The HamburgHammer Column

West Ham right now are a team that’s making plenty of people sit up and take notice. It’s not exactly the most breathtaking brand of football, granted. But crikey, these Hammers are tough to beat! Four clean sheets in a row are testament to a team that is well drilled and organised.
As they say: Great sides are built from the back and that’s exactly what seems to be happening at our beloved little club at this stage.
Stop leaking goals first, then take care of the attacking side of things.

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither was London. Not to mention West Ham.

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The Burnley game was an unusual matchday experience for me as I had rare company in my flat for the first time in ages, a mate I hadn’t seen in person for more than a year had come over, so we could compare notes as to what had happened in our lives over the last 12 months or so. I used to play baseball with the guy and he has recently become a father for the third time (welcoming his first son into the world after being blessed with two daughters in previous years).

So he had a lot more to tell than me than vice versa and we were also taking walks down memory lane, reminiscing about our glory days on the local fields of dreams, hitting line drives and making diving catches for the Hamburg Oysters. Contrary to what the moniker might suggest we weren’t posh or well minted, but as a northern team from a port city it was a fitting name with maritime/seafood connotations I suppose…and apparently a shucked oyster looks a bit like a wide open baseball glove too, so that was the reasoning behind our unusual team name.

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Marc and I had the West Ham game on in the background to usher in the evening, but I wasn’t watching as closely as I usually do. But like everyone else I was absolutely delighted with the result. Before you ask: We shared our traditional favourite dish for occasions of watching live sports together (we used to follow the NFL coverage in Germany religiously both at this place and mine over the years) – a jumbo-sized nacho platter bursting with jalapenos, minced meat, kidney beans and melted cheese accompanied by homemade sour cream and guacamole dips on the side.
Plus some lovely homemade coleslaw the recipe for which I learned to perfect during lockdown.

I have really picked up a trick or two as far as cooking is concerned over the course of the pandemic, so the food was certainly a bit spicier and tastier than the game playing out on the custard.

When Antonio scored what turned out to be the only goal of the game, my initial celebrations were rather muted. I thought this one might be chalked off by VAR. I held on to that thought even when Antonio was doing another of his weird celebrations, flipping around on the floor as if he was suffering an anaphylactic shock after munching a granola bar despite having a nut allergy…

Apparently he was merely taking punishment due to losing a game of Call of Duty against Declan Rice who in return had suggested that exact celebratory routine for one of Antonio’s next goals…

Wouldn’t it have been the most West Ham thing ever to see Antonio doing a mad celebration scoring solid 9.5 marks for awkwardness only to find VAR ruling out the goal for offside just 20 seconds later ?

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Be that as it may, the goal stood and we were up and running. It’s been statistically proven that scoring the first goal massively improves your team’s chances of winning the contest. Funnily enough, this season I also feel strangely confident even if we concede the first goal, but that hasn’t happened in quite a while, so for now I am quite content to heap praise on our defensive shape and a proper gem we picked from the “Bargain! Everything must go!” shelf.

Craig Dawson was one of the most uninspiring signings to arrive at West Ham in the past decade. That’s what 90% of our fanbase thought when he arrived. People were hoping he would never have to play for us.
That all changed when he DID start to play for us…

Indeed he is a very unspectacular, almost boring player to watch, but that’s the way I like my defenders. Let’s face it: The highlight reel wasn’t invented with Craig Dawson in mind. He is predictable in terms of doing all the basic and simple things right, leaving the showboating and complicated stuff to other players who are more inclined to take the risk of making a fool of themselves in the process.

Dawson stepped into this team and like magic he fit our team like a glove, immediately striking up a great partnership with Ogbonna and Coufal.
So much so that our glorious CB pairing has been christened Dawgbonna on social media. It certainly has a jolly nice ring to it.
It can’t be long before Dawgbonna are getting their own line of branded merchandise items in the club shop. Maybe starting with dog bowls…

I’m sure most of you will remember that launderers and drycleaners shop in Green Street (Blossom and Browne’s Sycamore) that used to greet West Ham fans on their way to The Boleyn on a matchday with those notorious signs above and below a big square clock face telling the passing punters invitingly “Don’t kill your wife – let us do it!”

