The HamburgHammer Column

The Predictor League for Burnley is open. Enter your team HERE. Deadline is Saturday at 1pm.

I am not a big fan of Monday games, especially late kick-offs. I will still try and rustle up a column, sort of, typing a few paragraphs down prior to the game at Stockport and a few bits and bobs after the final whistle.

Stockport then, eh? Dan Coker led us down memory lane earlier in yet another excellent match preview of his yesterday.

One of the strongest West Ham memories of my Barking days in 1996 leads me back to The Bull, one of many Barking pubs that was still selling pints in 1996, but is unfortunately no more in 2021 and hasn’t been open for business for many years. The building was/is located right opposite the old Barking Abbey. I suppose some of you who are local will remember the place. Apparently it closed as a pub in 2010, briefly reopened as a nightclub in 2017 only to find itself boarded up again today.

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It’s in that pub where I did watch most of the games of Euro 96 (“Football’s coming home” and all that!) and where, just a week before Christmas and a flight back home to celebrate with the family, I witnessed our painful exit from the League Cup on a wet and windy day night on a muddy pitch against Stockport County at Edgeley Park.

I watched the drama unfold in the random company of a total stranger, an elderly chap, over a pint and the football conversations we had turned out to be more entertaining than the game. Dowie’s bullet of a header to this day is still the most astonishing own goal I have ever seen. Down the other end it would have been a brilliant finish, going into West Ham’s own net it was mindblowing.

You know sometimes when a goalscoring opportunity is blasted over the bar from five yards out, the pundits say it was the finishing of a defender. Dowie’s attempt to head the ball out of danger showed that there is something like a striker’s clearance at the back as well. There is a reason after all why defenders defend and strikers mainly focus on scoring goals…

Job done! That’s the best you can say about last night’s performance on an occasion where oop north it was coming down in stair rods as Paddington Bear might have described it before biting into a marmalade sandwich.

We found it hard to break down a very organised and gutsy Stockport team and it took a late set piece by substitute Bowen, finished off by a bullet of a header by Dawson, this one going in at the right end though.
How apt that it was a defender scoring the winner! ;-))

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This, by the way, was Dawson’s third start for West Ham resulting in our third clean sheet. This one already looks like a loan deal working in our favour.

We also caught a brief glimpse of forward prospect Ademipo Odubeko.
Due to our squad size we might see the lad more often now methinks.
His little cameo was too short to evaluate how he might cope against the likes of Burnley or West Brom.

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After cracking this particular tough nut in the FA Cup we are now facing Doncaster at home first and if we can take care of that fixture it’ll either be Liverpool or Manchester away. Nice one, Crouchy!

To be fair, I always thought if you are serious about winning the trophy, you cannot be picky about the opposition at any stage. A favourable draw is nice if you can get it, but if you beat one of the big clubs on the way to the final, that’s when you really know you deserve to be there.

And besides. IF we were to get past Doncaster, who can say what the situation is going to be in terms of squad availability for the teams involved, players being injured or self-isolating ?

Liverpool may decide to field a weakened side to focus on their Champions League exploits. Manchester United may want to rest players to focus on their league fixtures to cement their position near the top.

To summarise: I am not fazed by the cup draw at all. In fact I’m looking forward to it. This year we can really go for it and field our best side in every round. I reckon that’s what every West Ham fan would be expecting now since relegation fears are no longer a viable excuse this time around…

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A quick word on the players who we let go so far in January, first name obviously being Sebastien Haller.

The player has probably been discussed, defended, mocked, criticised and argued over more than any player on this blog in the past three years.
So far we don’t know the exact circumstances of how the deal came about, but Ajax must have made a financial offer that by all accounts suited all parties just fine although it leaves us very short in the striking department.

A parting of ways was always on the cards though and as one of his biggest supporters on the blog I will gladly admit that it just didn’t click for Haller at West Ham. I still think it was mainly about the way we were lining up rather than him being a bad player or the PL being too fast or physical for him.

