My West Ham Story

My Year With West Ham

Being a supporter from abroad for whom there is no point in buying a season ticket, I can only pick some games per season and every West Ham match which I go to in the London Stadium must be selected carefully. Flights have to be booked in time (sometimes with Laudamotion, one of the airlines of Austrian compatriot Niki Lauda who sadly passed away on Tuesday), the trips must be coordinated around other meetings or events which I attend in London, and then I have to hope all goes well and the date of the game isn’t shifted to a conflicted kick-off time. And you know, with West Ham, you never can be sure if you will get any reward for all the bother. But that’s what football and being a football supporter is all about: following your team during good times or bad, and trying to go to as many games as possible.

Only Manchester City and Liverpool have done better

And this season has been a really good one for me and I was very fortunate with the games I have selected to watch in the London Stadium! I graced the upper tier of London Stadium’s West Stand in the 2018-19 season on five occasions, being able to watch the games against Wolves, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Southampton. These were not only more games than in previous seasons, but above all I could celebrate four wins, and West Ham suffered only one defeat when I was present. I‘m sure this is my best points ratio since I have supported West Ham! Only Liverpool (2,55) and Manchester City (2,58) have won more points per game this season than I have (2,4)!

Wolves 0-1

But first we got our fair share of West Ham’s bad start into the season (losing out four times in a row for the second year running), as our first “live game” was the 0-1 defeat to Wolves in September.

I have to admit that this was a game less interesting and exciting than the Proms’ concert #65 which we had attended the night before at the Royal Albert Hall (Stravinsky, Ravel & Berio, conducted by Semyon Bychkov).

And the Sunday afternoon we spent at Hampstead Heath, strolling through the sunny park, walking along the ponds, and enjoying scones at Kenwood Brew House Cafe, which was a much more pleasant time than the one we spent 24 hours ago. Only the sunshine had been bright over the LS pitch as well.

But to add also something on the positive side of this trip (in addition to the scones at Kenwood House), on this journey we discovered a new kind of hotel in London, operated by a hotel group called CitizenM, which we would use for all our following stays this season.

A new philosophy

But after this fourth league defeat in a row it seemed the players began to understand the new way of playing that Manuel Pellegrini was asking of them, and when I had the opportunity to come back to London in November, our stay consisted not only of an environmental law conference in the City, an Andrea Bocelli concert in the O2 Arena and a visit to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Westend, but also of a thrilling 4-2 win over Burnley in the East London Stadium!

Burnley 4-2

In the game against the Clarets West Ham went in front twice, courtesy to goals of fellow Austrian Marko Arnautovic and of Felipe Anderson, but on both occasions Burnley was able to equalise. Nevertheless Anderson with his second and Chicharito with West Ham’s fourth goal sealed the Iron’s win in this entertaining encounter, showing that this team now had developed a real winning mentality under Manuel Pellegrini. Well, and they had already defeated Manchester United a month ago at the London Stadium (3-1).

What a wonderful world

We love to come to London in December with the family, soaking up the British capital’s Christmas atmosphere with carol singing in Christmas concerts, ice rinks at historic places, street markets and the beautiful lighting in Regent Street. Hence we had to be in good voice on our December trip, singing Christmas carols at St-Martin-in-the-Fields in the evening and “Bubbles” the next day at West Ham, and it became a joyful afternoon in claret and blue with a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace!

As you know, this game was part of West Ham’s best ever December in Premier League history! The Hammers were 0-1 behind at halftime, but after the interval we again saw Chicharito and Anderson score, along with a beautiful long range shot from Snodgrass. Chicharito’s fox-in-the-box goal put West Ham in front, and Felipe Anderson scored a beauty to make it 3-1 with a right footed strike into the far top corner, a goal which recently became West Ham‘s “goal of the season”: after some quick build-up play, the Brazilian picked a beautiful shot over the diving keeper – a strike which proved enough to win West Ham this game, although there was a bit of “same old West Ham” when the Eagles pulled one goal back afterwards.

That could have led to a nail-biting finish, but I always had the feeling that a fourth goal for the Irons was more likely than an equaliser – evidence that I was getting more and more sure of West Ham’s newly gained winning mentality under MP. “What a wonderful world”! Also West Ham-wise we could join in this song performed by Katie Melua in the concert we attended at Westminster Hall in the evening after the game.

