A cup final ahead

In football one thing is for sure: you never can take anything for granted. The Champions League and Europa League ties last week again proved very well that even the highest favoured teams, leading by a comfortable margin from the first leg, may struggle or be eliminated against all odds. And as West Ham fans we know only too well that even lesser opposition never should be taken lightly, especially in cup games. And the game under the floodlights on Monday at the London Stadium is a cup final.

Well, West Ham’s engagement in the domestic cups didn’t really set the world alight these season, and the Hammers have no more cup ties to play at this stage of the proceedings. And they haven’t won a real cup final since 1980. But now we virtually have a cup final – or at least a semifinal – on Monday night! If the Irons manage to win the crucial game against second from bottom Stoke City, their unwanted flirt with relegation will be more or less over and our season is saved.

The other results this weekend could have gone a little better so far from West Ham’s perspective (if Crystal Palace and Huddersfield had dropped points and Swansea had lost, there would still be a gap of 2 or 3 points between these teams and West Ham before the Stoke game). But with third from bottom Southampton losing 2-3 at home to Chelsea (squandering a two goal lead) the gap of 6 points between the Hammers and the relegation zone is still there before the game against Stoke. Alas, in case of winning on Monday night West Ham will be 9 points away from the drop zone with only 5 games to play until the end of the season! And with playing at home against a team that has managed only one win in 15 games since Christmas and has the worst defensive record of the league, this win should be all but ensured.

But as we said before, in football never anything can be taken for granted, and West Ham have already lost games with similar prospects and expected outcomes this season (just think of losing to Newcastle, Swansea, and Burnley – or drawing with Crystal Palace at home). And we also should be aware that West Ham haven’t managed any back to back Premier League home wins since December 2016, and have not won twice in one season over Stoke City since the Potters’ first PL campaign in 2008/09.

But the last two games can make us quite optimistic with Marko Arnautovic still in top form, benefiting from Arthur Masuaku’s return from suspension and thriving in his role as a central striker which David Moyes has handed to the Austrian international. Arnie has completely lost his odeur of instability and sloppiness, of waisting chances and disappearing for large parts of games. Asked on my thoughts about him when he came to West Ham last summer I praised him as Austria’s recently most talented player, but I added that I had been happy that I was made angry by him only some times a season (when I watched him in the Austrian national team), and now I was going to be disappointed or annoyed by him every weekend… He seemed to prove me right right from the beginning of his West Ham career, but since David Moyes has come in as the new gaffer and lined up the record signing as West Ham’s central striker, Arnie has supplied nine goals and five assists from 14 starts. Statistics say that since gameweek 16, only three players have fired more shots on target: Harry Kane with 36, Mohamed Salah with 28, and Sergio Aguero with 25. And since the Austrian’s return from injury in gameweek 27, no player can better Arnautovic’s 12 shots on target. He has been directly involved in 13 PL goals this season, with nine goals and four assists.

That playing him in the central and only striker role has proven so successful doesn’t make it easy for the manager to include Chicharito in the starting eleven. „Little pea“ is a born goal scorer with an impressive record of scoring from inside the box and his inclusion in the starting eleven is requested by a lot of fans and, I think, also expected by himself. He has already got 8 goals this season though he has been played out of position under Slaven Bilic, been injured and often only has come from the bench. It will be very interesting to see if David Moyes will find a system in which West Ham‘s top goal scorers can work together in the last 6 games of the season…

David Moyes’s team selection against Chelsea last Sunday (my third live game in London this season by the way) has been spot on, and bringing Hernandez in the second half has proved highly successful. I was very sceptical about the appointment of Moyes back in November, but, as was said in a previous post here, „he has brought improvement to a number of players, steadied the ship, improved morale and also given a few opportunities to youngsters which we have all been asking for“.

If he could do at West Haw what he achieved at Everton from 2002-2013 (8 top seven finishes in his eleven seasons) that would be the „next step“ that West Ham realistically can make. Promising us more, even Champions League football, was a highly unrealistic vision that has not gone well with the problems West Ham’s supporters faced with the loss of Upton Park, the transition to the new stadium which has not emerged as a proper football ground so far and the underachievement in the transfer market with a lack of clever and sufficient investment. Karren Brady, Sullivan and Gold have underachieved (to put it mildly) in the first two seasons in the London Stadium. This summer, after having secured Premier League football, will be crucial for the direction in which West Ham is heading.

Now let’s hope for our first back to back wins at the new ground after almost one and a half year!

Monday night is a cup final for West Ham. Though West Ham haven’t won a real cup final since 1980, the Hammers have won a final back in 2012 when they beat Blackpool in the play offs at Wembley to secure their comeback to the Premier League. Monday’s game is of similiar significance, I would not only call it a “six pointer” but a nine or ten pointer: a win will move the Irons 10 points away from the Potters and 9 points away from the drop zone. One more win is all but important and could make us virtually sure that the fear of relegation is over! And with the confindence the win over Southampton and the draw at Stamford Bridge have brought the squad looks capable of seizing this opportunity to make a giant step towards safety.

