The HamburgHammer Column

Bitten by the terriers - that really was a bit of a pile of poo, innit ?

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“We’re doing a Spieleabend! Let’s have a Spieleabend, mate!” That’s a suggestion to strike fear into most of us adults beyond the age of 29. Spieleabend translates as “gaming evening” – and it doesn’t refer to games you play on a Playstation or Xbox either. This is actual boardgames, of the modern variety with plastic or wooden pieces, action cards, differently coloured tokens to be used within a framework of sophisticated rules often based on forward thinking, strategic planning and witty banter with the other participants. The rulebook in some cases can be as long and detailed as the manual of your average German car.

A Spieleabend may also involve games where you can show off your geographical knowledge – or lack of it (ideally suited for self-proclaimed smartypants like myself) or some new-fangled weird card games with even weirder rules where any strategy is kind of pointless as one random bad card dealt to your hand can set you back to square one in an instant.

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Still, I kind of had to attend because it also gave me the chance to finally arrive in the 21st century. I am now, at last, the proud owner of a proper smartphone (like 99% of my readers I presume), and my tech-savvy mate (the one who suggested the Spieleabend) helped me to set it all up, showing me some useful tricks and flicks in the process and I am sure the smartphone will come in handy for my upcoming visit to London for the Palace game.

I briefly interrupted that boardgaming bonanza though for two and a half hours to excuse myself and watch the West Ham game at home, just two miles from my mate’s flat, in the hope West Ham would get a much-needed second win on the bounce. Alas, it was not to be.

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I’ve now had some time to mull over the question whether to be happy or disappointed with the result at Huddersfield. As the headline suggests, the glass to me ultimately felt half empty. Huddersfield were a lot stronger than I anticipated though and if it weren’t for Fabianski things could have been even worse for us in the first half.

West Ham as a football team didn’t really happen in the first half, did we ?
What I found missing was the effort to press the Huddersfield players, to chase them around the pitch, the fight, the guts, the hunger.
The will to impose ourselves on the home side and show them their rightful low place in the pecking order.

What happened instead was this: Huddersfield really wanted to win and it showed. They came out of the gates like banshees right from the first whistle and scored very early. We on the other hand wanted to cruise and win the game without really bothering with shifting out of second gear.

Maybe subconsciously the lads looked at Huddersfield’s record so far this season and figured “We’ll beat that lot for sure, even with a half-hearted performance our quality will prevail and we will win regardless.” We didn’t of course. We created a number of fairly decent chances on the day, but again we weren’t quite ruthless enough and wasted most of the opportunities we had managed to craft for ourselves.

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Other than the overall lackluster performance I was feeling increasingly annoyed about Chicharito. I have a number of pet hates when watching football and high on the list is seeing players repeatedly waving their arms in the air, pleading for a handball or offside rather than playing to the whistle, trying to win back a ball or tracking back to defend.
Chicharito seemed to do it a lot, moaning and moping incessantly instead of focusing on his job of converting goalscoring opportunities.

I understand that Besiktas are interested in signing him in January and I would think that a deal at this point might be the best option for all parties concerned: Chicharito has never quite managed to hit a good run of form at our club, his style of play doesn’t really suit us, we might use his wages (plus a bit of a transfer fee) for getting in a more suitable attacking option and the player may find his luck improving elsewhere.

My expectations for this season in terms of league position remain realistic and modest, I would expect us to finish anywhere between 9th and 14th which would be reasonably decent considering it’s yet another season of transition from one manager to another. I think we have a decent platform now quality-wise and with players returning from injury, including Carroll, Wilshere and later on Lanzini as well, we should be even more creative – but we also need to make sure that our players are able and willing to show their quality when it actually counts, between the first and final whistle of our competitive fixtures, be they league or cup games.

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I ain’t asking for the world here, just players who are willing to leave it all out there on the pitch on matchday. We have some fantastic footballers in our squad now, but without 100% effort you cannot expect to win any game of football in the Premier League. It’s now another international break – does it only seem that way or do we have a lot of international games this season, occasionally interrupted by actual league games?

