Disappointing start

Slaven11The sum of all our fears came to past as Mourinho’s mob took us to the cleaners and back again.

Ok, we didn’t expect much but we certainly didn’t believe that we would be second or third best to every ball and manage just one shot on target.

Yes, United are a highly athletic and skilled side but but it was the brawn of Romelu Lukaku who came back to haunt us with a couple of goals before Martial and Pogba put a very sad look on the  scoreline with 87th and 90th minute strikes.

It had all gone so well for half an hour when our defensive formation held up well against the slick moving Reds but when Zabaleta pushed forward and was caught  out of position, Rashford went forward at tremendous pace to supply a great pass for a goal which began the slide.

As always when he had played for Everton, Romelu Lukaku scored against West Ham, one goal before and one after the break, and with two more  goals from a ManUtd side which was by far the better team all over the pitch, West Ham lost 0-4. Now the Irons find themselves on the bottom for the table after the first weekend of the season and have to pick themselves up and bounce back next Saturday 3 p.m. in another away game against Southampton!

Come on you Irons !!!

Another surprise on the cards?

The first round of the Premier League has already provided us with some shock results: Watford holding Liverpool to a 3-3, Burnley winning 3-2 away at Stamford Bridge against champions Chelsea, and newcomers Huddersfield beating Crystal Palace 3-0 in London. Will we see another upset in Sunday’s late kick-off when Manchester United host West Ham United? 

The Hammers have had a fine transfer window so far it’s most important signings being keeper Joe Hart and defender Pablo Zabaleta from Manchester City, Austria’s best player Marko Arnautovic who was signed from Stoke City for a club record fee, and striker Chicharito from Bayer Leverkusen. Hopefully the former ManUtd player will score in his first game against his former club!

Unfortunately Manuel Lanzini who is our most influential player in midfield and has emerged as West Ham’s flair player in the aftermath of Payet‘s infamous departure from the London Stadium back to his former club Marseille, is injured and won’t be able to travel to Old Trafford. So is another very important midfield player, Cheikou Koyate. And also Michail Antonio seems to be out of contention, that is why West Ham manager Slaven Bilic is not going to face much of a selection dilemma, and the team is more or less picking itself. This is the most likely West Ham XI for their PL start on the Sunday:

Hart, Zabaleta, Reid, Ogbonna, Masuaku; Ayew, Noble (c), Obiang, Fernandes, Arnautovic and Chicharito.

It would be a result perfectly fitting into this first round of surprise scores if West Ham were able to leave Old Trafford with one or maybe even three points in the bag. Some weeks ago ManUtd manager Mourinho has said that West Ham with its new signings seemed to be a team wanting to win the Premier League. “Wow,” he said, “West Ham have even signed Arnautovic.” This might have been meant as a joke, but we’ll see if it will be just a joke – or are we really going to compete with the best this season?

Time will tell – and tomorrow evening we’ll know a little more: The journey into the new season has begun.

A tough start to this journey it is for the Irons,  not only because of their first game at the winners of last season’s Europa League and the FA cup, but also due to the fact that they have to play their first three PL games (ManUtd, S’hampton and Newcastle) away from home as the London Stadium is hosting the Athletics World Championships and will not be ready for West Ham before September 10th (vs Huddersfield). Anyway, the Irons have often shown what they are capable of in the face of adversity – they can show that again this August!

Come on you Irons!!!

Football is back

Natürlich wird schon seit Wochen in den europäischen Cupbewerben und auch in der österreichischen Bundesliga wieder Fußball gespielt. Aber so richtig zu Ende ist die sommerliche Fußballpause erst mit diesem Wochenende. Die englische Premier League geht endlich wieder los. Diesmal ist nicht nur für mich Ost-London der Fokus des Interesses.

Aus österreichischer Sicht richtet sich der Blick vor allem auf West Ham United, den Neo-Club von Marko Arnautovic, schreibt der ORF in seiner Premier League-Vorschau. Der teuerste ÖFB-Spieler aller Zeiten soll mithelfen, den Londonern nach einer turbulenten Saison mit Endrang elf einen europäischen Startplatz zu bringen. Und der 25-Millionen-Mann aus Wien war nicht die einzige Neuverpflichtung der „Hammers“. Trainer Slaven Bilic bekam Goalie Joe Hart, Defensivmann Pablo Zabaleta (beide ManCity) und Stürmer Chicharito (Leverkusen) dazu.

Sechs Österreicher in der Premier League

Neben Arnautovic, Wimmer und Christian Fuchs (Leicester City) sind drei weitere Österreicher in Englands Oberhaus engagiert. Innenverteidiger Sebastian Prödl hofft bei Watford auf Einsätze unter Neo-Coach Marco Silva. Der Portugiese soll die „Hornets“ nach Platz 17 im Vorjahr verbessern. Landsmann Daniel Bachmann leistet Prödl als Ersatztormann Gesellschaft. Auf den Kampf um den Klassenerhalt muss sich Markus Suttner einstellen. Der Linksverteidiger wechselte von Ingolstadt zu Brighton and Hove Albion, erstmals seit 34 Jahren erstklassig.

