The HamburgHammer Column

The East(er) End Miracle ? Hope resurrected or another nail in our relegation coffin ?

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Another weekend bereft of a competitive West Ham game done and over with, finally we can count the days until another league game for our beloved Hammers kicks off.

And boy, don’t they come any bigger than this one against Southampton! And it’s happening over the Easter Weekend. So it’s obviously tempting to get out all those puns about resurrecting the saviour(s) from the dead, players rising for the occasion, coming back to life, finding themselves in heaven after being nailed to the cross…or should that be nailed by the opposition with a cross ?

Either way our lads can go a long way towards securing their Premier League status by lifting everyone’s spirits and confidence with a win against Southampton.
I hope the long time off has worked to our advantage, we got in some warm weather training in sunny Florida, a practise game against Dagenham&Redbridge and hopefully several productive training sessions, setting our team up for maximum impact against Southampton.

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Strangely enough I am looking forward to this game. A lot actually. I would expect our players to be really up and hungry for this one after the long break.
And while the scenes at the Burnley game weren’t exactly a pleasant experience for the players I am sure everyone in the team now has a pretty good idea what’s at stake and what is required here. I expect nothing less than 100% effort, desire and determination on Saturday.

Southampton are in a similarly (fragile) position as us: They have underperformed for long stretches throughout the season, they are fighting desperately for survival and they need wins, draws alone will no longer do. So I’m expecting one hell of a game here, with plenty of incidents and hopefully three points for us, with no unwanted off-field issues, pitch invasions or crowd trouble to spoil the occasion. It’s not rocket science to predict that an early goal or some good football from our lads early on will help to get and keep the fans onside for this one.

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We should have a pretty decent squad available for Southampton with Masuaku coming back into the side after sitting out the last six games due to his untimely impression of a llama, performed in the Cup game against Wigan. To say he has been missed is a bit of an understatement. Also returning, after a lengthy spell out due to an ankle injury, is Edimilson Fernandes and while I wouldn’t expect the young Swiss midfielder to start against Southampton he will at least be a useful option to have on the bench.

Let’s not forget that we are still in the driving seat and masters of our own destiny here. Other teams down there have to better our results to get past us in the survival race and while the whole thing at this point is too close to call I’d rather be three points above a relegation place than three points worse off. But make no mistake: Nothing but victory against the Saints will do. Yes, it may be Easter and all that, but this time I hope the Saints will go marching out with zero points when they head back down the M3 after the game.

We can all start to worry about who might be our manager next season or which player we might buy (or sell) in the summer once we know which league we shall be playing in.
Until that happens we can only cheer on the boys in the stadium (or from afar) and hope that this will be enough to get our team over the finishing line.
I am nailing my colours to the mast here, predicting a 3:1 win for us. I don’t even consider a draw or defeat as a realistic option here, maybe against better knowledge, but there you go.

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As for my local football, it was a quite unusual weekend for me.On Saturday I decided to watch my other local team, playing away to Barmbek as I like that particular ground and there was no meaningful English football on the telly. With over 400 clubs in and around Hamburg to choose from I am in the comfortable position to have 10 clubs within a 4 mile radius of my flat to choose from, so whenever I am keen for some lower league football there is ALWAYS a match on nearby, throughout the weekend.
The game itself didn’t have many highlights, apart from the famous home made meatball rolls, available in the ground, and my local team playing in their bright orange “Holland-style” away shirts. Game was won 2:0, but was more remarkable for some bad and late tackles rather than breathtaking football moves.
Then again, what do you expect from 8th level football ?

Sunday for the first time in many moons I missed a regular first team Concordia league game, not through illness, but after a deliberate decision to visit my brother at rehab again before he can finally return home on Thursday. As Concordia can no longer finish higher than 5th in the table this season, rendering their remaining games pretty much meaningless, I decided to give this one a miss and spend the afternoon with my bro. Sundays in a rehab facility can be incredibly tedious, so I figured I was of better use to him than Concordia. I must have missed a cracker though, 3:3 scoreline with some absolute stunners. But you can’t have it all.