Ideally you want to leave the disappointment of the Huddersfield game behind you, roll up your sleeves and go again in another game the weekend after to make amends.
Instead we can look forward to the well oiled footballing machine of Manchester City which could turn out to be a terrifying prospect. Or we might show the occasional trademark unpredictability we all love so much about our club and beat the odds with a good result against the Mancunians.

I will be ready and make sure that no boardgames will get in my way this time around. Instead I shall be looking forward to my upcoming visit for the Palace game, getting ready for what will probably be my final pre-Brexit trip to London. COYI!!!

Hamburg footballing update: A fairly crap weekend from a personal point of view. Hamburg SV won to cement their place as league leaders in Bundesliga 2 while St.Pauli only managed a 1:1 draw at home against Heidenheim. They are still near the top of the table, but it was very much a case of a big opportunity lost.
Concordia lost. Both the first team and the U23s. They didn’t just lose, they were humiliated: The U23s lost 1:6 at home, got two players sent off for dissent, missed a penalty and generally looked like a pub side on the day, very unusual for them, but that surely now was the final nail in the coffin with regard to any remaining hopes for promotion.
The highlight of the first team’s away game at Sasel was the excellent currywurst (sausage with spicy curry-powdered tomato sauce) I enjoyed before kick-off.
The game ended in a 1:4 defeat and right now attending Cordi games feels a bit like doing the washing up, a chore that doesn’t involve anything resembling fun but needs to get done and got over with…

The HamburgHammer Column

Mending the fences, downing the clarets and not so super a league

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What a difference four goals for the right team playing in claret and blue can make! Holy Bismarckhering, that was one hell of an effing good game of football! No ugly scenes, no pitch invasions this time around, no need for the West Ham skipper to wrestle a fan to the ground near the centre circle as in that other game against Burnley!

I’m sure it was the same for the majority of West Ham fans all over the the planet as I was going through a multitude of emotions throughout the game.
It was highly entertaining, it was full of nice passing, with goalscoring opportunities galore and the three points did stay in London after the final whistle – what’s not to like ?

Matchday had started early for me as it was another day of voluntary community work at our local sports club. Early bird exercise was the order of the morning though, as my car windshield had completely frozen over during the night, so fierce scratching and scrubbing came before driving to the club’s premises. With two other guys I was assigned to the task of mending the fence and replacing some of the screen walls made from reed. While working and chatting away it occurred to me that West Ham had a lot of collective mending to do as well in the upcoming Burnley game, but I was quietly confident we would win. Surely, if we couldn’t even beat Burnley at home we’d be up poo creek without an oar to suitably propel us forward.

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I settled down in my usual spot (armchair), screwdriver to the right, steaming West Ham mug of Rosie to the left and the crazy show began. Literally crazy, because I could only find a stream with Polish commentary. While I have rudimentary knowledge of certain Polish words or phrases (due to previous holidays spent in Poland) it is nowhere near good enough to follow a running match report.

Which wasn’t an issue because that game and that performance were speaking for themselves, no translation needed. thank you very much!

We created. We passed the ball around neatly – and not only sideways or backwards either. When Burnley messed up, we did exploit their mistakes, like any good PL club worth their salt would.

We got a very good shout for a penalty turned down. Shots heading for goal saved by brave Burnley defenders on the line or the glove of Joe Hart.
To my surprise, Burnley were incredibly efficient down the other end.

When they actually managed to reach our penalty box, they equalised more often than not. Twice in fact. I was disappointed with that of course. But I was equally convinced we would still prevail and win this one.
Simply because the lads looked so up for it and we went through their defence like a hot knife goes through butter.

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We also made positive substitutions and in truth should have scored two or three more on the day. It’s always a good sign when you are struggling as a supporter to pick a MotM from several worthy candidates. In my opinion it was a close race between Felipe Anderson, Grady Diangana, Declan Rice (I know it’s boring, but what can I do ? The boy is just playing consistently well), Marko Arnautovic and maybe even Issa Diop.

