Book Review

Player In Focus: Declan Rice

With interest rumoured to be from Chelsea to acquire the services of Declan Rice, I thought it would be a good opportunity to focus on him in this post. Born on 14th January 1999 in Kingston Upon Thames, Rice joined the academy of Chelsea in 2006, being released in 2014 and joining academy of West Ham at the age of 14.

Rumours are rumours until they actually happen, but many people who occupy the seats where I sit understand that for Rice’s career to really blossom, he will need to leave West Ham. The main reason for this resignation is that the club have no ambition to progress in any meaningful way to the next level.

This season has shown what that club’s lack of ambition has led to with fan protests outside, and to some extent within the ground and much online, as the team struggled to perform on the pitch.

Much has been made of the sacking of Pellegrini but there have been issues with injuries to key players that have had an impact on form, but many have highlighted the ongoing problems with West Ham’s scouting network and transfer policy that have been a feature of much criticism over many seasons, and particularly since the take over of the club by the current owners.

Rice has struggled this season to produce what we know he can on the pitch – those timely tackles, breaking up of play and at times pin point passes that can put the team into a powerful forward movement that creates opportunities. Often said to be mature beyond his years, with at times a great reading of the game, Declan is a tall, strong and versatile player who is comfortable playing at centre back and in a defensive midfield role who seems to have settled comfortably into the first team since his debut against Burnley in the final game of the 2016/17 season. The following season of course saw Rice as runner up for HOTY, and who can forget his first goal for West Ham against Arsenal 2 days before his birthday on 12th January 2019.

Despite this seasons form, and Rice is certainly not the only player who has failed to perform on the pitch, but he will surely be seen by Moyes as a key player with his deal running until 2024. But with the current situation, clubs like ours may be forced to part with players to balance the books. Rice is definitely a fans favourite and he has a great connection with the supporters which you can see when he always stops on his way out of the stadium to sign autographs and talk to those waiting, but also the results visibly affect him and he will always come over to fans at the end of the match to thank everyone before leaving the pitch.

We do not know what the rest of the season will hold for us, and the impact of the lockdown is yet to be fully understood, but as a club going forward we surely must retain our best players for when the sport returns, otherwise we will find ourselves struggling again to retain our status in the top flight.

Guest Post

Clique Bait

Guest Post by Barney Magrew

It starts as a trickle in the Cotswolds, which unusually for me, is not a Carry On style euphemism. I refer of course to the mighty River Thames. Over 200 miles long, running through nine counties, it has over 50 named tributaries and 80 islands. Whilst those who are so inclined pop off to check I have indeed lifted a few lines from Uncle Wiki, I confess to those still reading, I just wanted a fancy opening (no Sid) with some kind of reference to ‘source’.

The source, the start, the beginning was News Now. Filtered to suit my every need, ie daily West Ham content from everywhere, a modern day but cheaper option to Club Call (I confess, not the only premium rate number I knew by heart). Iain Dale’s West Ham Till I Die became an increasingly regular port of call. Tentative steps at first, it was fascinating to find there were many others with the same obsession. Lurking for a while, I finally signed up and made my first comment.

Initially, it was very difficult to get a feel for the comments. I struggled to differentiate between the serious, the wind up merchants and the migraines. To my shame, on a few occasions I fell into the “my Dad’s bigger than your Dad” trap. Strangely, this did tend to happen after an England game rather than West Ham. Over time, I learnt to stay away immediately after an International.

Being West Ham mad for as long as I remember, my first visit to Upton Park at the age of 16 was ridiculously overdue, the FA Cup quarter final versus Aston Villa, March 1980. In subsequent seasons, I followed the team home and away, mostly travelling alone. For some reason, I did prefer to go to games on my own. I’m not sure why, but when I went as part of a group and as much as I liked beer, I felt others were intruding on my match day experience. Maybe with the passing of years and subsequent wisdom (not), I looked back on these times as missed opportunity.

Enter stage left, WHTID. Even with just the odd comment here and there (and believe me, some were very odd), it was impossible not build up a personality profile of the various contributors. Next step, was to meet a few, wasn’t it?

