The HamburgHammer Column

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COYI!!!

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

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


The HamburgHammer Column

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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 ?


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