The HamburgHammer Column

What a bloody relief! Saturday’s game was not a game that will be kept in your private collection and which you will watch with your grandchildren talking about the good old days. It was a cagey affair pretty much from start to finish and it was easy to see how Swansea up to that point had not conceded an away goal all season.
Spurs failed to score against them and that should stop any serious bouts of moaning on our part.

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Yes, it was painful to watch, especially the first half. Yes, I would like to see a bit more running, pressing the opposition more often and earlier and a bit more creativity as well.
I would obviously love to see us dispatch opponents like Swansea in more comfortable fashion, beating them to the tune of a 3:0 or 4:1, but that would only happen if a) we were playing with more confidence and generally more skill and panache all over the pitch and b) if Swansea made loads of mistakes. They didn’t. They were very very solid and extremly hard to break down.

Special kudos therefore has to go out once more to Slaven Bilic. Once again he didn’t care about the crowd booing his substitutions. But just like against Huddersfield the subs were spot on actually, Masuaku and Sakho working in perfect harmony, combining masterfully, creating the kind of goal which is worth winning any contest, even a frustratingly cagey/boring one such as this.
Thousands of “fans” who left the premises early missed the goal of course but probably beat the traffic into the bargain, but at the end of the day we beat a well drilled and disciplined side to get a much needed win and give Bilic some very welcome breathing space.

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It can’t be easy hearing a new likely replacement manager’s name every week, sometimes seeeing even several flavours of the week getting leaked on selected social media platforms and blogs – and still trying to do your best managing the team, with your contract running out at the end of the season.
I understand that Bilic gets criticised by the fans, he ain’t immune to that and he shouldn’t be. At this point he isn’t getting the best out of his players and performances together with results need to improve, granted.

However, let us please not forget that he more likely than not firmly expected Carvalho to arrive from Sporting. I have no doubt that the player would have turned out to be the missing piece of the jigsaw for us, a guy solidly linking defense and attack, making both better at the same time. If you believe that money has been stashed away in our transfer funds for January or next summer and that a new manager coming in would be able to spend even 50 or 60 million (net spend), think again!

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Our board are mediocre, spending mediocre amounts of money and we shouldn’t be surprised at all if another 11th or 10th placed league finish is pretty much our ceiling again this season. If you reckon there is a manager out there who can get our squad to finish in 7th place or higher, with the same players, and who would be willing to sign for us, working under Gold&Sullivan and a restrained budget, fair enough!
I’d like to hear his name and wish our board good luck with the interview, trying to sell the next level dream to another poor sod willing to fall for it.

It was interesting to read about American Albert “Tripp” Smith buying the remaining 10% of the West Ham shares from the Icelandics. Apparently the director of private equity giants Blackstone bought them shares purely as a private investment rather than as a getting the foot in the door tactic instigated by Blackstone, but it is still interesting insofar as apparently Sullivan would have liked to buy those shares from the Icelandics himself, yet the sellers thought otherwise.

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Apparently Tripp Smith just likes football/soccer/West Ham and maybe he is indeed merely after a personal financial roll of the dice with a bit of a kick to it, pardon the pun!
But let’s wait and see if Blackstone will remain on the outside looking in for long or if there is maybe a bit more to it all.
Blackstone, if they were to come in at some point in future, don’t sound like a long term plan either of course.
They tend to buy or invest in companies, streamline their operations, make them successful businesses in the marketplace and sell them on at a profit.
Maybe though they could bring the kind of financial muscle to help with the purchase of the Olympic Stadium a few years down the road, who knows ?
Surely West Ham owning the OS, knocking on the door of Champions League football would fetch a better selling price than West Ham renting the OS finishing in 11th place.

Initially I smirked when reading the nickname of the guy, “Tripp”. It’s a rather unfortunate moniker, innit ? It reminded me of the “Only Fools And Horses” pilot episode in which Rodney was nervously asking Del Boy in the pub if Trigger was named such because he was carrying a gun. Luckily enough it was just down to him looking like a horse after all…maybe it’s the same with Tripp…;-))

I’d feel slightly more at ease if that geezer (who is now also a new director at West Ham) was nicknamed “Smithy” or “Berty”, but “Tripp” it is and I hope his investment will turn out to be a decent trip(p) for everyone bleeding claret and blue.

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This season for me already feels like a done deal. Another midtable finish with a few highs and plenty more lows and hiccups along the way. Bilic will be allowed to run down his contract while every two weeks we will read on certain blogs that there are another two or three must win games coming up for Bilic to save his job (until the end of the season). I see no realistic chance really for Bilic to earn himself another deal unfortunately. We will then eventually stumble upon another guy, who will get lured to the club with the promise of playing home games in a 66K seater stadium, complete with stellar marquee signings and subsequent next level progression, more likely though ending up having to make ends meet with a transfer kitty that would make Watford blush with shame.

We will start a new circle, with the new guy leaving or running down his contract as well after two or three seasons. I’ve said it before: There is no long term strategy or discernible plan at West Ham. We are treading water and the board are happy with that as long as we stay on the Premier League gravy train and as long as there is a manager in office who can be thrown under the bus at will, thereby conveniently diverting any potential blame and anger away from the board to the poor sod in the dugout.
It is what it is of course. Listen to Bubbles and the words of our anthem don’t exactly scream “NEXT LEVEL! CHAMPIONS LEAGUE FOOTBALL!” at you, do they ?

On a local level, Sunday was not much to write home about either, with a much worse result though. A devastating, lackluster and gutless surrender from the Cordi boys away to Rugenbergen. 1:5 is a scoreline that simply should not happen, even on a bad day in this league. The game was being played on a turnip field disguised as a football pitch, including flattened molehills and small holes that were littered all over the patch, sorry, pitch. I know, the opposition had to play on the exact same surface, but as the home team surely they were very much used to the lay of the land in contrast to Concordia.

Our goalkeeper tried to clear a dangerous backpass into touch, one minute before halftime, but unfortunately a deflection from one of the turnips resulted in the ball going into his own net. It was symptomatic of the kind of game that was about to unfold in the second half. Well, you win some, you lose some, but my team looked lost and disinterested out there, not good.

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Luckily Concordia don’t have long to wait to redeem themselves as there is a cup game tomorrow afternoon, at home to Victoria Hamburg as it’s a bank holiday (Day of German Unity). For West Ham we need to endure another international break yet again before we head off to Turf Moor, hopefully putting in a better performance oop north to claim all three points. It only takes another one or two wins now to put us right back on track. I hope we see Hernandez and Sakho starting that game, with Carroll to come on, causing some havoc among the Burnley defense for the final 30 minutes. Bilic of course may see things differently.

But it’s still Super Slav for me and I wish the man nothing but the best. Hopefully the players give us a performance against Burnley to make the manager smile and the fans proud, wherever they may be. COYI!!!