This massive game must be won. But you know in football and especially with West Ham nothing can be taken for granted.

Come on you Irons!

No Salvation yet, but a Boost of Confidence

Easter Saturdays with West Ham involved in a relegation battle are something special. I particularly remember a Holy Saturday eleven years ago, when West Ham played Arsenal on April 7th, 2007. Mark Noble played in midfield and Carlos Tevez and Bobby Zamora led the line. West Ham were the first team to beat Arsenal in their new ground, winning this game 1-0 by virtue of Bobby Zamora’s goal.

I’m sure everybody remembers this game being part of West Ham’s „Great Escape“ which they managed that season. Well, this season a “great escape” will not be needed to avoid relegation, though West Ham’s season has been quite rich on disasters so far and everybody will be happy to put this one behind us. But the victory this Holy Saturday, beating the Saints 3-0, can make us more than confident that West Ham will also escape the drop this season. With six games left, now being five points away from the relegation zone after having won a real „six pointer“ against Southampton, the Hammers are really not far away from safety, but of course not saved yet.

A difficult fixture list

And West Ham aren’t going to have an easy run-in. Within the last part of the season they will have to cross swords with last season’s champions Chelsea, this season’s champions in the making Manchester City, runners up Manchester United and Arsenal. But with Stoke at home in a fortnight and Leicester (A) and Everton (H) in their last two games, there are plenty of opportunities to collect the final points needed to avoid being dragged into or nearer the relegation zone again.

It really was a fine first half performance on Saturday, the Irons played with determination and urgency against a Southampton side which couldn’t muster a single shot on Joe Hart’s goal before the break. Now why not let “Bubbles” fly high again and start dreaming of getting something from next Sunday’s London derby at Stamford Bridge? Chelsea have just been beaten by Tottenham at home this weekend and the top four now seem fairly out of reach for the Blues, having won only 3 out of 10 league games so far in 2018.

„We have to try until the end to catch the teams in the Champions League places,“ Chelsea boss Antonio Conte said after their defeat against Spurs, but with already having fallen eight points behind the fourth spot this isn’t an easy challenge. Maybe West Ham will be able to capitalise twice from Chelsea’s inconsistency this season, having already beaten them back in December when Marko Arnautovic scored his first league goal for the Hammers in a famous 1-0 win at the London Stadium! With the confidence Marko has achieved in recent weeks, scoring for Austria’s national team (below) and West Ham in his last three games and having got 9 goals and three assists for the Hammers so far, now everything seems possible for our number seven. And it already is beyond doubt for me that the Austrian international has to be this season’s „Hammer of the Year“!

A determined performance and a truce – will it last until the end of the season?

Having won the crucial game against Southampton and playing a London derby next Sunday will surely help to keep West Ham’s truce between their fans and the much criticised Board which seemed to be in force in the London Stadium on Saturday. The fans were behind the team from the first minute in this really important, season-defining match, and the supporters could not have asked for a better response from the players. The mavericks in the team really rose to the occasion, not only with Marko finding the net twice but also João Mário playing his best game since his arrival in January with scoring the priceless first goal of a happy afternoon for the Hammers!

West Ham‘s energetic pressing payed early dividends with two goals in the 13th and 17th minute, resulting from stealing possession from tedious attacking moves of their opponents, followed by quick runs by the really very well playing Cheikhou Kouyaté and an also impressing Edmilson Fernandes as well as another player coming back from a six game ban, Arthur Musuaku.

Arnie at his cocky best, my favourite for “Hammer of the Year”

Marko Arnautovic denied having a personal feud with Mark Hughes, his former manager at Stoke City whose first league game in charge of Southampton went terribly wrong for him on Saturday. But it is a matter of fact that Arnie again was “at it his cocky best against his old manager” (as Jacob Steinberg put it in his match report in The Guardian, or could we already say “at his Cockney best” as Arnie really seems to love playing in the East end of London), inspiring the Hammers to another 3-0 win as he had done back in December beating his old club Stoke 3-0. Arnie had celebrated his goal against Stoke with his arms showing West Ham’s crossed hammers in front of Stoke‘s supporters who had abused and booed him throughout that game. And also this time having scored his first goal, West Ham’s 2-0, he crossed his arms and cast a thriumphal glance to his old manager.

The very important third goal was Arnie’s second one shortly before the break in added time – a spectacular volley from a deep cross from Arthur Masuaku. Now Arnie just showed his tongue as he likes to do sometimes and did not spend a view on his old manager anymore.

The second half could have ended with another spectacular goal, but Cresswell’s volley hit the bar and the day passed off peacefully in the end. Well, this win on the Saturday before Easter was not the final salvation for West Ham, but a big step forward to securing Premier League football in the London Stadium!

Blowing bubbles at Stamford Bridge?

We will be back to London this week and hopefully I will make the Chelsea game on Sunday. Still have no tickets though!

