/development squad also had another pre-season tester at home yesterday (again, I didn’t attend as friendlies or preseason games are not exactly my cup of tea), they were playing Slaven’s countrymen of Croatia Hamburg. The Cordi youngsters won 3:1, so they are a promising bunch for sure.

Apparently there will be plenty of home doubleheader Sundays next season for Concordia, so it’ll be the Cordi youngsters playing at 11am first (free admission) to be followed by the game of the first team at 2 or 3pm, sounds good to me!

Talking about transfers at West Ham we clearly haven’t managed to go big or early in this window as previously intended for a variety of reasons. Those mainly being the fact we simply are not the most attractive proposition for players in the league right now and then there is our general caution/reluctance when it comes to spending money on transfer fees or wages, especially at the crazy amounts flying around in this particularly bonkers window.

At the time of writing we seem to be close to announcing a loan deal with an option to buy for Joe Hart, the long time England goalkeeper. Rumour has it that Man City will cover half of his weekly wages (rumoured to be between £100k and £120k), depending on what loan fee will be agreed upon and we will also get the opportunity to make the deal permanent next summer for a transfer fee amounting to somewhere between £10 million and £13 million, possibly already including performance related bonuses.

I suppose a goalkeeper was not exactly top of our bucket list for this transfer window, but when an opportunity arises you have to take it and at those terms it looks like a shrewd move as neither Randolph or Adrian were consistent enough last season to instill into our defense any kind of confidence, I know that Hart himself is always good for the odd howler or hand before eyes moment too, but that applies to all but the truly world class goalkeepers. If Hart was indeed flawless or at the peak of his goalkeeping art Man City wouldn’t let him go and even pay half of his wages to get rid of him.

He still looks like a good upgrade for us though. Beggars and choosers and all that. From what I’ve heard he has always had a bit of honest rapport and banter with the West Ham fans so there seems to be a bit of understanding there already and Hart has always struck me as an easy guy to root for. He seems to be a very good instinctive shot stopper while having a tendency to punch balls away a lot though when sometimes it appears he could probably catch the ball. With all those blocks/punches it’ll sure make for some breathtaking moments in our own penalty box, but defending has always been a task for the entire team anyway, so I’m sure we can be fine in that respect if all our players sing from the same hymn sheet.

Funnily enough I saw Hart play for Shrewsbury years ago in 2005 when he had just started to establish himself as the starting goalkeeper for The Shews.
I was in London with my brother to watch West Ham play Bolton (we lost 1:2 with Bolton skipper Kevin Nolan scoring for his manager, a certain Sam Allardyce).
Two days later we learned that nearby Leyton Orient actually had a bank holiday fixture at home against Shrewsbury and as I had always fancied watching a game at Brisbane Road (and my brother was fine with it too) we went to the game which Shrewsbury won 1:0.

I remember vividly reading the matchday programme and to this day I remember two things: Joe Hart was touted already at that early stage as England’s future Number One and Barry Hearn was pleading in his welcome message to the Orient fans to convince their mates, friends, family members, plumber, milkman and window cleaner to tag along, buy a ticket and please please please find their way through the Brisbane Road turnstiles. 3742 fans were watching the game that day and while I was quite impressed with the quality of the early season pitch, the stadium, even the atmosphere I still found it strange that there were (at the time) two blocks of flats in corners of the ground. I never imagined back then that one day Allardyce would be West Ham manager or that West Ham would be responsible for Orient plying their trade in the Conference…:-)

The main priority for years now has been for West Ham to sign a proper, reliable out and out striker and we are still waiting. Apparently Chelsea have started sniffing around Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Our offer is still on the table and I am certain that Chelsea could easily offer better terms than us and the choice for Hernandez will be pretty straightforward: Will he be happy to be striker number three or four at Chelsea, spending more time on the bench than in the opposition’s penalty box ?
Or would he prefer to be our everyday starter and star man ? I know how I would decide but who knows what goes on in a player’s mind these days ?

I won’t go into another board bashing rant here, but I actually still expect our net spend to be fairly low this window as our ambitious targets continue to fall by the wayside signing elsewhere. Arnautovic could well be our marquee signing this summer and he would be another decent addition for sure, but again he is a difficult character with the potential to upset any dressing room at short notice, so he wouldn’t arrive without risk.

I would be quite happy with the likes of Arnautovic and Hernandez, but that is mainly because I have lowered my expectations to a degree now where basically any new arrival will be greeted with a mixture of relief and gratitude. After losing a fairly high number of squad players already we need reinforcements.
But it indeed is hard to get deals over the line if you always have to prove to other clubs and the players how tough (or skint) you are by always trying to offer just a bit less than what the other side wants.

I am not sure this tactic works anymore as far as the Premier League is concerned.

Talking of reinforcements I read some interesting news about Chinese football. One bit of news being that a Chinese U20s team will now definitely play in the Regionalliga Suedwest as previously discussed on here. They will not start playing right away though, it has been agreed that they will begin their league schedule after the winter break, playing every team that would otherwise sit idle once. The games will not count in terms of league position and the Chinese will have no stadium to play “home” fixtures.

