We came over from Austria last weekend and were able to watch an other game in the London Stadium. Well, I love coming to London and it seems West Ham does appreciate my presence, too, because all of the last three games I was able to attend this season have been wins for the Irons!
This weekend also would have been the right time “to have a word” with my compatriot who doesn’t seem to be so enthusiastic anymore about staying in London as I am. But unfortunately immediately after the game Arnie left for Vienna, whereas we’re going to stay in London until Tuesday!
Well, it seems the games that I have picked for my visits to the London Stadium since West Ham’s move to Stratford, are frequently going to be remembered for something special: Last season I watched Slaven Bilic’s last game and Marko Arnautovic’s first goal there. This season I’ve already witnessed Felipe Anderson’s first brace for the Hammers in the win over Burnley. And now maybe (I still say “maybe” as I don’t want to take it for sure) I came back for Arnie’s last game in this stadium.
But forget about that! We’ve all witnessed a really bright and joyous moment in West Ham’s history on Saturday lunch time, as this game will not be remembered because of a forward saying good-bye, but will forever have its special place in history for a young man’s first Premier League goal which sealed a first win at home over Arsenal since 2006! This game marks a giant step forward for Declan Rice grabbing all the headlines in the Sunday papers with a majestic man of the match performance, just two days before his twentieth birthday. “Rice and shine”! What a bright future lies ahead for this graduate from our Academy.
But it’s also a game that was another big step forward for Manuel Pellegrini’s side which played really self-assured and mature against a team they had not beaten at home for almost 13 years. “We played like a big team in the Arsenal win,” the gaffer said after the 1-0 victory, and he couldn’t be more right.
It’s still old West Ham of course, but it’s not “poor old West Ham” that would have conceded an equaliser in injury time, squandering all the good work of the 90 minutes before. Arsenal actually had the ball in the back of the net in the 94th minute, but that goal was ruled out immediately for an offside so blatant that this fact was hardly mentioned in any of the match reports. And just seconds later the referee blew the whistle, and everybody was all but happy in the London Stadium, which this afternoon had been left early only by the folks occupying the away section that had been fairly quiet throughout the game.
It’s getting better all the time
It was a brilliant match day experience, like the one I had enjoyed on my last visits to the Burnley and the Crystal Palace games this season! In my opinion the match day experience in general is getting better and better now in this third year in the new stadium which of course is helped by the team playing so well – and also by the increasing number of food stalls outside the stadium.
I usually get to the stadium from Hackney Wick to avoid the overcrowded Stratford not paying so much attention to the food facilities. But with the lunchtime kick-off we came earlier, first strolled through Westfield before the game and arrived at the concourse much in time. That also gave us the opportunity to look for my ”RapidHammer stone” on Champions’ Place in front of entrance “J” for once, but unfortunately I could not find the stone quick enough in the drizzling rain, and we decided to write to the club on this topic, because it seems that the stones haven’t been laid in the way I had been told when I bought mine.
The atmosphere inside the ground was great, and it was getting better and better throughout the game. It was a brilliant performance of our boys. Just the goal was scored too early after halftime as far as we were concerned, because unfortunately we were back to our seats too late, having queued for a drink for much too long.
A family club
Now that the troubles of last season are behind us, I think we can say that the crowd in the London Stadium is feeling more and more at home there, and that the club has retained (or maybe regained after a difficult transition period) its air of a “family club”. The family has grown bigger and moved to a new house to which we get more and more familiar, and it’s great to see that the house gets filled every time by the members of this worldwide family! Having chosen almost the same seats for all of our visits this season, we’re also feeling more and more like citizens coming home. Wouldn’t want to miss the young but very raucous voice just rows beneath us in every game, shouting “Come on you I’ons” when the place has gone too quiet now and then!
There are lots of families, old and young, and supporters from all over the world! Well, I think we long suffering lot really deserve that the team is playing so well now, rewarding this most committed and loyal support for their endurance and following over land and sea, to the Olympic Stadium on the shores of River Lea! A first home win over Arsenal since 2005, and Declan Rice’s first goal – we’ve witnessed history, who could ask for more this Saturday?
Declan’s goal and this fine win was a real gift, because we can take it easy now that my compatriot from Austria seems to cease sharing with me the love for London and the badge with the two crossed hammers, and is willing to replace one of the hammers by a sickle, with his brother and agent having already set sail for the Chinese Sea.
What could have been …
Of course it is sad that Arnautovic seems to have waved his good-bye right now, because this match really showed for the first (and maybe last) time what an offensive trio of Samir Nasri, Felipe Anderson and Arnie would have been capable of. There were some moments in this game when the three players who are gifted with technical ability and great understanding of the game combined so well that my heart jumped with joy!
Unfortunately I fear we will have to accept that these three musketeers will not be as inseparable as d’Artagnan and his friends were in the French writer Alexandre Dumas’s novel.
Having mentioned the phrase “French” now, a word on the possible similarities between Arnie and the unmentionable ex-player we lost two years ago: I don’t think that our Austrian forward will go on strike when negotiations stall and it takes time before the two clubs come to terms. He used to be some kind of an enfant terrible, and behaved like a stupid child in former years, but he has shown signs of having grown much more mature and level-headed in recent years since he’s married and father of two. So he should be professional enough to honour his contract as long as West Ham haven’t reached an agreement which enables them to bring in a fitting replacement (which will not be cheap, that’s for sure!).
Well, I can’t be sure of that of course, but it’s at least what I’m hoping for. But of course I know that “once a Hammer, always a Hammer” unfortunately only applies for the members of the worldwide family of supporters of claret and blue, it does not apply for the players (some of the former ones, and also of the present company excepted of course, Mark and Declan in particular!).
But no matter which players the squad will consist of in February and in the seasons to follow: it’s us, the claret and blue army, who will always remain West Ham through and through!
Come on you Irons !!!