The HamburgHammer Column

Another international weekend, another unnecessary interruption of the West Ham fixture calendar. I only have some fleeting interest in European qualifiers, there are teams I obviously want to see at the major tournaments, including England, Wales, Iceland and yes, also our fiercest rivals, the Dutch, then there are loads of countries I feel indifferent about and also teams I can happily do without at the World Cup, like Turkey. But in general I only follow the qualifying stage online, reading results and sometimes match reports rather than watching the games.

Embed from Getty Images

Germany in general are renowned for being a tournament team, one that delivers when it counts, not necessarily shining in the qualifying rounds or group stages. This time though you cannot really argue with the current World Champions not losing a single point in any of their qualifying games, scoring 43 goals in ten games, conceding only four in the process, although of course against fairly tame opposition, but you can only beat what’s in front of you, so at least the Germans will be spared the humiliation of not being in a position to even try and defend their title on Russian soil next year. No, I don’t want to hear any unsolicited wartime puns and jibes from anyone here at this point…;-))

Another positive football related news item has reached us from the home of the Norwegian Blue parrot (beautiful plumage!), well, it’s good news from Norway.
In a quite progressive and exemplary gesture the Norwegian FA has decided to pay the female players representing their country the same amount of money as their more prominent (and richer) male counterparts.
Both national sides will earn an annual pay package of just under £575.000 each, to be divided among the individual players.
The men’s team apparently was prepared to sacrifice a portion of their own wedge in order to facilitate the equal pay concept which will kick in at the turn of the year.

Embed from Getty Images

The move has been hailed by the female national side players for obvious reasons, but it’s not just about the money as such, but what it represents in terms of recognition and showing that the development of ladies football is not going unnoticed at least in certain countries with Norway being the first of hopefully a lot more countries that may follow suit.

Norway winger Caroline Graham Jensen posted a message on social media, praising the men’s football team for chipping in financially to make the equal pay scenario a reality. She said “For you to say that equal pay is how it should be, makes me want to cry. It makes me want to hug you all. Thank you for making it a bit easier to chase our dreams.” Good on you Norway, land of fjords, log cabins and exemplary behaviour by the footballing authorities.

Talking West Ham now there hasn’t been an awful lot happening in the world of West Ham. Some players were away on international duty, obviously, and Arnautovic scored, yet failed to qualify. Diafra Sakho scored too and apparently even managed to not get injured again in the process! This is a continuation of a positive streak for Sakho who has now scored for both club and country in recent games.

It confirms what we all have known for a while: A fit and healthy Diafra Sakho, with his head screwed on in the right place, is worth his weight in gold. He’s had his issues in the past and is what I would mildly describe as an interesting character. But as a footballer he is undoubtedly skilled and gifted, he also has quite an engine and presses the opposition defenders no end – I always love to see that.

Embed from Getty Images

Sakho strikes me as an arm around the shoulder type of guy, he seems to be quite sensitive, so in order to get the best out of him you need to talk to him, support him, make him feel wanted, respected and cherished. It begins with the pay, but doesn’t end there. I really feel Sakho still could have a lot to give to West Ham. A happy Sakho is a striker we cannot afford to lose. I don’t think the exact circumstances of the mysterious January transfer attempt to Stade Rennes have never been properly explained.

Of course Sakho would want out if he doesn’t feel he’s got a fair chance of getting any gametime. The time to sell him would be January as you could still get some cash for him at that point as his contract is running out at the end of the season. Problem here is though that every striker we allow to leave will need to be replaced.
That does require in all likelihood the payment of a halfway decent transfer fee (and we all know to what crazy levels the prices have skyrocketed in recent months) and our board are nor exactly renowned for happily spending the cash when it comes to West Ham.

Embed from Getty Images

If we can convince Sakho he can have a good future at West Ham it may be worth offering him a new deal and increase his wages, to reflect his contributions as a goalscorer, to be monitored and evaluated over the next three months. A new deal may come a lot cheaper for the club than trying to find and sign a new striker from elsewhere.
It’s been a tough time for Sakho at West Ham, especially last season, but I cannot help but keep my fingers crossed that things will turn out well for both the player and our club.

If, after all, the player or West Ham should decide though to let Sakho go I really do hope we do our homework and find a suitable replacement who is also a realistic target we can actually sign. I’d hate to see another Carvalho scenario unfolding here.

Embed from Getty Images

In Germany we’ve had a bit of an upheaval recently, quite literally, with storm Xavier tormenting Northern and Eastern Germany last Thursday, with hundreds of trees being felled by the force of the storm, heavy rains contributing further to the general mayhem, killing seven people in total, injuring hundreds more, bringing public transport to a standstill in certain areas for several days after the event.

Concordia football was largely unaffected, with the games being scheduled for yesterday and apparently all trees surrounding the ground standing firm. To my unfettered joy both Cordi teams won, Cordi 2 starting the day with a 5:2 win with the first team following suit with a 2:0 win of their own, so both are now firmly back on the right track, on the road towards a promotion push. Long may it continue.

Next weekend will finally see our beloved West Ham back in action. I know it’s Burnley, it’s at their ground and they are a well drilled and disciplined unit. Still we need to start to win those games and approach these fixtures accordingly, in a positive manner, with hopefully a full squad to choose from. I reckon we should go with a a pacy lineup rather than the predictable battering ram approach featuring Andy Carroll as starter.

I would love to see Chicharito starting with Sakho, AC can still cause some havoc coming on for the final 30 minutes. Maybe Lanzini will be fit and ready to start as well.
And could we see Bilic taking a bit of a gamble by starting Masuaku instead of Cresswell, combining with Arnautovic on the left wing ? All shall be revealed next Saturday.