The HamburgHammer Column

The heat is on - can the new season please begin now ?

This will be a slightly shorter column as usual, I don’t know what the summer is like in London, but here in Hamburg it’s been relentless, as I am writing this I have just returned from watching two Cup games, involving Concordia, in sweltering heat, with the sun burning the attending public, not to mention the players, into an exhausted state of numbness.

Five hours in the Sunday sunshine sounds like a lorra lorra laughs, let me tell you, at some point it stops being fun.

There ain’t been too much happening in the world of West Ham, other than a 2:2 draw at Preston in yet another preseason game more geared towards gaining match fitness and trying out some players rather than going for the win desperately.

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As there was no properly working stream available I could only watch the goals and they indeed showed what we already knew anyway: That Marko Arnautovic is such a cool and composed customer in the opposition box, calmly putting away his opportunities. In other news water is wet and HamburgHammer likes to eat Pie&Mash.
I would be very reluctant to sell him, unless the price is outrageously high and Arnautovic is desperate to leave.

If that ain’t the case I hope he will remain our first striker on the team sheet next season, or rather this season. Talking of which, Arnautovic is very much a West Ham ambassador these days. I was on the way back to my car after having watched the Concordia U23s win their cup game away to Bergedorf 1:0. Three young guys in their mid-twenties recognised my vintage West Ham #6 Bobby Moore shirt and immediately started talking about West Ham – and the first player they mentioned was Arnautovic.
Those guys didn’t look as if they were watching a lot of Premier League football or West Ham, but they knew Arnautovic and I suppose Marko has put our club on the map for a lot of people outside West Ham.

I saw another rumour that said how Pedro Obiang was very keen to return to Italy, Sampdoria Genoa to be precise. Like all rumours I will take this one with a pinch of salt (and a hint of garlic), however, I wouldn’t dismiss it outright. There have always been players who only felt comfortable playing in one country or even for one club in particular in order to play their best football. In some cases it’s also the family that is driving those decisions.

I’d hate to see Obiang leave, especially after just coming back from his lengthy spell on the sideline. I suppose none of us can ever forget THAT magnificent belter against Tottenham, but I would also see him as a very useful piece of the jigsaw in our midfield, especially now as there should be plenty of outlets available to pass the ball to.
I hope Pedro stays, but if he doesn’t we need to replace him. In my book we need to sign a DM anyway, plus another striker and maybe even another defender.

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One guy West Ham apparently are interested in is Torino defender Nicolas N’Koulou, 28 years old, a very reliable, ball playing centre-back from Cameroon.
Just 1,80 meters tall and not strongly built, a powerhouse he is not. But he has featured in virtually every game for Torino last season and doesn’t seem to have any significant weaknesses.

Fairly quick for a defender, N’Koulou’s main strength appears to be his concentration which means he rarely gets caught out on the pitch, resulting in him getting booked only four times last season. Another strong point is his ability to play in the role of a defensive midfielder which might come in handy.

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Oh, and we may also still be interested in that Croatian defender, Domagoj Vida, the guy who shares the same hairdresser with Legolas, the handsome and fast-running Elf from Lord of the Rings. How interested ? We shall see, but there is no doubt in my mind there will be more signings in the coming days and weeks.

In case you were wondering, yes Concordia’s first team also won their Cup game, 3:1 at home against some minnows from a club originally founded by railway workers.
Cordi derailed their hopes of making it into the next round, but it wasn’t a good game to watch as the temperatures made it very hard for the players to shine, it really was gruesome out there – and all I had to do was find a bit of shade to stand in and cheer the lads on.

That’s all for now folks, let’s hope we will get some more positive updates soon in terms of new players coming in, but also of players not getting sold we’d prefer to keep.


The HamburgHammer Column

Fettered joy: Have aliens abducted our chairmen ?

Is this really West Ham ? Have aliens taken our board members, flying them twice around Saturn in their claret and blue saucer, before returning them in a brainwashed state of mind, driven to spend cash left, right and center as if the sun was about to hit Planet Earth in the next fortnight and it’s all gonna end soon for the human race anyway ?

THAT was one protracted transfer saga, wasn’t it ? But finally we all saw those long awaited pictures (the ones with the player, having a West Ham shirt on, doing the thumbs up gesture and the crossed arms) which confirmed that indeed Felipe Anderson had just signed for West Ham.

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Of course we’ve had similar stories or rather sagas about marquee signings before in previous seasons, with the difference being that those rarely came to fruition in the past for one of a variety of reasons:

Selling clubs too notoriously difficult to deal with, time running out on Deadline Day to get a thorough medical done, not being able to agree on suitable payment terms, the trainee forgetting to put a newer toner cartridge into the fax machine – okay, I made that last one up, but you get the picture.