They will get valuable experience for the next Olympic Football tournament while the local German clubs get 15.000 Euros into their coffers for every contest against the Chinese.

In other news previous West Ham target Anthony Modeste has joined Tianjin Quanjian after all, but not in a straightforward conventional deal. It is complicated. Apparently it’s a two year loan initially for about 6 million Euros with a buy obligation attached which will guarantee FC Cologne another whopping 29 million.
The reason for all this seems to be a new rule in Chinese football that requires clubs to pay the same amount they spend on foreign marquee signings as a penalty tax bonus into a special fund investing in grassroots and youth development in Chinese football. So if you sign a fancy big name player from England or Italy it no longer costs you 30 million but 60 million. That’s not peanuts, not even for Chinese clubs these days.
The desire to give local prospects from China gametime seems to outweigh the wish to import ever more star players from Europe and South America.

As a result the shopping spree in Chinese football seems to have come to a halt for now. According to the info I gathered Chinese Super League clubs have only spent 28.5 million Euros on new players this summer, compared to 139.5 million a year ago. Nobody knows if the penalty tax on foreign transfers will be a permanent feature in China.
But for the time being it looks like clubs can no longer expect to offload players to China for crazy transfer fees.
So Carroll will likely continue to roam the treatment rooms of East London for the foreseeable future…:-))

One final word on the news that the London Stadium owners have forecasted future losses of £200 million and the fact that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will soon announce a new Chariman for the LLDC. This can come as neither surprise nor shock what with the long list of bad decisions and shortfalls (and long gaps) concerning the stadium. Or the money over spent on stadium conversion and what was supposed to be retractable seating but which is essentially rescrewable or demountable seating/scaffolding.

No naming rights sponsor in sight, rising costs for stewarding, policing and general maintenance which seem to have been grossly miscalculated by the LLDC.
On the other hand two long term tenants which are not contributing much in financial terms, so surely something’s gotta give there in the next few years.
Never boring at West Ham, is it ?

Call me crazy, but I don’t see West Ham playing home games in the London Stadium in 2027, but if they still do the stadium will surely look a lot different on the inside at that point. I won’t hazard a guess who will own our club in ten years’ time, but right now our board can continue to watch things fall apart for the LLDC and the taxpayer, I reckon it still needs to get worse before it can get better.

Things rarely are straightforward for our club at the best of times, be that for transfers or stadium related issues. It sure adds spice, drama and excitement to being a West Ham fan. Our first team returns to action tonight in a preseason game against the Sturm Graz development squad. They surely won’t have a problem fielding some strikers, it’s even in their name, Sturm being German for attack, but also storm. Let’s hope they don’t don’t blow us away in the first proper fixture for our first team in the new season.

Apparently the game is live on Premier Sports later this afternoon at 5:25 pm.

COYI!!!

PS: Congratulation to our former midfielder Jack Collison who has just been announced as the new manager of our U16s. Good to have you back at West Ham Jack!


The HamburgHammer Column

Gray is the new black - why we won't see a marquee signing at West Ham anytime soon

Sorry all for starting off topic, but for the first time in a long time I couldn’t be arsed to watch a football game last weekend despite both Concordia teams actually playing games. I was watching events of the G20 summit in my beloved hometown unfold on my telly from the safety of my flat and what I saw made me feel sick, angry, sad, confused and left me shaking my head in disbelief.

I’m not even talking about the leaders of the world exchanging a lot of hot air for two days or listening to a performance of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in our new posh concert hall which cost just over 866 million Euros all in all which is slightly more I believe than what was spent on the OS including the costs for conversion into what is still very much an athletics stadium first and a football ground in a very distant second place.

I’m also not talking about those people out on the streets of Hamburg who were expressing their opinion on the state of the world, global trade and the environment in a peaceful manner. However, unfortunately it was obvious from as early as Thursday that the demolition tourists were very eager to claim the spotlight for themselves and their cat and mouse “games” with the police on this occasion.

We saw numerous windows getting smashed, shops being looted and demolished, barricades and cars burning away and even sinister ploys to lure the police into the trap of a narrow side street in order to then attack them from above, firing at the Old Bill with slingshots and steel bullets, but also stones and flagpoles.

We saw locals being denied entry to their homes for hours because the streets were blocked from fighting activists/thugs. While others were trapped in their rooms, scared stiff, expecting a cobblestone to land in their kitchen at any second or even worse a richochet Molotov cocktail.

Of course London has seen its share of similar troubles in recent years, but no city should be subjected to mindless acts of vandalism and violence like this, no matter if it’s Hamburg or Hackney. The weekend’s events in my beloved city put West Ham pretty much at the back of my mind for once and it wasn’t until later on Sunday, once things had started to settle down again, that I was in a state again to read up about the recent rumours surrounding our club.