And while I am both relieved and happy that Felipe Anderson appears to be turning his and our fortunes around gradually, I am actually opting for Grady Diangana here. First of all because it’s always special to see an Academy youngster turn up for the first team and grab his opportunity with both hands and feet. Diangana took on his opponents without fear, he was trying things, he showed great pace and kept the Burnley defenders busy all afternoon. If we can find just one player like him every season stepping up to the first team squad it’ll make things a lot easier for us in future. Oh, did I happen to mention before that I hope we will get Rice signed up to a new, improved deal sharpish now ?

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An honourable mention has to go to Robert Snodgrass. He has truly played himself back into contention to start every game. Running all game long, decent set piece deliveries, tremendous effort for the team. All that after already being pretty much out the West Ham door not so long ago.
Did my eyes deceive me or was Snodgrass first to congratulate our goalscorers for EVERY goal we scored on the day ? What a treat to see his enthusiasm for our club!

This win will hopefully boost our collective confidence for the upcoming games now. Surely it’s more fun for the players to go into training sessions with another three points on the board and four goals scored in the bank.

I know it was only Burnley, but this game gave us a glimpse of how we can play under Pellegrini – and things should get even better once we have some players back in the fold who are nearing their return from injury. I cannot wait to see what Lanzini and Anderson can do once they are out there on the pitch together. COYI!!!

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Moving away from West Ham, the big talking point in Germany in the last few days has been a report published after extensive research done by German journalists into how clubs like PSG and Manchester City have allegedly in the recent past systematically broken Financial Fair Play rules, escaping adequate punishment while allegedly being aided in doing so by certain individuals of UEFA (Infantino) years ago.

The journos have gone through tons of documents and evidence – and I am sure we will get to hear a lot more about all this in the coming weeks and months as the news will continue to spread across the world media.

The second topic was the already previously rumoured implementation of a Super League rearing its greedy head again. Reports in Germany (Football Leaks/Spiegel magazine) are suggesting the main clubs behind this idea have in secrecy held numerous talks in the recent past and are at a stage now to begin signing papers of intent to get the ball properly rolling in that respect. The signing of such an agreement between those clubs could happen as early as later this month according to the report.

A lot of it for now is still rumours and hearsay though – it could be just another ploy by the big clubs to extract an even bigger piece of the pie from the governing bodies just as negotiations about the future share of the spoils from playing in the Europa and Champions League are looming large.

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The idea behind the Super League of course is that of establishing a closed shop, as it is the norm in big money leagues like the NFL or NBA.
No relegation. No need for qualification. No games against lesser teams.
Just the big boys battling it out against each other time and time again, with millions around the globe watching at home.

Only superstar players on the pitch, no boring games, one footballing feast after another with the big clubs (the ones with the most fans worldwide, the most trophies, the biggest appeal and the biggest budgets) being in the comfortable position to do all marketing on their own behalf as they see fit, obeying only their own set of rules while keeping all of the money rolling in among themselves, with no need to share any cash with less fortunate clubs or the governing bodies.
A paradise for some for sure, a nightmare for the rest. Or is it ?

Rumour has it that the big clubs would indeed be willing to do all this without as much as a second thought about getting UEFA or FIFA on board.
It’s been suggested that there will be eleven clubs forming the closed shop as founding members, clubs who will then be eligible to play in the new Super League of the high and mighty EVERY year, these are:

Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, PSG, Bayern Munich, AC Milan and Juventus.
Five “guest” teams will be invited initially to make up the numbers, namely Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Olympique Marseille, Inter Milan and AS Roma. Presumably guest teams can be added or kicked out if and when it suits.

At this stage we cannot be sure how serious the clubs in question really are to push this through this time around. Also the ramifications are quite uncertain in terms of whether those clubs would still be eligible to actually play regular league football domestically. There seem to be mixed signals in that respect from the big clubs at present. Of course TV deals have been signed that are stretching a number of years into the future.

