The HamburgHammer Column

Embed from Getty Images

I only watched the last 60 minutes of our game. You see, it was Concordia’s first league game of 2019, the lads are in a bit of bother league position wise, so I had to be there with them really. Thankfully, the Cordi boys won 3:2 in a weird rollercoaster of a contest, on a wet and windy day, on a heavy, soggy grass pitch.

One player from each team got sent off with two yellows, there were 11 yellows in total, my lads took a 2:0 lead, then ended up conceding the equaliser in the 90th minute only to crown the last attack of the game in the 95th minute in style with a glorious header, giving them a much needed away win against relegation rivals. Phew!

In between I had ascertained our starting XI for the Palace game and I was happy to see our lineup before getting back to the car. I then dropped off a fellow fan near his place and drove home as quickly as German traffic laws would permit.

When I parked my car it was the 25th minute of the game and it was still goalless. So far so good. Up the stairs to the second floor, into my flat, telly on and we had just taken a 1:0 lead through a Mark Noble penalty. I was both chuffed and dumbfounded – we never get penalties, do we ?

Embed from Getty Images

I was impressed with what I saw from us until halftime. Nice fluid play, endeavour, the team was very much up for it, just like a few days before against Liverpool.
I don’t know what happened in the second half really, why we only manage on rare occasions to play a game where our performance levels are solid in both halves.
Second half it was backs to the wall stuff, relentless pressure from Palace and to see them waste a number of clear cut opportunities was relieving to see on the one hand, but shocking on the other, when seen through the eyes of any neutral fan potentially watching the game.

It has been discussed at length in previous threads how lenient the referee was towards at least two of their players who could (or should) both have taken an early shower, getting double yellows. I think it was McArthur and that geezer with the Yugoslavian name. I know refs have a difficult job, but is it really asking too much to properly apply the rules of the game ? In both cases the offences were punishable by bookings, the fact it would mean the second one and an automatic sending off shouldn’t make a difference really.

On balance of play of course we cannot complain really. We wasted a lot of opportunities in the first half, Palace did the same second half but got very lucky with Zaha being successful with a shot from close range that was unintentionally deflected into the net by Diop. It’s a travesty that it only took a tactical appeal ploy by Palace to give Zaha the opportunity to play in the game to begin with. And in another game Dops’s deflection might have easily gone out for a corner kick. But again, overall an away point is not to be sneered at and it keeps our momentum going.

Embed from Getty Images

We now have a bit of a break which should allow some of the walking wounded returning to training or even into matchday squads when our next fixture comes around.
I understand there is a chance Lanzini may be ready for the bench at least against Fulham. Balbuena may have an outside shot too to be available again sooner than anticipated. Nasri definitely should be ready to get picked by our manager at least to be a bench option. Wilshere ? God knows if he will resume training again soon or if they may decide to shut him down completely till the summer in order to heal properly which might be the more sensible and conservative approach.

I wasn’t the first to mention it, but it’s very much true that this is indeed a transitional season for us anyway. You can’t bring in a new manager, with a new team of staff, a whole new philosophy of training and playing, and expect him to work wonders straight away. If anything, I can only applaud Mr.Pellegrini for the job he has done so far.
Look at what he had to deal with so far this season.

Embed from Getty Images

Almost from the first game we had a minimum of five players out, at some stage it was 10-11, basically an entire team. And not just bench fillers either. We had some dodgy calls from referees, potentially costing us more points. We had the distraction with Arnautovic’s “will he-won’t he” get a transfer to China. Still, there we are, mid-February, practically safe already, with a shot at 8th place, maybe even 7th, should things go well for us for a change.

I am really happy we have Pellegrini at the helm and I cannot wait to see what he can do with a team once our injury situation clears up significantly. For sure he will continue to shape our squad according to his plans in the summer. And hopefully at one stage we will have a deep and solid team at West Ham which will require the manager only to make little adjustments when it comes to transfer windows. Next time we may still have to bring in six new players or so, shipping several out at the same time.
In future, hopefully, it will only be 3-4 per summer.

Embed from Getty Images

Let me express my deepest sympathy and commiserations for the friends and family of Mabel Arnold. I would like to pay my respect to what must have been a truly remarkable lady. I obviously haven’t really met her in person, but from what I heard and saw I would have loved to have a chat with her. I became aware of her at the Palace game at the Boleyn, the 2:2 draw in which Payet scored THAT impossible freekick. Her birthday was announced and she was put on the big screen, waving to the crowd.

Already I had a bit in common with her because I was looking forward to celebrating my own birthday with a few of my WHTID mates (my birthday is just one day after Mabel’s).
It is a thrilling thought to consider how long she has been supporting the club, what West Ham as a club looked like when she started following them and what the club has become now in the year 2019. Consider all the players, the managers, the owners, arriving at the club, spending some time here and then leaving again. Not Mabel.
Part of the inventory. West Ham through and through.

Am I overdoing it by suggesting that the remaining stand of the London Stadium should be named in her honour ? I know that usually stands are named after legendary players or managers, but in this case for me it makes perfect sense. Will there ever be another fan in England who will have supported his club through thick and thin for as many years as Mabel did ? I doubt it. She nearly made it to 103 years. But even at 102 years of age that’s still a bloody good innings if you ask me!

May she forever be blowing pretty bubbles in the glorious surroundings of Heaven. I bet Bobby Moore or John Lyall were expecting her at the gates to show her around.
RIP Mabel Arnold – West Ham legend.