Lacazette didn’t come, Bacca didn’t come, Iheanacho didn’t come, Carvalho didn’t quite make it over the line and even when penning my column last weekend I figured that Anderson was slowly slipping away and wasn’t gonna happen either.

But we got him eventually. And I for one am very chuffed with that.
Main reason being that both Pellegrini and Husillos were very keen to get him in. MP stood firm and made Sullivan sign the cheque, God knows how, but sign the cheque Sullivan apparently did.

If MP and Husillos still wanted Anderson so desperately after weeks of hard-nosed negotiations they surely must have done their homework on the guy, meaning more than just watching highlight reels on Youtube like this one:

Further than watching the videos I have also been checking out some scouting reports on Lazio blogs from the days when he was still plying his trade in Rome.

One thing that stands out is his versatility: He can play as a Trequartista (that’s fancy Italian football lingo for a playmaker who plays in a central attacking midfielder position), on either wing (as he is two-footed), as your classical Number 10 or even as an inside striker.

Let’s start off with his weaknesses as those can be dealt with fairly quickly: He is not the greatest finisher (no goal machine), his aerial game has room for improvement and occasionally he makes the wrong on-field decision when trying to go past one opponent too many rather than picking a pass to a better positioned teammate.

That’s all more than counterbalanced though by incredible pace, technical skills, flair, tricks, flicks, crossing, dribbling, shots from outside the box, vision and the willingness to also get stuck in defensively.

I reckon we got ourselves a diamond in the rough here, a potential world-class player and other than welcoming Felipe with wide open arms at West Ham I only have one main wish as far as our fanbase is concerned:

Give the man time to settle in his new environment, don’t expect the world of him straight away, let him work with the manager and his teammates and then hopefully he will provide us with plenty of thrills and getting-out-of-your-seat moments at West Ham for years to come!

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We have also signed Jack Wilshere and Andriy Yarmolenko of course, but my money for the potentially best player brought in for £ invested so far has to be on Fabian Balbuena, former skipper of Brazilian club Corinthians.

Kudos first to Mr.Husillos for signing up the guy in what seemed like double-quick time, sailing through any work permit issues and getting the lad into a West Ham shirt for very much a pittance in terms of average 2018 market prices.

You know I’ve always had a bit of an irrational admiration for defenders, the guys who rarely get headlines or column inches devoted to them, simply because their job in the main is not to create or score goals, but to ensure our guys don’t concede any to begin with.

I often enjoy defensive masterclasses just as much, if not more than a well-crafted attacking move or goal of the month contender.

Ask yourself why guys like Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds are still being held in such high regard among our fanbase. I ain’t saying Balbuena will necessarily slip right into that illustrious list of great West Ham defenders. I just hope he helps to shore up our leaky defensive set-up a bit.

It looks like Pellegrini will try to rebuild West Ham from the back and rightly so. Too many times last season our defenders were all over the place, left stranded to fight for themselves by some shocking (lack of) support from our midfield.

Hopefully Pellegrini will begin to have an impact in that respect fairly sharpish. Onwards and upwards!

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Right now one cannot help as a West Ham fan to be very happy if not absolutely thrilled with our signings so far, there will no doubt be players leaving though in the coming days and weeks and I shall withhold my undivided praise until the transfer window has slammed shut.

My joy cannot be unfettered anyway, sorry for doing an Eeyore here – this is West Ham after all, the club who has set the benchmark, blueprint and copyright for the most elaborate and deceptive false dawns in the history of the modern game.

Remember the Icelandics ? Or Tevez and Mascherano arriving in a shock Post-World Cup double deal ?
When things seem too good to be true…and all that…

When it comes to several good things or signings happening to and at my club in a very short period of time, I usually feel as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs, occupied by pubescent kids who have just consumed five cups of espresso each.

We are simply not used to seeing our board spend serious amounts of money on quality players like this.

A triumvirate of Yarmolenko, Balbuena and Anderson arriving within a matter of days ? I’m 46 years old! Let me get to grips with this new concept first. Allow me a bit of a lie-down, some oxygen and a cup of tea to get myself acclimatised before continuing the dizzying climb towards the next level!

Of course we may eventually get the picture, a reasonable explanation where the money for this spending spree might have sprung from all of a sudden:

Saved up money from previous windows ?
New shareholder loans from Gold and Sullivan ?
Board member Albert “Tripp” Smith chipping in to increase our overdraft spending facilities or bringing in some fresh dosh from some business partners of his ? Who knows ?