Having witnessed my fellow Austrian Marko Arnautovic’s first West Ham goal against the same opponents back in December I am hoping to be able to watch some other exploits of Arnie and the boys in claret and blue in the reverse fixture. Well, I’m not expecting an unlikely „double“ against the Blues, but West Ham could be capable of getting away from Stamford Bridge with a precious point. Especially after having kept a clean sheet in their last game and young Declan Rice really being a revelation against Southampton, West Ham’s defensive unit can breed new confidence. And as the Hammers still have the second worst defensive record of all teams in the Premier League this season, it’s really time to put things right at this side of the pitch!

See you on Sunday. Come on you Irons!

Arnie from Austria: A West Ham Legend In The Making?

I have been to London twice this autumn and Christmas time. Fortunately I was able to watch West Ham on both occasions and to some extent I witnessed history: I was present at Slaven Bilic’s last game in charge back in November, and I watched my fellow Austrian Marko Arnautovic’s first goal for the Hammers. Having initially thought of writing a post comparing these two games, entitled “A completely different story”, I now have left it too late to write a column with this header: West Ham weren’t able to pull clear of the drop zone and still find themselves in the relegation mire on New Year’s Eve.

Having watched the abject and dismal performance against Liverpool on my first visit this autumn, when the Irons were completely unable to string some passes together and trouble a Liverpool side which was far from its best, I couldn’t expect a win over last season’s champions on my next visit to the London Stadium. But the narrow loss a week ago to the one team that is playing a perfect season so far, Manchester City, had let us raise some hope, despite the results under new manager David Moyes had not been in West Ham’s favour so far, and the Irons still were chasing their first win under the new gaffer.

Also the player I am particularly interested this season, fellow Austrian Marko Arnautovic, had not lived up to the expectations before the Chelsea game. He is the best player in Austria’s current national team and on his day he can be brilliant, but far too often he has lacked commitment and his work rate on the pitch was poor. When I was asked what I thought about Arnautovic’s move from Stoke to West Ham in the summer, I used to reply: “Well, so far Marko has made me angry just some times a year – when I watched him play for Austria – but from now on I will be angered by him every weekend.”

And that exactly happened from the beginning of this season with Marko struggling under Slaven Bilic, being red-carded in his second league game, and unable to find the net or providing an assist in a league game until December. When new manager David Moyes came in, Marko Arnautovic’s name was the first one to be mentioned in the tabloids as a player the Scotsman would like to sell to generate funds for new signings in the January window.

But West Ham’s “number 7” started in three of Moyes’s first four games in charge prior to the Chelsea match. And Marko’s attitude seemed much improved, he responded well to the gaffer’s request to raise his work rate, to track back and defend when West Ham had lost possession, and to play in a more central position than under Bilic who had used him mostly on the wing.

I am not sure if Moyes has really threatened to wield the axe and sell Arnautovic in the January window if his instructions weren’t followed, but he surely must have found the right words for the Austrian. It was the 1-1 against Leicester (though still not the first win under the new manager) when things began to look brighter, and it was not only the loud home crowd that impressed the pundits in that match, but also Marko Arnautovic who made such an impression that he was named “man of the match”. He received a deserved standing ovation when he was replaced by Andre Ayew after 70 minutes.

This step forward was followed by a cruel setback though: West Ham lost 0-4 to Everton, allowing Wayne Rooney to score four goals, and the next three games were to be played against much stronger opposition: Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal. Would my second live game in the London Stadium this season (against Chelsea) be one of four defeats in a row which were on the cards this December? Therefore when planning the trip to London I had scheduled a Christmas concert by candlelight for Saturday evening after the game in order to prevent my family from starting the pre-Christmas holiday on a low.

Albeit, the good news is that the start to our stay in London was quite the opposite! On a bright and cold Saturday we had a smooth journey to London Stansted and the claret seat belts in the plane showed all the right colours on our flight! Having landed perfectly in time we travelled from the airport to West Ham station where we met the wonderful Paul Turner who stored our luggage in the boot of his car and drove to London Stadium with us. We had time enough before the game to buy me a West Ham Christmas scarf which immediately replaced the blue one I had grabbed thoughtlessly early in the morning when we had left home for Vienna airport.

We were on our seats in time to join in to the singing of “Bubbles” and from the beginning of the game it was very clear that this was a West Ham side very different from the poor XI I had watched five weeks ago. David Moyes had instilled a different attitude into the team, there was commitment, good passing, regained confidence and a lot of skill (especially from Masuaku who was a revelation in his new role on the left wing). The crowd responded well to the pleasing procedures on the pitch and the West Ham supporters were of good voice throughout the game, really being “West Ham’s claret and blue army” and outsinging the Chelsea fans by far. I also cheered and sang so much this afternoon that my wife feared I was going to lose my voice and would be unable to sing along to the Christmas carols in the candlelight concert in the evening.

