The HamburgHammer Column

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I could have taken a lovely walk in the local park on a gloriously crisp and golden autumn day, on Saturday lunchtime. Or buy a new shower curtain maybe. Unfortunately I didn’t do either.

Instead I watched West Ham trying to play some football against an Everton side on a terrible run of results. So I foolishly settled down in my armchair in reasonably confident mood.

After the final whistle I had to confirm to myself that I had wasted away two hours of my life I shall never get back. Maybe I shouldn’t even try to act surprised anymore. Coming out of an international break. Check! Chance to show a marked reaction after disappointing defeat against Crystal Palace in the previous league fixture. Check! Everton on a nightmarish run of four successive defeats with their manager potentially facing the tin tack. Check! What could possibly go wrong ?

Answer: In West Ham’s case pretty much everything! We showed tentative glimpses of goalscoring intent with ten minutes left in the game.

Other than that we couldn’t string three passes together throughout. Everton were all over us all game. They surely didn’t look like an outfit that had lost four games on the trot. The Everton players wanted to win.
Our players wanted to be elsewhere, at least it seemed that way.

Our starting XI looked as if they had been introduced both to the sport and each other only half an hour before kickoff. If it hadn’t been for a very decent game by our GK Roberto pulling off several quality saves it could have oh so easily been a 0:5 defeat, rather than just 0:2. That’s how bad we were.

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To paraphrase a famous football chant, the Scousers did indeed get our stereos on this occasion, but they did so in broad daylight and we made it terribly easy for them to do the actual nicking by leaving the doors wide open, with the keys still inside and probably the car stereo wires already unplugged for even quicker removal from the motor. If this was an insurance claim the company in question would flat out decline to pay up due to sheer negligence of the most basic safety requirements on our part.

We were docile like a declawed elderly lion who had just finished a meal of an entire wildebeest all by itself, getting ready for a digestive nap.
Only to be then pestered for 90 minutes by a chasing and menacing pack of salivating hyenas snapping eagerly away at our tail and ankles. Brutal.

I am not even gonna blame our manager here because quite simply our players are all professionals and grown ups, they know what is expected of PL players and each and every one of them will be aware that this was a non-performance from us – with no plausible excuses in sight. If they need a motivational speech from the gaffer every weekend in order to perform on the pitch as professionals, they are probably not quite fit enough to play at this level.

Both of Everton’s goals were great individual efforts and as a football fan I can only applaud the skill involved in converting those chances, despite our defensive indifference helping a lot.

However, where was our own desire to play football, to use the ball creatively when we had possession ? What have we been doing on the training pitches last week and why did I get the impression our players didn’t really fancy the game from the first whistle onwards ?

West Ham could have done the decent thing for their carbon footprint and forfeited the game. At least it would have saved the team as well as the fans the need to burn copious gallons of petrol/aviation fuel.

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We keep wasting opportunities like these galore, especially against teams in a very acute crisis. And unfortunately we don’t seem to learn from past defeats either. I think it’s down to application and mindset of our players.

For whatever reason, they seem to think they can beat any PL opposition below them in the table with minimal effort because our individual quality is so utterly brilliant to conquer all and prevail. It doesn’t quite work like that. Football is a team sport and you need to play together as a unit, you know, run, fight, chase and tackle for each other and I didn’t see that at all against the Toffees.

Funnily enough, prior to the game, I had even bought a family bag of assorted German toffees (Storck brand) from Aldi as I thought it might give us some sort of weird advantage, based on my silly superstition, if I was noshing some toffee while West Ham were playing against The Toffees. Treat or food psychology if you will. It did work just as our gameplan did, NOT!

Also on Friday evening, at halftime during a bitter 3:4 away game loss of the Concordia first team against the third string of Hamburg SV they even had “London Calling” by The Clash blasting out over the tannoy at halftime which transported me briefly to a matchday at London Stadium – and I took it as another good omen for our game. Fool that I was…

Alas, it was yet another wrong turn leading down False Hope Lane into a cul-de-sac, unfortunately.

The calm and moderate football fan which still lives somewhere deep inside me would probably look at the Everton defeat and say “Look, mucker! Games like these can happen. There are no easy games in the PL. You know this, don’t ya ? We will rebound from this, cheer up, you old drama queen!”.

Then again, this kind of defeat still happens too often at West Ham and with the squad we have at our disposal now we could and should be showing that regularly mentioned winning mentality more consistently, not just when it suits the players and they feel like putting a shift in. We need to move on from lying at our backs, letting teams tickle our tummy.

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It’s not even a misplaced sense of entitlement on my part, I believe. I am not necessarily moaning about the fact we have lost away to Everton, far from it. Losing away games is not uncommon in the PL, not to mention West Ham, and Goodison Park is always a tricky venue to go and get a result from but it’s always a question of HOW you actually present yourself in adversity and defeat. And we simply weren’t at the races on Saturday.

I shudder when I now think ahead towards next weekend when we will be meeting our “friends and neighbours from Yorkshire“ (as Boris Johnson might be putting it), Sheffield United. Yet another golden opportunity to make amends, to put things right, to show the footballing quality we all know our team is capable of producing.

We are all fully aware, of course, of the context affecting this fixture what with Tevezgate, independent tribunals, millions of £ wasted due to administrative blunders on our part and ineptitude of our legal team at the time.

Let’s face facts: There is still, even after all those years, a bit of bad blood between The Hammers and The Blades, to put it mildly. I am done looking for omens though. In fact I will actually be ditching my matchday routines for our next game altogether, they don’t seem to work anymore, if they ever did in the first place.

The famous screwdriver will be confined to the messy drawer.
I will be wearing a random shirt or sweater, no West Ham top. I shall drink my cup of Rosie from a brown FC St.Pauli themed mug or maybe a black and gold Pittsburgh Penguins one (that’s an Ice Hockey team by the way).

I won’t be bothering too much about the starting XI, our formation or any sophisticated gameplan. All of that is pretty much irrelevant if the players’ application ain’t there. I will still try and watch the game of course.

But I won’t be approaching it with any meaningful degree of expectation, anticipation or excitement this time. That may come back to me sometime during the game, if we’re lucky, should our lads be providing us with some blood, sweat and effort (rather than tears) again, proving to the fans that actually the players do care about their performances and are aware of their responsibilities as professional athletes playing in the PL. As fans we cannot and don’t expect victory and points all the time, especially not at West Ham, we all know that.

But surely we can expect the players to bust their bloody guts for 90 minutes every weekend. Or is that too much to ask ?

Hamburg football update: Starting with FC St.Pauli who missed a great opportunity as well by losing their home game against Darmstadt on Saturday lunchtime.

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Top of the table clash coming up later this evening, with league leaders Hamburg SV facing third-placed Arminia Bielefeld away at 7.30pm UK time (live on BT Sport 1). Should be a good one!

The Concordia first team, as already alluded to, lost a thriller at Hamburg SV’s third string by a 3:4 scoreline, mainly due to shambolic defensive efforts from both sides. Still, a thoroughly entertaining encounter for the 170 fans braving the cold and windy conditions on Friday evening. The Cordi lads are now the best team among a midtable group of clubs in the league, nothing more.

The U23s only drew 1:1 at home, so they can pretty much kiss any lingering promotion hopes goodbye now.

The only bright spot, football-wise, for me this weekend once again were the Cordi women’s team’s efforts. They were away at posh side Komet Blankenese on Sunday afternoon, Blankenese being the Kensington of Hamburg, so to speak.
The girls won 3:2 on a rainswept artificial pitch, significantly widening the gap between Cordi and the chasing pack, boosting their promotion credentials further. Onwards and upwards!