Right now as fans we should be cautiously happy but also remain acutely aware to the fact that things rarely go smoothly at our beloved little club.
There’s always a caveat or two to navigate and I won’t be counting our chickens just yet…

From a footballing point of view though I cannot wait to see what Pellegrini can do with what already looks like a significantly stronger squad compared to last season. Apparently our transfer business ain’t done yet either and we still have a loan deal or two to conclude and we all know how Sullivan loves those…:-))

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And what’s been happening in Hamburg (I hear some of you ask) ?
Well, Saturday was one of those very busy eventful days that simply happen in my town from time to time.

First it was the Schlager Move, a celebration of sentimental, silly, overly kitsch easy listening German songs from the Seventies and Eighties where young people and hipsters dress up in ridiculously multi-coloured suits and wigs while pretending to enjoy this kind of music they used to hate back when their parents listened to it…

Not for everyone, but a big event nonetheless, resulting in thousands of drunk people dancing around various party floats rolling through Hamburg’s red light district.

Only a couple of miles down the road it was the ITU World Triathlon, a pretty exciting sporting event, taking place over the course of two days, featuring both professional athletes and amateurs alike competing for money, glory and pride in the water, on the bicycle and with running boots on, right in the middle of Hamburg’s beautiful city centre.

And if that wasn’t enough Helene Fischer was in town yet again for another one of her usual sell-out shows. I decided to watch the triathlon on the telly from the comfort of my armchair and went to watch the final two Concordia preseason games on Sunday.

It’s one of the joys of lower league football in Hamburg that you get to know the new players at your club really quickly. It’s obviously much easier to chat to amateur players during a matchday than PL stars for instance.

I was surprised to find that some of the new Cordi boys were quite clued up about West Ham. One knew about our hooligan rep (must have watched Green Street Hooligans during one of its dozen reruns on German telly in the past twelve months) and he asked what made me become a West Ham supporter in the first place while another remembered that Hitzlsperger used to be called The Hammer and also had a spell playing for The Hammers on top of that.

While a third player (a backup goalie who supports Werder Bremen) told me a few stories from Arnautovic’s time at Werder, don’t be under any illusions, not all Bremen fans were sad to see him leave eventually.

He was younger and less mature in Bremen of course, so he got into a few interesting scraps there to say the least. Water under the bridge, he’s still a West Ham player as we speak and as long as this is the case I shall be rooting for him regardless.

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My weekend concluded with watching the WC final with a few mates in a sportsbar on the outskirts of town. As a lot of my neighbours in East Hamburg are of Croatian heritage (and because they were the underdogs too) I was rooting for the Croatians.

Whenever the waiter was bringing us another plate of chicken wings (it was all-you-can-eat and yes, they did have enough supplies to satisfy my demand on the day) he was making mocking comments about the Croatia players and their performance which got us irritated as well as a bit annoyed towards the end. Turned out he was Serbian, so no surprise he was cheering for the Frogs! Still no love lost between Serbs and Croats in 2018 it seems…

Well my friends, this is all from me this week. Let’s hope we get even more encouraging news on our transfer dealings in the coming days.

Concordia’s season proper by the way starts next weekend already with the traditional first round of the local cup competition. If you have some fingers to spare, keep them crossed for the boys, my dearest fellow WHTIDers!


The HamburgHammer Column

Grave decisions ahead for West Ham - and a memorable visit to the local cemetery

I know, it’s one weird headline this, but bear with me, it’s been a strange week and the sun has also been beating down relentlessly in my hometown.
So maybe that’s what brought me to Hamburg-Ohlsdorf cemetery, more of that later…

First things first: Congratulations to you all as England have indeed made their way into the WC semi-finals which in itself is an amazing achievement already, especially when you consider you have also managed to win your first penalty shootout in WC history along the way.
Enjoy your moment in the sun, cherish it and be proud! But please don’t think the title is in the bag just yet. Anything can still happen!

Germany of course have won numerous penalty shootouts in the past, but that didn’t help us this time around as the Krauts went out as quickly as they possibly could.

To add insult to injury they even managed to finish last in their respective group. Pathetic of course, but the bad vibes were there in the German camp even before a ball had been kicked and if you had asked German fans beforehand most would have shoulder-shruggingly predicted an early exit, although probably not quite this early…

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Concordia have started their preseason schedule and I have managed to watch the odd training session as well as a few games of both the first team and the U23s already.
It’s always a great feeling going into a new season as new players arrive and try to gel quickly with the rest of the lads. The opportunities are endless, at least in theory every team can dream to finish top of the table when the first games of the season proper finally kick off.

Concordia are no exception here and I’m buzzing for the new season, but as they have actually finished all their transfer business already I can now focus on the goings on at our beloved West Ham.

