The HamburgHammer Column

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Maybe it’s because Concordia lost a nightmare of a game on Friday evening by a 2:4 scoreline in which basically every single goal conceded by the home team was a direct result of a serious blunder by a Cordi defender or goalkeeper. If a weekend starts like this and it’s an international weekend on top of that I tend to find my mind wandering first and wondering second. And more often than not worrying is not far behind.

When there’s no West Ham league game on, you still get the usual rumours about players getting injured or recovering from injury. As for the January transfer window apparently Manuel Pellegrini is already busy compiling his wishlist which appears to include a new striker or two (one name being mentioned in that respect is former Hammer Jermain Defoe who is no longer flavour of the month at his current club and now seems desperate to finish his career back at the club where it all began for him), a defensive midfielder (that old chestnut again) and also a left back with neither Masuaku nor Cresswell representing quite what Pellegrini wants and expects from his full backs.

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My main concern at this point though is Declan Rice. It is an issue that really bothers me the most by far when it comes to West Ham at the moment. I am of course talking about the new contract that still hasn’t been signed yet. I have been raving about young Declan for a while now and in my happy West Ham related dreams (those where I grin from one ear to the other as opposed to waking up in a puddle of cold sweat) he is our future captain, leading out our team for games against international opposition in the Europa League or even Champions League (admittedly those dreams are few and far between and since I don’t smoke pot either they are even rarer than they could be).

So if it was up to me, which of course it ain’t, I’d offer Declan a deal that reflects his actual status as a regular starter in our team for league games in the Premier League.
In my book, that means parity with other starters in our team, regardless of his young years and modest growth of facial hair. Hence a decent basic wage of around 40k appears to be in order here, plus bonus payments in relation to hitting appearance targets, for goals scored, assists provided, clean sheets won etc.

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I read an interesting theory from one of the so-called club insiders on social media that the club feel they have been burned in recent years with generous deals for players like Carroll, Reid or Hernandez.
After seeing those players collecting considerable piles of cash despite being on the treatment table or in the gym a lot more often than on the pitch, our board now seems to favour a different approach for future contract negotiations: A lower basic wage, with significantly higher additional payments in shape of appearance fees, bonuses for goals etc., which means that players who perform well regularly can earn more than they can today while those who rarely play or who are injured a lot would earn significantly less than they currently do.

It sounds like very clever concept of course as it enhances competition for places (with everyone keen on raking in the appearance fee to begin with) and it may also push the players to go for more goals, or keep more clean sheets, as that automatically translates to higher wages.

And of course there is a bit of a security blanket there as well since players in the new contract scenario will only earn half of their regular basic wage if they are out injured, unable to contribute on the pitch. Problem of course is, this concept doesn’t work in isolation, other clubs need to follow a similar strategy, otherwise the players will simply shrug their shoulders and sign for a club that will still offer them the accustomed, tried and tested generous terms.

Us trying to be the forerunners here looks to me like trying to change a flat tire while the car is still moving in third gear.

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I really wish to see us one day become a club that manages to hold on to their top talent, to seize that window of opportunity and keep a golden generation together at West Ham for once, see those youngsters developing and playing their best football of their career not at the Liverpools, Arsenals, Chelseas and Manchesters of this world, but West Ham, playing on the same pitch with quality players joining the club from elsewhere in the transfer window.
We all probably ask ourselves occasionally: What if Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole and Michael Carrick had all been West Ham players during their peak years, exchanging passes on the pitch with a certain Paolo DiCanio in his prime ? What in Bobby Moore’s name could or might have been ?

The harsh reality is that money talks. And international football and ambition to win things also have a thing or two to say. In combination it merely means that the best players will end up with other top players at big clubs for generous wages. When I put on my common sense hat I know this is the most likely path young Declan Rice will take. Arnautovic too will end up at a big club eventually if the right offer finally comes his way. It saddens me, but I have stopped believing in the Tooth Fairy or the Cookie Monster, same as I’m no longer expecting a unicorn to arrive in my back garden anytime soon, doing a poo on the meadow of shiny new 100 Euro notes morning, noon and dinner.

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I keep reading how Declan loves it at West Ham and would love to stay, and that only demands fair treatment in a financial sense. I don’t know him enough as a person to be in a position to predict how much of this is just clever negotiating tactics or if his head might have already been turned elsewhere. The question is: If we allow players like Rice to get away while haggling over 20K a week or so (which is peanuts for a PL club in 2018 to be fair), then what chance do we have of ever growing as a team ?

How much would it cost, in terms of wages and in terms of a transfer fee, to bring in even an average PL level holding midfielder needed as replacement if we were to lose Rice to a bigger club ? It won’t be cheap, that’s for sure. And it’ll cost far more than just money, it’ll also lose our club a ton of goodwill, reputation and status.
How our club solves the Declan Rice conundrum will be a useful pointer as to where this club is headed.

If Declan Rice really is the next Rio Ferdinand, I hope against hope we will get to see the best of him in a West Ham shirt. I know we have been burned with some other players and their mindblowing contracts in the recent past. But fear of history repeating itself is not a good advisor. Declan Rice is the kind of player you want to build a team around.
Let’s give him the dosh a player of that ilk deserves, COYI!!!

Hamburg football update: Due to the international break HSV and St.Pauli were off. Concordia’s first team lost 2:4, as mentioned already, at home to Dassendorf (the Man City equivalent in this league).
The U23s won a close game, 3:2 away, while the women’s team humiliated their opponents by a 19:0 scoreline on Sunday afternoon (yes, that’s no typo, NINETEEN goals!).