So, Iheanacho won’t be coming to West Ham then after all. Why not ? Well, it depends on which story you’re prepared to believe. Did Bilic really pull the plug at the last second because he simply wasn’t convinced the player would be worth a £25 million deal with a buyback clause ? Did former teammate Zabaleta warn against signing Iheanacho ?

Were the owners unwilling to spend that kind of money on a player who could leave the club again after a year or two for only a small profit ? Or did maybe the player himself not really fancy us that much after all, prefering to go to Leicester instead ?
Who knows ? It’s one more target we can strike off the list. And he won’t be the last.

One player we seem to be closing in on is Andre Gray, a former Championship player of the year in 2016, winning the Golden Boot award in the same season.
So the lad knows where the net is and he can play a bit of football. A natural finisher he is too. But he also had a bit of a chequered past. Born into a difficult family background he had to take responsibility while still being young himself. He still carries a scar on his cheek to forever remind him of his days mixing with the wrong people during his days of gang-related fighting in his hometown of Wolverhampton.

There were homophobic and racial tweets which got Gray into further trouble, but he seems to have matured a bit since then, at least off the pitch. On it there are still question marks over his overall contribution to the team other than scoring goals. He doesn’t seem to like tracking back or tackling – also his passing is not exactly a strong point, in fact he doesn’t seem to be good at anything else but scoring some goals and converting some penalty shots. Plus, he’s an Arsenal fan too.

Still we’d have to pay £13 million for a player like him in 2017. Just a few years ago that would have very much constituted a marquee, a club record signing for us. As it is he looks like a halfway decent player currently plying his trade at Burnley, not a world beater, but still a £13 million player in today’s market. That shows where the problem for our board lies.

They want to dance with the big boys at the next level ballroom, they are already boasting about selling more than 50.000 season tickets and having this wonderful giant digital screen, all of this pointing toward a club really going places, ready to conquer the world, quite literally. Yet they are not prepared to pay what is needed to make transfers of quality players happen. They want to shop the transfer market, but not at the prices commonly asked in that market.

That approach is bound to fail.

And then you think back to what us fans were hearing from the owners before the stadium move, all the promises and statements where we would be as a club, which players we could attract and so forth.

Like lambs to the slaughter many fans followed their sweet talk into the abattoir (or at the very least the livestock transport lorry for the time being). I fell for it hook, line and sinker too, big time.

I could give myself a slap for being so naive. The problem here is that fans don’t forget easily. Personally I will not just take anything our board are saying from now on with a silo of salt, I will actually pretty much believe the opposite of whatever they are telling us to be closer to the actual truth. Once bitten and all that.

My trust in them is completely shattered and as much as I love the club it puts me in a dilemma as I know that every pound I spend on club merchandise, tickets or other club related stuff goes into their pockets at the end of the day, paying for their loans and interest.

Yes, I know, the club pays a lot of money to keep the club running, for player and staff wages, stadium rent, insurance, tax etc.
But their words and actions so far have failed to convince me of their utmost desire to see us improve and grow as a club and team.

This is indeed the transfer window of truth (yeah, right!) for the board. If Andre Gray will be our top signing this summer we all know where we stand as a club and where we are headed under Gold&Sullivan.

The transfer window will be open for quite a while yet, and I actually believe the board are trying to sign a player or two, but with every quality target falling by the wayside, signing elsewhere, the pressure will mount. The result could well be West Ham panicking and signing players we never really wanted to pursue in the first place. Plus we’d probably have to overpay for these players too as our desperation to sign somebody, anybody, will grow with every day that passes in the transfer window. But I’m not hopeful anymore. Not one bit. These days I expect West Ham to deliver nothing. Which is probably the best way to approach transfer windows as it leaves a small chance for a pleasant surprise if you’re very lucky.

Finally, a bit of a feelgood story has happened near Dortmund in recent days. You’ve heard me dreaming about a Concordia player maybe one day playing for the mighty West Ham ?

Well, a 19 year old striker from Selm (near Dortmund) has now delivered the blueprint of how this could work. Joel Grodowski used to play for PSV, not the Paris version though, but PSV Bork in the Kreisliga Unna, less than 15 miles away from Dortmund. That league by the way is three levels below where my Concordia lads play.

Grodowski was breaking goalscoring records for his club all over the shop, so Borussia Dortmund (his favourite club too!) became interested in signing the amateur striker, but, alas, he failed his medical due to Spinal Stenosis, for you normal folk out there that is a narrowing of the spinal canal which can cause a burning sensation along the spine, pins and needles, numbness, pain or even loss of motor control.
Not acceptable for Dortmund, but apparently good enough for Bradford City.

The Bantams have now signed the German and will give him a shot in their development squad initially, with the intention of promoting him to the first team should Grodowski’s spine hold up well and his goalscoring form (94 goals in the past two seasons) continue to impress. Good luck at Bradford Joel!

As for West Ham I wonder which league or country our next signing will be hailing from. COYI!!!