My adult son is West Ham too. He is also not one to miss an opportunity to take the rise out of his old man. Imagine his joy when sat in The Barking Dog I tell him a couple of people from the site have said they will pop in and say hello. The concept of me on a chat forum gave him enough material for a month, the fact 50% of the aforementioned couple happened to be female was manna from heaven. All his material was as if it had been pre-written, it flowed without hesitation but with plenty of repetition. “You, a divorced and recently re-married man, arranges to meet two people from a predominantly male frequented website and one of them just happens to be a blonde woman of similar age…..etc, etc.” He almost burst when it was obvious they’d walked in and sat two tables away. Twenty minutes (or was it 3 hours) passed and the ribbing was relentless. My natural instinct was to leave as quickly as possible. Even though I managed the briefest “Hi, I’m Barney, this is my son, nice to meet you, got to go, bye”, the difference must have been milliseconds. I’d just ‘met’ Lids and Longtimelurker, who sat with a bemused look of what the f….and did he just say “Hi m Barn my son bye”?

I made my on-line apologies, but the first meet had been disastrous. An organised get together had been arranged and I was extremely reluctant to attend, given my previous. This time though, Mrs M was in attendance and Mini Barney was many miles away and blissfully unaware of my second attempt. Crammed in a corner of The Millers Well on the Barking Road, we were introduced to a constant stream of people. I won’t attempt to list everyone as I know I will forget to name a few, but one does need to be noted . I will never forget the feeling that someone was turning the lights down, but on spinning around, the light blocker was unmissable. “Afternoon, I’m Safehands." My instant thought was “you can be whoever you like mate, I ain’t gonna argue."

The Barking Dog also happened to be the venue for a very German encounter. Mr Hamburg Hammer was over for what became known as the ‘WHTID Sleepover’. I’d like to point out here that even if I’d wanted to be part of the overnight stay brigade, Mrs M’s tolerance of my on-line dabblings would not stretch to camping out with people we’d never met. At one point (before she’d met anybody I might add), she did mutter “why can’t you watch porn like other blokes." Mrs M was awaiting a call from her insurance company as she’d had a minor car prang with a cyclist the day before and was otherwise engaged, so I introduced myself to the bloke who’d just walked in with a mini suitcase on wheels. Thankfully it was HH as I dread to think of the consequences if it hadn’t been him. Walking up to men you’d never met, in East End pubs isn’t a recommended pastime I would suggest. I confirm the Hmeister is a top man. The ‘Maximus’ on tap was also extremely pleasant. A regret of not being around for the sleepover was I didn’t get to meet Tony Hanna, but in safer times I intend to put that right.

Over time, I met more people and safe to say, a few have become good friends, although they will no doubt deny this fact for comic effect. I’ve even been lucky enough to enjoy the odd away game or two in their company. Living in the West Country generally means a few extra miles on the journey in order to meet up, but I can assure you every single mile is worth it. The characters are varied and the travel time flies by. I’m convinced there must be some mathematical equation that divides distance travelled by belly laughs and claptrap spoken to find perceived time taken.

At this point, I’m tempted to write a cast list and short descriptive profile, but that may best be done as we go, not to mention the bickering and tantrums it would cause if BSB wasn’t at the top of the pile. The cockney Fred Dibnah lookalike, with a heart of gold and naughty schoolboy wit. A man who texts in English, but it comes out Polish and who feels passionately that a story should be told with bells and knobs on or not at all. An old fashioned trouper who never likes to mention his own burdens (yes we know you’ve got a bad feckin’ finger) and who frowns on mickey taking of any kind. My nose grows but I shall persevere.

Before my first trip, I wasn’t sure of the food and drink etiquette and didn’t really get any helpful feedback when the question was asked. Do we stop on a regular basis or do we bring a good old fashioned packed lunch? I decided to go half way house. A few nibbles and chocolate bars and bottles of water for all. These seemed to go down well with my fellow travellers, apart from our favourite cabbie. I had trodden on some curled up Dagenham toes and the barbed comments let me know it. Buffet Boot Wars had begun. When trips required two cars, our wares were revealed to entice the occupants of each, the aim to maximize embarrassment with the drift from one vehicle to another. Safe to say, I played a blinder with the Coleman’s English Mustard! The final nail was away at Southampton where I didn’t even have to bring a sausage. My rival pranced around the six yard box with an open goal at his mercy, rolls distributed, only for a comment from the patrons to make him scoop it over the bar…..“too much Utterly Butterly.” The ‘IFCF’ flag was officially unveiled by Safehands and VOR in the pub car park and I had the pleasure of meeting Soldier Tom for the first time. Ten man West Ham lost narrowly and Lids managed to leave the game with ribs intact after being the filling in a Barney/Russ sandwich. Amazing how excited grown men can get with a West Ham equalizer.