Great humour that, but also quite fitting for the current West Ham players though who have made the art of keeping clean sheets a very beautiful habit for the Hammers in recent weeks.

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The clean sheeters from Stratford – some PL strikers might by now be almost ready to kill their wives if it helped them to finally put the ball into the West Ham net again…
May those sheets remain spotless for a while longer…

From what I could gather in the second half, we created plenty of promising goalscoring opportunities and squandered them all just as Burnley were increasing their pressure all the time down the other end.

We actually look alright until we get to the penalty box, then we struggle with finding an end product to reward ourselves for good build up play.
We have a tendency to keep the ball for too long or making things too complicated when a quick through ball or cross may be the better and immediately more dangerous option for the defenders to deal with.

I was almost expecting the dreaded equaliser to arrive any minute before the final whistle, 1:0 is a very dangerous scoreline and at times we were riding our luck a bit.

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As the league is so tight that win “only“ got us into 9th place for now, but also just six points behind Leicester in 2nd place. Bonkers!!!
On the other hand there is now a five point cushion between us and Arsenal in 11th place and looking at the upcoming games we seem to be destined not only to wrap up PL status for next season very early on, but also manage to cement our position in the top half of the table for the time being. Very nice indeed!

And it looks like we may wrap up the signing of Haller replacement *Boulaye Dia from Reims" in the next few days. We are certainly a more attractive option for players now, looking like a team on the way up rather than one fighting the drop as we did all too often in recent years.

Right now I think we definitely need more options upfront so that Moyes can find different formations for us allowing West Ham to attack different opposition teams in different ways. There’s more than one way to pluck a goose and right now Antonio is pretty much the only way upon which we’re relying.

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So I will definitely welcome a new striker at West Ham with open arms and eyes. Oh, and if we have a couple of million quid left I would also make the Dawson deal permanent, so we can pick up someone else on loan for the rest of the season.

Making the right signings in the next few weeks could be the difference between us qualifying for Europe or ending the season in 12th-14th place due to unexpected injuries or players being tested positive for Covid.

Squad depth is vital, as much as Moyes may enjoy working with a small squad, as long as they’re all fit and healthy that is…

Next up is a meeting with an old friend…
And, depending on your personal view, another old friend. Or foe. Yes, it’s West Brom bringing the Tartan Pele back to his old hunting grounds at the London Stadium while Samuel “My ear is forever cupped, you ungrateful cockney gits!” Allardyce will be chewing some more gum as he will be trying to out-tactic Moyes.

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Usually this constellation would worry me senseless. I would expect nothing less than Snodgrass scoring a hattrick upon his return and Allardyce giving the cameras a filthy grin while sticking various fingers up to the Hammers faithful watching at home. But this is a different West Ham. Gone is the soft underbelly. We no longer allow anyone to tickle our tummies without asking our approval first. If you want to beat us these days you gotta play hard and well. We no longer gift-wrap any points for other teams.
You want the points you bloody well earn them with your performance. West Brom should be a feisty affair and a vastly more interesting game of football than Burnley.
With hopefully another clean sheet for the Hammers at the end of the day.

COYI!!!

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Hamburg football update: Saturday brought a crucial away win for St.Pauli at midtable team Hannover 96. A crazy game where the Kiezkicker took a 2:0 lead after ten minutes, only to see Hannover equalise within the first ten minutes of the second half. St.Pauli’s manager proved to have his choice of substitutes spot on though as he brought on Igor Matanovic, a young midfielder who came through the club’s youth academy, in the 86th minute only to see him score the winner two minutes into injury time.
St.Pauli are still second from bottom, but now only one point away from a non-relegation spot.

Their cross-town rivals Hamburg SV will try to reclaim top spot from Bochum when they’re facing the team they signed their current gaffer from in the summer, VFL Osnabrück. You can follow that game live on BT Sport 1 if you fancy a bit of German football, kick-off is at 7.30 pm UK time.