I reckon there are several sides in the PL where Haller would have been just as successful (or more so) as he used to be at Frankfurt. I know the overall quality of the PL is superior to that of the Bundesliga, but it’s not like every PL team out there has world-class defences. Haller could have done a lot better, for instance like he did in the games when playing together with Antonio, but our manager obviously wasn’t keen on going down that road, so Haller had to be sold. Fair enough!
I’m sure Haller will be a great striker at Ajax.

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Then there’s Robert Snodgrass, the Tartan Pele.
I am happy he left because the lad deserves more game time in the PL.
I love players like him to bits because you could always expect to see 100% from him on the pitch. From what I have heard he was a brilliant character on the training pitch and in the dressing room. A proper competitor and textbook professional. The kind of player every team needs to complement the tricksters, the finesse passers and the tough-tackling defenders.

I can only wish Snodders all the best in his future endeavours at West Brom which is hard for me to do as that would correspond with an upturn in the fortunes of a certain Samuel Allardyce…;-))

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So, two players gone, only one defender in (Frederik Alves Ibsen) so far. Make no mistake, we still have a small and unbalanced squad, we all know that we’re practically brassic as a club, so it’s not that unlikely we don’t sign anyone else in January. We may see a lot of U23 players on matchday first team benches in the next few months as a result…

I think we can all agree that David Moyes is doing a fine job in very trying circumstances. The gaffer clearly has ambition and he wants to improve the squad but he is being hamstrung, pardon the pun, by a lack of striker alternatives to Antonio (He of the dodgy hamstrings) and very limited funds to make amends.

Moyes, by all accounts, isn’t keen to bring in just any old player to make up the numbers, only those who genuinely improve the team. He said he’d be happy if we didn’t sign anybody else this window. That is admirable, but coupled with our financial situation it creates a conundrum.

As indeed Moyes may not be able to bring his targets in due to them being too high quality and too dear in price whereas the players he will be offered left, right and centre by agents, clubs and the owners (Sullivan/Salthouse punts) may be in our price bracket, but not be what the gaffer has in mind.

THIS is where as a board you have to come to the fore and support the gaffer. Not with big words or inches in a newspaper column, but actions and £££.

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All of this is even more disappointing as we are doing really well so far and could make a push up the table with the right January signings, as we did with bringing in Soucek and Coufal late in successive windows.

We certainly could do with another striker or two, a left back and a defensive midfielder. Don’t hold your breath though. And I guess it’s safe to say we can all go to bed throughout this transfer window at our regular bedtimes without fear of missing much.

I don’t expect much activity in terms of players coming in. We are essentially gambling on Moyes working his magic with the squad he still has at his disposal, we are hoping that Antonio’s hamstrings will last a few more months (like an old Vauxhall Vivaro approaching its next MOT test) and we pray no other players will go down with long term injuries.
Good luck with all of that!

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In terms of the league fixtures we are now entering a stretch with very winnable games, on paper at least. We should be able to establish ourselves firmly in the top half of the table and banish any lingering fears of relegation within the next four weeks or so. Our next few results may also affect our transfer business. If we do well it might lead to a sense of security within the club hierarchy that could result in the owners keeping their hands firmly in their pockets in January.

I don’t even think that Moyes would kick up a fuss if that were the case. He will know by now how the cookie crumbles at West Ham. He will focus on working with the players at his disposal and consider his options. Which might lie at a different PL club if he continues to do well in trying circumstances.

That’s a very useful trait for a football manager to have in these challenging times. I have no doubt that other clubs will approach Moyes and make him offers he may not be able to refuse.
David Sullivan, watch out! Even Moyes may outgrow your ambition very soon. Which isn’t that difficult to begin with of course…


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Hamburg football update: A very mediocre weekend for the Hamburg clubs, HSV could only muster a draw at Nuremberg which was still enough to keep them at the top of the league table for now,however, with traditional Ruhr Valley club Bochum (Dortmund’s poor cousin) gaining ground and giving Hamburg a proper run for their money. The promotion race is heating up nicely.

As for St.Pauli they managed a highly unexpected draw against promotion chasing Holstein Kiel. The team from Hamburg’s red light district are still second from bottom, four points adrift of a non-relegation place. It’ll continue to be tough for them, but there’s still life in that team with everything still to fight for. They have also brought in several new signings to help them with their push up the table.