Links:

Jubiläen 2017

Nicht nur 10 Jahre “Rapidhammer”, auch 40 Jahre Mitgliedschaft beim “Klub der Freunde des S.C. Rapid” waren heuer zu feiern. 

Als Nachlese zur feierlichen Übergabe meines SK Rapid-Ehrenzeichens  für die vierzigjährige Mitgliedschaft im ältesten Fanklub  des österreichischen Rekordmeisters hier der Link zum Bericht über die letzte Generalversammlung des “Klubs der Freunde”:

http://klubderfreunde.at/2017/06/gruenzeug-585/

Dem Fanklub gehört übrigens mittlerweile auch mein Sohn Johannes an! Das grün-weiße Band wird weitergegeben!

http://www.skrapid.at/de/startseite/mitgliedschaft/gruen-weisses-band/

Ten Years After

It seems that the 24th of May, 2017 has gone fairly unnoticed with the Football Blogger community. Not even RapidHammer himself did spare a single thought about what happened on this very day 10 years ago. On this day in 2007 the blog RAPIDHAMMER started with the first post about West Ham United (-> my first blog post). Ten years after this start here are some musings on having blogged about the Irons for 10 years.

2007 was the year in which West Ham secured its Premier League status by the skin of its teeth with a 1-0 win away at Manchester United in the last round. Carlos Tevez scored the decisive goal that kept the Irons up and sent Sheffield United down to the Championship from where they were even relegated to League One some years later. By the way, it was not earlier than last season (2016-17) that the Blades have been able to bring to an end to their six-year stint in the third tier of English football.

But also for West Ham the aftermath of their 2006-07 campaign was quite an expensive affair. They had not only to pay a record fine for breaching the rules prohibiting “third party ownership” and lying about this fact to the Premier League by signing Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano in August 2006, but they also had to pay compensation to relegated Sheffield United some time later because of this wrongdoing.

After having run my blog RAPIDHAMMER for some years I was asked by Sam Haseltine to join “Football United” (now known as Golbox) in December 2009. It was a pleasure and an honour for me to participate in this blogger network. As there had been no more than one blogger from Europe outside the UK so far (“Football Barbie” by Kay Murray from Real Madrid who I had the pleasure to meet at an Arsenal v West Ham game at the Emirates),  I was only the second one from the continent to publish my blogs with “Football United” then.

In 2010 my blog was presented in Austrian TV in a series called “We Blog“: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSsEWDIjPZo

In the 2010-11 season West Ham reached the semifinal of the League Cup and I came over to east London to watch the first leg at the Boleyn, the first semifinal at the Boleyn Ground in 21 years. I enjoyed having some pints of beer afterwards at the Hammers Supporters Club in Castle Street. Well, I hope this club will not be closed now that the Hammers have moved away from Upton Park to Stratford,

Despite their League Cup heroics, in May 2011, after a disastrous season with Avram Grant at the helm, West Ham were relegated. At the same time I became a member of the initial West Ham United Supporters Advisory Board  which was formed to give the fans a voice in West Ham’s project of leaving the 1904 built Boleyn Ground  and renting the Olympic Stadium in Stratford with a capacity of almost 60,000 instead of 35,000 at Upton Park.

With Sam Allardyce as their new manager the Irons reached the Championship play-offs in their first season in the second tier and played at Wembley in May 2012 – my first visit to New Wembley where I was able to celebrate West Ham being “back where we belong” after a thrilling 2-1 win over Blackpool (goals: Carlton Cole, Vaz Te). By the way, Blackpool was relegated several times afterwards, and had to play in the bottom tier of English professional football, but won promotion to League One via the play-offs this season.

Some stays in the West Ham Hotel and some games at Upton Park later – I watched great wins, and also some boring draws or depressing defeats there, often late and not being in the ground in time to join in with the initial “Bubbles”, once landing so late a Heathrow Airport that we had to spend a fortune to reach Upton Park in time going all the way by taxi and at last being helped by Paul Turner who stored our luggage in the boot of his car near the ground - it was time to leave the historic Boleyn Ground. My last game at the Boleyn was a 2-2 against Norwichon a sunny autumn afternoon in 2015 together with my wife Eva. I couldn’t manage to get to Upton Park in spring 2016 when the last games took place there before the ground was to close its gates forever. But I watched the last game, the unforgettable  3-2 victory over Manchester United, in the Vienna Pub “The Tube Station”, home of West Ham’s Austrian fan club “Austrian Irons“.