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The past week has been quiet on the transfer front, if you’re talking about deals concluded. The deal for Felipe Anderson appears to be moving further away from happening.
But there is a good chance that the signing of Jack Wilshere on a three year deal will either have been announced already as you’re reading this or it could well happen sometime later today.

Wilshere would then join up with the first team at their preseason training HQ in the Swiss Alps. I won’t have to tell you too much about Wilshere, he’s a well known commodity in England. His career has been blighted by numerous injuries in the past although it has to be said that he didin’t miss any games due to injury last season.

The pessimists are going to say now that the law of statistics is telling us that his next injury is waiting just around the next bend. The optimists will say that he might finally be over his injury troubles, ready to hit a lengthy purple patch at West Ham.

The biggest points in the pro column are the facts Wilshere is a West Ham fan (or at least used to be one as a kid before joining Arsenal) and that he would come reasonably cheap. There are no free deals anymore in this day and age of course, but saving money by avoiding a transfer fee, with Wilshere lowering his wage demands at the same time, makes this a potentially very decent deal for us, especially with Lanzini out for anything between 6-12 months.

Wilshere surely knows what to do with a football, boasting sublime dribbling and passing skills and I would welcome him at West Ham 100% with wide open arms.

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Another player rumoured to be a potential signing for us (who might even have a medical scheduled for as early as today) is Andriy Yarmolenko, a 28-year-old Ukrainian attacking winger/striker, currently playing for Borussia Dortmund.

Yarmolenko would probably be the cheaper alternative to Felipe Anderson. Yarmolenko has featured many times for Dynamo Kiev as well as for the Ukrainian national team.

Two words to describe him: Strength and confidence. And his passing ain’t too shabby either. Plus it’s not exactly easy to get the ball off him within the laws of the game.

He can be inconsistent, drifting in and out of games, but that is an issue affecting most players. He’s had a bit of an off year at Dortmund last season, however, a change of scenery, a new challenge at a club like ours might suit all parties.

An interesting aspect is that Yarmolenko is a similar case as Arnautovic, but the other way round. Arnautovic was converted from winger to striker at West Ham and we all know that has worked a treat for us.

Yarmolenko on the other hand started out as a striker earlier in his career, but has been more effective in the recent past when being used as a winger.

Another positive is the fact that the guy is very much down to earth – he had numerous offers to go to bigger clubs in his career, but up to now he has always decided to pick clubs where he could start games on a regular basis, even at the price of earning less money by staying put.
Yarmolenko would be another decent addition to our squad.

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Finally there’s Fabian Balbuena, centre-back and skipper of Brazilian outfit Corinthians. He will be 27 years old next month and is well known for being dominant in the air, very focussed throughout games and more than capable of instigating quick counter attacks by picking a decent pass after intercepting a ball.

As he hasn’t been a permanent fixture for the Paraguay national side there could be an issue with obtaining a work permit, but if the deal was to happen we’d be getting a strong defender here, a natural leader on the pitch and a guy the rest of the league might just learn to hate with a passion before you can even say “clean sheet” three times.

Surely transfer business will now begin to pick up in earnest, not just for West Ham but everyone else too. Only at the end of the window can we even begin to judge if it’s more of the same old same old (razzle dazzle and all that) or the beginning of a new era at West Ham, ushered in by Pellegrini and Husillos. We shall see. Which brings me to my final little episode which is completely unrelated to football or West Ham, but probably you will bear with me anyway and be glad you did once you’ve finished reading. I certainly hope so.

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The cemetery in Hamburg-Ohlsdorf is world famous. You don’t often hear that said about something as morbid and dark as a graveyard. But Ohlsdorf is a bit different, it’s the fourth biggest graveyard in the world for starters and the biggest rural cemetery in the world – and even listed as an attractive sight to visit for tourists.

Emanating from a concept of English architect Sir Christopher Wren a rural or garden cemetery is not just your average burial ground but rather a tranquil place that uses landscaping to great effect. It makes burial plots feel much more like a well designed park or forest walk than a gloomy graveyard.

That’s what Ohlsdorf essentially is, a giant park with 12 miles of road for car traffic leading through a vast area which stretches for nearly three miles in length and one mile in width.

You can walk there for hours on end as the different garden pathways within the cemetery confines run for more than 50 miles! Boasting numerous different kinds of flowers, bushes and trees.

You will find numerous graves of famous Hamburg celebrities, singers, actors, politicians – including Hans Albers, Carlo Karges (Nena’s guitarist), the famous composer and local lad Johannes Brahms as well as former Hamburg mayor and German chancellor Helmut Schmidt.

