‘Der Hammer’ and an official manager

The past week has brought only two major news stories for West Ham, but important stories they surely are.  The first signing of the new season was revealed on June 5th as German international Thomas Hitzlsperger.  The midfielder joins the team from SS Lazio, though he is probably more well known for his stints at Aston Villa (2000-2005) and VfB Stuttgart (2005-2010).  He was a regular in the 2006-2007 Stuttgart side that were Bundesliga Champions and captain from 2008-2009.  He has been capped 48 times (35 starts, 13 substitute appearances) for the German senior national team, but just missed making the final 23 man roster for this year’s World Cup.

In a bit of irony, Hitzlsperger was nicknamed “Der Hammer” (in English, ‘The Hammer,’ using impressive German translation skills) during his time at Aston Villa, due to his powerful shot and long-range shooting ability.  Co-owner David Sullivan on the signing:

“I am delighted to welcome Thomas to the club. We had to move quickly to secure his services when he became available, especially as there was understandably so much interest in him from around Europe and back in Germany.  I am especially pleased that he is excited by what we are trying to achieve here at West Ham. Thomas is a top-quality player who I know the fans will love – and not just because of his nickname. He is a whole-hearted midfielder with an eye for a goal who gives everything in every match.  He is the first of many signings this summer. We are going to sign a mixture of exciting young talent as well as the very best senior pros who can add real strength to the squad like Thomas. He is still a young man but has massive experience.”

All in all this appears to be a shrewd signing by Avram Grant and the management team.  The of capture an established international player on a free transfer will help the club on and off the field.  Not having to pay a transfer fee will allow Davids Gold and Sullivan to continue to tidy up the club’s finances, while Hitzlsperger brings some long distance shooting and goal scoring ability to a midfield that was sorely lacking in that department last year.  Only Scott Parker’s two goals were successful from any sort of distance, with Alessandro Diamanti at least trying his luck on a number of occasions.  Hitzlsperger has a roughly 1 goal per 6 games ratio which hopefully bodes well for future returns.  At 28 years old, Hitzlsperger is not exactly a young player, but he is still in his prime and brings prior Premier League experience from his time at Aston Villa.  The reported three year deal means that he should be able to remain productive during the span of the contract.

It remains to be seen if Hitzlsperger will be deployed on the left side of midfield, or if he moves to the center with Parker.  A move to the left could provide some width that lacked with the right footed players (Mark Noble, Junior Stanislas, Valon Behrami) Gianfranco Zola oddly chose for that position.  One detriment to having Hitzlsperger play in the middle is that such a decision would seem to render Mark Noble a surplus to requirements.  This might give some credence to the rumors of Noble moving to Stoke City, though while Noble’s development seems to have stalled over the past season, losing a home grown player of his ilk could seriously weaken the team.  Admittedly, having the problem of selecting between too many good players is better than being forced to pick between bad ones.

The other bit of news to come from the Boleyn Ground was that Avram Grant had finally been issued a work permit by the Home Office.  It should not have come as a surprise, but you learn to not take things for granted (no pun intended).  Officially, West Ham now has a manager, and the work can begin in shaping the squad and preparing for the upcoming season.  Onwards and upwards.

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~ by ar_sage on June 9, 2010.

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