The HamburgHammer Column

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Please forgive me readers if you happen to find the odd typo or two in this edition of my column – I have been bonkers enough to get up at the ungodly hour of 6am on a Sunday to watch women’s football (more of that further down in the Hamburg section of the article), so I am still knackered as I’m trying to gather my thoughts after our narrow 1:0 defeat against Spurs.

Home games against Spurs are usually the ones I haven’t wanted to miss in recent times and more often than not I’ve seen us dishing out the reverse scoreline at the London Stadium, beating our irritating North London neighbours by one goal to nil (which is the most common scoreline whenever I come over to watch West Ham in person!).

I cannot even put my pinky on the reason why I didn’t make it over for the derby this time around, so if you wanna blame me for the result, go right ahead! I’ve long given up the notion that West Ham are going to win any game just because I happen to be in the stadium in person, I no longer buy into the concept of superstition – it’s bound to bring rotten luck, innit ? ;-))
And so it ultimately turned out on the day, losing Yarmolenko to a nasty injury (ruptured achilles by the looks of it), keeping him out for up to six months – bloomin’ marvellous!

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It looks like that bloody cursed badger is still wielding its otherworldly paws, claws, whatever a badger actually uses to beat up his opponents, by the way, in a fight between badger and cockerel, who is the most likely to win in that particular episode of Animal Fight Club ? Sorry, I am digressing…

To summarise my thoughts about the game: Yes, it wasn’t Spurs’ best line up, but neither was ours (with Lanzini, Wilshere and yes, Andy Carroll still out), but overall we weren’t really second best in the game, were we ?I remember numerous games in the past when Spurs used to wipe the floor with us, not anymore it seems!
I remember two really dangerous goalscoring opportunities from Spurs all game: One led to the goal, the other was kept out with a fantastic double save by Fabianski.
Other than that I felt we had the better scoring chances, Arnautovic fluffing quite a few of them when maybe he could sometimes try and look for a pass to a teammate in a better position rather than trying to score a wonder goal from a tight angle.

The areas where we lost the game I felt were:
a) Offside awareness, or rather lack of it.
b) Being wasteful with our set pieces. A free kick or corner kick should be a distinctive advantage to your team. It’s also an area which can be worked on in training to yield better deliveries into the box more regularly.

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As for the effort I think we tried everything, but it just was (another) one of these days I suppose. But let’s not get too frustrated at this point in time folks!
I would have liked to see us put a few more points in the bank from our games so far, thank you very much! We shouldn’t forget though that we have had to play a ridiculously tough early set of fixtures and we are now approaching a spell with a number of games that should be slightly easier, at least on paper.

I still cannot get my head around our injury luck/curse which has hit us regular like clockwork yet again. I know it happens to other teams as well. Sometimes.
With some players. Occasionally.
With us we start the season with players on the (long term) treatment table, we have a long list of players out throughout the season and I have yet to see us finish a season with a full selection of players to choose from by the manager.

With us the injuries happen left, right and centre, they come thick and fast and they are rarely just knocks that only last a week or two. This season is still young, yet already it is a particularly bad vintage in that regard. Lanzini, Carroll, Reid, Byram, Wilshere, Sanchez and now Yarmolenko – all out at some stage this season for months rather than weeks.
Looking at the U23 level you can also add young Dan Kemp and Nathan Holland to the list who thankfully are both apparently back now from long spells on the sidelines.

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Can anyone remember the last time a West Ham manager could genuinely pick our strongest side for a game ? I can’t. And while I know it’s as futile to bemoan our injury luck as it is trying to teach an asthmatic to play the trombone, I still find this utterly baffling and incredibly frustrating. But the show must go on and the injury situation obviously opens a path for other players to grab their opportunity with both feet: Guys like Grady Diangana, Nathan Holland, Antonio all should feature plenty in the upcoming games and if our lads can develop a “Now more than ever!”-attitude we should be able to get something good out of the shower of rotten luck that’s been raining on us in the early part of the season! COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Hamburg SV drew 0:0 at home with Bochum, HSV are now two points from top spot and in 4th place currently. Their local rivals St.Pauli can overtake them if they win their away game later this evening at Duisburg.
Concordia’s first team drew a tough fixture against Barmbek on Friday, 1:1. It was intense, with Cordi losing their best defender within the first five minutes to what looks like a nasty ankle injury after getting caught late in a tackle. Cordi also had a player sent off near the end after a second bookable offence and their keeper secured the draw in the dying minutes when saving a penalty, caused by our new American midfielder who made his debut as a substitute.
Cordi’s U23s won a tight game 2:1 and at least remain an outside candidate for promotion.

I cannot remember the last time I got up at 6am on a Sunday. But I woke at that time for some reason and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I decided I might just as well drive into town to cheer on the Concordia girls in their early bird away fixture at the unusual kick off time of 9am in what is Hamburg’s hipster area of Sternschanze (think of Soho, but with more kebab shops and tramps). The girls in red and black won at a canter, 9:0 which was both bloody nice to watch and highly unexpected too against that particular opposition.

Why have I begun watching more women’s football in recent weeks ? Because they have this wonderful young lady named Michelle Hille in the team who is a joy to watch.
She is technically very gifted which is no surprise as she’s been kicking a football for ten years now and she has even played for a team as high up as the second level of women’s football in Germany before and as a fan of the game I can just marvel open-mouthed at what she can do with a ball, getting past three or four players at ease with a deft touch, a cheeky dummy, a backheel. Unlike Ronaldo though she can take a tackle or two as opponents have to foul her regularly in order to stop her in her tracks, if they can reach her that is…

She’s playing with a big smile on her face all the time, cracking the odd joke on the pitch a la John Moncur, she is a fantastic team player as well and still she’s not much taller than your average parking meter, about five feet being generous which has earned her the fitting nickname “Mini”.
She’s only 21 years old at this point and I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see her go places in the game, either in Germany or abroad. It’s so easy to fall out of love with football, especially when following the big leagues these days.

That’s why I love watching the women’s game too now even at the lower league level as the Cordi girls are displaying on the pitch all the fun, determination, spirit of fair play and unswerving joy to partake in the beautiful game that’s been lacking from the professional game all too often I find.