The HamburgHammer Column

Embed from Getty Images

Football is back!!! I meant to start the new season and the first paragraph of my debut article with a barrage of witty banter, puns and hopeful observations. Because that’s what you usually do as a football fan whenever a new season comes around, don’t you ? No matter if you support a club in the PL, a second division club in Hungary or a local amateur side in Iceland: You hold great expectations, you feel like a kid the night before Christmas, you hope.

You start the new season on 0 points, with a goal difference of Zero, like everyone else. Clean slate. Fresh start. New beginnings. For a brief moment you’re on a par with the big clubs in your division. You are excited about the new signings your club has made, looking forward to seeing the new recruits run out in your club’s colours for the first time.

You are positive the next season will be better than the previous one. You may even be reasonably confident. Some are foolish enough and dare to dream. Why wouldn’t you ?

Then the first whistle blows and 90 minutes later reality gives you a big sobering smack right on your kisser. Welcome back to a new season of PL football indeed! 0:2 against Newcastle in what on paper looked like our only truly winnable game among our first eight fixtures. Of course that irritating twat Wilson had to score for them! If only Repka was still around to teach that complete nincompoop some humility. For our beloved team on the other hand it is backs to the wall stuff right from the sound of the starting gun fading away.

That’s the fifth time in a row, by the way, we have lost our first game of the season. Who says we’re not consistent ?

Embed from Getty Images

I didn’t go into this game with any expectations of getting even ONE point out of it. Not after the recent shenanigans. This time there was no excitement for me, no hope. I felt like the kid whose christmas present was already broken after just 90 minutes of playtime.

My matchday routine throughout was lacklustre to mirror the current mood at West Ham London. And the performance. Our club right now is in a frighteningly challenging position on and off the pitch…and it showed!

I can’t single out any player for us worthy of extended praise because our performance on the whole was flat. Reasonably early on I stopped counting how often we had given possession away carelessly. Or passed backwards to a player who didn’t really want the ball. Upfront we looked bereft of ideas, bite and confidence. We hit the crossbar twice, but no team has ever preserved league status by winning crossbar challenges.

To be brutally honest, I was looking forward to seeing Diangana cut into the opposition’s box a bit more often against Newcastle and our new £35m star CB Tarkowski was almost invisible for us throughout the entire game.

If you find that the last sentence appears to be dripping with bitter sarcasm that’s because it is. Sarcasm, my dear readers, is one of the few mechanism I have left within my metabolism to cope with what’s happening at West Ham at the moment.

“Never measure the height of a mountain until you reach the top. Then you will see how low it was.”

Dag Hammarskjold said that. No, he was not a pontificating sweeper playing for much loved Swedish side IFK Norrköping in the Seventies. He was a Swedish economist and diplomat. A pretty smart fella.
And also the second ever Secretary-General of the United Nations. There are several ways this quote can be set in relation to what’s currently happening at West Ham.

Right from the start, thanks to losing to Newcastle and an incredibly unkind fixture calendar early on, West Ham will have a mountain to climb in order to not be firmly rooted near the bottom of the table after eight games. And probably the rest of the season. We’ll be lucky to even have 5 points in the bag out of a possible 24 to start the season.

Maybe I am making a mountain out of a molehill here. Maybe we will be welcoming some signings before the transfer deadline to shore up our defence after all. Maybe we will sign a pacy striker (to replace Hugill and Ajeti) who can do a decent job for us upfront in whatever role Moyes wants our striker(s) to play. Maybe we can even keep Rice for another season.
Maybe we’ll be alright after all, whatever alright means for us these days.
Alright for the board is not necessarily what’s alright for the fans. Or the manager and players.

Once we get our usual 3-4 injury-related lengthy absences of key players this season though, that mountain we need to climb in order to fend off relegation might as well be located on Mars.
And I mean the planet, not the chocolate bar…

The top of the mountain the ultimate goal for West Ham’s endeavours in 2020 seems to be, once again, just staying up, somehow, someway, on a wing and a prayer, on the never-never, by hook or by crook. That’s why we moved stadium, folks! That’s why we are West Ham London now which of course sounds so much cooler than West Ham United. Who wants unity in a football club anyway ?
Only those pesky keyboard warriors and malcontents would want that, so screw ’em !

Staying up should not even represent a mountain for us anymore, after the most successful move ever to the London Stadium. The days of squeaky bum relegation scraps were supposed to be behind us, not to mention next level and Champions League football waiting just around the corner, just behind one of those Stop/Go! signs, right next to The Orbit.

Staying up should have been our leisurely Sunday hike, our casual stroll up the local hill with the kids and the family canine, back home for tea and scones in an hour and a half. No sweat!