The HamburgHammer Column

Modesty will only get you so far - Could Modeste be the answer ?

Another week gone, still no further new arrival(s) at West Ham. Plenty of irons in the fire by all accounts though, but more of that later. Let’s get Concordia out of the way quickly as they had their first two preseason games over the weekend, the first one on Saturday by way of helping a club called Stapelfeld to officially open their new little ground.

Cordi acted as party poopers though (not that surprising as Cordi play several levels above Stapelfeld), it was a 7:0 win for the Cordi lads although in fairness it could and should have been 15:0 easily, so I suppose Concordia were trying to be well behaved and respectful guests after all by missing some of those sitters in order to avoid a double figure scoreline.

Sunday then offered us a look at St.Pauli’s U23 team, a promising bunch of young prospects who play one level above Concordia but it didn’t really show on the day as St.Pauli won a decent game by a narrow margin of 2:1. Most of last season’s squad are still around at Cordi plus some new additions who so far look like useful acquisitions.

One sad news though is that our best goalkeeper will have to hang up his gloves due to recurring issues with his knee. What makes this even more galling is the fact that only last season he had returned to the pitch after successfully fighting the big C, so to then be denied the opportunity to play just one more season in goal for the club he loves feels incredibly unfair after all the guy’s been through.

Meanwhile Cordi’s goalkeeping coach Oliver Hänke (the Everton fan who named his dog Neville after their former goalkeeper Neville Southall) casually told me after the game he met West Ham’s first team coach Edin Terzic recently while holidaying in Mallorca.

Singing his praises, he told me that Terzic apparently is very happy at West Ham and also highly upbeat about the upcoming season. Let’s hope he’s right…

Over the last weekend numerous names have popped up in the rumour columns of strikers West Ham might be interested in signing. We are apparently still in for the likes of Giroud and Iheanacho, with other clubs being hot on their heels as well, obviously. There is an added legal issue attached to any deal for Iheanacho due to the player having to sort out which agent is actually legally entitled to represent him. So this could take a few more weeks, if a deal does actually happen at all this summer. We shall see.

Also a deal for Anthony Modeste could be back on. The striker was China bound until the club over there and Cologne couldn’t agree on a payment plan for the transfer fee which was rumoured to be a whopping 35 million Euros. So it initially looked as if Modeste would stay in Cologne after all, he even claims he never wanted to leave in the first place and was deeply in love with his club from the bottom of his heart.

Bridges though already seem to burn away at both ends with Cologne accusing Modeste’s agent of sabotaging the transfer to China with his own personal greed.
Modeste is not prepared to accept that criticism, he in fact has accused the club of not wanting him anymore being the main reason for them trying to engineer a deal with a Chinese club, cashing in on him in the process.

I’ll nail my colours to the mast here and say: Modeste would be a great signing for us, he is exactly the kind of player we need. Cologne have mainly him and his goals to thank for the fact they finished last season in 5th place, giving them Europa League football again after a 25 year sabbatical from International competition.
25 goals and three assists in 34 games, that’s a stat I can’t and won’t argue with.

Why is Modeste a perfect fit ? Because he is a natural finisher, because he is an aerial threat and because he is at his best when playing on the counter.
Perfect for a team like West Ham who rarely dominate in terms of ball possession and ball retention.

Another one I’d love to see in claret and blue next season is Little Pea Chicharito aka Javier Hernandez whose release clause stands at only £13m which should pretty much fall into the bargain category in today’s crazy transfer market. For that price I’d expect many potential takers for the Mexican striker who at 29 years should still have plenty of good seasons in the tank. He reminds me of Tony Cottee insofar as he is a nippy little player with a natural eye for goal.

He is a finisher first and foremost and due to his diminutive physique not much of an aerial threat, but give him an opportunity in the box and he will put it away more often than not. Ice cold in front of goal, clinical, those have been attributes to describe Little Pea in his career so far. He also uses both feet equally well, has great acceleration and is also a very decent passer of the ball, I could see him building a nice understanding on the pitch with Manuel Lanzini. Those two would also win us a ton of freekicks I reckon.

Other rumours I’ve read were Villareal striker Cedric Bakambu (great name!), Benfica striker Raul Jimenez and Burnley’s Andre Gray. It looks though as if the only way we will have a chance of signing any of these players if we are willing to pay about 5 million more for targets like Modeste and Bakambu than we apparently are prepared to offer at this point. I know our board keep telling us we are not exactly flush with money, but surely we have a transfer kitty not significantly smaller than last season.
Which should allow us to begin getting two new strikers in before other teams make quick, decisive moves.

Every target signing elsewhere limits our options, but it doesn’t necessarily make it easier (or cheaper) for us to sign any of the remaining targets. I really hope we see some movement in that respect in the coming days as our team today start with their preseason training I believe and new arrivals will need some time to bed in.

