The HamburgHammer Column

Slowly things have started to move closer towards the season starting proper. At least this is true for the Concordia lads who had another run out, playing two short games (45 minutes each) in a mini tournament up the Baltic Sea coast in Timmendorf, apparently losing both games. The season begins in earnest, sort of, with a cup tie this Friday against lowly Stapelfeld again, that’s the team we already beat 7:0 in preseason if you remember.

Oh yes, the Concordia 2nd team/development squad also had another pre-season tester at home yesterday (again, I didn’t attend as friendlies or preseason games are not exactly my cup of tea), they were playing Slaven’s countrymen of Croatia Hamburg. The Cordi youngsters won 3:1, so they are a promising bunch for sure.

Apparently there will be plenty of home doubleheader Sundays next season for Concordia, so it’ll be the Cordi youngsters playing at 11am first (free admission) to be followed by the game of the first team at 2 or 3pm, sounds good to me!

Talking about transfers at West Ham we clearly haven’t managed to go big or early in this window as previously intended for a variety of reasons. Those mainly being the fact we simply are not the most attractive proposition for players in the league right now and then there is our general caution/reluctance when it comes to spending money on transfer fees or wages, especially at the crazy amounts flying around in this particularly bonkers window.

At the time of writing we seem to be close to announcing a loan deal with an option to buy for Joe Hart, the long time England goalkeeper. Rumour has it that Man City will cover half of his weekly wages (rumoured to be between £100k and £120k), depending on what loan fee will be agreed upon and we will also get the opportunity to make the deal permanent next summer for a transfer fee amounting to somewhere between £10 million and £13 million, possibly already including performance related bonuses.

I suppose a goalkeeper was not exactly top of our bucket list for this transfer window, but when an opportunity arises you have to take it and at those terms it looks like a shrewd move as neither Randolph or Adrian were consistent enough last season to instill into our defense any kind of confidence, I know that Hart himself is always good for the odd howler or hand before eyes moment too, but that applies to all but the truly world class goalkeepers. If Hart was indeed flawless or at the peak of his goalkeeping art Man City wouldn’t let him go and even pay half of his wages to get rid of him.

He still looks like a good upgrade for us though. Beggars and choosers and all that. From what I’ve heard he has always had a bit of honest rapport and banter with the West Ham fans so there seems to be a bit of understanding there already and Hart has always struck me as an easy guy to root for. He seems to be a very good instinctive shot stopper while having a tendency to punch balls away a lot though when sometimes it appears he could probably catch the ball. With all those blocks/punches it’ll sure make for some breathtaking moments in our own penalty box, but defending has always been a task for the entire team anyway, so I’m sure we can be fine in that respect if all our players sing from the same hymn sheet.

Funnily enough I saw Hart play for Shrewsbury years ago in 2005 when he had just started to establish himself as the starting goalkeeper for The Shews.
I was in London with my brother to watch West Ham play Bolton (we lost 1:2 with Bolton skipper Kevin Nolan scoring for his manager, a certain Sam Allardyce).
Two days later we learned that nearby Leyton Orient actually had a bank holiday fixture at home against Shrewsbury and as I had always fancied watching a game at Brisbane Road (and my brother was fine with it too) we went to the game which Shrewsbury won 1:0.

I remember vividly reading the matchday programme and to this day I remember two things: Joe Hart was touted already at that early stage as England’s future Number One and Barry Hearn was pleading in his welcome message to the Orient fans to convince their mates, friends, family members, plumber, milkman and window cleaner to tag along, buy a ticket and please please please find their way through the Brisbane Road turnstiles. 3742 fans were watching the game that day and while I was quite impressed with the quality of the early season pitch, the stadium, even the atmosphere I still found it strange that there were (at the time) two blocks of flats in corners of the ground. I never imagined back then that one day Allardyce would be West Ham manager or that West Ham would be responsible for Orient plying their trade in the Conference…:-)

The main priority for years now has been for West Ham to sign a proper, reliable out and out striker and we are still waiting. Apparently Chelsea have started sniffing around Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez. Our offer is still on the table and I am certain that Chelsea could easily offer better terms than us and the choice for Hernandez will be pretty straightforward: Will he be happy to be striker number three or four at Chelsea, spending more time on the bench than in the opposition’s penalty box ?
Or would he prefer to be our everyday starter and star man ? I know how I would decide but who knows what goes on in a player’s mind these days ?