With some fellow supporters from this club I travelled to Ljubljana last July to watch West Ham draw 1-1 in the Europa League, and then some months later made my first visit to the new London Stadium, the former Olympic Stadium, where my son and my future daughter in law were happy to watch West Ham beat Hull 1-0. Thank you to Paul Christmas from the newly founded West Ham United Independent Supporters Association for helping us out with the tickets!

Last season I started to write posts for the great West Ham blog “West Ham Till I Die” and got to know some very nice people there. I hope to meet some of them at my next visit to London!

Now you have been able to read my reports and thoughts on football (and sometimes on life as it is) at RapidHammer.golbox.com for more than 10 years. Though I haven’t had the time to post as often as I did in the beginning I am still happy to write a post now and then on West Ham and about my other footballing passion, SK Rapid Wien, and I hope very much that some of you enjoy reading it.

Come on you Irons!

ÖFB Cup: Finale in Klagenfurt

Heute findet die “Mission Cupsieg Nr. 15″ des SK Rapid ihr Finale in Klagenfurt beim Spiel SK Rapid v Red Bull Salzburg. Den letzten ÖFB Cupsieg feierte Rapid 1995 gegen Leoben (Torschütze Peter Guggi). Im Semifinale hatte man damals Austria Salzburg mit 2:0 im heimischen Hanappi Stadion ausgeschaltet. Und auch dieses Cupmatch gegen die Salzburger sollte ein Heimspiel werden: die Mehrheit der nach Klagenfurt reisenden Anhänger werden, wie ich, Rapid-Fans sein.

Im Buch “RECHT SPORTlich 3″ (https://lnkd.in/gJzxwHz), das Rapid-Präsident Michael Krammer anlässlich seines Besuches beim Fanklub “Klub der Freunde des Sportclubs Rapid” kürzlich vom Autor und Herausgeber Wolfgang Berger überreicht bekam, ist u.a. das UVP-Feststellungs- und Genehmigungsverfahren für das Wörthersee Stadion beschrieben, das von HASLINGER/NAGELE rechtlich betreut wurde.

Für einen Rapid Fan wäre es die größte Freude, an diesem Ort nach juristischen auch fußballerische Erfolge feiern zu können!

West Ham vs Tottenham: ein überwältigendes Erlebnis

Nachdem das vorletzte Spiel dieser Saison im neuen “London Stadium” einen großartigen 1:0-Sieg der “Hammers” gegen Tottenham gebracht hatte, verpatzte West Ham den Saisonabschied von den Heimfans eine Woche später: 0:4 daheim gegen Liverpool. Aber der Abstieg ist spätestens seit dem Sieg gegen die Spurs kein Thema mehr, die erste Saison nach der Übersiedlung  ins neue Stadion wird West Ham auf einem Tabellenplatz zwischen 11 und 16 abschließen – je nachdem, wie das allerletzte Spiel auswärts gegen Burnley ausgeht.

Der 1:0-Derby-Sieg über die Spurs am Freitag Abend, 5.5.2017, war zweifellos eines der beeindruckendsten Spiele dieser Saison. Die West Ham-Fans haben sogar davon gesprochen, es sei dieser Abend gewesen, an dem das Olympiastadion eine wirkliche Heimstätte geworden ist: “this game the London Stadium became home”, hieß es. Von diesem Match, das sein allererster Besuch bei West Ham United war, hat uns Gustav Weigel den folgenden Bericht aus London mitgebracht.

Vorweg: Meine Eindrücke vom Spiel West Ham United gegen Tottenham Hotspur wurden bedingt durch die Tatsache, dass es sich dabei auch um meinen ersten Besuch Londons gehandelt hat, zusätzlich verstärkt. Allein die schiere Größe dieser Stadt in Verbindung mit der Tatsache, dass es praktisch an jeder Ecke Sehenswürdigkeiten – dazu zählen beispielsweise auch die klassich britischen “Ziegelbauten” – zu sehen und eine andere Kultur zu erleben gibt, war beeindruckend.

Bereits die Anreise zum London Stadium per U-Bahn war ein besonderes Erlebnis. Die “tube” blieb – bedingt durch das “Aufhalten” der Türen durch einsteigende Fans, um auch Nachkommenden die Mitfahrt zu ermöglichen – oft minutenlang in den diversen Stationen stehen. Die Zusteigenden wirkten während der Fahrt voller Vorfreude, allerdings dennoch locker und ruhig in ihren Gesprächen. Allgemein gewann man den Eindruck, dass es sich dabei eher um bedreundete Arbeitskollegen handelt, die zufällig den gleichen Heimweg haben, nicht jedoch zwingend um Personen auf dem Weg zu einem Fußballstadion. Dies sollte sich mit Erreichen der Stratford Station allerdings schlagartig ändern: wie auf stillen Zuruf wurden bei Verlassen der “tube” plötzlich Schlachtgesänge angestimmt, die auch am Fußweg zum London Stadium nie abbrachen.

