The HamburgHammer Column

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Manchester City on Saturday is now open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 10am on Saturday.*

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Rarely in recent years did I check my mobile for West Ham news more frequently during a Concordia game under the lights than on Friday evening (which strangely enough seems like it happened a week ago already).

Would we get the Benrahmadrama deal over the line with the clock ticking away ? And on what terms ?

Would the deal sheet get stuck in the fax machine ? Would we miss the deadline by 30 seconds ? No. And no again.

Robert de Niro is no longer waiting, Saïd Benrahma is a West Ham player. Na Na Hey Hey to that!

All of the transfer window shenanigans are behind us now and it has been debated at length here by numerous WHTIDers what the club has actually achieved in terms of transfer dealings in the past few weeks and what squad weaknesses it has failed to address properly m

Overall my critical verdict for this window is a 6/10, and only just.

The biggest factor actually is not a player we brought in, but one we didn’t lose, at least for the time being. To still have Rice here makes a massive difference. That’s a big plus. Rice and Soucek are currently developing a symbiotic partnership, it would have been terrible to see that one being torn apart prematurely.

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We signed a proper RB in Soucek’s mate Vladimir Coufal.
Would we have still signed him if Fredericks hadn’t gone down with a hamstring injury at a crucial time ? Maybe, maybe not. I’m really glad Coufal is here. Our right side is now no longer something to worry about constantly but a genuine weapon.

Coufal and Bowen could form a formidable partnership on the right, with Masuaku and Benrahma doing likewise on the other wing. It certainly makes us less predictable for any opposition.

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I welcome Saïd Benrahma to West Ham as, frankly, how could anyone not want a player like him at our club ? Not only do we now have an array of lovely Bananarama song title puns to play with, we’re also getting flicks and tricks in the mould of Payet or DiCanio, the kind of football that will make supporters rise from their seats in awe and expectant delight.

Although they’ll be rising from armchairs and sofas initially rather than seats at any stadium for the time being. Boooh Covid!

Saïd “The Happy One“ Benrahma is a young, enthusiastic trickster and also seems to be a bloody nice person as indicated by the generous donation of a huge chunk of his loyalty bonus from Brentford to circa 100 staff members at his previous club. Kitman, tea lady, chef, youth coaches etc. will get a decent share of an amount rumoured to be in the region of £500k.

From what I could gather about Benrahma, watching games, videos, reading scouting reports etc. the winger/attacking midfielder really does have a full locker of weaponry at his disposal, making him a lethal finisher as well as a regular provider of scoring opportunities for his teammates.

A player who has a knack for winning free kicks in dangerous positions and the ability to score from those set pieces too. Shooting from outside the box, being a fox in the box, sniffing out instinctively where to lurk in anticipation of a bounce or deflection within his reach, in the attacking third he is a nuisance for opposing defenders. You get the picture.
I reckon we have a great prospect here.

Can he be Payet’s successor or is he only a poor cousin ? We’ll find out soon enough.

As for the rest of the window, I can’t really be overly impressed. We didn’t bring in ANY of the top quality CB targets Moyes wanted, either from Britain or overseas.

We ended up with another loan signing, Watford’s Craig Dawson. If you are looking at Watford fan blogs, many among their fanbase apparently are still giggling themselves to sleep when thinking about the fact that another club has taken Dawson off them. Maybe that’s a harsh reaction as Dawson could actually turn out better than the mockery would suggest.

Watford’s defence looks suspect, so I would imagine Dawson will find it easier to play next to players like Ogbonna and Balbuena than what he was used to at Watford.

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Can he be more than a halfway adequate safety blanket for us ?
Unfortunately we also failed to add another striker after selling two.
We sold, loaned out and paid off far more players than we brought in.
So we have gone from an unbalanced PL squad to a smaller, yet still unbalanced PL squad. All we can hope is that we don’t suffer too many injuries this season or things might get awkward again.

I do have complete faith in our coaching staff though as our players look as lean, fit and full of stamina as any West Ham squad I can remember in the last decade. That will hopefully contribute with regard to keeping injuries within our team to a minimum.

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My matchday experience on Sunday was vastly different from my usual routine as my fellow Concordia supporter and mate Michael (the Eintracht Frankfurt fan) had invited me to an afternoon of armchair football at his place. I had suggested to him a few weeks ago we should be looking out for a day on which Frankfurt and West Ham would have their respective fixtures scheduled for the same afternoon.

He has German Sky at home (including the Bundesliga and PL package), so we decided that this was a perfect opportunity for watching each other’s favourite club for a change while chewing the fat, not to mention a nice jalapeño burger with fries on the side as well.

The footballing fare on offer was enticing, with Frankfurt playing out the curtain raiser away at Cologne to be followed by the main drama of Spurs against West Ham straight after. So I drove some 20 miles south, crossing the river in the process and we experienced a quite remarkable afternoon.