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Although a home win against Southampton surely isn’t too much to ask for really, is it ? COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

No more razzle dazzle - hard graft and focus will do

Having two weekends in a row with no West Ham game sucks, but that’s what happens when one is a weekend reserved for FA Cup games (and you’re already out because you decided to prioritise the league fixtures) followed by another international weekend (once again with limited activity for West Ham players these days – does anyone actually LIKE international weekends ?).

Of course the world of West Ham never really stops turning and there are loads of things still happening, mainly off the pitch, for our glorious club at the moment.

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I won’t be talking about the board too much (again) at this point as most of the national British media have now kindly taken over having a butchers at why exactly our club may be in its current predicament, on the pitch and off it.

I understand representatives of WHUISA (which I have been a member of ever since it was founded) have been invited to a meeting with David Sullivan tomorrow to ask some questions.

Whether this will ultimately take the predictable route which previous meetings with other fan groups have travelled on or if it will indeed lead to the board sitting up and take notice for a change remains to be seen. I won’t be holding my breath, but it’d be plain rude of WHUISA not to sit down with the main shareholder and give it a right good go. What’ll happen with our club further down the road, in the summer, should be a different matter – right now the game against Southampton takes the utmost importance.

The media sometimes tends to label too many games as relegation six-pointers in order to drum up interest, sell papers or get viewing figures.
The Southampton game though promises to be nailbiting stuff, squeaky bum style, with both teams needing the three points desperately.

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With West Brom and Stoke losing we can put some daylight between us and another relegation rival if we beat Southampton, how we get that win is secondary, but beat them we must.

I reckon the vast majority of our fans are very much aware what’s at stake here and I would think the atmosphere, while being tense, could also be fantastic, bordering cauldron level, if only our team put the effort in and give the fans something worth cheering for early on.

Not even a goal necessarily, although that’d obviously help a lot, but a tenacious tackle, a fine passing combination, a cracking shot on goal, you get the picture.
A sign from the players that they want the win as much as the fans. Relegation would do neither the club nor the players any favours and whatever our club may have to go through in the next few months and years, it’ll be easier ftom the position of playing in the Premier League rather than the Championship.

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Now, I’m well aware of the new manager initial boost theory and while Southampton have some decent players and while Mark Hughes may have certain qualities as a manager, Southampton are where they are in the table for a reason. I know we lost 3:0 against Burnley, but I see them as a much better drilled and organised side than Southampton are this season. With the right application, a positive mindset and the encouragement from the home crowd hopefully we will ask Southampton a few questions on the pitch.

It’s not like Southampton have momentum on their side right now and surely David Moyes and his coaching staff have enough time now to put our team in the best shape and frame of mind for the Southampton game. Phase 1 was the warm weather break in Miami. Actually I don’t mind that move. You could argue whether a trip to Tenerife or Malta might have done the same, but the general idea of having a bit of a reboot, a change of scenery, a change of routine might do the lads the world of good.

The players will know themselves they have vastly underperformed this season, they don’t need to read a blog or online fanzine to know that. But now Phase 2 has to kick in, you’ve had your week in the sun, now go out on the cold and wet training pitch in Blighty and work on the basics needed to beat Southampton.
Personally I wouldn’t mind seeing Arnautovic and Hernandez back together from the first whistle. Also it will definitely help to finally have Masuaku back in the fold.
Somehow we have looked a much better team all around whenever he’s been on the pitch for us.

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I also would like to see an attacking lineup, even though this may leave us a bit more open at the back. But I wouldn’t expect us to keep a clean sheet these days anyway and would rather see us counter that with a lot of pace, physical presence and plenty of positivity further up the field. I’d also like to think the home crowd would respond to attacking football a lot more and surely we need the crowd on or team’s side rather than their backs.

I still have no doubt we can escape relegation through a combination of honest graft, effort and a healthy dose of good luck. Don’t forget, new manager or not, Southampton won’t arrive in London brimming with confidence. It’s our job to make sure they won’t be gaining any confidence from playing us.