Comeback of the West Ham way?

Arsenal 1-0

And then it got even better on our next trip to London as we were there when West Ham celebrated the famous win over Arsenal with Declan Rice’s first Premier Legue goal! Yeah!!! It was an imperious display of young Declan in his holding midfield role, with his composed passing and the scoring of the decisive goal, and Dec grabbed all the newspaper headlines the other day. The 1-0 win was a totally self-assured, exciting and entertaining performance of the whole team, with lots of ball on the ground, reminding us of what was once called „the West Ham Way“.

Well, and Marko Arnautovic’s waving good-bye when the Austrian striker was subbed throughout the second half was just a side note in the morning papers, and in the end the transfer to China which Arnie and his brother had wanted to engineer in January fell through like Theresa May’s Brexit Deal.

Fortune’s hiding again

My next chance to fly to London didn’t come before the beginning of May. Therefore I could only watch via telly and the internet what happened after that brilliant win over Arsenal. This part of the season (from February to April) reminded us that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and that Manuel Pellegrini would need more than one season to revolutionise a club whose fans have sung that “fortune’s always hiding” for ages. The team played inconsistent within this period of my absence from the London Stadium, they were eliminated from the FA Cup against much lower opposition and had to be happy that Fulham, after West Ham had been five games without a win, and later on Huddersfield came to the London Stadium to help the Irons get back to winning ways. The club had ranked ninth in the Premier League after the Arsenal win, but they never were able to climb higher up the table, injuries and dubious decisions of referees didn’t help, and Pellegrini’s claim to play for Europe was scuppered by a series of mixed results which saw West Ham drop out of the top ten for most of the time.

First-away-team-to-win-at-Tottenham-Hotspur-trophy

But the best was yet to come this season. Tottenham’s new stadium had been finished and Spurs had managed to win all their home games there prior to West Ham’s first visit to their new ground. Well, I think that not only I was sure that the Hammers would be the first team to win there (as they had done 12 years ago in an other London derby when Arsenal was beaten for the first time at the Emirates).

When Tom Jones, the architect of the Tottenham Stadium, came to a sports facilities conference in Vienna, just some days before the Hammers’ game against Spurs, I let him know that West Ham would be the first team to inflict defeat to the home team for sure, and I even dared to put a bet on West Ham winning this game with Betway. As we all know, I was perfectly right to do so, and Michail Antonio’s beautiful goal from a brilliant Marko Arnautovic pass sealed an historic win!

Arnie again, at last!

And one week after West Ham had successfully claimed the “first-away-team-to-win-at-Tottenham-Hotspur-Stadium-trophy” (a quote from the Southampton match day programme), we finally were on our way again from Vienna to the London Stadium for the last home game of the season vs. Southampton, a game in which we would for the first time see the new claret carpet surrounding the pitch, and would have the rare opportunity to see two Austrians on a Premier League pitch: one in the coaching zone (Saints’ manager Ralph Hasenhuttl) and the other one hopefully playing in the West Ham team, and starting to score again at last!

Saints 3-0

Marko Arnautovic’s form had improved in the games prior to that match, but obviously it was mandatory that we came back to the London Stadium before he hit the back of the net again. On an unexpectedly cold Saturday afternoon, with bright sunshine alternating with rain several times, Arnie in fact started scoring again! He put West Ham ahead with two goals, one in each half of the game, before Fredericks with his first PL goal sealed a comfortable win for the Hammers. Arnie’s two goals were his first ones since the beginning of January when he had scored against Brighton and Birmingham! And for the last minutes of the game he even wore the captain’s armband again after Mark Noble had been substituted.

Well, we’ve already heard that MP is planning with Arnie again for next season, and I hope that the Austrian who has been West Ham’s top scorer in the last two seasons will be at the club for another year!

Our stay in London lasted for three other days, with a Sunday highlight of eating the best scones of our lives at “Maison Bertaux” in Soho, just behind the Palace Theatre, beating the ones at Kenwood House at the beginning of the season by far! And we came back to Royal Albert Hall, where we didn’t listen to a concert this time, but participated in a truly inspiring and motivating LC19 leadership conference on the Monday and Tuesday together with Christians from 80 countries and all denominations!