So clubs breaking away from current competitions will not go down well with the leagues, TV companies and the rest of the footballing world.
But it should keep the legal eagles busy for certain.

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My view on this is both hopelessly naive and disillusioned. If the big clubs are really keen, they will do as they please. And neither the fans, nor UEFA or any government is going to stop them. If they think playing in the Super League will bring them bigger financial gains, more glory and they can also get away with it all (even in case it goes wrong eventually) it will happen.

Maybe I am the wrong person to even talk about this. I don’t know what goes on in the heads of those who run or support a big club. I have never supported what you might call a big club. I don’t know what it’s like to win five trophies in three years. I don’t know what it’s like to win 75% of your games in all competitions. It sounds boring and having met some fans of big clubs in the past they rather seem to take winning for granted, hence they don’t enjoy them wins that much really, but boy, do they get riled up and grumpy on the rare occasions when they lose or draw!

Do fans really only want to watch their team play other big teams, week in week out ? Wouldn’t it get boring soon, playing Juventus or Barcelona twice EVERY year rather than actually having to earn the right to play your big European rivals ?

Do Liverpool supporters really care more about games in Europe than league fixtures against local rivals Everton or their Manchester neighbours ? (Sorry, I forgot, they’d still meet the Manchester clubs regularly while competing in the Super League of course!)

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My opinion on this is clear: The idea of the Super League is plain wrong, just another nail in the coffin of what used to be called the beautiful game! It’ll be very lucrative and interesting for a while and for some, but the novelty will wear off eventually.

People are being priced out and driven away from top league football as it is. If the Super League clubs were to only look after themselves, with no regard for their domestic league, lesser clubs and the European competitions as they are being presently organised by UEFA, even more fans will be driven away, either to lower league football or away from the sport altogether.

The Super League could indeed be bad news, not just for all those other clubs deemed not worthy enough to join the big boys in the first place. It could ultimately backfire for the big clubs too and they could lose a lot more in the process than there is to be gained financially by breaking loose from the shackles of UEFA and domestic football. The grass ain’t always greener on the other side of the fence, even if the barriers are covered in gold dust…

Hamburg footballing update: Hamburg SV will play Cologne in a top of the table Bundesliga 2 clash later this evening (Live on BT Sport 1).
One of the two will overtake St.Pauli tonight despite St.Pauli winning away at Bielefeld yesterday, 2:1, consolidating their place near the very top of the league table in the process.

The Concordia first team won a dirty (and terrible to watch) game on Friday evening, thanks to two late penalties and two opposition players being sent off late as well.
Concordia’s U23s won their game 5:2, but they had to come back from a 1:2 scoreline with just 20 minutes to play. They are still in with at least a moderate shout for promotion.
Cordi’s women’s team dropped their first points of the season, losing 1:0 at home, blowing the race for promotion wide open again.

The HamburgHammer Column

Tragedy strikes at Leicester - when football becomes just a footnote

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I have been thinking long and hard if I should actually be penning my column at all this week. It’s been a sad weekend on various levels after all, with innocent people losing their lives or being in a critical health condition. There was a shooting in a synagogue in Pittsburgh (a city I hold very dear after staying there during a tour attending sporting events in the Chicago/Pittsburgh/Toronto area many years ago and I totally fell in love with the Steel City), then the helicopter of the Leicester owner crashed and burned after the game, pundit Glenn Hoddle had to be brought to the emergency ward after collapsing in the TV studio and even here in Germany the Concordia away game featured a highly emotional minute silence and players wearing black armbands after the honorary president of the home side who was a former player, groundskeeper and manager had died after a long illness just a few days earlier.

So a lot of dying, a lot of sadness, worry and grief for friends and family members of victims and patients, dead, wounded or ill.

What then in relation to all this does it matter if a red card was justified, if the manager got his substitutions right or how unlucky we were in not being able to hold onto our lead despite putting up a good fight being one man down ? Of course it doesn’t really matter. My thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the events described above.