I won’t go into another board bashing rant here, but I actually still expect our net spend to be fairly low this window as our ambitious targets continue to fall by the wayside signing elsewhere. Arnautovic could well be our marquee signing this summer and he would be another decent addition for sure, but again he is a difficult character with the potential to upset any dressing room at short notice, so he wouldn’t arrive without risk.

I would be quite happy with the likes of Arnautovic and Hernandez, but that is mainly because I have lowered my expectations to a degree now where basically any new arrival will be greeted with a mixture of relief and gratitude. After losing a fairly high number of squad players already we need reinforcements.
But it indeed is hard to get deals over the line if you always have to prove to other clubs and the players how tough (or skint) you are by always trying to offer just a bit less than what the other side wants.

I am not sure this tactic works anymore as far as the Premier League is concerned.

Talking of reinforcements I read some interesting news about Chinese football. One bit of news being that a Chinese U20s team will now definitely play in the Regionalliga Suedwest as previously discussed on here. They will not start playing right away though, it has been agreed that they will begin their league schedule after the winter break, playing every team that would otherwise sit idle once. The games will not count in terms of league position and the Chinese will have no stadium to play “home” fixtures.

They will get valuable experience for the next Olympic Football tournament while the local German clubs get 15.000 Euros into their coffers for every contest against the Chinese.

In other news previous West Ham target Anthony Modeste has joined Tianjin Quanjian after all, but not in a straightforward conventional deal. It is complicated. Apparently it’s a two year loan initially for about 6 million Euros with a buy obligation attached which will guarantee FC Cologne another whopping 29 million.
The reason for all this seems to be a new rule in Chinese football that requires clubs to pay the same amount they spend on foreign marquee signings as a penalty tax bonus into a special fund investing in grassroots and youth development in Chinese football. So if you sign a fancy big name player from England or Italy it no longer costs you 30 million but 60 million. That’s not peanuts, not even for Chinese clubs these days.
The desire to give local prospects from China gametime seems to outweigh the wish to import ever more star players from Europe and South America.

As a result the shopping spree in Chinese football seems to have come to a halt for now. According to the info I gathered Chinese Super League clubs have only spent 28.5 million Euros on new players this summer, compared to 139.5 million a year ago. Nobody knows if the penalty tax on foreign transfers will be a permanent feature in China.
But for the time being it looks like clubs can no longer expect to offload players to China for crazy transfer fees.
So Carroll will likely continue to roam the treatment rooms of East London for the foreseeable future…:-))

One final word on the news that the London Stadium owners have forecasted future losses of £200 million and the fact that the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, will soon announce a new Chariman for the LLDC. This can come as neither surprise nor shock what with the long list of bad decisions and shortfalls (and long gaps) concerning the stadium. Or the money over spent on stadium conversion and what was supposed to be retractable seating but which is essentially rescrewable or demountable seating/scaffolding.

No naming rights sponsor in sight, rising costs for stewarding, policing and general maintenance which seem to have been grossly miscalculated by the LLDC.
On the other hand two long term tenants which are not contributing much in financial terms, so surely something’s gotta give there in the next few years.
Never boring at West Ham, is it ?

Call me crazy, but I don’t see West Ham playing home games in the London Stadium in 2027, but if they still do the stadium will surely look a lot different on the inside at that point. I won’t hazard a guess who will own our club in ten years’ time, but right now our board can continue to watch things fall apart for the LLDC and the taxpayer, I reckon it still needs to get worse before it can get better.

Things rarely are straightforward for our club at the best of times, be that for transfers or stadium related issues. It sure adds spice, drama and excitement to being a West Ham fan. Our first team returns to action tonight in a preseason game against the Sturm Graz development squad. They surely won’t have a problem fielding some strikers, it’s even in their name, Sturm being German for attack, but also storm. Let’s hope they don’t don’t blow us away in the first proper fixture for our first team in the new season.

Apparently the game is live on Premier Sports later this afternoon at 5:25 pm.


PS: Congratulation to our former midfielder Jack Collison who has just been announced as the new manager of our U16s. Good to have you back at West Ham Jack!