And in the end, not only our stay in London, but also West Ham’s season, ended on a high note: their win at Watford helped them climb up the table in the last round and finish in the top half of the Premier League in MP’s first year at the helm!

And next season …

Well, I hope to come back to London, despite Brexit, several times next term. And by doing so, as our trips to the London Stadium have turned out to be talismanic for the Irons this season, I hope to contribute to West Ham performing even better at the next call, and the “Pellegrini Revolution” will continue!

And prior to the kick-off of the 2019-20 season (on 10 August) it seems the Hammers want to do me, as well as my compatriot Arnie, a favour by travelling to Austria and to China in pre-season. But with West Ham, you know, things aren’t always as good as they seem:

The Austrian pre-season friendly (11 July) will be played in Vorarlberg, which is almost as far away from Vienna as Stratford! And when Arnie will step onto the pitch in China later in July, he will find out that he’s still on West Ham’s and not a Chinese club’s payroll. Well, on the other hand, for me the latter would be something that I’m particularly pleased with!

Come on you Irons!


Talking Point

Two Cup Finals And A Triple Call For VAR

West Ham have ended a bad run of three defeats with a 2-2 draw against Leicester – that‘s what will be on record when someone looks up the last third of Manuel Pellegrini‘s first season at West Ham Stats in years to come. It’s just a pity though that there won’t be a footnote to this result stating that West Ham would have won the game if the assistant ref hadn’t got it wrong with Lucas Perez’s second goal! But never mind, now I’ve got an other trip to London and two cup finals to look forward to, and also VAR is just around the corner!

With only minutes to go and West Ham 2-1 up against the Foxes, courtesy to goals by Michail Antonio and Lucas Perez, the latter one had latched on Pedro Obiang‘s pass and rounded Leicester’s keeper Kasper Schmeichel to kill the game off with what seemed to be the 3-1 for West Ham – only to be wrongly flagged offside by the linesman. And after that incorrect decision, fortune was hiding again from the Irons when Leicester substitute Barnes put his team level in injury time!

New carpet, old mistakes

Therefore that draw tasted like defeat to the West Ham faithful on a bright sunny Holy Saturday which had brought us a new claret carpet around the pitch of the London Stadium; a carpet which had got caressed by goal scorer Michail Antonio who put West Ham up with a brilliant header in the first half. But in the end the carpet didn’t play a main part and wasn’t so supportive to West Ham’s squad as we had thought it would be, following Slaven Bilic’s remarks about the difficulties the players had with assessing the size of the pitch with the former green carpet under his tenure at London Stadium.

Nevertheless I am already curious about what the ground will look like with its new dress when we are going to be back to London Stadium in two weeks time for the last game of the season against Southampton! And we’re also looking forward to the unveiling of the 2019 Hammer of the Year, who in my opinion will be Declan Rice quite certainly.

But much more certain is that last year’s HOTY will not play any role in this season’s contest: Marko Arnautovic hasn’t scored since his “China saga” in January, and he and the team have been inconsistent (to put it mildly) since Arnie’s premature waving good-bye when he was substituted throughout the second half in West Ham’s win over Arsenal. That was the last game I have watched in the London Stadium so far, and I think I haven’t missed very much during my absence before coming back to Stratford at the beginning of May. Apart from the Liverpool draw, a game which the Hammers would have won if a blatant offside goal for Liverpool had not counted, West Ham have more or less underachieved in most of the games since that famous 1-0 victory over the Gunners with Declan Rice’s first goal for West Ham just two days before his twentieth birthday.

Back in January we had thought that a good cup run was on the cards and that Manuel Pellegrini’s pledge to fight for 7th place in the Premiership could be successful. But a lot has gone wrong since, with West Ham tumbling out of the FA Cup against much lower opposition, and they never regained the winning mentality Manuel Pellegrini had seemed to have instilled into the squad back in autumn and December. Well, one of the reasons quite certainly were the usual series of injuries that have plagued the Hammers all season (short and long term), but maybe it was also the club’s handling of Arnie’s transfer request which had a detrimental effect on the squad. And we haven’t got an in-form natural born striker in the team with Andy Carroll injured (again), Chicharito inconsistent or injured too, and Arnie … well, he’s far from being our talisman, as he was last season when his goals kept us up, the “China saga” has turned his head, and no turnaround is in sight so far. West Ham thoroughly miss a forward to score the goals you need to win a game!