Instead it’s going to be another painful slog of a relegation battle straightaway – with every game this season taking on the significance of a Cup Final for us.
Can anyone think of a single other PL team we can realistically expect to dominate on the pitch and beat convincingly ? Right now I really can’t.
And I don’t have to tell you who has to carry the can here, you all know!

Embed from Getty Images

God, how I hate writing down musings like this, it’s depressing even for me – and I am the chap typing away here! If there were positives, I’d be waxing lyrical in one paragraph after another. It’s more fun to write about winning football.

So I really hope we get some positive news soon, ANY news, related to West Ham, with the power and capacity to lift our collective spirits. For many of us it’s a crap time anyway, for a variety of reasons including the pandemic.

Football was supposed to be an outlet, a distraction. West Ham right now aren’t helping in this regard. It’s not even the question if our team is crap. It’s not. At least not on paper.

We have some really good players who on any given day can perform and get fans out of their seats at the stadium if they were in them seats to begin with of course.

It’s just that all the other teams in the PL have been strengthening. Some quite massively. Right now I would even rank West Brom and Leeds as stronger than us. We’re probably on a par with Fulham.

West Ham are treading water and we are not even treading with conviction, taking a huge gamble by trying to stay up with minimal spending and in general struggling to be an attractive proposition for talented footballers at the moment. If I was Tarkowski I think I wouldn’t even bother answering the phone if West Ham were calling. Like it or not, right now you can’t really recommend any halfway decent players to join this club.
That appealing image of the likeable underdog, everybody’s second team from East London has gone for good. If we got relegated now I don’t think the PL would actually miss us.

West Ham have always been a bit like a soap opera, right now it’s gone up a notch, we’re like Eastenders on a bad cocktail of valium LSD and ecstasy, washed down with a bottle of cheap wodka from Lidl and some apple-flavoured Tango. No, I’ll retract that: The Eastenders writers would probably return the current West Ham storyline back to the club with the words Too much drama, too bonkers, even by our standards!“ scribbled on the back of the envelope.

To finish the West Ham bit on a positive note: I am looking forward to seeing the new edition of WHTID up and running soon and hopefully I will be able to continue writing as well, preferably after the occasional West Ham win. COYI!!!

Embed from Getty Images

Hamburg football update: Starting with the cup fixtures, yesterday St.Pauli lost their first round fixture 2:4 against minnows Elversberg (equivalent of a League Two side). Hamburg SV play later this afternoon against traditional East German club Dynamo Dresden.

As for Concordia football it’s all gonna start for real next Friday, with the league game for the first team, then on Sunday the cup game for the women’s team against the reigning cup winners.
Due to the pandemic every club needs to establish a health and safety routine for home games in accordance with the local circumstances and requirements, consisting of limiting the number of fans allowed at the games, deciding on where people have to wear masks on the premises and how to enforce social distancing rules for the fans who are allowed to watch, taking contact details of everyone at the turnstiles etc.

Those rules may slightly differ from club to club, it’s entirely possible that some clubs due to their facilities may initially not allow away fans into the ground at all – which would be tricky for me as I am supposed to write the match reports for Cordi’s away fixtures for their matchday programme again this season. Being able to watch the game is crucial for obvious reasons.

In Concordia’s case, for instance, they will stop selling beer at the ground for the time being as that will allow them to sell more tickets. 200 per game instead of 100 with booze readily available.

Embed from Getty Images

Talking of beer: In order to quench my thirst for live football (after having to live almost five months without) I watched a total of FOUR preseason games over the weekend at Cordi’s home ground which now features a spanking new set of state-of-the-art LED floodlights which will be great for those Friday home games under the lights in October and November.
(Finally the lads will be able to actually see the ball after 7pm no matter where on the pitch it may bounce.)

The first team won 5:0 (every goal a stunner), the second team/U23s drew 2:2, the third team (last season’s U18s) won 3:0.

My special favourites, the women’s team, beat St.Pauli’s second string 4:1 on Saturday in their final preseason “friendly“, however, the game won’t be remembered for the winning scoreline but unfortunately for a rather nasty and ill-timed scissor tackle in what looked like a totally innocuous situation near the touchline that led to Cordi’s most skilled player, speedy and resilient winger Michelle “Mini“ Hille, lying still on the ground, crying in pain for three minutes solid (when even Hille cries, something is seriously wrong), grabbing her foot before being carried off the field with an ice pack wrapped around her ankle. Still, it apparently swelled up overnight, big time, going dark blue. Her educated guess (coming from a player who has been tackled and injured regularly in her young career) is that she may have done her ligaments which would keep her out of contention for a significant number of games.
She’ll do a scan later today and hopefully we will see her kick a ball in a game again in 2020. Fingers crossed, Mini!