Huddersfield away. There were more of us for this game, so I drove from Devizes to our link up point of Donnington Park Services on the M1. Punctuality being my middle name, I arrived two hours early. The London contingent of BSB, The Original Russ, Chicken Run Boy, Voice of Reason and Irons 1959 (aka ‘gawjuss’) luckily arrived in time for me to avoid a parking fine. Russ jumped in with me and we headed off to the working men’s club car park about a mile or so from the ground. Even better, we arrived before the others and managed to take a picture of a scotch egg drizzled with mustard to highlight the futility of our cabbie’s boot buffet.

The more sociable members of our group struck a conversation with the locals, who kindly invited us into the club to enjoy their ‘hospitality’. I must admit to feeling uneasy at this point as most of my previous away trips in the eighties needed to be with eyes on both sides of my head and with utmost caution. I needn’t have worried as the hairy, tattooed Yorkies gave us our space, albeit with slightly curious side glances. The blokes left us alone as well. I felt like we’d gone back in time, it were proper northern and very 1975. BSB was driving and seeing as the bar was quite packed, he caught the attention of one of the staff collecting glasses. “Ere darlin’, ain’t any chance of a cuppa tea is there?” A brief pause followed as north and south collided, “I’m sorry loov, r ent got a flippin clue wot yer sayin.” I did try to say to her even we struggled with him at times, but my words got lost amongst the laughter. We hung around in the car park waiting for the group to gather, which was surreal in itself as Irons1959 and Ebiwhu were conversing in fluent German. I stood back, looked at the people and my surroundings and thought “this is all because of you West Ham.” I was very impressed with the stadium and the atmosphere created by both sets of supporters, with the home fans staying with their team despite a heavy defeat. Real people, proper fans.

Newcastle away. I left home at stupid o’clock with the words of the semi-conscious Mrs M, echoing round my comatose brain. “You must be bloody mad!” For the first half hour or so of the two hour journey to our meeting point in Cockfosters, I couldn’t bring myself to disagree. By the time I met BSB, Russ and VOR, I was buzzing, not that they’d have noticed. All was well until we came to a juddering halt on the A1 somewhere north of Leeds. One of those jams where people felt confident enough to get out of their cars and stretch their legs and do the obligatory lean to the right, looking into the distance before returning with “no, nothing’s moving.” There is something about being in a stationary car that makes the human brain link directly with Mother Nature, or to be more specific, calls of nature. The number of people climbing the grass bank to experience that “aaahhh” feeling increased by the minute, which had also started to dominate our own discussion. When BSB finally decided to take the plunge, I couldn’t help think how funny it would be if the traffic started moving again. The slapstick comedy gods were looking over us, as the traffic did indeed slowly start to move. A car length at first, then more as BSB tried to get back to us. The only thing that could have made the situation funnier was if he hadn’t quite got his trousers back up, but you can’t have everything your own way I suppose. It was now touch and go according to the sat nav as to whether we would make it to Newcastle by kick off. As it turned out, we made up lost time and still managed to pick up a Geordie friend of VOR’s. Tim was built like a brick out house, so even if he hadn’t turned out to be a lovely bloke, we’d have got on fine anyway. It did make for quite a tight squeeze with three of us in the back for the rest of the journey, but it wasn’t too far and besides, having a local with us felt like we’d picked up the harbour master to guide us into port. The atmosphere around the ground was extremely pleasant, with both sets of fans mixing without any hint of trouble. Tim bought us a beer in a pub next to the ground (I still owe you one mate) and outside we met Dan Coker and his wife. Chatting with a few Newcastle fans, the general consensus was that none of us had a bloody clue which way the game was going to go with both teams being so inconsistent. The next mission was getting to our seat in the cumulus section of St James’ Park. The steward at the foot of the stairs informed us cheerily how many steps we were about to encounter, which I’m afraid I forgot by the time we’d reached the summit, probably due to lack of oxygen. Not being one for heights, I was relieved our seats were near the front of the upper tier but confess to not joining the others who were further up at half time as my bottle had well and truly gone (a point I’ve not been allowed to forget).

West Ham were as pathetic as I was and got a hiding, so the initial plan to hang around for an after match beer was jettisoned in favour of shooting back down the A1 with our tails between our legs. Hanging out the car window, BSB still had time to run an impromptu poll on whether the passing Geordies would take Andy Carroll back. The result, though not scientific, I’d suggest was a resounding “no.” The journey back went surprisingly quickly, although I did struggle with the return from Cockfosters to Devizes, with Mrs M guiding me home via the hands free car phone for the final twenty miles or so.