The sunny lunchtime at the London Stadium looked even brighter when just 6 minutes into the game a one-two with Manu Lanzini brought Marko Arnautovic in a good position in the box. Everyone rose to his feet and who wasn’t quick enough to jump up immediately, unfortunately missed the very well placed shot into the left bottom corner that put West Ham ahead. It was a beautifully taken first goal for “Arnie” and his jump into the crowd showed the big relief this goal meant to the Austrian! We were sitting in the same stand in which he was hugged by the crowd, but unfortunately our seats weren’t in the lower tier, so we couldn’t express our delight personally and say “Servus” from face to face. But this fact didn’t detract from our pleasure which grew bigger and bigger throughout the game when West Ham showed resilience and also the necessary composure to hold on and in the end beat last season’s champions 1-0.

With his goal and his celebration with the fans “Arnie” (as he is called now by the West Ham fans) evoked memories of Carlos Tevez who also jumped into the crowd when he had scored his first goal after a long and tough time back in the 2006-07 season. Well, and Marko Arnautovic’s nick name reminds me of someone else – another famous Austrian, the “terminator” Arnold Schwarzenegger, especially as Arnie’s goal helped to terminate a winless streak of 8 league games.

It feels as if the Austrian forward has not stopped scoring since the game against Chelsea! David Moyes was right to praise Arnautovic lately for responding well to his challenge to raise his work rate or face being dropped. Arnie hit the back of the net in the 3-0 win against his former club Stoke and in the annoying 2-3 defeat against Newcastle, and now he has scored his first brace in the dramatic 3-3 against Bournemouth on Boxing Day (a game which West Ham would have won if the ref had not given the Cherries’ controversial equalizer in stoppage time!). Although West Ham is back in the relegation zone on New Year’s Eve: the Cherries have beaten Everton on Saturday moving up from 18th to 13th in the table and the Irons have played one game less due to the postponement of their match against Tottenham.

Let’s hope the new year will bring a bright start with a win over West Brom on the 2nd of January in the London Stadium – maybe with some more exploits of our Arnie from Austria! I am very happy that last summer’s record signing finally has become a real asset of West Ham’s squad. When he continues to play (and score) like he has done since Moyes’s managerial takeover at West Ham he could be a West Ham legend in the making!

After the first game of the year West Ham have to play three games away vs. Spurs, Shrewsbury (FA Cup) and Huddersfield. Though I know that getting results in the Premier League is most important for the club, the weekend in January which is most important to me is the one we play Shrewsbury in the FA Cup: if the Irons win and the draw brings them a home game in the next round, this could be my third West Ham game this season, because we are going to be back in London by the end of January when the 4th round of the FA Cup is played.

So come on you Irons, let this January be a success for claret and blue – on the pitch and with a good transfer window, too! I hope David Moyes will not only have been able to find the right words to instill a new attitude into the squad, but also to find the right players to bolster this squad. Especially in midfield I think the team needs to be strengthened …

But one thing is for sure: West Ham player Marko Arnautovic is not for sale in this window, he’s one to watch on the pitch this January!

Happy New Year everybody! COYI!

This article has been published first at “West Ham Till I Die”: https://www.westhamtillidie.com/posts/2017/12/31/arnie-from-austria-a-west-ham-legend-in-the-making

The turning point

Marko Arnautovic’ erstes Tor für West Ham und David Moyes’ erster Sieg – das war das Match gegen Chelsea im London Stadium am Samstag, 9. Dezember, und wir waren dabei!

Es war eine “completely different story”, verglichen mit dem Spiel der Hammers gegen Liverpool Anfang November. Einen “turning point” hatte ich mir nach der damaligen 1:4-Niederlage gegen die Reds gewünscht – es war Slaven Bilic‘ letztes Match geworden, denn nach der enttäuschenden Vorstellung in dem sich nach den Gegentoren rasch leerenden London Stadium hatte der Kroate resigniert und wurde von David Moyes mit einem Kurzvertrag bis Saisonende ersetzt.

Und endgültig die Kurve zu einem Neustart in dieser bisher so verkorksten Saison gekriegt hat West Ham United mit dem begeisternden Sieg gegen Chelsea FC durch das entscheidende Tor von Marko Arnautovic zum 1:0 !

Arnie, wie man ihn hier im London Stadium nennt, scorte schon in der 6. Minute und sprang dann, wie einst Carlos Tevez nach seinem ersten Goal für die Irons, ins Publikum! Und die Stimmung bis zum Schlusspfiff war brilliant wie auch West Hams Leistung. Man brachte das 1:0 über die Distanz und konnte sich über verdiente 3 Punkte freuen.

Denen folgten dann noch am Mittwoch ein 0:0 gegen Arsenal und am Samstag ein 3:0 gegen Stoke, wieder mit einem Tor von Arnie! West Ham kann also über drei “clean sheets” und 7 Punkte aus den letzten drei Spielen jubeln und ist endlich wieder aus der Relegationszone der Premier League gekommen.

Die nächsten beiden Ligaspiele sind Newcastle (H) und Bournemouth (A). Da sollte man noch weiter die Tabelle hinaufklettern und nach dem Boxing Day zum Jahreswechsel nicht mehr da unten stehen, wo dieses Team definitiv nicht hingehört!