I’m still happy as a cat that has found an unguarded bowl of prawns about our shake-up in the medical department. We now have Gary Lewin (Ex-England and Arsenal) as new head of Medical Science at West Ham. And Lewin has wasted no time in bringing in his tried and trusted former England colleague Dr. Ian Beasley as new club doctor, the position he previously held for both England and Arsenal.

I’m convinced the changes won’t stop there. Lewin and Beasley (does that sound like a London based law firm or what?) will surely have a close look at our training regime, warm up and cool down routines and also the way players are being reintroduced to training and playing games after suffering injuries. I reckon there will be some very useful input of these gentlemen which should significantly cut down both the number of injuries we suffer and also the layoff times of the injured players too. Which alone may be enough to let us finish one or two places higher up the table compared to last season.

The new medical set-up will most probably serve as the biggest key to a more successful season for us this time, on par maybe with strengthening and upgrading our options upfront.

However, I don’t expect us to be pleasantly surprised by the board and their efforts in the transfer market. In fact I am in no way even mildly optimistic. My breath while waiting for new signings is not exactly bated anymore.

Miracles do happen from time to time. I know that. But modesty (or penuriousness) doesn’t get you far in the Premier League in 2017. It’s a tough old business. Are we ready to do what it takes ? I feel the owners are out of their depth, trying to take on too much stuff on their own.

We need more professionals at the club to help them improving things at West Ham, for instance a proper director of football. Who knows though if the board would even want a move like that to happen.

COYI!!!


The HamburgHammer Column

Sour Krauts and Chinese dumplings - For a few Euros more

Thank God the football is finally back! For me at least. Not content with watching old West Ham highlights on DVD or the Confed Cup on the telly, I took myself to my very first football game of the new season and not even for a Concordia first team game but a preseason friendly of Concordia’s 2nd string/development squad/youth team away to ASV Bergedorf, nicknamed Die Elstern (The Magpies) after their black and white home shirts (just like Newcastle), with the main difference that the away support in their ground will never have to suffer from vertigo!
It ended in a very pleasant 4:2 win, so a good first entry into my football diary for the new season.

The Concordia first team will play their first two preseason games next weekend.

I had planned to write about at least one more new West Ham signing in my column, but there is now just no point trying to predict who our next signing is going to be and when it’s going to happen. The simple truth appears to be that indeed we need to remain patient until the big clubs have made their first moves buying their new strikers before we can then sign up their benchwarmers who happen to be our main targets this summer apparently.

Let us now jump into the headline of my column which gives us another off topic story from the lower levels of the German footballing scene, but bear me with as I can see this rearing its head in England too somewhere down the road. Allow me to take you to the 4th level of German football, into the Regionalliga Südwest (Regional League Southwest), a 4th level lower league of amateur or semi-professional clubs covering a vast geographical area of Germany, from the Black Forest in the South near the Swiss border, to Stuttgart in the East, with Frankfurt/Main smack in the middle and going as far up North as Kassel.
If you were to drive from Freiburg to Kassel for a game it’d be like travelling from London to Newcastle (and then some), just over 300 miles one way.

So you can imagine that this league consists of clubs from vastly different federal states and provinces, hence boasting different cultures, dialects, tempers. And like most clubs in the lower leagues there is a distinct lack of money with clubs struggling to sell tickets and pay bills. So one would think some extra money might come in handy for the new season. Add to that the current moves by Germany to intensify relationships with China on various levels anyway (business, culture, football) and the following idea won’t come quite as much of a surprise.

The Regionalliga Südwest at the moment is made up of 19 teams which means one of those teams would sit idle every weekend. On the other hand you have the Chinese Football Association who would like to boost the chances of their national side for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Which is why plans are now at an advanced stage to move the China U20 side into quarters near Heidelberg and make them play league games regularly against the teams in the Regionalliga Südwest.

The results and points, however, would not count for the official league table with the Chinese team not even listed in the table and they also wouldn’t have a ground of their own to host games. They would basically travel and play away games against every league team on the weekend it’d otherwise sit idle, play each of those teams twice during the season and raise the standards of their young players in the process of playing competitive games week in week out.

Each of the opposition teams as a reward would get between 15.000 and 20.000 Euros per game into their club coffers as part of the deal. Some club representatives have already gone up in arms about the idea, calling it a joke, a circus, a step too far, just another way of selling football’s soul in exchange for some kickbacks. Waldhof Mannheim were the first tclub to outright reject playing the Chinese and instead have begun organising games against one of the teams relegated from the league the previous season, the idea being they’d rather support another local club financially than being the stirrup holders of a team from the Far East, especially a national side, with no roots whatsoever in the local province or community.

What’s your take on this ? A win-win situation for all parties as the Chinese need the games and the German clubs need the money ?
A stupid idea whatever way you look at it ? It certainly is a factor also that the points gained (or lost) in these encounters would not affect the league table.
So how competitive would those games be in the first place?

Would the German teams deliberately rest their main players and treat the games against the Asian Kids as nothing more than friendly kickabouts ?
Or how about the other way around if players suffer bad injuries from over-enthusiastic Chinese opponents dishing out crunching tackles in order to impress their manager ?