That’s my West Ham thoughts for the Southampton game which still seems lightyears away. On a personal level, the weekend was mostly successful. I visited my brother at his rehab clinic again (where he will get a week’s extension to fatten him up a bit more in preparation for his final cycle of chemo).
I was trying to help with the fattening up bit by bringing some cake and we then settled down in his room with the radio on, listening to the Bundesliga Soccer Saturday programme, being elated with Hamburg SV taking a 1:0 lead at halftime only to lose 1:2 against Hertha Berlin eventually, relegation beckoning ever more fiercely now!

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The new Hamburg manager (Hamburg have now gone through 18 managers in 11 years) tried something new, a VERY young team with an average age of 23.98 years, the youngest Hamburg team fielded in 44 years, but it just wasn’t enough. The team frankly isn’t Bundesliga standard and the only positive I can take from the situation is that there is going to be another Hamburg derby next season, albeit in Bundesliga 2, between Hamburg SV and FC St.Pauli.

My Sunday was spent by watching a Concordia doubleheader with both teams winning in the freezing cold East Hamburg sunshine, but arctic winds coming in from God knows where made me question my sanity more than once while spending almost four hours alongside two God forsaken artificial pitches, watching lower league football.
But nothing warms you up better than seeing you team win (apart from some chips, hot coffee and some mulled wine!) and Cordi 2 won their away game 3:1 while Cordi’s first team beat FC Suederelbe (the Millwall equivalent of the Oberliga Hamburg) by a 2:0 scoreline.

Cordi 2 is now almost guaranteed promotion to the next level while Cordi 1 are bound to save some face late on in the season by stringing some wins together which will probably lead to a 4th or 5th place finish at the end of the season, representing failed ambition (as they were hoping to get promoted this season), but that’s football.
And frankly, with an average attendance of 150 people at home games it’s hardly comparable to West Ham’s woes in the Premier League.

Who knows what this week will bring to our much beloved West Ham United ? Good news on a postcard please! COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

United till the summer - then the club requires change from top to bottom

I will try to moan and whinge as little as possible in my column today, but I won’t be putting my fingers in my ears, pretending everything is fine. It’s not.
Saturday was not a good advertisement for football in general and certainly not for West Ham in particular – and things always seem to look worse once the Hammers are involved.

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I don’t believe the players were in danger actually. But the pitch invasions were sad to see nonetheless, even though it was only a few individuals and not, God forbid, thousands of irate “supporters”. I don’t condone the scenes we saw, they made me sick and, believe it or not, the scenes kept running through my head at night and I was actually struggling to get to sleep. I don’t like what happened.

But what with the march getting cancelled and all those shenanigans I can understand WHY it all happened.

The pressure had been building up over months and it needed to find a way out.
I would have prefered it if all those protests had materialised away from the stadium, not impacting the game, but that unfortunately was not the case.

There were some fights all over the stadium and concourse apparently, children were getting scared and the board got itself an earful from an angry group of fans congregating right in front of the directors’ box.

Oh, we also lost another crucial game 0:3 by the way, shooting our goal difference in the foot even further by conceding eleven (!!!) goals in total in our last three games.

Things are really bad at your club when fans who are supposed to root for the same club are at each other’s throats.

But I shall try to find a bit of positivity (yeah, I know) and common sense here.
It’s still possible to fend off relegation. It’s still in our own hands (and feet), although looking at our recent run of results and performances that thought doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence. But there are still a number of other teams struggling for points below and around us and unless they suddenly start picking up more wins than us we might just do it.

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We do have a group of halfway decent players actually, we have seen games in the past where those players did wonderful things on the pitch, the trouble is that it hasn’t happened often enough this season and certainly not for the entire team at the same time. I was feeling sorry for Arnautovic on Saturday who was trying to find a way past four or five Burnley players with no claret and blue shirt in sight to help him out.

