West Ham Family Witnessing History

We came over from Austria last weekend and were able to watch an other game in the London Stadium. Well, I love coming to London, and it seems West Ham does appreciate my presence, too, because all of the last three games I was able to attend this season have been wins for the Irons!

This weekend also would have been the right time “to have a word” with my compatriot who doesn’t seem to be so enthusiastic anymore about staying in London as I am. But unfortunately immediately after the game Arnie left for Vienna, whereas we’re going to stay in London until Tuesday!

Witnessing history

Well, it seems the games that I have picked for my visits to the London Stadium since West Ham’s move to Stratford, are frequently going to be remembered for something special: Last season I watched Slaven Bilic’s last game and Marko Arnautovic’s first goal there. This season I’ve already witnessed Felipe Anderson’s first brace for the Hammers in the win over Burnley. And now maybe (I still say “maybe” as I don’t want to take it for sure) I came back for Arnie’s last game in this Stadium.

But forget about that! We’ve all witnessed a really bright and joyous moment in West Ham’s history on Saturday lunch time. This game will not be remembered because of a forward saying good-bye, but will forever have its special place in the history books for a young man’s first Premier League goal which sealed a first win at home over Arsenal since 2006! This game marks a giant step forward for Declan Rice grabbing all the headlines in the Sunday papers with a majestic man of the match performance, just two days before his twentieth birthday. “Rice and shine”! What a bright future lies ahead for this graduate from our Academy.

But it’s also a game that was another big step forward for Manuel Pellegrini’s side which played really self-assured and mature against a team they had not beaten at home for almost 13 years. “We played like a big team in the Arsenal win,” the gaffer said after the 1-0 victory, and he couldn’t be more right.

It’s still old West Ham of course, but it’s not “poor old West Ham” that would have conceded an equaliser in injury time, squandering all the good work of the 90 minutes before. Arsenal actually had the ball in the back of the net in the 94th minute, but that goal was ruled out immediately for an offside so blatant that this fact was hardly mentioned in any of the match reports. And just seconds later the referee blew the whistle, and everybody was all but happy in the London Stadium, which this afternoon had been left early only by the folks occupying the away section that had been fairly quiet throughout the game.

It’s getting better all the time

It was a brilliant match day experience, like the one I had enjoyed on my last visits to the Burnley and the Crystal Palace games this season! In my opinion the match day experience in general is getting better and better now in this third year in the new stadium which of course is helped by the team playing so well – and also by the increasing number of food stalls outside the Stadium.

I usually get to the stadium from Hackney Wick to avoid the overcrowded Stratford not paying so much attention to the food facilities. But with the lunchtime kick-off we came earlier, first strolled through Westfield before the game and arrived at the concourse much in time. That also gave us the opportunity to look for my ”RapidHammer stone” on Champions’ Place in front of entrance “J” for once, but unfortunately I could not find the stone quick enough in the drizzling rain, and we decided to write to the club on this topic, because it seems that the stones haven’t been laid in the way I had been told when I bought mine.

The atmosphere inside the ground was great, and it was getting better and better throughout the game. It was a brilliant performance of our boys. Just the goal was scored too early after halftime as far as we were concerned, because unfortunately we were back to our seats too late, having queued for a drink for much too long.

A family club

Now that the troubles of last season are behind us, I think we can say that the crowd in the London Stadium is feeling more and more at home there, and that the club has retained (or maybe regained after a difficult transition period) its air of a “family club”. The family has grown bigger and moved to a new house to which we get more and more familiar, and it’s great to see that the house gets filled every time by the members of this worldwide family! Having chosen almost the same seats for all of our visits this season, we’re also feeling more and more like citizens coming home. Wouldn’t want to miss the young but very raucous voice just rows beneath us in every game, shouting “Come on you I’ons” when the place has gone too quiet now and then!