Die Kontrollen im Eingangsbereich des Stadions konnten wir schnell hinter uns bringen. Auffallend – sowohl vor dem als auch im London Stadium – war, dass relativ wenige Fans mit Fanartikeln ausgestattet waren. Nur vereinzelt sah man Personen mit Trikots; war dies der Fall, handelte es sich oft um frühere Trikots von Spielern wie Julian Dicks oder Carlos Tevez; nur ganz selten sah man auch einen “Noble” oder “Carroll” herumspazieren.

Wer nur die Atmosphäre in österreichischen und manchen deutschen Stadien kennt, konnte anfangs – trotz der etwa 55.000 Zuschauer – womöglich über die Gelassenheit im Stadion verwundert sein: die Angestellten der Getränkestände wirkten in keiner Weise gestresst oder unter Zeitdruck und erledigten ihre Arbeit in aller Ruhe, die “Durstigen” waren nicht ungeduldig und nutzten die Zeit - selbst unmittelbar vor Anpfiff noch – für Gespräche und Plaudereien. Wundersamerweise waren die Sitze im Stadion aber dann rechtzeitig zum Einmarsch der Mannschaften beinahe alle besetzt – wobei die Sitzplätze eher nur der Zuordnung der Personen im Stadion dienen, denn als tatsächliche Sitzgelegenheiten; gesessen ist an diesem Abend über die gesamte Spielzeit niemand!

Meine durch das Vorhandensein der Laufbahn im Stadion begründete Angst, die Stimmung könnte sich dadurch nicht so stark entfalten, stellte sich als völlig unbegründet, im Nachhinein sogar als lachhaft heraus. Durch den Aufbau von Zusatztribünen über dieser Laufbahn (“retractable seating”) ist auch im London Stadium der typische Charme englischer Stadien weitgehend gewährleistet, der durch das extreme Heranreichen der Zuschauerplätze an den Spielfeldrand entsteht. Beim Einmarsch der Manschaften selbst kam dann wirkliches Gänsehautfeeling auf, als die Vereinshymne “Bubbles” und anschließend “Come on you Irons” zeitgleich aus etwa 55.000 Mündern erschallte. Ein Knistern war zu spüren.

Auffallend war, dass es – über das gesamte Spiel – keine einstudierten Choreographien oder “Anpeitscher” gab; die Stimmung ergibt sich vielmehr von selbst und auf natürliche Art und Weise, nur gefördert von der Leidenschaft der Zuseher für ihren Verein. Dies stellt für mich einen angenehmen Kontrast zum “Festland-Fußball” dar. Man bekommt den Eindruck, dass in England der Fußballsport selbst, das Geschehen auf dem Spielfeld mehr im Vordergrund steht.

Das Spiel selbst begann mit einer Druckphase von West Ham United, Tottenham fand anfangs überhaupt nicht ins Spiel und war bemüht, den Ball vom eigenen Strafraum wegzuhalten. Es handelte sich um eine relativ schnell geführte Partie, in der West Ham United zunächst den Takt vorgab. Wirkliche Großchancen waren allerdings zunächst Mangelware. Im Laufe des Spiels fand Tottenham mehr in die Partie und das Spiel wurde Mitte der ersten Halbzeit zusehends umkämpfter.

Auch auf den Tribünen machte sich dies durch nunmehr noch intensivere Anfeuerungen bemerkbar. Man hatte das Gefühl, dass die Fans wussten, dass die Mannschaft sie in dieser Phase braucht. In den letzten 15 Minuten vor der Pause verflachte das bis dahin sehr gute Spiel ein wenig, nahm aber unmittelbar nach Wiederbeginn wieder Fahrt auf.

Mitte der zweiten Halbzeit traf Lanzini für West Ham aus kurzer Distanz, nachdem der Ball ihm über einige Umwege und ein wenig glücklich vor die Füße fiel. Für die Zuschauer zählte nur das Tor, das alle Dämme brechen ließ: Tosender Jubel auf den Tribünen, die Freude kannte keine Grenzen. Wer den Jubel aus Stadien in Deutschland oder Österreich kennt: für mich persönlich waren weder die dort vorherrschende Lautstärke noch die Intensität in irgendeiner Weise mit dem Jubel nach diesem Lanzini-Treffer vergleichbar. Eine derartige Stimmgewalt durfte ich noch in keinem Stadion live miterleben. Eine überwältigende Erfahrung.

Die Führung für West Ham war zu diesem Zeitpunkt verdient, zumal die “Hammers” bis zu diesem Zeitpunkt mehr vom Spiel hatten und druckvoller agierten. West Ham zog sich danach gefühlt ein wenig zurück, überließ Tottenham das Feld und versuchte den Vorsprung zu verwalten. Dies führte zu einer Druckphase von Tottenham, die ihrerseits den Sieg benötigten, um weiter realistische Chancen auf den Meistertitel zu haben.