Can’t wait for VAR now

Having already spoken about the offside incorrectly given in last weekend’s game and the wrongly ignored offside in Liverpool’s opening goal in the aforementioned draw with the Reds, that leads us to the recently much repeated call for VAR. Being a traditionalist I wasn’t so sure if I was happy with the implementation of the video assistant in the Premier League next season, with all the interruptions of the game and the wait before we will know if a goal is going to stand or not. But in recent weeks, with Manuel Pellegrini rightly saying Manchester United’s penalties in West Ham’s 1-2 loss at Old Trafford a week ago would have been overturned with VAR, and having watched that blatant misjudgment this weekend on TV, also for me VAR now cannot come quick enough. It’s obvious that the referees need assistance and our beautiful game will become more fair with VAR. I think with VAR already implemented in the Champions League and in Germany and other countries, it‘s overdue in the Premier League now!

So this season will not only be remembered for the beginning of a new area for West Ham United, dubbed the ”Pellegrini Revolution“ by me in a former post (maybe a little too early taking into consideration the bumpy ride that followed towards the end of this season!). It will also be the last season without VAR. Well, I now hope and expect that the video assistant having the last word in tricky decisions will help the referees to get right what they have got wrong much too often this season.

An inconsistent campaign

And what went wrong with West Ham and the “Pellegrini Revolution”, as we will in all likelihood not achieve the target of finishing in the top ten of the Premier League? I know many say that we should be happy with mid table security and the fact that despite a really bad start (with 4 games lost in a row) West Ham never was in danger to be dragged into the fight against relegation. But with quite a lot of money spent last summer and a high calibre manager at the helm the Irons should have done better and been much more consistent throughout this campaign! Now I think the gap that has opened between 10th place and the Hammers’ points tally will be too big to be bridged with just three games to play!

I think that MP will have to be more open to developing a “plan B“ in some matches if his “plan A“ of possession football and ball on the floor is not working. We will need more steel in midfield next season as Declan Rice and Mark Noble haven’t got enough support in the middle of the park, and we will have to buy a proper striker in summer. Throughout the season I had hoped that the trio of Felipe Anderson, Arnie & Nasri could develop a real threat to our opponents, but due to various facts that never materialised. And also the defence needs improvement as opposition goals have gone in much too easy, not only in recent games! I like Zabaleta and Masuaku going forward and beating their opponents in wing positions, but their crosses frequently lead to nothing and they are beaten themselves much too often in counter attacks. And unfortunately Cresswell and Fredericks haven’t delivered much better either imo. Issa Diop has played very well as a central defender especially in the partnership with “General” Balbuena, but he’s still young and seems to be “overplayed” and out of form recently. I hope MP will get a decent transfer kitty, our long term injuries will come back in the summer, and West Ham will be able to offload some of the fringe players and to buy wisely; then a new season and a fresh attempt to become a real force in our big claret carpet stadium can start!

Two Cup Finals and a conference ahead

As regards football here in Austria my favourite club Rapid Vienna has done much better in the domestic cup than West Ham have, and reached the Austrian Cup Final! Oh I’m sorry, I almost forgot that this criticism of West Ham only applies to their men‘s team! The West Ham Ladies have sensationally reached the Women’s FA Cup Final v Manchester City in Wembley – only to be played the same afternoon as the men’s game for which I already have got our tickets! It’s annoying that it has not been possible to shift one of the games to the Sunday in order to allow to watch both of these games. But that this isn’t a possibility is much to my wife’s pleasure though, she now can avoid a “football overkill” on our trip!

But back to the mighty SK Rapid of Vienna whose club chaplain Christoph Pelczar I have been able to meet recently (pic with midfielder Dejan Ljubicic): After a very disappointing Bundesliga campaign in which Rapid have not reached the “champions play-off” of the best six clubs in Austria’s new league format, they won a thrilling penalty shoot-out against LASK Linz in the Cup semis, and now we’ve really got two cup finals ahead with West Ham and Rapid Vienna! Unbelievable!

Fortunately there won’t be conflicting schedules as regards the Austrian cup final and my trip to London: The final in the Austrian Cup will be played three days before we fly to London to watch West Ham and participate in the LC19 leadership conference in Royal Albert Hall after the weekend!