Plus of course many non-celebrity Hamburgers, like my beloved parents. Last week I paid them one of my rare visits.

Rare because I believe that only the ashes of the remains of their weak and old bodies are buried there anyway and I don’t necessarily need to be in that precise spot in order to pay my respects and cherish their memory. Or feel connected to their immortal soul/spirit or whatever you wanna call it.

This time though I’m actually glad I did go there because literally 200 metres away from my parents’ grave I found this, a place I had been loosely aware of before but had never really taken an effort to visit and acknowledge properly, until now…

It’s the Hamburg Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery. An utterly beautiful and atmospheric place where I got lost for over an hour, looking at the various limestone gravestones of people who died as young as 18 or 19, from various regiments in all corners of Britain and the Commonwealth.

The grass is maintained in pristine condition, you could easily play tennis or golf on the surface and it doesn’t come as a surprise to see those graveyards/gardens in such a wonderfully kept state as it is indeed being cared for and looked after by the CWGC (Commonwealth War Graves Commission), employing British gardeners, stonemasons etc.

What’s more, as in numerous other cases the world over, our two countries have struck a deal whereby the CWGC essentially have taken over that plot of land within Ohlsdorf cemetery in order to look after their dead as they see fit.

I only found out later when researching for this article that I had basically made a very short trip to Britain when strolling between the rows of limestone. In legal terms this part of Hamburg belongs to the UK.

So this little plot of Britain right in the middle of my hometown does honour more than 2500 soldiers, their wives and children who all died while serving their nation although not all of them necessarily dying in combat, during both WW I and II.

Not all of those buried here died in or near Hamburg, loads were eventually transferred from 120 smaller, provisional war cemeteries from different areas of Northern Germany like Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg, Hannover, Braunschweig or Oldenburg. The majority of them died as prisoners of war.

Others were taken down by flak guns during the various air raids in WW II.
25 unidentified marines are honoured by a plaque whose submarine was sunk in 1916 close to the Helgoland shoreline.

There are also those Commonwealth soldiers who died during the post-war occupation/liberation in Hamburg, it was an unusually harsh winter in 1946/47 which killed numerous Brits and Germans alike due to unsufficient supply of wood and coals to keep the people warm in their war-torn drafty flats and houses.

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And there is also a memorial tree planted in memory of the crews who passed on during the Berlin Airlift when their supplies helped to keep thousands of starving German men, women and children alive.

The famous “raisin bombers” became part of Berlin folklore and German history and it is only good and proper that those brave British soldiers are being honoured for their sacrifice in my town as well.

Why am I telling you all this ? Because I felt a weird connection to all those people, despite or maybe even because I am the offspring of their former sworn enemy.

First off I was struck by the sheer coincidence that my parents were buried virtually right next to all those Commonwealth soldiers.

I think I mentioned before about my mom telling me dozens of times over the years about her fondest childhood memory (wearing a big smile on her face as she was walking down memory lane) of being given the most delicious candy bar ever (and the first taste of chocolate in years) when a British soldier provided a little German girl, just 8 or 9 years old, with a Cadbury bar – a girl who was later to become a woman and the mother of a very dedicated local West Ham fan and massive admirer of the British way of life.

I was reading on the gravestones which regiments and battalions those brave servicemen hailed from and me being West Ham I naturally was keeping my eyes peeled on the London Regiment (one battalion of which was based in Bow I understand) and the Essex Regiment (based in Brentwood) and so I figured that one or two of those buried and honoured in Hamburg Cemetery must have been West Ham supporters.

It got my mind wandering as I started thinking about what it’d be like if one of them soldiers did return just for one day or a week from their grave (not in a creepy flesh-eating Zombie kind of way of course) and find himself in 2018 Hamburg, an Englishman still in uniform who died in 1945 having a chat more than 70 years later with a West Ham fan, a Kraut at that who has never been experiencing hiding out in a shelter during air raids in his lifetime, a chinwag between a Brit and a German many decades after the two big wars.

I’m sure it would be a most interesting conversation, covering various topics including the modern way of life, politics, music, new gadgets, the internet, football and West Ham United of course.

Maybe that soldier in question would be surprised at being addressed by a Kraut in reasonably good English.

Maybe he would be flabbergasted to see all them flashy cars rushing past, all those bloody smartphones and massive HD television screens everywhere. Not to mention those strange internet blogs!

Maybe he would be incredulous upon hearing that football teams no longer play with five strikers on the pitch at the same time.

Probably he would ask me after all this mind-boggling new information to take him to a bar for a nice cold beer or some cider in the July sunshine to let it all sink in.