In der Schlussphase warf Tottenham noch einmal alles nach vorne und kam zu einigen Chancen, die Adrian im Tor der “Irons” alllerdings überragend vereitelte. Die anfängliche Dominanz von West Ham wandelte sich gegen Ende des Spiels in eine Verteidigungshaltung gegen die Anstürme Tottenhams. Auf der Tribüne verband die Zuschauer nun nicht mehr die Freude über den Führungstreffer, sondern die Befürchtung, dass West Ham den Vorsprung nicht über die Zeit retten könnte. Das große Zittern begann und dauerte auch noch weit länger als bis zum Ende der regulären 90 Minuten. Die 5-minütige Nachspielzeit wurde seitens des Schiedsrichters sogar auf sieben oder acht Minuten ausgedehnt.

Die Erlösung dann mit dem Abpfiff, der Sieg war endgültig gesichert! Jubel brandete erneut auf, “Bubbles” ertönte noch einmal. Wieder war dieses Knistern zu spüren, diese staeke innere Verbundenheit der Zuschauer mit ihrer Mannschaft.

Das Stadion leerte sich nun relativ zügig und es ging zurück zur Stratford Station, um endgültig den Heimweg anzutreten. Der Weg zurück wurde von Polizisten gesichert, darunter einigen berittenen. Man begegnete sich freundlich und höflich. Vereinzelt wurden sogar die Pferde von den Fans gestreichelt und mit den Polizisten geplaudert. Die Stimmung war durchwegs friedlich.

Abschließend kann ich sagen, dass der Besuch bei West Ham United ein besonderes Erlebnis war. Besonders beeindruckend war diese spürbare Verbundenheit der Fans mit der Mannschaft und die Tatsache, dass der Fußballsport von den Anhängern dort so richtig mit jeder Faser des Körpers gelebt wird.

West Ham hat aufgrund dieses Stadionbesuchs jedenfalls einen neuen Fan dazugewonnen.

The Curse and Magic of a “Parallel Campaign”

RapidHammer’s column for West Ham Till I Die

The plot of one of the best known Austrian novels, Robert Musil’s “The Man Without Qualities” (Der Mann ohne Eigenschaften) is about a so-called “Parallel Campaign” meant to celebrate the Austrian Emperor’s 70 years of reign in the same year 1918 in which the German Emperor would be ruler of his country for 30 years. In my case almost 100 years later another “parallel campaign” is taking place in Vienna and London, concerning football clubs Rapid Vienna and West Ham United – a “Parallelaktion” that most recently started with two goals conceded by both clubs in the 94th minute of their respective games five weeks ago.

I live in Vienna and, of course wanting to watch football live more regularly than my travels to London allow, I also follow a team in home town, SK Rapid Vienna, as most of you will know. Therefore any given weekend there is always a chance to overcome the disappointment of a West Ham defeat with a win of Rapid, and vice versa of course. But in recent weeks it’s like bewitched: there seem to be more parallelisms between the two clubs than ever, and unfortunately they have not been positive ones.

From the very beginning until today there have been surprising similarites between these two clubs which I have followed for many, many years: at the end of the 19th century both of them were founded as “workers‘ clubs” (Thames Ironworks FC and First Vienna Workers FC) and at the beginning of the 2016-17 season both clubs started to play in a new home! And with the coincidences having increased within the last weeks, it looks as if this season is really going to be some kind of a “parallel campaign” for the two clubs I support.

The cruelty of the 94th minute

The newest parallel action started almost five weeks ago when West Ham played West Brom in the London Stadium and Rapid Vienna played Austria Vienna in the Vienna Stadium (aka Ernst Happel Stadium). Both clubs lead with a small margin of one goal until the beginning of injury time. Their fans were nervously awaiting the final whistle in a nail biting finish, but exactly in the 94th minute of the respective games on this very weekend late equalisers were scored: Gareth McAuley made it 2-2 in London, and an other defensive mistake in Vienna allowed Lukas Rotpuller to score the 1-1 for Austria Vienna, cruelly destroying Rapid’s hope of a win against their local rivals and a successful start into the spring campaign after the Austrian winter break.

The next weekend none of our clubs scored. West Ham was not able to kick a ball because they had already departed from the FA Cup with a heavy defeat in a match back in January we all want to forget. And Rapid Vienna was not able to hit the back of the net in their league game against Admira (0-0). A sad weekend with West Ham not able to play in the FA Cup anymore and Rapid again unable to win.

Well, one week later West Ham had to play Watford away achieving another draw (1-1). This time that would have been a result which I would had been happy with in Rapid’s away game in Wolfsberg (Carinthia) against Wolfsberger AC. West Ham and Rapid had to trail a 0-1 in their respective games and really, both of them were able to equalise (through Andre Ayew and Mario Sonnleitner). But in the 80th minute the similarities unfortunately came to an end when Wolfsberg scored a late winner and the „Greens“ had to travel back to Vienna without any points, still rooted to a disappointing 5th place in the 10-clubs-Austrian Bundesliga.