So I have decided on a bit of a compromise. Yes, let’s talk a bit about the game (as not talking about it doesn’t bring back the dead to life unfortunately, does it ?), but I’ll try to keep it short. I’ll be saying a few things about the West Ham game and that’ll be it. Maybe I can bring up the Hamburg football results later in the comments down below.

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I am immensely proud of our team although it is frustrating of course to concede the equaliser that late and in such fashion, taking such an unlucky deflection off the player who gave us so much hope and joy with his debut goal for the club in the first half. Then again I always felt that a one goal lead would not suffice against Leicester, especially after we went down to ten men. And it also didn’t help of course that there was no Arnautovic available for us, going foxhunting in the Leicester penalty box.

Still, I witnessed a team playing as one. I saw all the effort, desire and fight I want to see from the boys. Noble’s sending off did change the course of the game obviously, it was basically one-way traffic from that point onwards. I can understand if some people label that challenge of his an utterly stupid one, costing his club and his teammates in the process.

When you go into a tackle like that, boot high off the ground, studs showing and you also actually catch the ankle of the opposition player, well, that’s a red card all day and all night long. That kind of tackle is reckless, it can cause nasty ankle injuries and can keep players out for months or the rest of the season.
When you tackle like that you simply cannot control anymore if your opponent’s bones will break or ligaments will tear. That’s why it was necessary to send Noble to the showers early and I’m saying this while still wearing my claret and blue glasses. No complaints from me. And I love Noble to bits.

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Noble, or Mr.West Ham to his friends, is a fighter on the pitch, a hard player, but not a nasty one, out to injure his opponents deliberately. It is just one string to his bow, the way he plays. He always goes into tackles hard, always has, always will. More often than not these tackles work for him and for us, sometimes, quite often, it earns our skipper a well deserved booking and there are also challenges of a more reckless nature where a yellow card no longer fits the crime. Like in the Leicester game.

I’m not convinced you can teach Noble in training to change his tried and trusted approach to tackling. It’s a vital part of the way he plays and if you eliminate that part of his game you risk losing the entire powerhorse character of his performances, pushing on his teammates, keeping intensity high for us, linking our defence with our forward(s) and attacking midfielders. Winning balls, holding up play, passing to start a counter attack.

So, Mark’s challenge wasn’t very clever, but at least it gave us a good test of courage and team togetherness. And the boys can come away from this game with heads held up high. Don’t forget, even shorthanded we had the opportunity to score again and win. Rice once again delivered a MotM-worthy performance. Diangana didn’t look out of place as a starter. Zabaleta is not as fast as he used to be, but he still looked younger than his years, having another fine game. I have no doubt we would have won this if either Noble hadn’t been sent off or if Arnautovic had been playing.

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Our injury list is getting longer and now almost fills an entire team sheet. Not good. But nice for the young players who can step up and show MP what they can do.
I’m still worried about Rice’s future at our club, I’m slowly getting acquainted to the concept he may not be at West Ham for much longer. But this is a discussion for another time.

The next game is just around the corner, Spurs are waiting in the Haribo Cup (or whatever it’s called these days) on Wednesday and it’s a good opportunity for West Ham to start putting together some much needed wins.

No fixture fires up more emotion, motivation and expectation than whenever we face our neighbours, the dirty northern barstewards of London. Let’s hope that not only can we regroup after the late equaliser at Leicester, but that we can also finally get the rub of the green for once. I think we deserve a bit of that! COYI!!!

PS: I’m in the process of planning and booking my next visit, likely to be around the Palace game in December. Looking forward already to meeting some of you friendly guys and gals from the blog (again). Remember, Brexit is still a few months away. In other words: Please be kind and treat me well despite being Johnny Foreigner. I hope things are going to be staying pretty much the same between us all after Brexit. After all, we are all still West Ham, regardless of politics, aren’t we ?