There are lots of families, old and young, and supporters from all over the world! Well, I think we long suffering lot really deserve that the team is playing so well now, rewarding this most committed and loyal support for their endurance and following over land and sea, to the Olympic Stadium on the shores of River Lea! A first home win over Arsenal since 2005, and Declan Rice’s first goal – we’ve witnessed history, who could ask for more this Saturday?

Declan’s goal and this fine win was a real gift, because we can take it easy now that my compatriot from Austria seems to cease sharing with me the love for London and the badge with the two crossed hammers, and is willing to replace one of the hammers by a sickle, with his brother and agent having already set sail for the Chinese Sea.

What could have been …

Of course it is sad that Arnautovic seems to have waved his good-bye right now, because this match really showed for the first (and maybe last) time what an offensive trio of Samir Nasri, Felipe Anderson and Arnie would have been capable of. There were some moments in this game when the three players who are gifted with technical ability and great understanding of the game combined so well that my heart jumped with joy!

Unfortunately I fear we will have to accept that these three musketeers will not be as inseparable as d’Artagnan and his friends were in the French writer Alexandre Dumas’s novel.

Having mentioned the phrase “French” now, a word on the possible similarities between Arnie and the unmentionable ex-player we lost two years ago: I don’t think that our Austrian forward will go on strike when negotiations stall and it takes time before the two clubs come to terms. He used to be some kind of an enfant terrible, and behaved like a stupid child in former years, but he has shown signs of having grown much more mature and level-headed in recent years since he’s married and father of two. So he should be professional enough to honour his contract as long as West Ham haven’t reached an agreement which enables them to bring in a fitting replacement (which will not be cheap, that’s for sure!).

Well, I can’t be sure of that of course, but it’s at least what I’m hoping for. But of course I know that “once a Hammer, always a Hammer” unfortunately only applies for the members of the worldwide family of supporters of claret and blue, it does not apply for the players (some of the former ones, and also of the present company excepted of course, Mark and Declan in particular!).

But no matter which players the squad will consist of in February and in the seasons to follow: it’s us, the claret and blue army, who will always remain West Ham through and through!

Come on you Irons

January 15, 2019 at 1:24 am Leave a comment

Nicht einmal 35 Mio Pfund!

“West Ham have been offered 35 million Euros by the unnamed Chinese club for striker Marko Arnautovic – not the £35m widely reported!”

Das ist unakzeptabel für West Ham, keine Chance! Marko muss bleiben, solange nicht das Doppelte geboten wird!

January 11, 2019 at 6:33 am Leave a comment

Hurry up if you want to see Arnie

Am Samstag sind wir wieder in London. Wie gut, dass wir Tickets für das Spiel gegen Arsenal um 12:30 bekommen haben und dass Marko Arnautovic wohl fit sein dürfte, nachdem er im FA Cup beim 2:0 gegen Birmingham nach 20 Minuten vorsichtshalber ausgetauscht worden ist. Es wird ob eines konkreten Angebotes aus China für den österreichischen Stürmer wahrscheinlicher, dass er West Ham verlassen könnte.

Natürlich hoffen die West Ham-Fans, dass die “£35m bid from China” abgelehnt wird, entspricht doch der aktuelle Transferwert von Arnie angesichts der Inflation auf dem Kickermarkt sicherlich eher dem Doppelten dieser Summe!

Aber Arnie’s Bruder Danijel, der den Österreicher managt, wird angesichts der hohen persönlichen Gage, die man in China bietet, sicher versuchen, einen Transfer durchzudrücken. Hoffentlich gibt es nicht dieselbe verfahrene Situation wie bei Dimitri Payet vor zwei Jahren, als sich dieser weigerte zu spielen, um den gewünschten Transfer zurück zu Marseille durchzubringen.

Aber würde Arnie wirklich mit 29 Jahren schon nach China gehen wollen, wo es zwar unanständig viel Geld zu verdienen gibt, man aber von der europäischen Bildfläche verschwindet und keine Europa- oder Champions League gespielt wird und von wo auch Einberufungen in das Nationalteam durchaus fraglich sein könnten? Das “next level”, von dem Familie Arnautovic träumt, ist das sportlich sicher nicht!