Going back to West Ham I will not dare say if we will see a new signing being wrapped up for us this week. If there is a signing though, I really hope it’ll be Kelechi Iheanacho.
The much discussed buyback clause no longer bothers me as frankly it is not worth losing the player over the slim possibility Man City might want him back after two years and we would then “only” make a 10 million profit on his transfer back to Manchester.

Firstly, we’d have the player for at least the next two seasons which is the main thing I care about at this point. Secondly, City would only buy him back if he ends up being among the league’s five top scorers or so. Which means West Ham would also be in a terrific position as a club resulting in Iheanacho quite possibly prefering to stay at West Ham anyway.

If not, however, we’d still get about 30 million from City and would also be in a healthy league and financial position to attract a suitable replacement.
So nothing at this point really justifies letting the player go elsewhere over something as trivial as a buyback clause which may actually never be triggered anyway.

Not far to go now until West Ham arrive on their preseason tour of Germany which will be one hell of an exciting week for me. I think my record in terms of watching Hammers games in quick succession was in December when I watched us play three first team games in succession (one away two home) in the space of just seven days.
This time though it’ll be three games in just five days, a new personal record.

And if I’m lucky, not only will the weather do its bit giving us a few gorgeous summer days, but I may also be able to meet the team in their training camp which is not too far from Hamburg, so I hope it’ll be possible to have a quick chat with Slaven and a few of the players and they will be kind enough to sign a few matchday programmes for me.
To make it all a bit easier for me and to also give the preseason tour a bit of the old away day feel I have even booked accommodation in Schneverdingen and Bremen which will also give me a bit more time to spend with the Hammers travelling army.

The culmination of course will be the game against Altona 93 in my beloved hometown. This game will be packed with a lot of contrasting emotions for me.
As you know I would have wanted Concordia to play this game instead of Altona. But Cordi couldn’t afford the match fee, in contrast Altona apparently managed to find a suitable sponsor/business partner to get the idea off the ground.

You may also know that Altona were Concordia’s fiercest rivals for promotion last season, with Cordi ultimately missing out and Altona making the step up to the next level.
So you can imagine that Altona will never be my favourite Hamburg based club to put it mildly.
With all those games coming up I was busier than a one-eyed cat watching two mouse holes what with buying the tickets, looking for accommodation etc.

Altona was a special treat in that respect as the ordering form where you could buy tickets online was done very ingeniously in a way that I ended up buying home tickets several times (despite clicking the guest ticket option first). I will see how I get rid of those home tickets now.
I then had a long online conversation with the Altona ticket office explaining to me there would be strong segregation and the away section was allocated strictly and exclusively for the English as they put it.

I found this slightly nationalistic as I tried to explain to them there would be loads of Hammers fans travelling over from Scandinavia, Holland, Belgium, other parts of Germany and I also enquired if they were actually planning on doing passport controls for those fans willing to enter the away section. They then came out with the idea that I had to wait on the day if there was still space available and only then could I be let into the ground as a German West Ham fan. Bowlocks!

After arguing back and forth, they finally had to admit there was not much they could do if I bought a ticket for the away section (which I did of course), but somehow they still couldn’t grasp that a dyed-in-the-wool Hamburger could NOT support Altona in this game. Maybe I should have also told them that I support Concordia as well which might have helped them to understand why I want Altona to get a good old drubbing on the day!

For those of you travelling to this game I’ve added the videos above, in one of them there even is an English fan who adopted Altona as his club and moved to Hamburg as well. It’s supposed to give you an idea of both the stadium you are about to enter and also the highly loyal and feisty supporters of this old, traditional Hamburg football club.
For most of you the rusty old charme of the Adolf Jäger Kampfbahn (named after Altona’s version of Bobby Moore) will bring tears of nostalgia to your Mince Pies.

It’s a football ground as traditional as they get, bang in the middle of the local community (does that remind you of somewhere?), with most of the fans standing close to the pitch, forever hopelessly loyal to their regularly underachieving team. The Altona fans also have a fairly dry sense of humour, at least most of them and nowadays they view their much more famous neighbours St.Pauli as nothing but newly rich, posh and uppity primadonna divas. It’s all relative I suppose…LOL

Let’s hope there finally will be some new signings at West Ham soon. Let’s hope the preseason tour in Germany will be a complete success on and off the pitch, with no silly rucks between intoxicated supporters. Let’s just enjoy a few days in the sun, watching our boys in claret and blue, cheering them on and anticipating a new season with better things to come…COYI!


The HamburgHammer Column

A goalkeeper's tears, this transfer window's fears and a Hamburger in Bremen

My duties as an uncle, especially when West Ham and Concordia football are on their dreaded summer break, sometimes require me to take my passion for the game to a whole new level, literally. It was my little nephew Daniel’s annual school footie tournament and the one thing that 8 or 9 year old kids need most for such events is the honest interest and genuine enthusiasm from the so called grown ups – with parents, uncles, aunties and teachers showing up and rooting for the kids as if it was the FA Cup Final.