Und beim “turning point”, dem Sieg gegen Chelsea, waren wir dabei!

Come on you Irons!

PS: Am Dienstag, dem 19.12. geht’s vorher noch im Ligacup auswärts gegen Arsenal!

Watford v West Ham: David Moyes’s 1st and 500th game

David Moyes, the new West Ham manager, says it is time to stop dwelling on his past as he prepares for his first game in charge of West Ham against Watford, live on Sky Sports on Sunday. The game will be Moyes’s 500th Gamecast a Premier League manager. And the new manager has got some advice for record signing Marko Arnautovic.

First published partly on the Sky Sports website and The Mirror football news

The Scotsman has had a trio of disappointing managerial experiences since leaving Everton in 2013, which saw him sacked by Manchester United after less than a year in charge before struggling at Real Sociedad and then Sunderland.

And also Marko Arnautovic has underperformed lately and has yet to score a goal or provide an assist since his £24million summer signing from Stoke.

Moyes’ advice for the Austrian: “Be a team player”

David Moyes has told Marko Arnautovic he needs to be a team player to play for West Ham United.

Before his first match in charge of the Hammers at Watford on Sunday, Moyes revealed he has already spoken to Arnautovic and told him he wants more.

“I can’t comment on the earlier games.

can only go on what people have told me and they didn’t think he has come up to the standard he set at Stoke City. I watched him a lot at Stoke.

“I thought he looked like the sort of player you would never be keen to play against, if you’re a right full-back because of his power and strength and what he can do.

“But he also has to be a team player.

“The clips I have seen at times, he has not looked a team player. He would not be the only one I would say that about. The other players also have to do the work for the team if they want to be part of it,” the new manager said.

500th Premier League game for Moyes on Sunday

Moyes was appointed as Slaven Bilic’s replacement at West Ham with the struggling side positioned 18th in the table and the new manager has been tasked with guiding the Hammers to safety. Moyes will be in charge of his 500th Premier League game at Watford on Sunday – a mark achieved previously by only Sir Alex Ferguson, Arsene Wenger and Hary Redknapp.

Much of the discussion around the Scot’s appointment has been centred on his most recent experiences, including being relegated with Sunderland last season, but Moyes says the focus should be on the games ahead.

“I could go back again and I could talk about the old days,” said Moyes. “I could talk about winning Manager of the Year three times in a row. I could talk about getting the biggest job in the world or I could talk about going and being one of the only British managers who’ve ever had a job in Spain.

 ”I could do all that, but I think now it’s time to stop talking like that and start talking about what’s coming next.” Under Bilic, West Ham managed just two wins in the Premier League this season but Moyes refused to blame the Croatian for the slow start and instead is focusing on the reaction of his players.

“I certainly wouldn’t be one who would ever be critical of anybody before, but the players have told me what they think so we’ll give them what they need to get better but they’ve got to be the ones who take a lot of the responsibility for what their actions are now,” Moyes said.

“They’ve already come in, they’ve locked the dressing room and they’ve said ‘we better sort this out among ourselves’. I don’t know any manager who doesn’t want players like that.

“You want players who take responsibility, who dig each other out and who communicate and I’ve seen that here. That gives me a big hope because you need players to take an ownership of what their performances.”

The Liverpool Defeat: Will It Be Another Turning Point?

The Liverpool game was my first “live game” in London this season. Together with three friends we had planned to spend a weekend in London at the beginning of November and watch those boys in claret & blue under the lights on Saturday evening. And maybe, well maybe, we were going to be entertained by our Austrian “hero” Marko Arnautovic. However, as we now know, we witnessed another disappointing game – the last one of manager Slaven Bilic in charge. Have we witnessed a turning point in West Ham’s fortune too?

First published on West Ham Till I Die 

The trip from Vienna couldn’t have started better. British Airways had us sitting almost three hours in the plane on the runway before we were able to take off for London Heathrow. We were told about heavy fog in west London this morning, but I was sure: if it hadn’t been West Ham we would have been there in time …

The weekend was going to start with a concert of blues legend John Mayall on Friday. On Sunday we wanted to join a service at Holy Trinity Brompton. And on the Saturday we thought we were going to be entertained at the London Stadium by West Ham United. Well, John Mayall at Cadogan Hall in west London really was an inspiration. The 84 year old radiated positive mood playing his rhythm’n‘blues and one really could feel the joy he takes from standing on stage in front of his audience and playing together with the musicians in his band.

Upton Gardens

What a contrast to this evening the atmosphere one day later in the London Stadium was! We had been slightly optimistic before the game, thought it would be “so West Ham” to beat the Reds against all odds to kick-start this Premier League season at last. We also tried not to let the sad impressions from the detour we had made on the way to Stratford stand in our way: having decided not to travel directly to the ground from central London, we got to Upton Park to catch a glimpse of the current state of the site that had been the Boleyn Ground. Afterwards we would take the bus 104 from the Boleyn to Stratford.