Rapid Vienna take on Red Bull Salzburg on the 1st of May in Austria’s most beautiful ground in Klagenfurt, hoping to win their first silverware since 2008! Two years ago Rapid have lost the final against the same opponents at the same venue – now this is an other chance to beat the odds and defeat RBS, the club that have dominated Austrian football for years now. As Rapid is the only club which already has beaten Salzburg in Austria this season, why not do that in the Cup final again?

So I do hope to come to London in high spirits at the beginning of May, and then we’re going to cheer on the West Ham and help them finish the season in good mood, too! I’m sure the LC19 conference will inspire and motivate us then anyway, regardless of the outcome of the football games. I have some doubts though about how it will feel to know that this visit to the UK now will be the last one before Brexit comes into effect. Albeit we’ve already thought that of our last stay, back in January, too!

Well, you never know with West Ham, and with Great Britain either nowadays …

Come on you Irons!


Talking Point

West Ham Family Witnessing History

We came over from Austria last weekend and were able to watch an other game in the London Stadium. Well, I love coming to London and it seems West Ham does appreciate my presence, too, because all of the last three games I was able to attend this season have been wins for the Irons!

This weekend also would have been the right time “to have a word” with my compatriot who doesn’t seem to be so enthusiastic anymore about staying in London as I am. But unfortunately immediately after the game Arnie left for Vienna, whereas we’re going to stay in London until Tuesday!

Witnessing history

Well, it seems the games that I have picked for my visits to the London Stadium since West Ham’s move to Stratford, are frequently going to be remembered for something special: Last season I watched Slaven Bilic’s last game and Marko Arnautovic’s first goal there. This season I’ve already witnessed Felipe Anderson’s first brace for the Hammers in the win over Burnley. And now maybe (I still say “maybe” as I don’t want to take it for sure) I came back for Arnie’s last game in this stadium.

But forget about that! We’ve all witnessed a really bright and joyous moment in West Ham’s history on Saturday lunch time, as this game will not be remembered because of a forward saying good-bye, but will forever have its special place in history for a young man’s first Premier League goal which sealed a first win at home over Arsenal since 2006! This game marks a giant step forward for Declan Rice grabbing all the headlines in the Sunday papers with a majestic man of the match performance, just two days before his twentieth birthday. “Rice and shine”! What a bright future lies ahead for this graduate from our Academy.

But it’s also a game that was another big step forward for Manuel Pellegrini’s side which played really self-assured and mature against a team they had not beaten at home for almost 13 years. “We played like a big team in the Arsenal win,” the gaffer said after the 1-0 victory, and he couldn’t be more right.

It’s still old West Ham of course, but it’s not “poor old West Ham” that would have conceded an equaliser in injury time, squandering all the good work of the 90 minutes before. Arsenal actually had the ball in the back of the net in the 94th minute, but that goal was ruled out immediately for an offside so blatant that this fact was hardly mentioned in any of the match reports. And just seconds later the referee blew the whistle, and everybody was all but happy in the London Stadium, which this afternoon had been left early only by the folks occupying the away section that had been fairly quiet throughout the game.

It’s getting better all the time

It was a brilliant match day experience, like the one I had enjoyed on my last visits to the Burnley and the Crystal Palace games this season! In my opinion the match day experience in general is getting better and better now in this third year in the new stadium which of course is helped by the team playing so well – and also by the increasing number of food stalls outside the stadium.

I usually get to the stadium from Hackney Wick to avoid the overcrowded Stratford not paying so much attention to the food facilities. But with the lunchtime kick-off we came earlier, first strolled through Westfield before the game and arrived at the concourse much in time. That also gave us the opportunity to look for my ”RapidHammer stone” on Champions’ Place in front of entrance “J” for once, but unfortunately I could not find the stone quick enough in the drizzling rain, and we decided to write to the club on this topic, because it seems that the stones haven’t been laid in the way I had been told when I bought mine.

The atmosphere inside the ground was great, and it was getting better and better throughout the game. It was a brilliant performance of our boys. Just the goal was scored too early after halftime as far as we were concerned, because unfortunately we were back to our seats too late, having queued for a drink for much too long.