Arnautovic was another positive for me in the way he handled himself after the final whistle, coming to the fans in trying circumstances, talking to some kids, signing stuff and giving one of them a pair of football boots, if I saw that correctly. I have really taken to Arnautovic in recent weeks and he certainly is trying his best to make things right for us.

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I am not going to go into yet another lengthy rant about the board, you know my stance, it is shared by some and dismissed by others which is totally fine. I feel it’s necessary to give ourselves the best chance possible in the remaining home games to get some wins. For that to happen we can’t have any repeats of the Burnley fiasco in the stadium for the remainder of the season.

I have read quotes from Sir Trevor Brooking and players like Collins, suggesting that the angry fans should stay away from the remaining home games this season if they cannot keep their rage/grief under control. That’s a fair point.

To increase the chance of more goodwill from the crowd at our games even further though I’d also hope the board will decide to watch the games anywhere but not in open view from their accustomed seats in the directors box. We can pretend all we like there is no issue with them, but in real life there is. It’s also being acknowledged in the media now.

Plenty of fans are riled up by the board and it might help if they removed themselves from the firing line for the time being to let the players and manager do their job, getting maximum support and focus from the home crowd.

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Someone who might also help in our current predicament is Sir Trevor Brooking. Seeing him rooted to his seat in a deserted directors’ box, with a wry smile on his face, was both beautiful and sad to see.

A club legend who is undoubtedly suffering and struggling with the current state our club finds itself in. He could be filling a more official role at the club, as ambassador or spokesman or something like that and he would also be the kind of person to unite the new breed of fans and the more traditional set of supporters alike who used to cheer Sir Trev on from the Chicken Run when he was in his prime as a West Ham player.

For me that is one of the major things that hasn’t been properly addressed with the stadium move: Keeping the older fans on board while also catering for and welcoming new ones.

West Ham can only be successful if both sets feel reasonably happy and united there. I accept that the move to the new stadium was too good an opportunity to turn down really. Most owners would have gone for the move.

I accept that some steady and gradual change at the club is needed in tune with world football forever changing as well.

I am not a fan of the stadium, but I can bear watching whatever number of games I can travel over for. At the same time I empathise with those who say it is simply not for them and they can’t/won’t go there ever again. But it is what it is, we are there and we need to make it work somehow. And I am convinced there is still a small chance it can work.

But only if the club starts to take the bull by the horns before then addressing the elephant in the room.

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Our board may be around for another few years yet and I am under no illusions that fan blogs or social media accounts will make any modicum of difference in terms of their decision to sell or stay. But they need to stick to the role of being club owners, they don’t need to run the club. Most clubs have separate club chairmen, directors of football, PR and marketing staff, chief scouts, managers, assistant coaches etc.

They are experts and have experience from playing or at least working in a professional role at football clubs. I’d hazard a guess we’d be a lot better off if our board took a step back and hired professionals to run the club for them. They can still earn their interest payments and they also still get their money back plus some healthy profit whenever they sell. They need to realise they are standing in their own way by trying to take on too much day to day stuff at the club.

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Before writing this column I distracted myself on Sunday with watching some football where the football actually took center stage: Concordia’s U23s winning a men against boys kind of contest with a staggering 13:0 scoreline against SC Europa (not a reflection by the way about the state of the European Union…:-))
That was a pleasant two hours, watching my local team getting top spot in their division, heading for promotion to the next level while also having some banter with fellow fans without any chance of fists flying or being on the receiving end of a Glasgow kiss…

I then drove 40 miles to have a cuppa with my brother at his rehab place and I’m glad to report he is on the mend, despite still looking incredibly thin and weak which comes as no surprise after nearly four weeks in a hospital bed. Things are looking on the up for him and I intend to keep my promise of taking him to London, and hopefully it will be for a Premier League match rather than one in the Championship, but either way my bro wouldn’t bother, mind you, he even once watched Orient play Shrewsbury at Brisbane Road with me, so he’s no glory hunter either…

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It’s a bit of a break now until our next fixture comes around and I hope the warm weather trip to Miami will work in our favour, unlike them notorious ventures to Dubai.
Surely it gives everyone time for a breather and to get ready for the crucial back end of the season. I somehow hope our fans can put their disagreements and anger aside for the rest of the season now until we have secured our Premier League status for next season. No doubt there will be more protests and marches somewhere along the way and rightly so, fans have a right to protest.