It had all been organised with a lot of heart and of course your stereotypical German efficiency by all the moms, dads and volunteer coaches. There were 13 different teams/forms with funny names like The Blue UFOs, Superkickers, Red Sharks (???), Owls and such like, moms had created some beautiful banners, designed football shirts and all kinds of gadgets for the crowd, there also were homemade cakes and muffins while the shrewd guy with the icecream van had set up his base pitchside for the duration of the tournament, in short it was all set up to be an entertaining four hours or so on what was a perfect summer day.

As soon as we arrived I was dead jealous. Remember when we played football as kids on hard dirt fields or clay pitches, shedding and bruising skin on our shins and knees in every game ? (I don’t remember a single summer as a kid where my knees weren’t bloody or scurfy.)
Here in June of 2017 the kids were running (and falling over) on training pitches of plush green grass courtesy of the local club side. Not just that, but also proper goals with nets and everything, about 4 meters wide and pretty much the height of regular goals you might find in the Premier League or Bundesliga.
Not to mention proper referees in full kit complete with whistle and cards watching over proceedings in every game (although no video or goalline technology yet).

My nephew’s team were the Teufelsstürmer/Devil Strikers (meaning attack minded devils, not boys from hell on strike) and they very much had, unfortunately, a Man United thing going on with one mom acting as the official devil mascot and everyone cheering them on had been asked to wear something bright red for the occasion (alas, no claret allowed).
As my wardrobe offered only limited options in that respect, I simply wore my red England shirt. (Don’t look so bloody surprised!)
I saw a parent wearing a Premier League shirt as well and no, it wasn’t West Ham but the uninspiring blue of Chelsea. Being polite by nature and with kids in the vicinity, I didn’t tell her where to stick her blue flag though.

My nephew was playing in goal and let’s be brutally honest here: In that age group, guarding a goal of the above mentioned dimensions you are in a no-win situation.
Here’s a lad half as tall (or short rather) as the height of the crossbar, then you have opposing teams boasting several players who have been playing in proper football junior teams for two or three years resulting in a certain ability to control a ball, run with it, pass it and strike it too with both power and accuracy.

Little Daniel’s team had the lowest number of regular footballers. Hence we lost every single game. Once the boys (and girls) got tired (running about in scorching sunshine on a big pitch will do that) the opposition just had to run past them and fire shots at goal from all angles and at a certain height so that Dan more often than not could only helplessly watch the ball flying into the top corner time and time again. Kids at that age don’t accept defeat gracefully and there were many heartbreaking tears of disappointment and frustration (which thankfully could be dried after a while by paying a visit to the icecream van). I had to tell my nephew that not even Manuel Neuer could keep clean sheets with three opponents running at goal with no defender in sight.

Talking of which my favourite player was one of our “defenders”, a stout bulky lad with jet black hair and a winning smile (but slow legs). Why was he my favourite player I hear you ask ?
Because his name was Adrian (blindingly obvious West Ham link) and on top of that he was Croatian too, like our Slaven!

I’ll tell you what the most wonderful thing was in all that footballing misery. Our team was the worst on the pitch, granted!
But the boys and girls played every game with heart and passion and that was reflected and honoured by the support from the moms, dads (and uncles) on the sideline.

We were by far the noisiest, most vocal, most supportive group out there (which was rewarded later with a generous cash donation from the organisers into the coffers of my nephew’s form for future school trips and the like).

Why do I tell you all that ? Because it was just like being at a West Ham game at times. Being brutally outclassed, outplayed on the pitch in every way imaginable, yet no wavering in support from the fans. On the contrary the support seemed to get louder and more defiant with every goal conceded.

And I was happy to see the tournament being played out in good spirits overall.
No bad fouls, no pitchside arguments between overly excited parents, no kids blaming their teammates for letting in a goal between their legs or hitting nothing but air from three yards out. Pleasant to see.

That was my very personal and outside the box fix of football last weekend.

On the West Ham front, yes, there are still rumours flying about and anytime soon the big transfer charade should begin in earnest. Teams playing tag, sending players here, there and everywhere on loan, in part exchange, with view to buy or buy back clauses inserted, with players nearly signed subject to a medical. Or subject to obtaining a work permit. With club negotiators maybe haggling over the odd million or two to be paid upfront or preferably a year down the line.

I mentioned in a comment on Saturday that bringing in two or better three strikers this window would be of utmost importance for West Ham.

I can see three different levels of striker incoming:
A really expensive buy like Giroud or Iheanacho (who will cost between 20-26 million or so), then a much cheaper striker on the side like Braithwaite or Onyekuru who could both be goers for around 9 or 10 million and the compulsory loan deal with option to buy (or option to bust more likely), Batshuayi maybe as pie in the sky material or a yet unknown Italian/Colombian/Polish ace in the hole type, the proverbial Sullivan Special (with chips and peas for me please).