A family club

Now that the troubles of last season are behind us, I think we can say that the crowd in the London Stadium is feeling more and more at home there, and that the club has retained (or maybe regained after a difficult transition period) its air of a “family club”. The family has grown bigger and moved to a new house to which we get more and more familiar, and it’s great to see that the house gets filled every time by the members of this worldwide family! Having chosen almost the same seats for all of our visits this season, we’re also feeling more and more like citizens coming home. Wouldn’t want to miss the young but very raucous voice just rows beneath us in every game, shouting “Come on you I’ons” when the place has gone too quiet now and then!

There are lots of families, old and young, and supporters from all over the world! Well, I think we long suffering lot really deserve that the team is playing so well now, rewarding this most committed and loyal support for their endurance and following over land and sea, to the Olympic Stadium on the shores of River Lea! A first home win over Arsenal since 2005, and Declan Rice’s first goal – we’ve witnessed history, who could ask for more this Saturday?

Declan’s goal and this fine win was a real gift, because we can take it easy now that my compatriot from Austria seems to cease sharing with me the love for London and the badge with the two crossed hammers, and is willing to replace one of the hammers by a sickle, with his brother and agent having already set sail for the Chinese Sea.

What could have been …

Of course it is sad that Arnautovic seems to have waved his good-bye right now, because this match really showed for the first (and maybe last) time what an offensive trio of Samir Nasri, Felipe Anderson and Arnie would have been capable of. There were some moments in this game when the three players who are gifted with technical ability and great understanding of the game combined so well that my heart jumped with joy!

Unfortunately I fear we will have to accept that these three musketeers will not be as inseparable as d’Artagnan and his friends were in the French writer Alexandre Dumas’s novel.

Having mentioned the phrase “French” now, a word on the possible similarities between Arnie and the unmentionable ex-player we lost two years ago: I don’t think that our Austrian forward will go on strike when negotiations stall and it takes time before the two clubs come to terms. He used to be some kind of an enfant terrible, and behaved like a stupid child in former years, but he has shown signs of having grown much more mature and level-headed in recent years since he’s married and father of two. So he should be professional enough to honour his contract as long as West Ham haven’t reached an agreement which enables them to bring in a fitting replacement (which will not be cheap, that’s for sure!).

Well, I can’t be sure of that of course, but it’s at least what I’m hoping for. But of course I know that “once a Hammer, always a Hammer” unfortunately only applies for the members of the worldwide family of supporters of claret and blue, it does not apply for the players (some of the former ones, and also of the present company excepted of course, Mark and Declan in particular!).

But no matter which players the squad will consist of in February and in the seasons to follow: it’s us, the claret and blue army, who will always remain West Ham through and through!

Come on you Irons !!!


Talking Point

The Pellegrini Revolution

If we believe the statistics, West Ham have never won more points in a single month of a season in Premier League history than this December. And that said, there is still one game to play, quite a winnable one against Burnley today! I saw the home game against the Clarets back in November (a 4-2 win), and that team can be beaten away too, and West Ham can add an other three points to their tally. Or will this match end in defeat because bottom teams often start winning again with West Ham being the opponent?

I don’t think so. West Ham have now developed a winning mentality under Manuel Pellegrini and aren’t easy to beat anymore. Though the recent run of four wins was halted by a 0-2 defeat to the hands of Watford before Christmas, West Ham did exactly what the manager had asked them to do: to make up for the three points lost against the Hornets in their next game, and the squad responded perfectly with the 2-1 win away over Southampton! West Ham‘s attitude was perfect in that match, they played an attacking game as if they were at home for most of the time, and that is just what the gaffer wants: to play the same way at home and away. That‘s the “Pellegrini Revolution”, a transformation of our club whose bubbles have burst much too often in Hammers history.

Back in 2007 when I started to blog about West Ham, I described them as “one of the big clubs in England” in my first post, and rightly so, but it’s a matter of fact that within the last decades West Ham hardly was a force to reckon with in the Premier League or the cup competitions (apart from reaching the FA Cup final in 2006 and the last season at the Boleyn when West Ham qualified for the Europa League in 2016). West Ham fans often see themselves as “long-suffering“, e.g. Robert Banks’s new book (“An Irrational Hatred of Everything: My Continuing Odyssey as a West Ham Fan”), which spans almost the same time as my blogging history, is described as “recounting the life of a a long-suffering Hammers fan”. But I have a strong feeling that the suffering could be over this season and the move to the London Stadium might have paid off at last.