And I would happily oblige and probably just shake his hand quietly at the end of the day, thanking him for his sacrifice and service, helping to create an environment where British and German people nowadays can share the same opinion, or debate different points of view in a civilised manner, enjoy some jolly good banter while sharing a beer, a pie or a bratwurst.
Having a laugh. Or sharing pain and even grief at times.

Or just a trivial thing like sharing the passion for the same football team.
One that plays in claret and blue. Where fans blow bubbles and where dreams all too often seem to fade and die.

Unlike the memory of those Commonwealth soldiers.

Maybe there is a novel in there somewhere…


The HamburgHammer Column

Lucky escapes and staring contests - Waiting for the next signing

Watching Germany at the World Cup can indeed be the kind of experience you’d normally associate with sitting at London Stadium watching West Ham.
Depending on who you’re sitting next to or behind of course. In this case it was me sitting in my brother’s living room, watching the game against Sweden with him and half of my nephew.

I’m saying half because he wasn’t paying much attention to the football really, choosing to focus on reading another chapter of whatever part of the Harry Potter series he’s currently battling with instead – having read them myself I know it can be very hard to put the books down with all those bloody cliffhangers at the end of every chapter!

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The game had several cliffhangers of its own in store and my brother and I agreed throughout that only a win would do in terms of keeping Germany in the tournament.
A very telling sign that my brother is getting back to normal health is the way he was talking and acting during the game, in a fairly miserable, pessimistic, Eeyore-style manner, the kind of which you sometimes get at West Ham home games too.

It’s just the way my brother is, always was, will be forevermore. He moans about the neighbour’s cat taking a short-cut through his garden, he moans about the way other people drive, too fast, too slow, wrong colour of car, in short: He seems to rather enjoy finding things to moan about – and Germany’s performances at the World Cup so far have been a fountain of inspiration for him, feeding his complainy side.

Of course my brother was right with a lot of stuff he said about the game against Sweden, moaning about the Germany players’ body language, their lack of invention, their predictability, their tendency to overdo the sideways and backwards passing, the looming shame of potentially going out of the tournament at the hands of Sweden etc.
Again, I couldn’t really argue much with him as he was spot on, but the moaning was relentless (it must run in the family), he kept repeating the same phrases, but of course all of that misery was wiped out with one beautifully executed freekick in injury time. Take a bow Toni Kroos!

It was the kind of goal worthy of winning any game and knowing how tournaments have gone for Germany in the past, who knows how far Germany will go now ?
If you ask me, not much further than the quarterfinals. I just hope we won’t have to play England at any point as that would require me to stay away from the blog for a while, especially should England win…:-))

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On the West Ham transfer front things have been awfully quiet, with a number of rumours, yes, but apart from Fabianski being confirmed not much else came to fruition really.
It looks though as if the weeks-long Felipe Anderson will he-won’t he saga will finally come to an end now one way or another.
Rumour is a deal has finally been agreed with West Ham paying up to 40 million Euros for him, with a 20% sell-on clause tagged onto the deal.

If true, it’s an expensive acquisition for sure, but one well worth pursuing if he indeed is the cornerstone of what Manuel Pellegrini has in mind for this club. I cannot claim to having seen a lot of games in which Anderson took part, but from what I can gather from the usual sources online he is pacy and a great team player, working hard for the cause and being more interested in setting up opportunities and goals for his teammates rather than doing it all for himself.
Of course it’s frustrating if a transfer takes ages to materialise, but once you start dealing with big, professional clubs there is bound to be a staring contest, trying to determine who loses his cool and blinks first!
It’s a game of poker really and while you don’t want to pay over the odds, sometimes there’s no way around it if you really fancy the player!

Bringing in a technically gifted and quick team player like Anderson sounds promising enough and it might actually also serve as a springboard for other quality additions following suit. As much as I like to read about the odd transfer rumour, I am still fairly old-school though about the way transfers should be negotiated and announced. I still like the behind-closed-doors approach and love transfers that jump out at you like a rabbit from a hat, basically out of nowhere, and I absolutely wouldn’t mind if that was the way in which MP, Husillos and Sullivan were dealing with transfer matters from now on.

It may not give us quite as many rumours as before to talk about, but it might just result in bringing us the players we actually need – I know where my priorities lie in that respect.

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Another player potentially arriving in Stratford from Italy could be Stefano Sturaro, a versatile player from Juventus, with 25 years still at a great age with his peak years hopefully ahead of him. The chap mainly plays as a defensive midfielder (hooray!!!), but has also featured as attacking midfielder on the left or even full back on the right.
He couldn’t nail down a regular starting place at Juventus though, but even bearing that in mind he could still be a good fit for West Ham.
His main qualities appear to be maintaining possession of the ball and supporting his defenders which is the key attributes I would want from a defensive midfielder.