The HamburgHammer Column

The return of the badger against the cockerel - we should be on Holby City!

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Please forgive me readers if you happen to find the odd typo or two in this edition of my column – I have been bonkers enough to get up at the ungodly hour of 6am on a Sunday to watch women’s football (more of that further down in the Hamburg section of the article), so I am still knackered as I’m trying to gather my thoughts after our narrow 1:0 defeat against Spurs.

Home games against Spurs are usually the ones I haven’t wanted to miss in recent times and more often than not I’ve seen us dishing out the reverse scoreline at the London Stadium, beating our irritating North London neighbours by one goal to nil (which is the most common scoreline whenever I come over to watch West Ham in person!).

I cannot even put my pinky on the reason why I didn’t make it over for the derby this time around, so if you wanna blame me for the result, go right ahead! I’ve long given up the notion that West Ham are going to win any game just because I happen to be in the stadium in person, I no longer buy into the concept of superstition – it’s bound to bring rotten luck, innit ? ;-))
And so it ultimately turned out on the day, losing Yarmolenko to a nasty injury (ruptured achilles by the looks of it), keeping him out for up to six months – bloomin’ marvellous!

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It looks like that bloody cursed badger is still wielding its otherworldly paws, claws, whatever a badger actually uses to beat up his opponents, by the way, in a fight between badger and cockerel, who is the most likely to win in that particular episode of Animal Fight Club ? Sorry, I am digressing…

To summarise my thoughts about the game: Yes, it wasn’t Spurs’ best line up, but neither was ours (with Lanzini, Wilshere and yes, Andy Carroll still out), but overall we weren’t really second best in the game, were we ?I remember numerous games in the past when Spurs used to wipe the floor with us, not anymore it seems!
I remember two really dangerous goalscoring opportunities from Spurs all game: One led to the goal, the other was kept out with a fantastic double save by Fabianski.
Other than that I felt we had the better scoring chances, Arnautovic fluffing quite a few of them when maybe he could sometimes try and look for a pass to a teammate in a better position rather than trying to score a wonder goal from a tight angle.

The areas where we lost the game I felt were:
a) Offside awareness, or rather lack of it.
b) Being wasteful with our set pieces. A free kick or corner kick should be a distinctive advantage to your team. It’s also an area which can be worked on in training to yield better deliveries into the box more regularly.

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As for the effort I think we tried everything, but it just was (another) one of these days I suppose. But let’s not get too frustrated at this point in time folks!
I would have liked to see us put a few more points in the bank from our games so far, thank you very much! We shouldn’t forget though that we have had to play a ridiculously tough early set of fixtures and we are now approaching a spell with a number of games that should be slightly easier, at least on paper.

I still cannot get my head around our injury luck/curse which has hit us regular like clockwork yet again. I know it happens to other teams as well. Sometimes.
With some players. Occasionally.
With us we start the season with players on the (long term) treatment table, we have a long list of players out throughout the season and I have yet to see us finish a season with a full selection of players to choose from by the manager.

With us the injuries happen left, right and centre, they come thick and fast and they are rarely just knocks that only last a week or two. This season is still young, yet already it is a particularly bad vintage in that regard. Lanzini, Carroll, Reid, Byram, Wilshere, Sanchez and now Yarmolenko – all out at some stage this season for months rather than weeks.
Looking at the U23 level you can also add young Dan Kemp and Nathan Holland to the list who thankfully are both apparently back now from long spells on the sidelines.