I was able to watch three games this season in the London Stadium so far, the first one the dire 0-1 against Wolves at the beginning of the season, when West Ham lost their first four games in a row. But Pellegrini remained calm then, knowing what he and his team were going to show as soon as the new players would gel and the squad had fully understood the new kind of tactics they were asked to play.

My next match was the home game against the Clarets back in November, a thrilling win with Burnley equalising twice, and Felipe Anderson scoring a brace in this 4-2! Actually it was this game in which Anderson started his fine run of scoring, now having netted almost in every game since.

Then I returned for the 3-2 win over Crystal Palace. Having been on my own in the London Stadium this time I had a WhatsApp conversation during the game with my old friend Alfred back home in Austria, who had not been able to make the trip. He was surprised by my optimism when the Hammers still had to trail 0-1 at half time, and when the Hammers had won he texted me how important it was that the Hammers were separated by 11 points from the relegation zone now. “Bescheidenheit ist eine Zier, aber jetzt wollen wir vier”, I texted back (“modesty is a virtue quite respectable / but now of four wins West Ham are capable“).

And now the old year is going to end on a high note for West Ham and its supporters, as the 0-2 loss to Watford before Christmas has turned out to have been just a minor setback for a team which now has found a real winning mentality. In the difficult match against Southampton, a team on the up with two wins from their last two games under a successful new manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl from Austria, West Ham’s squad responded perfectly to Pellegrini’s demand to make up for the points lost against Watford and win this one. They had a game plan which Hasenhuttl’s Saints could not cope with, making the “Klopp from the Alps“ a more and more unhappy looking figure with a facial expression reminding me of an angry rabbit in his hutch (which ist the meaning of his name “Hasenhuttl”), the longer the game lasted!

West Ham‘s attitude with which the Irons addressed the difficult task of playing the highly motivated Saints at their ground was perfect, the Irons played an offensive tactic for large parts of the game as if it was a home game, and they could already have scored in the first half. Then they responded very well when Southampton took the lead with an odd goal and were in front within 9 minutes after the 0-1. Felipe Anderson could not only have scored two, but a least three goals. Declan Rice was superb, a real midfield general, Michail Antonio’s powerful runs were great, and with Lukas Fabianski in goal we have a keeper that in my opinion will be named in line with the greatest West Ham shoot stoppers in history like e.g. a certain Phil Parkes, one of my all time favourite players. And, most important of all, the whole squad, though deploited by a lot of injuries and long-time absentees, remained strong in the final stages and never let the game slip out of their hands.

A day after this game we learned that Declan Rice has signed a new contract committing himself to West Ham until 2024 – this is vey good news again! So the year really ends on a high note for us Hammers, almost regardless of a win in the last game.

15 or 18 points won in a single month? We will know on Sunday. But we already can be sure that the “Pellegrini Revolution“ will stay on track anyway! Well, I hope I haven’t got carried away by an overdose of optimism by writing this post, but I’m already looking very much forward to my next visit to the London Stadium in January when West Ham is going to take on Arsenal.

Hopefully Marko Arnautovic will have come back from his injury by then, I can’t wait to see him and Felipe Anderson play together again! That game will be a real test for the new winning mentality of our beloved Hammers.

Come on you Irons!!! And a happy new year everybody!


My West Ham Story

The Partly Unknown Impact of the Austrians

I started to write this on the plane back to my home town Vienna, just having spent an extended weekend in London and watching West Ham for the second time this season. The first game had been the defeat against Wolves at the end of August, and now I have been able to watch West Ham’s convincing 4-2 win over Burnley last Saturday. One bad game, one good game, and the revelation of what a so far underperforming player can do in the respective second match – that seems to be the pattern of my West Ham Story last season as well as this year.

WHU v Wolves

Last season I also had been able to attend two live games in autumn, and interestingly, this year is following the same pattern as the last one: my first game was dreadful (last term losing to Liverpool 1-4) and this year’s first game was nothing better: it was the fourth league game of the season and turned out to be West Ham’s fourth consecutive defeat with the Hammers conceding in the dying minutes, losing out 0-1 to Wolves in the London Stadium.

