The HamburgHammer Column
I know what you did last summer - try doing it again!
If you see more typos in this article than you have been used to in my column (or even the odd factual error), I can explain this…you see, yesterday the Concordia Women’s team celebrated their second promotion in a row, winning 4:0 away at local rivals Rahlstedt (by the way, that’s the borough where Nena of “99 Red Balloons“ fame lives) and I was happy enough to celebrate this great success with them, players, staff and fans, back at Cordi HQ (home ground) and those celebrations did include a choice of beverages which may in some cases have contained traces of alcohol. Although the girls drank a lot more than I did, but who can blame them ?
How often in your career can you celebrate your team getting promoted or winning a Cup ? Exactly. So forgive me that I decided to spend Sunday afternoon worshipping local football and the women’s game, only catching up with West Ham’s exploits at Watford later in the evening, watching some very enjoyable highlights on MotD.
While we are talking personal stuff, the results of my brother’s tissue probe came back – and it’s very much a mixed bag. The bad news is they indeed found some cancerous tissue on his removed adrenal gland, likely to have sprung from his previous cancer of the oesophagus during chemo (which, according to his doctors, is very rare). The good news though is that the cancerous tissue they found was very much dead already which hopefully means it didn’t have the chance to cause any further harm. Either way, they will continue to check my brother’s blood every four weeks now to stay alert and spring into action as soon as there is the slightest sign of the big C trying to make a return. As usual, fingers crossed…
I was tracking our game online while watching the Cordi U23s lose their game and later during the celebrations with the women’s team.
When I saw our starting XI I was pretty confident we would get a result and we sure did. It’s nice to end a season with a confident performance and I was especially chuffed with our skipper Mark Noble rewarding himself with two goals, crowning one of his best ever seasons for us with a brace.
Winning 4:1 away at Watford surely will give every supporter a positive send off into the summer and it might also help our transfer business having finished in the top half of the table.
As for the season gone by at our beloved Hammers, as expected, it was very much a transitional first season for Manuel Pellegrini and his staff. In typical West Ham fashion we had our fair share of bumps and potholes along the way, crazy games, terrible refereeing decisions, topsy-turvy performances, an ever expanding list of injuries, quite a few of them long-term, some unnecessary drama over Arnautovic’s dreams of trophies in China, in short:
Another rollercoaster season at good old West Ham. Or is that West Ham London now ? I sometimes get confused about that…
Overall I was reasonably happy with proceedings at our club. When we lost the first four games, I was mildly nervous. Then again, I have never before seen a more ridiculously difficult fixture calendar for the first eight weeks or so of a season than West Ham were given this time around. Once again we lost to teams we should have put away while winning against sides you would have expected to wipe the floor with a side like ours, expected to make up the numbers and stand in awe, admiring the big clubs with their assortment of superstar players.
I only managed to fly over for two games this season, but both were crackers and significant in their own special way – and tying in with my penchant for being a good luck charm when travelling to watch West Ham, both games brought wins for the claret and blue cause, first the thrilling 3:2 against Crystal Palace with a stunning goal from Snodgrass and another beauty from Felipe Anderson which got the West Ham goal of the season award actually.
And later in March I felt utterly privileged to be inside London Stadium when the Billy Bonds Stand was opened prior to the Newcastle game. I was happy when Declan Rice signed his long term deal, but I was even more elated when I saw him score his first goal for the first team with a powerful header, right in front of me, watching from Section 227 at the front of the upper tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking. I don’t get to see a lot of West Ham games in person, but somehow I seem to have a talent of choosing special ones when I come over and boy, did I make those two count this season!
I won’t mention all the negative stuff that happened to us over the course of the season (again), but will rather go and turn those into positives, with the sincere hopes that plenty of things will improve for us next season.
A) Because I’m an optimist in general. And…
B) because we are due a little helping of good fortune for once.
No way will we ever have as many players missing as many games through injury again as we did this season. Injuries will still happen of course, but I’m hopeful that guys like Wilshere, Lanzini, Yarmolenko and Sanchez will play a lot more games for us now they have overcome their recent injuries. Andy Carroll of course is no longer our problem, so let’s hope he takes his season ticket for the treatment room with him instead of passing it on to a teammate who is staying at the club.