But there is a time and place for everything. I reckon the board finally got the message that there is a lot of anger and they do need to act in the summer to get things fixed.
In the meantime let’s remember that this club is so much bigger than individual players, managers, owners and fans. It’s been there for generations and browsing through some old West Ham books yesterday I got a renewed sense of pride and of the role this club has played (and continues to play) for hundreds of thousands of fans in and around London and all over the rest of the world.

West Ham are more than a football club, it’s a family and a way of life. West Ham is changing, but it can still retain some of that East London rooted community spirit, wicked sense of humour and siege mentality. Never say die! COYI!!!

The HamburgHammer Column

Another bad day at the office ? I think it's a bad office at West Ham

Inept, poor, lackluster, shambolic, spineless, pathetic – choose any adjective with a negative connotation and it should fit West Ham’s performance at Swansea. Bear in mind that this is a Swansea rummaging around the basement of the table, desperate for any point to escape relegation – so not exactly powerhouse opposition.
But there is an awful lot going on and going wrong at West Ham this season – and when your paper-thin squad gets reduced further by illnesses and injuries you shouldn’t be surprised to see a team with their backs to the wall struggling to play anything resembling Premier League quality football.

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Like in so many other games this season though, just like under Bilic during his bad run, a lot of the players look disinterested, as if the game (which should be the highlight and focus of the week and the centerpiece of their professional pride) is nothing but a distraction of their everyday routine. I can sympathise that it’s probably not wall to wall fun to be a West Ham player at the moment, but they are professionals and should act accordingly.

Also it looks like Moyes’s honeymoon is finally over. I have been an advocate of finding a manager and then giving him a long term deal to lay a foundation for a long term strategy and gameplan for the entire club. I have my doubts though if Moyes is the right man to succeed with this particular bunch of players. I always try to find positives to talk about in my column when it comes to West Ham, but like the team I’m struggling.
Rice was the best player on the pitch yesterday and when a 19 year old is the only player coming out of a game with any professional dignity it’s a worrying sign.

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Our league position is still perilous, we may still have a three point cushion, but have destroyed our goal difference in the last two games which can be a relegation clincher at the end of the season. If we have to lose we cannot afford to concede a shipload like we tend to do. We don’t just lose, we capitulate, waving white flags all over the shop.
The entire club is in turmoil, from top to bottom, and I am sick and tired of hearing claims that the fans are putting a millstone of negativity around the club’s neck, affecting the players.

Pardon my French, but this is hogwash. The fans so far have been remarkably patient and unwaveringly positive and supportive, especially the travelling parties creating a fantastic atmosphere for our away games. I don’t remember too many occasions when the team actually repaid the away supporters with a great performance on the pitch.
The fans have done their bit, it’s about time the players, the manager and yes, the bloody board gave something back – and I am not talking about letters promising all kinds of things, beer shelves or flags of former Hammers legends being draped all over the concourse. Those are minor issues that should have been sorted the moment we moved into the new place.

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Every week another thing happens that easily opens up the board for more criticism. Reid going down the way he did of course was a freak injury, a stroke of bad luck and by the looks of it he could now be out for the rest of the season and beyond. This is significant because we just recently happened to allow Fonte to leave to China, getting in some funds to balance the books.

Sorry, but surely the priority this transfer window should have been to add to our squad in preparation for the relegation battle, not make it weaker. What was the point in letting so many players leave ? And what if we get relegated ? Expect plenty of transfer requests to arrive on Sullivan’s desk within days after the final game.
Talking of relegation I would be sad, angry, disappointed, distraught, but probably not for long.