Stoke away was notable for meeting Carlinsir and his wife. I mention this as it’s a perfect example of interpreting people’s on line comments differently once you’ve met. Tongue firmly in cheek and very funny. Long delay to kick off due to a local power failure, but it was worth the wait for a cracking atmosphere and the Marko Arnautovic show. “He left cos you’re s***, he left cos you’re s***, Marko Arnautovic, he left cos you’re s***.” Note to BSB – Lanzini didn’t dive. :)

Swansea away. “It’s going to be called off, isn’t it? With snow like this it will be too dangerous to travel.” I met the London firm at Chippenham services. BSB, Russ, VOR and Gawjuss’s sister, who was going home and we were dropping off in Newport. The M4 was down to two lanes with the outside still snow covered. All of this more interesting than the West Ham performance, a pitiful surrender to the Ayew brothers. The likes of Irons1959 and Dan Coker, along with my IFCF travel companions and hundreds of others, all represent West Ham impeccably and I’m proud they support West Ham. Just a shame we have a minority of morons who also come along for the ride. I felt the need to apologise to a couple of Swansea stewards as we left. We also made it to Cardiff away, another abject performance but at least I was able to show BSB and Russ that Devizes has a really good curry house.

Since the chaotic first meet, Lids was kind enough to obtain tickets for Liverpool away for my son and subsequently they arranged ‘Barney’s Birthday Bonanza’, home match tickets with ‘personal’ mock up invitation ticket to boot. Even the King Eddie in Stratford played all my favourite music, though completely down to serendipity I’m told.

I remember I did promise a cast list and profile, but maybe as I compared BSB to Fred Dibnah, I should follow in the same vein. The Original Russ is a stuntman by profession and looks like a tall Mitchell brother, tells it like it is whether you like it or not. Voice of Reason, a man of great life experiences (I didn’t say old, did I), concludes with the final, sensible word and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. MCC Member who kindly invited me to the Ashes Test at Lords, a truly memorable day. A Colonel without the stuffiness. Chicken Run Boy, the thinking man, always seems to be interested in what others have to say. Would make a good TV interviewer and very genuine (not that the others aren’t). Safehands, the Guv’nor, enough said. Gawjuss (Kaiser) Irons1959, a history teaching intellectual with a ticket tout mac (now there’s a combination). As for Lids, she knows so many people there is no need for any profile description or picture. Every bit as warm and giving as you find her on WHTID. The list could go on and on, where do I stop? Ennate, mad hippie professor, lovely man. Nigel Kahn, Mr West Ham and so funny on the podcasts. Stop there, I’ll be here forever.

A special mention to Stevo. A spare ticket shout out on WHTID and you took me up on my offer, all the way from Devon. A few pints and talking like we’d known each other years. Top bloke.

That’s my West Ham Till I Die story so far. I can understand some may feel I’ve just described a ‘clique’. To those, I would say look at how it started. The site is what you want it to be, from lurking to embracing friendships. I guarantee all of the people I’ve mentioned would be as friendly to a new face as they would be to a familiar one. We live in circumstances none of us have ever experienced in the past, hopefully when we emerge I can add another chapter or two and a few more names to the cast list.

Tony Hanna's Musings

This season; Continue or null and void?

I guess this article’s topic will be a bit like Brexit – for many it will be a black and white answer whilst a few in the middle may not care less. But for those either side of the divide I am sure you can put your arguments forward on here on what is the best final outcome in your opinion. So, when the Premier League season starts again should it be a continuance of the current 2019/20 season, or should that season be declared null and void and a new season started? I guess the answer would be a lot easier to answer if we actually knew what date football would be allowed to start up again. One thing I think we can assume is that when games do commence they will be initially played behind closed doors with no crowds. A few days ago the Dutch decided to call their Eredivisie null and void with Ajax, (or indeed AZ Alkmaar), denied the title with just nine games to go with no teams relegated from their top league. Ajax abstained from the vote and their next response was to claim they are going to help other clubs suffering financially because of coronavirus.

When football does start again it will need around three to four weeks of preseason to get players fit again. If this is not done properly then I am sure there will be a plethora of injuries. With just nine or ten games to go of the 2019/20 season this is an unprecedented event and should this season be continued there would be some hurdles to overcome. With it seemingly very unlikely that any start would now be before the end of May another factor that will come into play is the amount of players who will come off contract to their clubs at what should have been the end of their season. What will happen here? There are many factors to take into account for voiding the current season, or indeed to continue it in what would be a very different environment. Would playing away, especially at the big clubs like Liverpool, be as big a task than playing them with a full stadium – something many of your rivals may not have had to before the closure? Would clubs with nearly fully fit squads to start a season of nine games be seen to have got an unfair advantage from the enforced break, compared to what their resources were when the season was stopped. For instance we would have been due to play Spurs without Kane and Son, a team on the decline and struggling, a fresh start would see them with their stars back and fully rejuvenated. Having injuries to players does involve luck and whether your own team plays others at full strength or not during a season is a variable that no one can plan for, but this factor is not one to be taken lightly. Another consideration is what happens should one or more teams have a K19 outbreak on resumption? Do we stop the league again?