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Can anyone remember the last time a West Ham manager could genuinely pick our strongest side for a game ? I can’t. And while I know it’s as futile to bemoan our injury luck as it is trying to teach an asthmatic to play the trombone, I still find this utterly baffling and incredibly frustrating. But the show must go on and the injury situation obviously opens a path for other players to grab their opportunity with both feet: Guys like Grady Diangana, Nathan Holland, Antonio all should feature plenty in the upcoming games and if our lads can develop a “Now more than ever!”-attitude we should be able to get something good out of the shower of rotten luck that’s been raining on us in the early part of the season! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV drew 0:0 at home with Bochum, HSV are now two points from top spot and in 4th place currently. Their local rivals St.Pauli can overtake them if they win their away game later this evening at Duisburg.
Concordia’s first team drew a tough fixture against Barmbek on Friday, 1:1. It was intense, with Cordi losing their best defender within the first five minutes to what looks like a nasty ankle injury after getting caught late in a tackle. Cordi also had a player sent off near the end after a second bookable offence and their keeper secured the draw in the dying minutes when saving a penalty, caused by our new American midfielder who made his debut as a substitute.
Cordi’s U23s won a tight game 2:1 and at least remain an outside candidate for promotion.

I cannot remember the last time I got up at 6am on a Sunday. But I woke at that time for some reason and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided I might just as well drive into town to cheer on the Concordia girls in their early bird away fixture at the unusual kick off time of 9am in what is Hamburg’s hipster area of Sternschanze (think of Soho, but with more kebab shops and tramps). The girls in red and black won at a canter, 9:0 which was both bloody nice to watch and highly unexpected too against that particular opposition.

Why have I begun watching more women’s football in recent weeks ? Because they have this wonderful young lady named Michelle Hille in the team who is a joy to watch.
She is technically very gifted which is no surprise as she’s been kicking a football for ten years now and she has even played for a team as high up as the second level of women’s football in Germany before and as a fan of the game I can just marvel open-mouthed at what she can do with a ball, getting past three or four players at ease with a deft touch, a cheeky dummy, a backheel. Unlike Ronaldo though she can take a tackle or two as opponents have to foul her regularly in order to stop her in her tracks, if they can reach her that is…

She’s playing with a big smile on her face all the time, cracking the odd joke on the pitch a la John Moncur, she is a fantastic team player as well and still she’s not much taller than your average parking meter, about five feet being generous which has earned her the fitting nickname “Mini”.
She’s only 21 years old at this point and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her go places in the game, either in Germany or abroad. It’s so easy to fall out of love with football, especially when following the big leagues these days.

That’s why I love watching the women’s game too now even at the lower league level as the Cordi girls are displaying on the pitch all the fun, determination, spirit of fair play and unswerving joy to partake in the beautiful game that’s been lacking from the professional game all too often I find.

The HamburgHammer Column

Is our record stuck ? Is it really our destiny to see our best young talent blossom elsewhere ?

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Maybe it’s because Concordia lost a nightmare of a game on Friday evening by a 2:4 scoreline in which basically every single goal conceded by the home team was a direct result of a serious blunder by a Cordi defender or goalkeeper. If a weekend starts like this and it’s an international weekend on top of that I tend to find my mind wandering first and wondering second. And more often than not worrying is not far behind.

When there’s no West Ham league game on, you still get the usual rumours about players getting injured or recovering from injury. As for the January transfer window apparently Manuel Pellegrini is already busy compiling his wishlist which appears to include a new striker or two (one name being mentioned in that respect is former Hammer Jermain Defoe who is no longer flavour of the month at his current club and now seems desperate to finish his career back at the club where it all began for him), a defensive midfielder (that old chestnut again) and also a left back with neither Masuaku nor Cresswell representing quite what Pellegrini wants and expects from his full backs.

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My main concern at this point though is Declan Rice. It is an issue that really bothers me the most by far when it comes to West Ham at the moment. I am of course talking about the new contract that still hasn’t been signed yet. I have been raving about young Declan for a while now and in my happy West Ham related dreams (those where I grin from one ear to the other as opposed to waking up in a puddle of cold sweat) he is our future captain, leading out our team for games against international opposition in the Europa League or even Champions League (admittedly those dreams are few and far between and since I don’t smoke pot either they are even rarer than they could be).