It was a very strange view when we walked down Green Street from Upton Park station, coming across just a huge heap of excavated earth where the West Stand had towered over the car park only a year ago. There still stands one post painted in claret where in former times the impressive landmark of the John Lyall Gates had been. The narrow Castle Street behind the former Bobby Moore Stand now looks like a wide but deserted avenue, and with Ken’s Café closed and the Boleyn Pub far from overcrowded it almost seemed as if there never had been that theatre where Bubbles were blown and dreams been dreamt to be fulfilled or shattered with the final whistle …

Nevertheless the Catholic Church of Our Lady of Compassion, the numerous barbershops and Queen’s Market are still there, and the World Cup sculpture is in its place at the junction of Barking Road and Green Street – where in my opinion it should remain, in commemoration of West Ham United’s history at the Boleyn Ground, and not be moved to Stratford. The Champions Place in front of the London Stadium deserves to get a new statue, as new Wembley has got a Bobby Moore sculpture of its own.

Stratford

Well, at Stratford there was no church but a group of singers seeking to evangelize by performing songs in the street. And we couldn’t have a pint in an overcrowded pub like the Boleyn or the Queens where you can hardly understand a word talking to your fellow supporters about the upcoming game. Instead of this we got us a treat and a tea in the quiet Caffé Concerto, sitting table to table with Markus Weinzierl, the former Schalke 04 manager. Just some hours later we learned that he had not been the only manager sniffing around West Ham seeking a new job this evening. Then we managed to book a table at Jamie’s Italian for dinner after the game and headed for the ground.

The atmosphere was slightly optimistic, as I said before, and “Bubbles” rang out like always when the players graced the pitch (without Austrian Marko Arnautovic in the starting IX, as expected). Remembrance Day celebrations were impressive and created a festive atmosphere, but from the start of the game West Ham seemed to be very nervous and lacking confidence and the players hardly were able to string some passes together. Compared to John Mayall’s spirit the evening before, West Ham’s attitude seemed quite uninspired and everybody was wary of making mistakes. The Irons’ continual backward passing instead of making quick runs and troubling Liverpool’s defence left us and our fellow supporters at growing unease, and after the Irons’ first good chance had been spoilt, minutes later a West Ham corner resulted in a fast counter attack and Liverpool scored. That felt “so West Ham” in a negative way. Then Liverpool got a corner and scored again, just 3 minutes after their first goal.

The natural state of the football fan …

“The natural state of the football fan is bitter disappointment, no matter what the score,” the famous quote from “Fever Pitch” says. But in modern times it seems that being disappointed much too quickly leads to turn one’s back on the team. When Liverpool had scored, a lad in front of us in motorbike clothes seized his helmet and left his seat with immediate effect. He wasn’t seen on the terraces again.

During the interval we moaned about the “cheap goals” and the drama of two corners, and we wondered if Arnautovic would be given a chance to come on in the second half. But first it was Andy Carroll who Slaven Bilic chose to lead the line together with Chicharito. And things livened up from the start, the crowd got involved a little more, and with Manuel Lanzini’s goal the London Stadium became a noisy place and hope rose from the terraces. But only to get slammed in the face just a minute later with Liverpool’s next cheap goal!

With Liverpool having restored their two goal lead and the score 1-3, Mark Noble came off and Arnautovic got the nod. He showed some good moves immediately and seemed to try to bring West Ham back in the game, but it didn’t take long and he disappeared for the rest of the match. Finally bringing Sakho 20 minutes from time just seemed a last desperate act from the manager whose time was over for sure with this defeat. In the 75th minute Liverpool’s 4-1 rang the final signal for West Ham’s supporters to leave their seats and let poor Slaven and his squad almost walk alone for the rest of the game, much in contrary to Liverpool’s away support celebrating their win by singing a song with this title.

… is bitter disappointment

Usually I say that I like the English kind of support which is much more spontaneous and depending on the events on the pitch than the support from the European “Ultras” (as Rapid Vienna’s “Block West”) whose support is performed throughout the whole game almost no matter what the score. But this time there was almost no spontaneous cheering or singing, the atmosphere in the stadium was quite lifeless most of the time and it seemed the fans had come to the conclusion that this team was not worth being cheered on with “We’re West Ham’s claret and blue army”. They could have needed some permanent ultra-like support, but instead of this the white spots on the terraces got bigger and bigger with the supporters heading for the exits.

My thoughts went back to the old Boleyn Ground: there have been dire games and pathetic performances which I have witnessed at Upton Park too, but I hardly remember such a melancholic and sad atmosphere after a West Ham loss at Upton Park. With the current state of the site in mind which was West Ham’s former ground and the empty seats of the current stadium, this trip to London was quite a depressing one as far as football was concerned.

A positive coincidence?

But as always I’m trying to take some positives from my memories and I told my friends at Jamie Oliver’s afterwards that I remember having witnessed another 1-4 defeat more than a decade ago which proved to be a turning point and the beginning of a very successful time for my home town club Rapid Vienna. I had been on the terraces together with my son that game, having taken him to his first game at our home ground. Rapid Vienna lost 1-4, and this also became the last game at home before their manager was sacked.