On the other hand if the season was to be declared null and void is that fair on Liverpool, some 25 points clear with a first Premier League title in their grasp? If the season should be voided but current positions in the table be declared final then the title will go to Anfield. If not it would seem like an injustice to Leicester on the cusp of CL football again, and Sheffield United who were on the verge of European football despite the odds. At the other end of the table Villa have a game in hand which if they won they would move out of the bottom three and would it be fair that they, Bournemouth and Norwich be relegated? We were in a very dicey position as far as relegation was concerned but our form was looking up when the season was cancelled. I guess the games authorities have to look at all the legalities but in the end whatever decision they come up with it should be accepted without dispute. What happens to the FA Cup and the other Champions league spots are other things that will need to be sorted. Should football in England start in September or October the decisions made on this topic may be very different to ones made should the season not be able to start until early next year. If Football can’t resume until say next February it would perhaps be an easy decision just to commence again where we left off? Whatever decision is made and even if the Premier league of 2019/20 does get to be finished I personally would be most surprised if any teams were relegated. Teams from lower divisions may be promoted with extra teams relegated to balance the leagues the following season but I do doubt any will be relegated this season.

One fan I was chatting with recently expressed their view about the mental side of the game and that it is impossible to finish this season fairly as it won’t reflect the true outcome of what would have happened without this interruption. On the flip side I have seen comments already on this site that not finishing would affect the integrity of the game. Not sure exactly what is meant by that other than that not finishing a season that is already three quarters completed would perhaps erase everything from this current season?

For me, I am in the null and void camp. The Dutch league has made this decision and it appears their clubs have accepted it with grace. Some of you may not care less what with all that is happening in our World at the moment so stay safe everyone. Things will get better.

Guest Post

Life, the universe and everything …… Part 3

Guest Post by Beniron

It’s the start of a new decade the glorious 70’s, the innocent days of growing up are over I’m 13 and beginning to realise that school could be over soon (ROSLA – Raising of the School Leaving Age to 16 wasn’t to become law until 2 years later) as in those days you could leave school the term you became 15, so in my case I could leave at 14 and 300+ days, for some it could mean a lot closer to 14.

Also this is the age when all sorts of things are happening with puberty – but I promise this won’t be one of those soppy coming of age stories just my version of life then, theoretically this should be the clearest part in my life no drink or drugs to cloud it – at least the first year of it ….

I still spent most of the holidays playing football – this time a bit more organised. I had a trial with East London District (most kids did in those days), got through the first stage but not any further. I would describe myself as talented but being short sighted and before contact lenses were around I struggled seeing the ball until the last minute, so was alright in possession but playing right back meant I was often squinting to see where the ball was!

At that time and for a few years anyone who was any good ended up at Senrab – just look at their record of ex-players! Suffice to say I never got to Senrab.

On a side note, reading CRB’s history of the boot etc around these times it was Puma (my brother’s old ones to be precise!) and Gola that my mate had, I didn’t know anybody who had Adidas at that time.

As I said in the last episode, I was getting pocket money now – not loads but a bit of independence. If I remember (Dan can check this) because of the World Cup, in Mexico I think, the season (69-70) finished ridiculously early and we played about 6 games in 2 weeks.

We’d sold Peters and got Greaves, and whilst past his best I think that signing saved us from relegation. In those last games I think we only lost one, and beat Man C 5-1, Liverpool 1-0 and Wolves 3-0. I was at the Wolves game and I think that made us safe with a couple left, all sounds so familiar.

Next season football was back on, I managed to get to two games in the summer holidays, both packed to the rafters. Arsenal 0-0 I think, it was one of the worst games ever seen, I remember there was aggro everywhere in the south bank; and a cracker against Chelsea 2-2. I didn’t get to many more games that season, I had a Saturday job, but I got to a couple. One was a night match against Forest – we had new floodlights I think and it was magical – 4 shadows, yes 4 shadows unbelievable! And we won 2-0 and new boy Pop Robson scored. The journey home was a nightmare, I didn’t get home until nearly midnight, no mobiles etc so my mum was waiting and she went spare, we’d just got a phone and I kept forgetting to call.