I’m a big believer of having a balanced squad and for that to become a reality you also need players who do the dirty or the unspectacular work that tends to go unnoticed far too often. You cannot have a team with ten Arnautovic-style players. Nor ten Lanzinis or ten Mark Nobles. You need to have a bit of everything and should we really get Felipe Anderson then having someone like Sturaro might just be another missing link for the jigsaw that MP and Husillos are currently trying to solve.

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Italy seems to be a popular hunting ground for us this summer. Apparently we have been talking to Lazio at such lengths that we may also pick another player from them, Lukaku. No, that’s not our nemesis striker with the knack of scoring vital golas against West Ham, Romelu, but rather his brother Jordan whose main job is preventing goals rather than scoring them which comes as no surprise as he is another defensive minded midfielder.

Built like a brick cabin designed for housing a khazi or two, he looks like a player born to showcase his skills on pitches in England. He sounds like the perfect complimentary player to Sturaro as Lukaku is a decent dribbler and passer of the ball. Both players are rumoured to be available at reasonable (in today’s market) prices.
We need to get away from signing players with a famous name or those who used to be great at other clubs years ago.

Rather than that I hope that MP will establish what kind of players are required and then sign those guys accordingly, regardless whether they come from a league we rarely watch or have a name most fans have never heard before. In this respect I am fairly optimistic MP and Husillos can deliver.
We shall have a much changed team for next season and that alone will make the upcoming season one to look forward to with eager anticipation and excitement.

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Closing out with the Concordia update, the club have announced that their squad for next season is complete now. 22 players will try to make amends and give the fans better football and more points on the board next season. The two goalkeepers remain the same, apart from that TEN new players will try to force their way into the starting XI.
It sounds like a decent mixture of experienced heads and young lads from lower divisions who will try to make the step up to Oberliga level.
There is also a young defender who has been promoted from the U23s which is nice to see and of course I will try to watch the U23s as well whenever I can.

The U23s have been promoted as well and they will now play the majority of their away games in places not far from my brother’s house, so he is bound to join me on a few occasions. As long as he doesn’t moan quite as often as when watching Germany play, he is more than welcome. Then again I won’t mind too much anyway, as long as the Cordi boys end their games in similar fashion as Toni Kroos did on Saturday night…:-))


The HamburgHammer Column

West Ham Episode MMXVIII - A NEW HOPE

Hello my friends! I’m back and no, I have not been hiding under a rock the past few weeks and neither have I been abducted by aliens and forced to become a Coventry City supporter. In fact I was hoping that today there would actually be lots of new signings to discuss at West Ham but, alas, this is West Ham and signings are never quite as straightforward and quick as they seem to happen at most other clubs.

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But two of the more important decisions have already been made anyway: In Manuel Pellegrini we now have a highly experienced and respected manager at the helm plus a well connected Director of Football in Marco Husillos. Both are very good appointments in my book and the upcoming week will be very telling in a number of ways with regard to how things are going to work at West Ham from now on. Apparently as much as five new signings are in the pipeline at this point, in various states of completion, from being a decent possibility or being real close to nearly or factually done.

If we get all those rumoured (yes, I know) signings over the line (or none of them) will at least give us somewhat of an idea of the new West Ham team for the season.
I understand that Pellegrini made sure certain conditions of his were met by our board before signing on the dotted line, otherwise it’s unlikely he would have committed himself to the challenging task of managing West Ham.
He knows that, compared to other clubs, our transfer budget is somewhat limited. Yet he will have insisted on certain funds and I reckon he will have insisted on free reign in terms of spending that budget on players he deems vital for his plans.

Let’s not forget, Pellegrini terminated a highly lucrative contract in China in order to join West Ham. He will not have made this move to get pushed around or told what to do and who to sign.

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One of the key signing this summer appears to be Felipe Anderson, a right attacking midfielder.
Nicknamed Lampadina, or light bulb, he can light up a game in a way few other players can.
He is quick as a raccoon in mating season up a drainpipe, very skilled technically and moreover not shy in terms of helping out his defenders, winning the ball back with a well timed tackle or two.

His excellent first touch keeps getting mentioned and his lightning speed allows him to get past players time and time again. He’s not necessarily a prolific goalscorer, but more of an assists man who makes his teammates look good. Which is exactly what someone like Arnautovic or Hernandez would be craving for.
It’s worth mentioning that Anderson hasn’t really been a regular starter at Lazio, so he is at this point a very good prospect who will probably benefit from getting regular gametime.