Versus the leaders of the league

Next weekend saw West Ham and Rapid play the leaders of the English Premier League and the Austrian Bundesliga at home. Rapid have a new manager in Damir Canadi since November who has made a lot of changes in the team’s system of playing, still waiting for his first win of 2017. But again on a cold Sunday afternoon in the Allianz Stadium we had to taste defeat, losing out 0-1 to Red Bull Salzburg.

And West Ham, as I had feared, didn’t do any better one day later, also being defeated on Monday evening in the London Stadium with a one-goal-margin by Chelsea with Manuel Lanzini scoring a late consolation in injury time (1-2).

Winless weeks to continue?

And the winless weeks still have not come to an end, neither in London nor in Vienna: last weekend saw West Ham lose to Bournemouth away on Saturday, and therefore I was almost sure that on the Sunday Rapid would be defeated in Graz by Sturm. Again it was the same goal margin by which the clubs were seperated from their opponents, West Ham losing 2-3 and Rapid 1-2.

Now since this cruel 94th minute equalisers by mid February, West Ham and Rapid have been waiting for a win for five weeks now. Rapid and West Ham have dropped back in the table to 6th and 11th respectively. Especially Rapid, still the record champions of Austria but their last title dating back to 2008, are very disappointed with this first season in their new Allianz Stadion aka Weststadion. And also West Ham should do bettter aiming for eighth (as we were told by David Gold lately). Rapid are still hoping to qualify for Europe though now this seems almost impossible via the league. Nevertheless Rapid is still playing in the Austrian cup, but their last win of this competition is ages away.

Will the “parallel campaign” continue next weekend, and to what end? West Ham will host Leicester in the London Stadium on Saturday 3 p.m. and Rapid is also playing at home at the same time against Mattersburg. Both opponents were already close to or in a relegation spot this season, but both of them have had a revival within the last weeks with new managers. And Mattersburg also has a new key player, veteran striker Stefan Maierhofer aka „The Major“ who played for Bayern, Rapid, Wolves, Bristol FC and Millwall in former years. He suffered a break of his cheek bone two weeks ago but has promised to come back against Rapid and play against his former club with a protective mask on his face. (Back in 2008 he also played with such a device and helped Rapid win their last Austrian Championship!)

Now West Ham and Rapid cannot hide behind a mask next weekend but have to come out and start some kind of revival themselves to make us happy again after five weeks without a win. „The natural state of the football fan is disappointment“, Nick Hornby says in his novel Fever Pitch, adding: „No matter what the score“. But if the score was in our favour on Saturday afternoon it would really help to improve our mood, that’s for sure!

Still a lot to play for

Robert Musil’s novel “Mann ohne Eigenschaften” has remained unfinished though it contains of more than 1000 pages, and also this season is far from being finished. There is still a lot to play for in the coming weeks. Relegation or winning the title are not up for dicussion, therefore playing well, scoring goals, making the supporters happy, climbing up the table, and ending the season on a positive note are what we are expecting from our clubs. This would really be a “parallel campaign” I’d like to see!

Then, later in the year, the transfer window in the summer must be used much better this time than it was last year. Another thing that went wrong with both our clubs last time! Well, and like every year there will be hope for the next campaign in London and in Vienna – to have a team with the quality and capability of playing the way we’d like to watch in our new grounds! Then the positive magic of a “parallel campaign” with two “teams of quality”, and not “Männer ohne Eigenschaften”, will unfold again in autumn 2017 …

West Ham in a nutshell

There’s never a dull moment with West Ham, as the old adage goes. And last week was “West Ham in a nutshell”, a lot of downs made us desperate, sad and angry at the same time, but at last the Hammers came back in style with their highest victory in the London Stadium so far.

Having moved up the table in December with three consecutive wins against Burnley, Hull and Swansea, in the next three games West Ham did not score a single goal,  lost 0-1 at Leicester and 0-2 at home to Manchester United, and in the end got humiliated in the London Stadium by Manchester City: the Hammers were eliminated from the FA Cup in the 3rd round with a 0-5 defeat. And to make things worse, our star player Dimitri Payet went on strike and declared that he wanted away (to his former Club Marseille) and would never kick a ball anymore for West Ham. But it wouldn’t be good old West Ham, if the Hammers hadn’t surprised us in the face of adversity.

And what a victory that was against Crystal Palace in a crucial London derby, what an atmosphere and what a strike by the Big Man against Big Sam’s Eagles who were sent back to South London with a 0-3!

Andy Carroll scored the goal of the season with a magic scissor kick that made forget Payet’s earlier wonder goal with that solo effort against Middlesbrough back in October.