Talking of phones – we got one because me and my big brother spent more time out now so mum and dad relented and got one. As I’ve said before, we weren’t swimming in money so the cheapest option was a party line. This, to those that don’t know, meant that some other house shared the line; so you picked up the handset, if no one was talking then you pressed a button and got the dial tone and Bob’s your uncle, you’re away. If someone was talking then you hung up as they were using the line – yeah, like that happened – we always listened into each other’s calls that was the only good thing about it!

We struggled all that season though, one of the highlights for me was being allowed to stay up to watch the game on Sportsnight with Coleman (younger readers should Google David Coleman, he came up with some great cock ups that were known as Coleman Balls, my favourite was on the Olympics and Alberto Juanterena was running in the 400m, Coleman’s commentary went something like “he’s making a move now and look at the length between his legs!”). The football was normally on about 9:45 – 10:00 pm, which in those days was amazing as the matches didn’t finish until 9:15. The other was one of my favourite players entering a new phase, Billy Bonds was moved into midfield and John McDowell came in as right back. I remember Bonds was described as a marauding player, I think that he was deployed by Greenwood as one of the first fullbacks to push forward and one of the first true box to box midfielders – but I am a tad biased – I think he was Hammer of the Year as well.

It was also at this time that I was into music, I bought my first album by Cream – Goodbye (it was their last album). I got it second-hand as I couldn’t run to a new one, and my first single was All Right Now by Free. My music taste was heavily influenced by my big brother (5 years older than me) and his collection consisted of Yes, Genesis, Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Sabbath etc. Perversely I also liked pop and loved Sundays when you found out who was number 1 – no downloads or mp3 and all that stuff but people buying vinyl singles!

So ‘71 comes along and now it’s all Crombies, Prince of Wales check, Solatio shoes and Harrington’s. The fashion of the time was a strange mix – I also got my obligatory DM’s from Blackman’s near Petticoat Lane (one of the very few shops that sold them).

Back end of that season I managed to get a few games in – now in the North Bank as it was cheaper and you could still get two for one at some of the turnstiles. I saw us lose at home to Derby and Leeds two weeks on the trot, next game I went to was home to Manu – we won 2-1, played really well and a great atmosphere. I’m not sure if that’s the game where the wall collapsed but someone will remember I’m sure.

Finished just above relegation again – getting too common that was; and had the debacle of Blackpool in the cup all over the papers, next year will be better though!

Well it didn’t start too good – I went to the first game against West Brom and it was awful, lost 1-0 and lots of moans about Greenwood already. I don’t think we scored in our first few games and we were all over the place – even Bobby Moore was looking lost. Picked up a bit but the season was like that, good run followed by bad run etc – sounds so familiar! But this year was the year of the cups for the Hammers, first the League Cup – we must have played 9 or 10 games and didn’t reach the final – unbelievable. The League Cup, like today, was night matches mid-week and I loved them – I’m 15 now and I have a Saturday job down the market so can’t get to many Saturday games. I went to the Leeds game and we battered them at Upton Park, and these along with Derby and Liverpool were the best in the country! Ended 0-0 and thought that was our chance gone but I went to Elland Road and in extra time Clyde Best nods in the winner – get in!

Next up Liverpool – went to this one as well and beat the Mickey Mousers 2-1. Pop got the winner at the far post, that I can see to this day, he seemed to hang in the air and wait for the ball at an almost impossible angle – the crowd went mad and Bubbles at a night match makes me tingle – was this our year! Quarter Final next – Sheffield Utd at home (the draw was kind to us with so many home games) and we murdered them, Robson with a hat-trick again I was there it was another big crowd – oh what joy, Semi Final here we come!

The Semi Final deserves its own paragraph, the 4 games had everything (yes 4 games, in those days you played extra time and then another match until there was a winner – none of this namby pamby penalties nonsense!). Away Leg first and it was on the box – Stoke were all over us initially and went 1-0 up, but we came back and Billy Bonds was magnificent, came away winning 2-1 with a cracker of a goal from Best to seal it. We are odds on now to get to the Final. Night match at Upton Park, 35,000 plus crowd, it was all set up – I can honestly say I’ve never felt so deflated as when Banks saved Hurst’s penalty – I can remember now thinking it was nailed on – anyway Stoke score and it’s 0-1 and that’s how it ends after extra time.