It would be much harder for me to watch games of course in terms of finding internet streams for Championship games, but that’s not really the main issue. The issue is that once you’re down there it’s incredibly hard to get back up again, especially in the current circumstances. We could easily do a Leeds, a Forest or a Bolton.
Would I be happy to see the Daves take a financial hit in case of relegation ?

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Well, not really. They are so rich that a financial hit for them is very relative. They could still keep their Bentleys including chauffeur, their crystal panthers at home would be safe and they could also still afford two warm meals a day.
But West Ham, fans and club, would suffer going down and I don’t want West Ham to suffer. Parachute payments alone won’t guarantee anything anymore.

The board may well be gone in a few years, but the fans would still be there in the Championship in their droves and that’s why I can sympathise with any fan who still feels the desire and need to march.

The frustration and anger simply needs to go somewhere. Is a march the best way to let off steam ? I don’t know. Will it help the club ? Maybe not.
Is it better instead to vent your anger at home games inside the stadium with chants and banners ? Probably not, it may affect the players, but can they honestly play any worse than they did in recent weeks and for most of the season ? And that was with solid support from the West Ham faithful throughout.

As you can gather from my ramblings, I don’t have any answers really and even if I had it wouldn’t matter really as the decision makers are elsewhere and they seem to think their decisions have been spot on and they are the best people really to make this club a success. If you define success by just staying up in the Premier League even that task becomes quite tricky with every game we fail to win.

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It’s gonna be a tense remainder of the season and not for the faint of heart. You reap what you sow and it could be argued we have sown little and sown badly in recent years.
A Championship team as anchor tenant in the Olympic Stadium. A bizarre thought. But then again our club are the masters of the bizarre and we make the surreal possible.

PS: Not much else to report on a personal level. All lower level football in Hamburg got postponed due to the weather conditions. Hamburg only drew against Mainz, edging ever closer to relegation, getting a goal disallowed after VAR ruled it offside. And my brother is off on rehab in a place in the middle of nowhere near Mölln, the Eulenspiegel town. Eulenspiegel was a legendary trickster exposing vices many hundred years ago.
Tricksters aren’t a thing of the past though, some of them are still alive and kicking, running football clubs…

The HamburgHammer Column

Mashed up on Merseyside, snowed under in Hamburg

Normal service was resumed at Anfield – not only did they have our stereos, they also kept the three points, taught us a footballing lesson and wouldn’t even share the dead cat which apparently is a treat for some locals if you believe certain football chants.

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The most positive thing was the way our away support honoured the anniversary of the passing of our most famous legend, player and man, Bobby Moore which happened exactly 25 years earlier.
Such a pity we couldn’t give this very special Barking Boy a performance on Saturday to mirror the regard in which he is held by West Ham fans all over the globe.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, it’s easy to say from the relative comfort of my bachelor flat how I would have approached this game as a bonus fixture, how I would have given it a real go, being a lot more positive and attack minded.
I also would have started with both Arnautovic and Hernandez upfront.

We tried to contain Liverpool by sitting deep, packing our defence and hoping for the best. I’m sure it can work like that against the Scousers on certain occasions. Saturday wasn’t one of them.

Liverpool outplayed us, they were so much better than us and were passing the ball around as if it was a training drill or preseason friendly.
As much as it pains me to say, Liverpool are just a wonderful team to watch and I would have admired their performance if it wasn’t West Ham they were mopping the floor with.

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The league table isn’t for the faint of heart these days. We are only three points away from a relegation spot, but could also easily shoot up the table several positions with a win or two from our upcoming run of games. It’s not exactly been an enjoyable season so far, but I’m still confident we are in a much better position than several other teams around us in terms of squad quality (not necessarily squad depth), so I reckon a solid midtable finish around 10th place is up for grabs.

Talking of squad depth I was sad to see Jose Fonte go. It makes a lot of sense from his point of view of course, guaranteed playing time, good money, a bit of adventure and broadening the horizon in the East End of the planet in China. I’m sure the money will come in handy too, balancing the books a bit as we seem to be really skint.
Still we have further weakened an already paperthin squad and we can only hope we won’t suffer any more injuries in the coming weeks and months.