Sofiane Feghouli tapped in his first Premier League goal to make it 1-0, and Manuel Lanzini sealed the win with a fine chip making it 3-0. And the Argentine jumped into the crowd after having scored his goal, as his compatriot Carlos Tevez had done when he had converted a freekick in an other London derby back in 2007 – scoring his first West Ham goal against Tottenham.

What a week

The last week really was West Ham in a nutshell: having been trashed by Manchester City in the FA Cup, rattled by Payet’s infamous behaviour, being on the verge of total despair because of losing the best player before a crucial match that could make us slip down the table again, and still the fans did not really feel at home in the London Stadium being more or less quiet in the first half against Crystal Palace … But then manager Slaven Bilic made a clever substitution after a fairly poor first half, everyone pulled together, the crowd responded when the players showed character and determination, and then the time of Michail Antonio had come:

The winger, who much too often has to play as a defender , had been forced to miss the build-up through illness, but played a decisive part with three crucial assists during the game, the first one of them coming in the 67th Minute. Antonio got in behind a Palace defender and took the ball around Palace keeper Wayne Hennessey. His cross towards goal found Feghouli who was in the right place to knock the loose ball into an empty net.

Carroll secured all three points for the home side in spectacular fashion on 79 minutes. Antonio’s left-footed cross fell perfectly for the Hammers forward and he produced a great piece of skill to fire the perfect scissor kick past Hennessey into the roof of the net.

And then Antonio turned provider once again on 85 minutes as he played the perfect through ball into the path of Lanzini who showed all his class to deliver the perfect chip over the Palace keeper as the Hammers celebrated their highest victory in the London Stadium so far.

Overcoming adversity

From utter despair to highest joy, from 0-5 in the last game eight days before to a convincing 3-0 without the man whose name I don’t want to mention again here! A brilliant comeback that was topped with a wonder goal, three assists from that man Michail Antonio and a jump into the crowd that showed how tense the last week had been and how relieved and happy the players were now! And the fans really felt “United United” in their still unfamiliar new home, everyone pulled together in a time of adversity to overcome this situation and showed spirit and determination!

Well, next weekend could see  us move up into the top half of the table if the Irons get three or at least one point from their away game at Middlesbrough. But for today I am happy with West Ham sitting in 12th, nine points away from the relegation zone.

West Ham v Crystal Palace 3-0 (0-0), London Stadium, 14 January 2017

Goals: Sofiane Feghouli 68′,  Andy Carroll 79′,  Manuel Lanzini 86′

West Ham: Randolph; Reid, Collins, Ogbonna (Byram 46), Cresswell; Feghouli, Obiang, Noble, Antonio (Fletcher 89), Lanzini (Fernandes 87); Carroll

Subs not used: Adrian, Calleri, Oxford, Quina

Read a full match report at http://www.whufc.com/fixtures/first-team/fixtures-and-results/season-20162017/west-ham-united-vs-crystal-palace-0#8RtcUIYIi6AZ4fvC.99

West Ham till I Die Columns:
https://www.westhamtillidie.com/posts/2017/01/17/good-defeats-evil
https://www.westhamtillidie.com/posts/2017/01/16/brave-bilic-the-key-to-better-days-ahead

West Ham Till I Die:

We all follow the West Ham, over land and sea, to the Olympic Stadium on the River Lea

By rapidhammer     23 Dec 2016 at 08:00     147 comments

It was not only Hamburg Hammer who was in London that last weekend before Christmas. I visited the British capital too and made WEST HAM v HULL my first game in the London Stadium! I was lucky to get two tickets in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand Lower through West Ham’s ticket ballot and two other tickets with a little help from my friends. Travelling together with Mrs. Rapidhammer, my son and my future daughter-in-law it wasn’t a “football only weekend”, though I will focus on my experience regarding the London Stadium.

Well, my feelings after the first visit to the former Olympic Stadium are not euphoric, but all in all quite positive – maybe first of all because of the result, a very important though undeserved 1-0 win due to a Mark Noble penalty and much help from the “man of the match” called “the post”. Having been hit three times in this very game I think the match will be remembered for that post only … . but for me this match will always be something special, my first afternoon at the Olympic Stadium. But now one by one:

Jellied eals, a good omen?

Staying in a Shoreditch flat over the weekend we travelled to the stadium from there by bus and walked to the ground for 15 mins, reaching it near the away end, a little left to the main concours. We were late because Mrs. Rapidhammer had to get to Oxford Street in the morning, and we couldn’t get back to the flat as fast as we had thought due to the “bloody traffic” in “bloody London” (as the cab driver said). Then we had lunch at Poppie’s Fish and Chips in Brick Lane and I decided to order the first jellied eels of my life, thinking that eating this typical East end food could be a good omen for a win of our Eastenders in claret and blue.