Und vielleicht kann auch Marko’s Trainer Mario Pellegrini ihm erzählen, warum er in China offenbar nicht glücklich geworden und wieder nach GB zurückgekehrt ist.

Jedenfalls gut, dass die Tickets für Samstag nun da sind und Arnie in diesem March wohl sicher für West Ham auflaufen wird. Wie oft wir ihn in “claret and blue” noch sehen werden, ist offen in Zeiten wie diesen…

January 10, 2019 at 7:30 am Leave a comment

A “Noble“ Gesture

“The Noble Collection” heißt der Shop in der Londoner Neal Street im “Seven Dials”-Viertel in der Nähe von Covent Garden, in dem man allerlei Zauberstäbe und andere Harry Potter-Utensilien kaufen kann. Aber eine ganz andere “Noble-Collection” wurde zuletzt durch eine noble Geste von West Ham‘s Mark Noble erweitert, was einen jungen Fan aus Schottland überglücklich gemacht hat.

Der West Ham-Skipper, diesmal Ersatzmann beim 2:2 gegen Brighton, wärmte in der 2. Hälfte vor der Tribüne auf. Stevie Whorlow (12) aus Glasgow, der mit seinem Vater das Match im London Stadium besuchte und in einer der untersten Reihen saß, traute sich, Mark Noble mit einem selbst gebastelten Plakat (aus der Verpackung der neuen Mikrowelle) um sein Matchshirt zu bitten. Noble gab ihm das Daumen Hoch-Zeichen, doch nicht im Traum hätte Stevie gedacht, dass sein “hero” Mark Noble tatsächlich nach dem Spiel zu ihm kommen würde.

Doch “Mr. West Ham” tat genau das, nachdem er nach seiner Einwechslung bei 0:2, unter anderem mit einem Pass auf Marko Arnautovic, das Spiel gedreht und entscheidend mitgeholfen hatte, dass die Hammers ohne Niederlage ins neue Jahr starteten: Er lief zur Tribüne, vor der er eine halbe Stunde vorher aufgewärmt hatte, und warf dem Buben das verschwitzte Leiberl mit der Nummer 16 über die Bande!

Das war wohl das größte Weihnachtsgeschenk für Stevie, der erklärte, dass er das Match Shirt nun sicher nicht waschen werde, sondern es einrahmen und seiner Mark Noble-Sammlung hinzufügen wird. Eine wahrhaft noble Geste von Mark Noble!

Link (WHUFC): https://www.whufc.com/news/articles/2019/january/03-january/i-never-one-minute-thought-mark-noble-would-actually-bring-me

January 4, 2019 at 9:06 am Leave a comment

Das neue Jahr bringt einen Star

Selten so viel über West Ham in der österreichischen Presse wie in den letzten Tagen: zuerst wurde Marko Arnautovic zum Spieler des Jahres 2018 in Österreich gewählt, und mit der Verpflichtung des auch hierzulande wohlbekannten Samir Nasri gab es eine weitere Schlagzeile: Das neue Jahr bringt West Ham einen Star, schreibt der KURIER.

Nun ja, ob er tatsächlich eine solche Super-Verpflichtung sein wird, der seit einem Jahr wegen Dopings gesperrt gewesene Franzose, der einst bei Arsenal und Man City spielte, bleibt abzuwarten! Aber „in Pellegrini we trust“. Schließlich war er unter West Ham’s Manager Manuel Pellegrini der Spielmacher der Meistermannschaftbvon Manchester City.

Und nebenbei, die Schlagzeile des KURIER stimmt jedenfalls, denn Stars haben wir ohnehin schon einige bei West Ham, vor allem Österreichs Fußballer des Jahres 2018, Marko Arnautovic, letzten Sommer auch „Hammer of the Year“, also bringt uns das erste Spiel des neuen Jahres am Mittwoch auf alle Fälle den einen oder anderen Star auf dem Rasen des London Stadium – egal, ob Nasri schon involviert ist oder nicht.