There are conflicting rumours if Lazio keep moving the goalposts in negotiations, rising prices or being peculiar about sell on clauses and additional payments or if West Ham so far have simply failed to offer anywhere near what Lazio have been asking for their player right from the start. Apparently Pellegrini himself is pushing hard to make a deal happen and if Anderson is indeed the number one target, that which shall convince other decent players to come to us, then, I’m afraid, we may have to pay over the odds to get a deal done. I know Italian clubs are known for being a royal pain in the bum when negotiating transfers, especially when an English club comes knocking, but in this case West Ham may just have to bite the bullet.

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Other targets seem to include a CB from France called Issa Diop, young Swansea defender Alfie Mawson, goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski, West Ham fan Jack Wilshere and Javier Pastore, an attacking midfielder from PSG. All players I would welcome with open arms at West Ham, but it remains to be seen how many of those deals we can get over the line. Apparently both Pellegrini and Husillos will be back at West Ham HQ from today, so things should really begin coming along with our transfer business at this point.

One deal, well, the only deal we have already concluded is that one for young RB Ryan Fredericks, 24 years old and fresh off the boat from a promotion winning Playoff Final with Fulham. I welcome his signing for a variety of reasons. a) I love the idea of playing a RB at the RB position for starters. I know Zabaleta did a reasonably fine job there last season, but he is not getting any younger (or quicker) and that’s where Fredericks comes in with pace very much the theme again here.

This should help our counter-attacking moves, especially as Fredericks is very unpredictable. Not only is he he very quick (have I mentioned this before?), unlike other fullbacks he also isn’t afraid to venture into the middle of the pitch with the ball sometimes which is highly unusual for a fullback and can catch the opposition on the wrong foot at times.

He is also a good tackler and if there is one thing he needs to improve on it’s end product. If Fredericks can crown his speedy forays into the opposition half with more crosses or passes that actually find a teammate to score, then he’d be as close to the perfect fullback as you can get. I’m happy to see him in a claret and blue (or teal) shirt next season anyway.

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I am cautiously optimistic for next season, both in terms of the transfer business and our performances. I see Pellegrini as a very welcome breath of fresh air as I think he let’s his teams play football the right way. He also strikes me as a gentleman and someone who has been there in football, done it, bought, well, probably not the t-shirt as he is more of the nice ironed shirt and dinner jacket type of guy.

Pellegrini and Husillos together at this point are a massive window for opportunity for us. If the board let them do their job with FULL support (including financial) West Ham have a chance to become, at least on the pitch, a proper football club, professional, good to watch, probably even acknowledged and respected (again).
I hope we do see some more signings at West Ham, starting this week, which will also make watching the World Cup a lot more fun.

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As for the WC, at this point it’s too early and too close to call. I wish England well for their first game against Tunisia. You don’t need me to tell you that a lot of things need to go right for your guys if England are to reach even the semifinals in the tournament. England teams always promise much at the start of tournaments with a strong squad of fantastic players, but for some reason rarely is the whole greater than the sum of its parts for the England team.

Saying that, usually Germany are a well-oiled machine, getting more efficient as the tournament progresses. Not this time though. As Ozil and Gundogan decided it was a great idea to pose with the Turkish president for photos (despite playing for Germany obviously), giving him signed shirts with a personal devoted dedication, it has caused a massive shitstorm among German fans and pundits alike and this unnecessary distraction is not going to help Germany’s chances to retain the trophy I’m afraid.

If you threatened me, pointing a tofu roll under my nose right now, I’d say Brazil for the title, Uruguay as dark horse number one. England out in the round of last 16, Germany out in the quarter-finals.

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Talking Hamburg football, well, it’s the summer break and the World Cup, so no preseason games just yet. The two big clubs Hamburg SV and St.Pauli will now for the first time in history meet in Bundesliga 2. Which means two feisty and highly policed derby games in a season when HSV will be trying their best to win promotion back to Bundesliga 1 at the first time of asking.

Concordia funnily enough have a lot in common with West Ham this summer: After a disappointing season there is a new manager in place and there is a massive overhaul in player personnel afoot with at least 7 or 8 new faces coming in and similar numbers leaving. For sure it’ll be exciting to see how the new team will get on and how quickly the players can develop an understanding on the pitch. With Cordi’s U23s playing better opposition teams now they have been promoted to the next level the days of winning games with 8:1 scorelines will be coming to an end. Still, it’ll be fascinating to see them adjusting to playing one league higher now.

That’s all from me for now. Let’s hope it’ll be a great week for West Ham on the transfer front and again, all the best to England and Germany in Russia! COYI!!!

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