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Talking about the rest of my weekend, it turned out a lot longer for me than anticipated, but with very mixed results. Starting with the good news, my brother is likely to come home from hospital either today or tomorrow. He should have been home last week, truth be told, but on top of everything else he caught pneumonia while his body’s defences were down after the two surgeries. He’ll be allowed two or three days at home before heading off somewhere for three weeks or so for some much needed rehab.

On Saturday Hamburg SV lost their relegation six-pointer against northern archrivals Werder Bremen who won by a single goal margin in agonising fashion, scoring four minutes from time with a goal that at the very least looked dubious due to the goalscorer scoring from what appeared to be an offside position. Seven points adrift already it’s hard to see where HSV’s next win might be coming from and considering the shaky financial outlook for the club they could find themselves in Bundesliga 3 or even further down after relegation as they are far from certain to meet the requirements to play Bundesliga 2 football next season. Dire days indeed for the Bundesliga ever-presents as things stand…but for how much longer ?

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On Sunday I was wide awake at 5 o’clock in the morning with a cuppa in front of the custard and jelly which is rare for me, but Germany were playing Russia for the Gold Medal in the Men’s Ice Hockey at the Winter Olympics in Korea and that in itself was about as rare as West Ham competing for the Premier League title. Or Fiji winning the Rugby World Cup.

In any case I thought I’d never live to see something like this happening.
Every once in a while the sporting deities throw a highlight our way just like that.
And the Krauts even had their gloves on the Gold actually, that is until Russia spoiled the party by equalising just 56 seconds from the end.

My fellow countrymen had stood toe to toe with the mighty Russians throughout most of the game actually and it took a Sudden Death goal in overtime with a man advantage for the Red Machine to get the expected win, but boy, did the Germans make it difficult for them!

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Two quick cups of coffee later I was sitting in a local caff for some Sunday Brekkie to set myself up for the noonish East Hamburg derby between SC Condor and Concordia.

I was being served by a lovely young lady who happened to be a Chelsea supporter (as she pointed out to me when spotting my West Ham beanie). Being a polite person I still gave her a decent tip of course, being well aware that Chelsea tickets don’t come cheap, especially for a waitress travelling from Hamburg…;-))

Then it was off to the nearby ground which was covered in snow from end to end. To everyone’s shock and surprise the referee decided to let the game go ahead regardless, with temperatures at a frosty minus 4°C, but a bright orange ball was kindly provided and the game kicked off.

Some Cordi players had expected (or rather wished for) the game to get cancelled and that’s exactly the way some of them performed, especially in the second half.

Granted, an injury crisis coupled with man flu keeping even more players out, made for grim reading of the squad list: One substitute goalkeeper on the bench plus two midfielders, that was it. It ended in an embarrassing 2:5 defeat and freezing my toes and gonads off as a bonus wasn’t exactly my idea of a pleasant Sunday.

Snow kept falling all day in Hamburg and it was bitterly cold, but at least the radio told us that St.Pauli had won their home game to warm the cockles of this Hamburger’s heart by showing some local pride and passion.

I then wanted to write my column (and warm up at home), but got a call from my best mate just as I arrived back. He had a spare ticket for the Ice Hockey in the afternoon and as he is a married man now and opportunities to meet up have become few and far between and as I also hadn’t been to see the Crocodiles play a game all season I was happy enough to drive right back to where I had just returned from (the ice rink being an Antonio throw-in away from Condor’s football ground).

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That at least brought another win for Hamburg (6:4) and some jolly nice banter with my mate and some other fans as well. Needless to say I would have gladly swapped either of the St.Pauli or Crocodiles’ win against a point or three at Anfield, but life ain’t all guns and roses.

Let’s hope we start to collect the points needed for maintaining our league status quickly now, with some very winnable games coming up in the coming weeks. God knows I could do with some positive football related news over here in good old Hamburg…


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