Marko Arnautovic hat es sich jedenfalls verdient, heuer zu West Ham‘s erstem österreichischen Fußballer des Jahres gewählt zu werden. Im Interview sagte er auch, er fühle sich sehr wohl bei West Ham, es sei nicht geplant, demnächst dem Klub zu wechseln. Er wolle mit West Ham Titel gewinnen, der FA Cup sei das Ziel!

Zunächst muss Arnie aber erst mal wieder richtig in Form kommen nach seiner Muskelverletzung, aufgrund deren er bei West Ham‘s bestem PL-Monat, dem Dezember, gar nicht mit da wo war. Ich kann es kaum erwarten, ihn und Felipe Anderson wieder zusammen spielen zu sehen, wenn beide fit und nicht müde sind. Am vergangenen Sonntag war das gegen Burnley ja leider noch nicht der Fall.

Vielleicht nun gegen Brighton & Hove Albion am Mittwoch Abend! Come on you Irons!

January 2, 2019 at 9:13 am Leave a comment

Still West Ham’s best December

Instead of securing another win in an already extraordinary December of 2018, West Ham lost 0-2 to Burnley in the last PL game of the year. But this December was still the month in which West Ham have won more points than ever before in Premier League history, coming out as winners in 5 games out of 7, though up to 11 players have been out injured.

Felipe Anderson, who scored in almost every game this month, was not on fire this afternoon, and Marko Arnautovic‘s comeback after his hamstring injury showed that the Austrian will need some time until being back to form.

Burnleys Austrian striker Ashley Barnes, on the contrary, contributed an assist to a vital win after three defeats for the Clarets at Turf Moor.

It was a frustrating afternoon for West Ham. Burnley, having played their last game one day earlier than the Hammers, capitalised of an extra recovery day, and for West Ham’s injury-ravaged squad it was a step too far.

Now West Ham have to bounce back – again – in the next match, a home game against Brighton & Hove Albion. Also the Seagulls will have one more day to recover than West Ham, so it will be a tough game again for the Irons. I’m looking forward to a better performance though, may Arnie and Felipe show what the two of them are capable of when they are playing together!

West Ham have performed so well this December, now let’s see what the new year will bring with its first three games, all of them at home: on the Wednesday against Brighton, then, another three dass later, the FA Cup tie against Birmingham on Saturday, and finally a London derby the next Saturday with Arsenal being the opponents in the London Stadium. I will be there at this game!

Come on you Irons! Happy New Year!

December 30, 2018 at 9:40 pm Leave a comment

The Pellegrini Revolution

If we believe the statistics, West Ham have never won more points in a single month of a season in Premier League history than this December. And that said, there is still one game to play, quite a winnable one against Burnley today! I saw the home game against the Clarets back in November (a 4-2 win), and that team can be beaten away too, and West Ham could add an other three points to their tally. Or will this match end in defeat because bottom teams often start winning again with West Ham being the opponent?

I don’t think so. West Ham have now developed a real winning mentality under Manuel Pellegrini and aren’t easy to beat anymore. Though the recent run of four wins was halted by a 0-2 defeat to the hands of Watford before Christmas, West Ham did exactly what the manager had asked them to do: to make up for the three points lost against the Hornets in their next game, and the squad responded perfectly with the 2-1 win away over Southampton! West Ham‘s attitude was perfect in that match, they played an attacking game as if they were at home for most of the time, and that is just what the gaffer wants: to play the same way at home and away. That‘s the “Pellegrini Revolution”, a transformation of our club whose bubbles have burst much too often in Hammers history.