When I looked up that result on the internet it was quite baffling that the name of Bilic appeared alongside the score. Well, of course it wasn’t Slaven playing for Rapid but his fellow Croatian Mate Bilic, but the departure of the then manager shortly after this defeat lead to the appointment of Rapid’s most successful coach within the last decade. With Peter Pacult at the helm Rapid Vienna was able to win the Austrian Bundesliga and to qualify several times for the Europa League, twice eliminating Aston Villa in the process.

Therefore I think that this 1-4 will also be a turning point for West Ham, as it was for Rapid Vienna 11 years ago. Though David Moyes wouldn’t have been my choice as West Ham’s new manager things can only get better now, and when I will be back to London in four weeks time for the Chelsea game I will watch a different team, that’s for sure, I think!

Hopefully a team showing the commitment and spirit that makes them worth to be cheered on again by the brilliant support I know from former games! Let’s hope the new manager (and the future results) are going to instill some confidence and the players find a new way of playing together in a positive way instead of nervously passing backward again and again.

Turning point

Going back to the example of John Mayall, whose inspiring concert we enjoyed so much more this weekend than the poor performance the trip had been planned around: Let’s hope there will be a radiation of positive mood around the London Stadium instead of the negativity that has been produced from the beginning of this season. Mayall’s first gold album in 1969 was called “The Turning Point”. Let’s hope the 1-4 against Liverpool will also have been a turning point with respect to West Ham – something this season is in desperate need of.

There is a German proverb which says, “Hope is the last to die.” This proverb goes with the “West Ham way”, always blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air. See you in December, reaching for the sky!

Come on you Irons!

West Ham Supporters Club refuses to ‘fade and die’

The closure of their Castle Street Headquarters was a huge blow to famous Supporters Club, but a new match day facility has been opened at Stour Space

PUBLISHED in Newham Recorder, 11 October 2017, by Dave Evans, West Ham Correspondent
Paul Christmas outside the West Ham Supporters Club

< Paul Christmas outside the West Ham Supporters Club close to the former Boleyn Ground

West Ham Supporters Club are using the Stour Space site on matchdays
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times for the West Ham United Supporters Club as on the same day they opened their new matchday facility, they were forced to close their much-loved social club in Upton Park.

The new committee, headed by Hammers fan Paul Christmas, called time on the club for the time being after health and safety problems within their Castle Street headquarters.

“On the day of the Swansea game, we opened our new facility at Stour Space in Hackney Wick and had a great day, and then we came back to the club and had to shut it at midnight,” reflected Christmas on an emotional day.

Things seemed to be working out for the beleaguered club after they found the matchday location they were looking for, while entertainment was booked for the social club to swell the coffers.

The view from Stour Space to the London Stadium
They rented out the Stour Space and it proved to be a great success.

“We had grown men crying when they arrived which was quite moving,” said Christmas.

“There are a lot of displaced fans over there still looking for a base before games. They are like nomads wandering over there.

“That was very obvious at Stour Space as soon as they walked in they said it was like home again.

Some of the West Ham fans at Stour Space on matchday against Swansea City
Stour Space is a special warehouse for artists, with the bottom floor having a cafe, while there is a bar and a pontoon outside. It is close to the Forman’s restaurant.

“The ground is literally across the river and there is a bridge nearby and for people who can’t walk very well it is a bit easier, and what is more you can see the ground from where we are,” continued Christmas.

“We are the closest and the cheapest venue in the area. People were coming up to us and saying it was so nice to see a friendly face and ask what can we do. It was like a family reunion.”

So there is the good news, but at the same time, things have not gone well back at their spiritual home in Upton Park.

Membership secretary Paul Walker takes up the story.

“We came in here and we thought that some of the stuff didn’t look very safe, so we agreed to have a health and safety expert come in,” he said.

“I think we underestimated the problems. The maintenance was not up to date, so the insurance certificate was totally invalid.

“We opened the boiler cupboard and there were a load of fag butts in there. Then we found out that the flue was not connected to the boiler so it is seeping carbon monoxide and there are asbestos panels in there and someone has been smoking.

“The boiler is condemned, the fire doors are not compliant. I remember Grenfell and we didn’t want it to happen here, so as a committee we unanimously decided to close,” said Walker.

“We had 500 or 600 people here on match days, but the fire precautions were not connected, so what might have happened doesn’t bear thinking about.”

So how much is it likely to cost to get the club open again?

“We reckon we need a couple of hundred thousand to get things right,” said Christmas. “You have to think about bringing things up to date. We are not in it for the glory or for personal gain, we just want to save this club.”

If the club was to close for good, West Ham would be the only league club without a supporters association.

“The question most people have asked us when we were looking for a venue close to the new stadium, was ‘Aren’t West Ham helping you?’ said Christmas.

“We want to know what their position would be and whether they can help us, but we didn’t want to go to them cap in hand, we are doing our own thing.”

They will do their own thing again for the Friday night clash with Brighton and Walker, who signed up 200 new members at the last game, is expecting big things.