The replay is at Hillsborough, I think and it’s a dour game that ends 0-0. I couldn’t get there as it’s a school night but listened to it on the radio. The second replay is at Old Trafford – Conroy whacks Ferguson and he has to go off so Bobby Moore goes in goal , he saves Stoke’s penalty but not the rebound (it’s all going wrong) I’m screaming at the telly – mum says it’s only a game (arf arf). Bonds equalises and it’s 1-1 , all is looking good, even better after half time as Brooking scores straight away, 2-1 and Wembley next. Next 10 minutes and it’s all over, Stoke score twice and I think it took the wind out of our sails as watching it on the box it looked like we were treading water. It was the worst moment of my West Ham life, these games took place before and after Christmas, a joyous time spoilt by Stoke. I went to bed and could hear my mum saying “what’s up with him?”

Next came the FA Cup – and to get it in perspective Britain was in turmoil, known as the sick man of Europe we were in trouble, energy crisis, strikes etc – so night matches were banned as floodlights weren’t allowed, which meant in January and February kick off times were brought forward so matches could be finished before dark. So the infamous FA Cup game against Hereford from the Southern League kicked off at 2:15 on Monday 14th Feb 1972.

It was a very strange day, nobody expected a big crowd, being a Monday lunchtime kick off (ok it was a late lunch). Me and a couple of pals had agreed we’d bunk off just after lunch and get the bus there – my school was on East India Dock road so the 15 bus stopped outside – easy peasy! It became clearer during the day that we weren’t the only ones thinking of this. Lunchtime came, we had the register called after lunch and then we skedaddled out of there to the bus stop.

It was packed, we got the 3rd bus as we couldn’t get on the earlier ones, now thinking it might be a tad busier than we thought. When we got there it was heaving, none of us had watches so had no idea what the time was but suddenly they started closing the gates, people were shouting and hollering. We were gutted if we’d left 10 mins earlier – but as my mum used to say “if ifs and ands were pots and pans we’d all be jolly tinkers” (the last bit I toned down). We didn’t really have a scoobie what to do, we wandered around the ground looking at any other possibilities, there were loads of people heading to the flats behind the east stand etc, we turned round and headed home – gutted of Poplar! By the way, we won 3-1, Hurst with all 3, next round we got beat by Huddersfield, who were eventually relegated!

By this time at the tender of age of 14 and a half I went to the pub with my mates for the first time – no ID checking in those days. It was mid-week and the school dance was on and we went into the Greenwich Pensioner on Bazely Street, 5 of us all done up not knowing what to do. My brother used to drink Light and Bitter, so I walked to the bar and ordered 5 L&B’s, the barman looked at us, shook his head and started serving us, we’d cracked it. I think it was 10 bob for the lot, but that could be my mind playing tricks. We all put our money together and sat down and drank this stuff – it took some getting used to but we all agreed we’d do it again (only had enough money for one drink!).

That was the start of a slippery slope, by the next term (this would have been 72-73 season) we were in a pub most weekends. I had a job in Chrisp Street market, every morning I got the stall set up before I went to school and every evening put it away after school, exceptions were Monday – market was closed and Thursday when it went away lunchtime for early closing, all day Saturday for the princely sum of £4 a week. This wasn’t a bad wedge in those days and on Saturday I got two bags of fruit and veg to take home. But one Sunday night we went for a beer in the Steamship in Blackwall way (it’s gone now) and my mate and I won a bottle of whisky in the raffle, we thought we couldn’t take it home so drank it on the way home. To this day I can’t take the smell of blended whisky, I was so sick I made the obligatory oath never to drink again. It was school day the following day and my mum knew it was a hangover but she made me get up and go to school, certainly taught me a lesson for a few days I can tell you.

That season again I could only go to night matches but I can tell you it was a great season – my first game was Coventry on a Monday night, it was a terrible match but we won 1-0, a young kid called Ade Coker was playing and despite all the hype about West Brom and their coloured players I’m sure we were the vanguard in that area with John Charles, Clyde Best, Ade Coker etc. The only other game I got to was Southampton on, I think, a Friday night – a real cracker, 4-3 and Pop got a hat trick, notched up loads of goals that season, I think 25.

I suppose you’re thinking “how does he know it was a great season, he only went to two matches”, well the Big Match seemed to have us on every week and we were playing some good stuff – I think we finished 6th that year. Next year I’d be in a real job so hopefully get to some more games, looking forward to that.

Part 4 coming soon hopefully, and hopefully this one will get more than a couple of hours on the site!