As West Ham fans we have all had more than enough practise of feeling let down, disappointed, hopes and dreams shattered on the altar of being merely one of the also rans, making up the numbers. For what it’s worth by now everyone for sure must have realised what our squad needs are. We needed a RB badly, we finally got one.

We also need several reliable and halfway decent strikers, even the tea lady, Bubbles the Bear and the One Pound Fish man know it!
Which means that Gold and Sullivan probably know it as well. Which is all that matters really.

I read a rumour yesterday that G&S would even ditch their regular summer holiday in Marbella in order to focus on their task of bringing some strikers to Stratford, now that sounds like it could become a common phrase in future: Bringing strikers to Stratford which is pretty much the direct opposite of carrying coals to Newcastle! But I digress.

If it was me I would go for Giroud, Onyekuru and Batshuayi which would be a decent mix of experience and youthful hunger, giving us three guys, each with a point to prove one way or another. If we get Batshuayi on loan all three could come in for 35 million or so which isn’t a bad price these days for getting three strikers who should instantly raise our attacking options to unprecedented levels. A situation where we no longer have to hope and pray for Carroll or Sakho being available will be a blessing.
It’s nice to have them available of course, but it’s even nicer if you no longer have to rely on them two alone.

Other players have already left the club (Stephen Hendrie, that’s the left back, not the snooker player) or are rumoured to be on the way out. Enner Valencia appears destined to become a tiger, not at Hull, but the Mexican version at Tigres. Havard Nordtveit will almost certainly go back to the Bundesliga with clubs like Hoffenheim, Wolfsburg and Bayer Leverkusen all circling to sign him up. While third goalkeeper Raphael Spiegel is on the verge of joining a club in Belgium (probably to get promoted to the status of backup goalkeeper which at least would constitute a step forward). And there is Robert Snodgrass of course who in my book is a fairly decent option as a squad player, but as there are probably several takers out there in the Premier League who will play him as a starter nine times out of ten, I’d happily see him leave to free up some more dosh to put into our transfer kitty for strikers.

I am happy enough to confirm that I will have at least two West Ham games in the bag before the new season begins. As most of you will know the West Ham team will spend a few days in a preseason training camp in Germany, in Rotenburg/Wuemme to be precise, a small town located somewhere in the wilderness between Hamburg and Bremen at the end of July. This will culminate in two games being played over two successive days in two different places against the same opposition, the Boys in Green from the River Weser, Werder Bremen.

So it very much looks as if Bremen will act as the most convenient basecamp for numerous travelling Hammers fans and I have actually decided to also spend a night in a Bremen hotel as frankly the ground in Lohne is too much bother to travel back home to Hamburg from after the game and some post match festivities in the middle of the night.

I have posted the links over the last few days allowing you to buy tickets for both games online and I reckon tickets will be flying off the shelves quickly what with capacity being fairly limited at both grounds.

www.adticket.de/SV-Werder-Bremen-vs.-West-Ham-United/Schneverdingen-Osterwald-Stadion/28-07-2017_18-30.html

https://werder-eck.reservix.de/events

The game on Friday evening (July 28th) will be in Schneverdingen about 50 miles from Hamburg or Bremen and that ground holds just 4.000 (all standing).
The game on Saturday afternoon (July 29th) will then be in Lohne (Oldenburg) which is about 130 miles from Hamburg, but only 50 miles from Bremen, and the stadium in Lohne holds 7.000 (with 700 seats available).

The natural rivalry between the two Northern harbour towns of Hamburg and Bremen has been going strong for hundreds of years and it applies to every aspect of life: Business, culture, tourism and of course football. I will do something here which may get me in trouble with mates and my fellow Hamburgers, but let me tell you that Bremen is a really nice place to visit.

If Bremen is your basecamp and you are lucky enough to have some time to spare, venture out and discover the charms, beauty and atmosphere of the Hanseatic City of Bremen. Of course you will find numerous pubs, bars and restaurants there as well. Hamburg in my view is still bigger, better and more beautiful than Bremen, but for a few days Bremen should be a decent enough town to visit for any football fan.

I’m very much looking forward to seeing my team play some games close to home for a change (will we finally have some more signings by then?) and I also can’t wait to meet some of my readers (again) who may travel over for the occasion (at least two of which I’m already aware of). As for the transfer window of course there will be disappointments ahead. This is West Ham after all. We won’t see every rumoured player sign for West Ham over the summer, otherwise we’d end up with a squad of 284 players in September.

But we will surely sign a few new faces and some of those I reckon will actually turn out to be good players for us. Some might not though and the sun will still come back up again the next morning (I hope…LOL). There just is no point fretting over the transfer window or being terrified like a cat in a kitchen full of cucumbers (watch some of those videos on Youtube if you are confused by that statement).

To quote the famous words: “Whatever will be, will be.” But I will pass on the opportunity of going to Barnsley if I may please. Wembley maybe, one day…COYI!!!


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