I have to confess that it took me some time to put away this unfamiliar starter, and then the main dish also wanted to be eaten. Well, it was a nervy bus ride then with repeated phone calls telling our friend with the tickets that we would arrive at the ground very soon.

A long way there

Arriving at Parnell Road, a bus stop I suppose only a few of you will know, we had to make our way by foot crossing the A 12 motorway and a small river, walking on a flood protection embankment – a lonely though not idyllic area which hardly can be compared to pre-match Green Street with its pubs, cafes, food stalls and matchday programme sellers, and the buzz and excitement which could be felt there on match days.

But when we reached the main concourse in front of the big screen, the feeling and the excitement was there at last, with the crowd queuing up at the gates and the fans getting nervous and shoving each other a little, as “Bubbles” was already played inside the Stadium, and we feared to miss West Ham’s first strike let alone an early goal.

Then, having got into the stadium we had to cross the third bridge of the afternoon spanning the gap between the former lower tier of the Olympic Stadium and the new retractable seating which covers the running track.

Behind the goal

We sat behind the goal, with some distance to the part of the stand occupied by the away fans. Of course we were not as close to the goal and the corner flag as in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand Lower of old, but the sight line was good. As far as I remember my last visit to the Emirates, the distance from the seats to the goal line at Arsenal’s ground was identical to the space behind the goal at the London Stadium. What I couldn’t get used to during the whole game was the big screen behind the opposite goal tempting me to watch on the screen what happened on the pitch when the “real play” took place in more distant areas like the opposite box.

As regards the atmosphere during the match, you can’t call the support from the stands extraordinary or overwhelming in this game, but taking into consideration the fairly poor performance of West Ham’s team this afternoon, the crowd cannot be blamed. The supporters did get behind the team, there was some banter with the away fans, and the atmosphere wasn’t very different from the average game at the Boleyn. And to mention that too, there were no signs of any crowd troubles.

To see the really big crowds in the two main stands was amazing, and I think it can make us proud that so many people follow West Ham, that the club had no problem to fill a stadium that has a capacity of more than 60% plus, still having thousands and thousands on the ST waiting list.
We all follow the West Ham, over land and sea,
and also to the Olympic Stadium, on the River Lea!

Having missed “Bubbles” before kick-off, I was very happy that Mark Noble who reliably as always converted a soft penalty and “the post”, our man of the match that was hit three times in one game, secured the playing of our hymn also after the final whistle. Or was it me having eaten jellied eels who made this win happen?

Well, to be honest, I hope not to be obliged to include eels in my match day routine from now on.

In the club store

In high spirits because of the result, not the performance, we walked out of the stadium to the strains of “Twist and Shout” and tried the new club store. It is big enough and well organised to avoid long queues and being overcrowded too much after the game. Yet I was less impressed with the place into which the John Lyall Gates have been moved from Upton Park, but I think they are better visible when the store is not as full as it is after games.

A long way back

What I didn’t fancy at all was the long way to Stratford after the game, a walk even more uninspired than the way to the stadium from Parnell Road bus stop in Bow which we had taken before the match. No one was there to sell food or badges, no pubs or cafés line the road and being locked out from getting into the Westfield Shopping Centre showed that football supporters aren’t really welcomed in this area. Though I can understand that the crowds have to be managed to make their way to Stratford Station, this cold and unhospitable way back from the ground was a real “turn-off”.

But all in all, my feelings after this very first visit to the former Olympic Stadium are positive. The club has done well to seize the opportunity of moving to a bigger ground when it was there, and now we have to make the best of it. Things will get better, we will get more used to the new surroundings and a new match day routine will be developed by those who can go regularly. And for me as a supporter from outside the UK, a trip to London watching West Ham will always be something special.

Of course I still miss Green Street and the old Hammers Social Club where one could have a pint or two after the game, I miss the West Ham Hotel with its view over the pitch, I miss the short walk to the World Cup sculpture before the game (of which I hope that it will remain at the junction of Barking Road and Green Street near the former Boleyn Ground), and I also miss the small Catholic Church of Our Lady of Compassion near the towering Stadium…

Seeing the positives

But come on you Irons, let’s see the positives! We can grow as a Club, as had our stadium, and when not only the results but also the team’s performances will start to improve, we will share more and more memories of great games at the OS – and the London Stadium will feel home after some time.

I for my part am looking forward to my next experience at the new home of the mighty Hammers – sometimes next year hopefully when we come back for another weekend to “bloody London” (as not only the cab drivers call it when they are stuck in the traffic jam …). Thank you to Paul from the new WHU Indepent Supporters Association for helping us out with the tickets, I very much hope to meet up again, and also to have time to see some of you guys from “West Ham Till I Die” next time!

Come on you Irons, have a wonderful Christmas everybody, and let’s hope Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve let us move further up the table – to midfield security!