Back in 2007 when I started to blog about West Ham, I described them as “one of the big clubs in England” in my first post, and rightly so, but it’s a matter of fact that within the last decades West Ham hardly was a force to reckon with in the Premier League or the cup competitions (apart from reaching the FA Cup final in 2006 and the last season at the Boleyn when West Ham qualified for the Europa League in 2016). West Ham fans often see themselves as “long-suffering“, e.g. Robert Banks’s new book (“An Irrational Hatred of Everything: My Continuing Odyssey as a West Ham Fan”), which spans almost the same time as my blogging history, is described as “recounting the life of a a long-suffering Hammers fan”. But I have a strong feeling that the suffering could be over this season and the move to the London Stadium might have paid off at last.

I was able to watch three games this season in the London Stadium so far, the first one the dire 0-1 against Wolves at the beginning of the season, when West Ham lost their first four games in a row. But Pellegrini remained calm then, knowing what he and his team were going to show as soon as the new players would gel and the squad had fully understood the new kind of tactics they were asked to play.

My next match was the home game against the Clarets back in November, a thrilling win with Burnley equalising twice, and Felipe Anderson scoring a brace in this 4-2! Actually it was this game in which Anderson started his fine run of scoring, now having netted almost in every game since.

Then I returned for the 3-2 win over Crystal Palace. Having been on my own in the London Stadium this time I had a WhatsApp conversation during the game with my old friend Alfred back home in Austria, who had not been able to make the trip. He was surprised by my optimism when the Hammers still had to trail 0-1 at half time, and when the Hammers had won he texted me how important it was that the Hammers were separated by 11 points from the relegation zone now. “Bescheidenheit ist eine Zier, aber jetzt wollen wir vier”, I texted back (“modesty is a virtue quite respectable / but now of four wins West Ham are capable“).

And now the old year is going to end on a high note for West Ham and its supporters, as the 0-2 loss to Watford before Christmas has turned out to have been just a minor setback for a team which now has found a real winning mentality. In the difficult match against Southampton, a team on the up with two wins from their last two games under a successful new manager, Ralph Hasenhuttl from Austria, West Ham’s squad responded perfectly to Pellegrini’s demand to make up for the points lost against Watford and win this one. They had a game plan which Hasenhuttl’s Saints could not cope with, making the “Klopp from the Alps“ a more and more unhappy looking figure with a facial expression reminding me of an angry rabbit in his hutch (which is the meaning of his name Hasenhuttl), the longer the game lasted!

West Ham‘s attitude with which the Irons addressed the difficult task of playing the highly motivated Saints at their ground was perfect, the Irons played an offensive tactic for large parts of the game as if it was a home game, and they could already have scored in the first half. Then they responded very well when Southampton took the lead with an odd goal and were in front within 9 minutes after the 0-1. Felipe Anderson could not only have scored two, but a least three goals. Declan Rice was superb, a real midfield general, Michail Antonio’s powerful runs were great, and with Lukas Fabianski in goal we have a keeper that in my opinion will be named in line with the greatest West Ham shoot stoppers in history like e.g. a certain Phil Parkes, one of my all time favourite players. And, most important of all, the whole squad, though deploited by a lot of injuries and long-time absentees, remained strong in the final stages and never let the game slip out of their hands.

A day after this game we learned that Declan Rice has signed a new contract commiting himself to West Ham until 2024 – this is vey good news again! So the year really ends on a high note for us Hammers, almost regardless of a win in the last game.

15 or 18 points won in a single month? We will know on Sunday. But we already can be sure that the “Pellegrini Revolution“ will stay on track anyway! Well, I hope I haven’t got carried away by an overdose of optimism by writing this post, but I’m already looking very much forward to my next visit to the London Stadium in January when West Ham is going to take on Arsenal.

Hopefully Marko Arnautovic will have come back from his injury by then, I can’t wait to see him and Felipe Anderson play together again! That game will be a real test for the new winning mentality of our beloved Hammers.

Come on you Irons!!! And a happy new year everybody!

December 30, 2018 at 9:16 am Leave a comment

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