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I was dead jealous when seeing my mate’s flat for the first time as he must have a collection of about 7k CDs and 4k vinyl records gracing his walls and cabinets, easily a bigger music collection than mine. The first game was a dampener as Frankfurt only managed a 1:1 draw against Cologne who were shockingly bad, but somehow managed to score. A draw that felt like a defeat…

So, West Ham next. In a derby against our fiercest local rival. I had forgotten to bring my matchday screwdriver as initially planned. Maybe that’s why things went all Pete Tong in the first half.

I always feel nervous when watching a West Ham game with a friend who doesn’t follow them regularly or even has a soft spot for them.

I am even more desperate for West Ham to win and play well on the occasions when a mate (or my brother) is watching with me as I somehow feel my association with the club is a reflection of or at the very least an important part of my life and personality. So in a weird and symbiotic kind of way, I was convinced at kick-off that West Ham were representing me and I was representing them.

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When Son scored after 45 seconds Michael looked at me and said “Seriously ?”.
When the second goal went in, I was getting ready for an almighty drubbing.
When it was 3:0 to Spurs after 16 minutes, Michael was compassionate enough to offer up some hard booze as consolation.
(I couldn’t accept as I had to drive back home later, but it was tempting at that point.)
Michael also suggested to change channels and watch the German equivalent of Top Gear instead. Or listen to some heavy metal classics on his monster CD changer which holds up to 400 discs at once…

I told him that I had seen worse from the Hammers before (that was a porky, I didn’t really remember at that point when I had seen worse), but I also explained that supporting West Ham was a 24/7 never-ending test of character and endurance. A lifetime challenge. Or maybe it was just karma for sins committed in a previous life…

You all know what happened next.

WHAT. A. COMEBACK!!!
3 unanswered goals in just 12 minutes (better than what Spurs did in the first half!).

Never say die! Never give up! Keep going until the final whistle! A team worthy of the name. Pure character, an iron will and burning desire.

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The Lanzini goal ? One hell of a belter, smack right into the top right corner, shaking the crossbar and post mightily in the process. If Lloris had got more of his hand behind that shot he might have kept the ball out, but broken his wrist!

I remember madly celebrating that goal, sliding around the floor of my mate’s flat on my knees, shouting YES again and again. And some more. Michael only grinned at me like a Cheshire cat after a prawn-munching bonanza. Partly because of my bonkers behaviour, but also because he was genuinely enjoying the turn of events and entertainment provided by the game.

That draw came out of nowhere.
It was a very welcome point I would have gladly taken at the start of the game. A draw that felt like a win. One of those rare draws that will still give us bragging rights over Spurs for a long while as that comeback of ours will have hurt them deeply and profoundly.

Couldn’t have happened to a nicer club and manager…;-))

The upcoming games will be exciting as we should now have a fully fit squad to pick from, including new boy Benrahma. Man City and Liverpool will still be almighty challenges.

But after watching THAT comeback against Spurs we shouldn’t fear anyone. I doubt any team would fancy playing us right now.
We might want to try though NOT to concede three goals again within 20 minutes. It does make getting a result against strong teams a lot harder…COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Starting with Hamburg SV who showed composure and guts winning 1:0 away at Fürth, playing for 40 minutes or so with ten men after Leistner stopped his opponent by way of a professional foul and unfortunately he was the last man as well. So kudos to HSV for maintaining their lead. Three wins out of three, perfect start to the league season, 2nd place, one game in hand to go top.
St.Pauli will play legendary club Nürnberg (that’s Nuremberg to you foreigners!) later this evening and you can watch at 7:30pm on BT Sport 1 if you fancy it.

Concordia have something in common with Hamburg SV: And that’s a perfect league record so far. Another win on Friday evening, a 4:3 thriller against Lohbrügge.
So that’s 12 points from 4 games, top of the table, game in hand. Lovely jubbly. Unfortunately due to the pandemic the Hamburg FA has decided to change the format for the local league competitions this season in such a ridiculous way that almost every club and supporter is opposed to it.
It works like this: After 17 games, the league gets split into a promotional round (for the teams finishing between 1st and 8th place) and the remaining 11 clubs fighting for survival in a relegation round.
The problem is that every point won in the previous 17 games gets chalked off, it’s a clean slate for everyone when the battle for promotion or relegation starts in all seriousness. With all the implication this brings.

As soon as teams have their “qualification” for the promotion round confirmed mathematically, they will begin to field B teams with lots of subs and youth players as those will effectively become meaningless games at some stage. While other clubs of course would hope for fellow teams fielding their best sides at all times in order to see certain results go in their favour. It means that the first 17 performances of each team are no longer relevant when the league splits in two. The positive thing is of course that once the promotion/relegation round starts EVERY game means something, no team is ahead of the pack with a 12 point cushion. Still, people already hate this format and long for the day the old league rules apply again. Bloody Covid!

The Cordi Women’s team surprisingly won their first game of the season, 4:2 away to Harburg, not far away from the place where I spent the afternoon. But I gave the game a miss as I fancied a bit of a Sunday morning lie-in. As the girls won, I reckon they won’t have missed me much…LOL