“We will be open from 4pm and we are probably going to be banged out so we will either be turning people away or adopting a one-out, one-in policy.”

That is all well and good, but it is the social club headquarters, which still houses the 70-year-old Hammer of the Year trophy which is the biggest worry.

So is it worth keeping open? Christmas certainly thinks it is.

“Remember there are 850 flats going up just outside and we want to be an asset for the local community as well as West Ham United supporters,” he said.

“We are refusing to fade and die and we have to give it our best shot. I think there are West Ham fans out there who want to help save us.”

The Supporters’ Club have set up a GoFundMe page which you can find a link to by going to their website at https://whufcsc.com/save-our-club.

Relief

Pedro Obiang’s heavily deflected goal was the moment of luck West Ham and their manager needed to set them on the way to their first points of the Premier League season as Huddersfield suffered their first defeat. It was a well deserved win on Slaven Bilic’ 49th birthday!

The Hammers with Andy Carroll back in the team after a lengthy spell on the sidelines, and without Mark Noble who did not even make the bench, started with determination and clearly dominated the first half in the London rain.

Chicharito hit the bar in the first half, but was subbed in the second half not making much of an impact in this game. This might have been Slaven Bilic’ fault though, who played the striker wide on the left in a 3-4-3 formation where the Mexican seemed to be less effective than in his last games. In contrary, winger Michail Antonio had a man of the match performance with his powerful runs and physical presence, and also Andy Carroll showed what his involvement means for the team.

The breakthrough came in the 72nd minute when Obiang‘s 25-yard strike hit Mathias Jorgensen‘s back and looped over keeper Jonas Lössl. This was the first goal that Huddersfield have conceded in their first season in the top flight.

And the second came five minutes later when substitute Andre Ayew – whose introduction for Hernandez was booed by West Ham’s fans – turned the ball home from three yards out. In the end Hernandez’ substitution turned to be a match-winning move as Ayew had set up Obiang’s goal and then poked home after Fonte‘s shot from Aaron Cresswell‘s corner was blocked. West Ham’s corners and set pieces though never caused real threat for Huddersfield, that’s really an issue which has to be adressed in training!

Monday’s result means a big relief for everyone at West Ham. Still the Hammers are only third from bottom in the table, but having won their first points of the season in their fourth game now, the season will get better, that’s for sure! Especially that West Ham won this game at home is very important for their supporter’s mood and for the atmosphere around the LS in the games to come.

“This stadium is becoming really a proper home for us”, Slaven Bilic said in his interview after the game: http://www.bbc.com/sport/football/41144159

Happy birthday, Slaven!

Come on you Irons !!!

Still disappointing … but does the season start now?

Die neue Fußballsaison hat alles andere als optimal begonnen für die Anhänger von West Ham und Rapid Wien: drei Auswärtsniederlagen für die Hammers, verschenkte 2:0-Führungen bei Rapid. Dazu gibt’s noch die Nationalteam-Depression für den österreichischen Fan, denn das Nationalteam hat sich mit 0:1 in Wales und 1:1 gegen Georgien von der WM-Qualifikation verabschiedet.

Marko Arnautovic (links), noch einer der besten im österreichischen Team, kann an diesem Montag, wenn West Ham gegen Aufsteiger Huddersfield zum ersten Heimspiel in dieser Spielzeit antritt, aber nicht mithelfen, dass es einen Neustart gibt für die Hammers im London Stadium, das in den ersten drei Runden wegen der Leichtathletik-WM (und der langen Umbauzeit auf den “football mode”) nicht zur Verfügung stand. Am hoffentlich stattfindenden Aufschwung für West Ham kann Österreichs bester Kicker sich derzeit noch nicht beteiligen, denn nach einem dummen Ellbogenst0ß gegen im Spiel gegen Southampton ist er noch ein Spiel gesperrt, kann dann erst nächstes Wochenende auswärts gegen West Brom wieder mitwirken.

Rapid spielt auswärts gegen Salzburg am Sonntag, da müsste schon ein kleines Wunder geschehen, dass man einen Sieg schafft oder zumindest einen Punkt mitnimmt, denn die Salzburger sind seit dem Cupsieg in Klagenfurt trotz Trainerwechsel und dem Abgang von Stützen um nichts schlechter geworden!

Bisher waren die tollsten Augenblicke Rapids zwei Tore im Derby gegen die Austria und West Hams Aufholjagd auf 2:2 gegen die Saints – in beiden Fällen blieb’s aber nicht beim Jubel, denn Austria holte den 2-Tore-Rückstand noch auf und remisierte im Allianz Stadion und West Ham verlor durch einen Elfer in der “injury time” noch 2:3.

“The natural state of a football fan is disappointment”, dieses Hornby-Zitat fällt mir da zwangsläufig wieder ein. Doch “die Hoffnung stirbt zuletzt”, heißt es bekanntlich – und hoffen wird man ja noch dürfen bis Montagabend!

Come on You Irons !!!

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 !!!