But like last year, this game turned out to be the last one in a series of disappointments, and things started to get better afterwards. Last year I had witnessed Slaven Bilic’s last game in charge, and soon afterwards his successor David Moyes engineered Marko Arnautovic’s metamorphosis into West Ham’s most prolific striker for years and eventually secured West Ham’s Premier League survival.

WHU v Burnley

Marko Arnautovic evolving into “Arnie”,, Hammer of the Year

After the disappointment in the first game, the following journey to the British capital last year gave me the opportunity to come back to London Stadium for a second game of last season, against Chelsea. And much to my delight, the presence of his fellow Austrians in the West Stand must have inspired Marko Arnautovic who had had a disappointing start into his spell with the club. The Austrian not only scored his first goal for West Ham against Chelsea and jumped into the crowd like Carlos Tevez had done a decade earlier at Upton Park, but he went on to deliver, starting from that game, what West Ham had expected of him when he was signed for a record fee in the summer. And finally “Arnie” deservedly won the “Hammer of the Year” award.

Well, and this year? When date proposals were made for a law symposium in London that I was going to participate in, the 2nd of November turned out to be the day of the event – a date which luckily coincided with a West Ham home game on the Saturday afterwards. That made it possible to come over again to spur on an other “record signing” this year who had come under some criticism for failing to play up to his potential so far.

Playing like strangers

Back in August in the Wolves game, the West Ham players, and especially Felipe Anderson, had played as if they were strangers not understanding one another. They were somehow strolling around the pitch on a nice sunny Saturday afternoon, lacking any urgency which would have been necessary to beat a newly promoted team in one of the first games of the season. Our new Brazilian marquee player from Lazio Rome showed only rare glimpses of what he might be able to do, and almost all his passes and runs led to Nothing. In my opinion he played much too deep and was too slow in going forward wide left, with the other players not able to anticipate where he would pass the ball or want to get it from his teammates.

But also this year after a very disappointing start (which we had not expected after the appointment of a high profile manager and massive funds invested in the squad), something better was just around the corner: like last year, the deplorable outcome of my first visit to the London Stadium wasn’t followed by other poor performances and results, but instead the “Pellegrini revolution” finally broke clear at last, West Ham turned the corner and went on a run of three wins and a draw – before undeservedly losing away to Brighton, and (more deservedly) losing twice to London rivals Spurs in the Premier League and the League Cup.

Because of this setback the Burnley match had become another “must win game” and I was only cautiously optimistic that the Hammers would get back to winning ways.

Especially I did not expect that another part of my narrative of the last season was going to be repeated in 2018. As I said before, last year our record signing Marko Arnautovic had not performed well until my second visit to London, and also this year, though a first goal had been scored by Felipe Anderson in September against Manchester Utd, our current “record signing” still had failed to deliver, much like Arnie had done in his first games last year.

Felipe Anderson

Felipe on the up at last

But as we had been able to watch Arnautovic’s first goal and the start of a very successful season for the Austrian last year, we now were very lucky to be able to witness Felipe Anderson’s best game by far since his arrival! So West Ham really was lucky – or must I say: I had been lucky – that I was able to come to London for a second time earlier than last year! Hence we did not have to wait until December until West Ham’s £36 million signing started to justify the amount West Ham has paid for him to Lazio in the summer. Anderson scored twice and played a large part in the Irons’ so far best game of the season, an important and much deserved 4-2 win. He linked up very well in the process with promising youngster Grady Diangana (who still has to make a choice, if he would want to play for England or the Democratic Republic of Congo) and with “Arnie from Austria” (who is already irreplaceable in Austria’s national team, and of course at West Ham).

Anderson Arnie

Well, that said – with tongue-in-cheek of course – I think West Ham should not underestimate the impact which two Austrians have on the run of the season: one of them on the pitch, Marko Arnautovic, and an other one in the West Stand whose mere presence in the crowd each year on his second visit to the London Stadium seems to inspire, unconsciously of course, a particular kind of player: the one that has been earmarked as West Ham’s new star player in the respective season, but has not been able to find his feet in the London Stadium so far. This year: Senhor Felipe Anderson.

Therefore never underestimate the (partly unknown) contribution of the Austrians!
Come on you Irons!


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