So if it was up to me, which of course it ain’t, I’d offer Declan a deal that reflects his actual status as a regular starter in our team for league games in the Premier League.
In my book, that means parity with other starters in our team, regardless of his young years and modest growth of facial hair. Hence a decent basic wage of around 40k appears to be in order here, plus bonus payments in relation to hitting appearance targets, for goals scored, assists provided, clean sheets won etc.

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I read an interesting theory from one of the so-called club insiders on social media that the club feel they have been burned in recent years with generous deals for players like Carroll, Reid or Hernandez.
After seeing those players collecting considerable piles of cash despite being on the treatment table or in the gym a lot more often than on the pitch, our board now seems to favour a different approach for future contract negotiations: A lower basic wage, with significantly higher additional payments in shape of appearance fees, bonuses for goals etc., which means that players who perform well regularly can earn more than they can today while those who rarely play or who are injured a lot would earn significantly less than they currently do.

It sounds like very clever concept of course as it enhances competition for places (with everyone keen on raking in the appearance fee to begin with) and it may also push the players to go for more goals, or keep more clean sheets, as that automatically translates to higher wages.

And of course there is a bit of a security blanket there as well since players in the new contract scenario will only earn half of their regular basic wage if they are out injured, unable to contribute on the pitch. Problem of course is, this concept doesn’t work in isolation, other clubs need to follow a similar strategy, otherwise the players will simply shrug their shoulders and sign for a club that will still offer them the accustomed, tried and tested generous terms.

Us trying to be the forerunners here looks to me like trying to change a flat tire while the car is still moving in third gear.

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I really wish to see us one day become a club that manages to hold on to their top talent, to seize that window of opportunity and keep a golden generation together at West Ham for once, see those youngsters developing and playing their best football of their career not at the Liverpools, Arsenals, Chelseas and Manchesters of this world, but West Ham, playing on the same pitch with quality players joining the club from elsewhere in the transfer window.
We all probably ask ourselves occasionally: What if Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick had all been West Ham players during their peak years, exchanging passes on the pitch with a certain Paolo DiCanio in his prime ? What in Bobby Moore’s name could or might have been ?

The harsh reality is that money talks. And international football and ambition to win things also have a thing or two to say. In combination it merely means that the best players will end up with other top players at big clubs for generous wages. When I put on my common sense hat I know this is the most likely path young Declan Rice will take. Arnautovic too will end up at a big club eventually if the right offer finally comes his way. It saddens me, but I have stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy or the Cookie Monster, same as I’m no longer expecting a unicorn to arrive in my back garden anytime soon, doing a poo on the meadow of shiny new 100 Euro notes morning, noon and dinner.

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I keep reading how Declan loves it at West Ham and would love to stay, and that only demands fair treatment in a financial sense. I don’t know him enough as a person to be in a position to predict how much of this is just clever negotiating tactics or if his head might have already been turned elsewhere. The question is: If we allow players like Rice to get away while haggling over 20K a week or so (which is peanuts for a PL club in 2018 to be fair), then what chance do we have of ever growing as a team ?

How much would it cost, in terms of wages and in terms of a transfer fee, to bring in even an average PL level holding midfielder needed as replacement if we were to lose Rice to a bigger club ? It won’t be cheap, that’s for sure. And it’ll cost far more than just money, it’ll also lose our club a ton of goodwill, reputation and status.
How our club solves the Declan Rice conundrum will be a useful pointer as to where this club is headed.

If Declan Rice really is the next Rio Ferdinand, I hope against hope we will get to see the best of him in a West Ham shirt. I know we have been burned with some other players and their mindblowing contracts in the recent past. But fear of history repeating itself is not a good advisor. Declan Rice is the kind of player you want to build a team around.
Let’s give him the dosh a player of that ilk deserves, COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Due to the international break HSV and St.Pauli were off. Concordia’s first team lost 2:4, as mentioned already, at home to Dassendorf (the Man City equivalent in this league).
The U23s won a close game, 3:2 away, while the women’s team humiliated their opponents by a 19:0 scoreline on Sunday afternoon (yes, that’s no typo, NINETEEN goals!).

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