VAR is going to help us take away at least some of the big club bias, deliberately or subconsciously handed out by the PL referees. I wouldn’t expect it to be a massive factor, but overall it should help a team like ours, rather than making things any worse really.
As for the upcoming transfer period, I understand that Pellegrini, Husillos and Sullivan will all be in transfer mode as of today, rather than booking a beach holiday or taking a flight back home anytime soon. Last summer was the right idea and I applaud the board for it. They hired a new manager and gave the guy substantial funds to start building a decent squad. We were obviously unlucky that some of those signings were out through injury most of the season (see above), but I firmly believe that Yarmolenko, Wilshere and Sanchez are fantastic players and we will get to see the best of them next season.
I know last summer was a decent transfer window for us overall and we need to keep doing it, not necessarily with the exact same level of expenditure, but similar.
Pellegrini and Husillos will hopefully unearth the odd bargain or diamond in the rough, like Balbuena, Fabianski, also Diop. But we cannot expect every new signing to be a bargain or free transfer.
Take our apparent top target Maxi Gomez. His side may or may not be relegated, that doesn’t really tell us anything about his quality as a a striker as football is very much a team sport and no one, not even Messi, can win games and trophies all by himself. Gomez is still young (which should be one of our key priorities when signing players these days), but he has already shown enough quality, scoring goals regularly with not much support from his teammates, to drive his asking price up.
It’ll be interesting to see if we will really spend around £40 million for Gomez, blowing the main chunk of our transfer budget on just one player. Pellegrini seems to be very keen on Gomez, so we’ll see. It’s good to hear they have their targets lined up, trying to sign some of them early to make sure they get a full preseason with their teammates.
Almost as interesting as who comes is the question of who will be leaving and who might be staying after all.
Quite a few of these decisions apparently will be taken as early as this week, so as usual things will remain tense and interesting at West Ham throughout the entire summer.
As in previous summers I will continue to write my column as often as possible, provided there are enough news and transfers during the week to warrant an article throughout the hot and sunny months without any football.
Once more it’s been a pleasure writing for you guys and gals again this season and I wanna thank you for putting up with my ramblings and viewpoints. COYI!!!
Hamburg football update:
Hamburg SV lost at Paderborn and St.Pauli shared a goalless draw with Bochum at home to eliminate any remaining morsel of hope for promotion.
Terrible for my hometown to have not a single Bundesliga 1 club from Hamburg two seasons in a row.
Concordia’s first team lost again, 2:5 away to relegation rivals Wedel and they only have other results going their way to thank for having narrowly escaped relegation. Only just. Shocking.
The U23’s haven’t helped their promotion hopes with their latest defeat, it’s still mathematically doable, but not very likely with just two games left.
The Cordi Women’s team could have lost their final league fixture 0:5 – and still have gone up regardless. Which is not the way you want to clinch promotion though, is it ?
So the girls won in style and I was happy to see them go up to the next level. It’s all they deserve really after only losing twice and conceding just nine goals all season.
They play some wonderful attack-minded football and are a great bunch of people too, the players, manager and staff. I got to talk a bit more in depth with a number of them during the promotion festivities and their skipper made a really nice point when she said that the team really acknowledged and valued supporters like me who come and watch their games regularly, time permitting – it would give the entire team a real push to perform and play well.
They genuinely appreciate the fans who support them at the games and all the players do take notice when the fans are there with them – and when they are not.
I know the ladies’ game is not for everyone, but I’ve had the pleasure of watching some bloody nice ball skills, attacking moves, combinations and goals this season, courtesy of the Cordi girls, so it’s a case really of the players and the fans feeding off each other’s effort and passion.
It’s the way it should be really.
Approaching midnight, with everyone leaving, I learned in passing that the Cordi skipper (a lovely young woman by the way and physio by trade) and her fiance live just a little more than an Antonio throw-in away from my flat, so in order to save them the cab fare I dropped them off at their front door, less than 250 meters from mine (luckily enough I had only had one pint of beer the entire afternoon/evening plus buffet food, so I was fine to drive).
That’s why I love my local football just as much as I do West Ham, but in a completely different way, as unlike the stars of the Premier League the local players (and especially the women) are normal folk like you and me, approachable, likeable and they sometimes even live two streets away from your own. I doubt many West Ham fans have recently had the opportunity to offer one of our players a ride home, unless they drive a cab of course…LOL
COYI!!! Enjoy the summer, y’all!