On This Day, 24th April: Speedie Sinks The Pirates & Happy Birthday Stuart Pearce

West Ham 2-1 Bristol Rovers, 24th April 1993

April 1993 saw the IRA bombing of Bishopsgate in the City of London, the murder of Stephen Lawrence and a false start forced the Grand National to be cancelled. George Michael & Queen with Lisa Stansfield were number one with ‘Five Live’ (a compilation of five tracks recorded at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert at Wembley) and Body of Evidence topped the UK box office as West Ham United took on Bristol Rovers in a First Division encounter in front of 16,682 at The Boleyn Ground.

The Hammers were locked in an incredibly tight battle with Portsmouth for the second automatic promotion place, with Newcastle all but assured of the First Division title. Billy Clarke shocked Upton Park when he put Bristol Rovers, rock bottom of the division, ahead early in the second half, heading home a corner from the right flank. David Speedie had endured a mixed start to his Hammers career whilst on loan from Southampton, having missed two presentable late openings to claim the three points in a 2-2 draw with Millwall but gone on to score a brace in a 3-0 home win over Leicester. Speedie incurred the exasperation of the home crowd again when he was clean through to equalise against Rovers, but a poor touch allowed goalkeeper Gavin Kelly to easily gather the ball.

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Speedie, however, was to swiftly turn from villain to hero; his left-wing cross was blocked by a hand, and Julian Dicks (pictured above) thumped home the penalty to level the scores. Within two minutes, the Hammers had turned the game on its head; Mark Robson’s pass found Kevin Keen who in turn fed Speedie in the penalty area. The Scotsman’s ball across the face of goal was met by the outstretched right foot of Trevor Morley who had the goal at his mercy but the ball rebounded off the crossbar – Speedie bravely flung his head in amongst the flailing boots of the defenders around him, with his header nestling in the back of the net to secure a vitally important three points for the Irons. After a short period poleaxed on the turf, Speedie rose groggily to his feet to claim the applause of the Hammers faithful. The action from this match can be viewed on the WHTID social media pages.

Bristol Rovers ended up occupying bottom place, thereby filling one of the relegation spots in 1992/93, while the Hammers finished in second position and were promoted automatically on the final day by virtue of goals scored. Newcastle topped the division. Steve Potts was voted Hammer of the Year with Kevin Keen runner-up, Manchester United were the first champions of the Premier League and Arsenal won the FA Cup.

West Ham United: Ludek Miklosko, Tim Breacker, Steve Potts, Tony Gale, Julian Dicks, Mark Robson (Ian Bishop), Martin Allen, Peter Butler, Kevin Keen, Trevor Morley, David Speedie.

Happy 58th Birthday Stuart Pearce

Stuart Pearce was born in Hammersmith on 24th April 1962 and attended Fryent Primary School, followed by Claremont High in Kenton and supported QPR as a boy. An electrician by trade, he started his career at non-league Wealdstone in 1978 before moving to Coventry in 1983. Two years later he was signed by Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest and he would make over 400 appearances for the club, winning the League Cup in 1989 and 1990.

Pearce, whose brother Ray was a Football League linesman, made his England debut at the age of 25 on 19th May 1987 in a 1-1 draw with Brazil at Wembley – he became the 999th player to appear for England. He scored his first goal for his country in a 4-2 friendly win over Czechoslovakia at Wembley on 25th April 1990 – ‘Ludo’ Miklosko, who had signed for West Ham two months previously, didn’t cover himself in glory for the goal, coming to collect a corner but failing to claim the ball with Pearce driving home the loose ball. Pearce was named in Bobby Robson’s squad for the 1990 World Cup in Italy and started all of England’s matches with the exception of the third-place play-off against the hosts. ‘Psycho’, as Pearce was nicknamed, saw his penalty in the semi-final shoot-out in Turin saved by the legs of West Germany’s Bodo Illgner.

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With Graham Taylor now in charge, Pearce captained his country for the first time in a friendly against New Zealand in Wellington on 8th June 1991 – Pearce marked the occasion by scoring his second goal for his country in a 2-0 win, a low drive from the edge of the penalty area after a John Solako cross. Pearce started all three of England’s games in the 1992 European Championships in Sweden but the Three Lions were knocked out in the group stage. Taylor named Pearce as captain on eight occasions and he scored two further goals under his stewardship, in a 4-0 World Cup qualifying win over Turkey on 18th November 1992 and a 3-0 win over Poland on 8th September 1993, both from free-kicks in World Cup qualifiers at Wembley. The latter strike came when Pearce was playing outside the top flight at club level following Nottingham Forest’s relegation.

Pearce scored his fifth and final England goal under Terry Venables in a 3-1 friendly win over Switzerland at Wembley on 15th November 1995, a deflected effort which flew into the net from the edge of the area following a short corner routine. He started all five of England’s games at Euro ’96, scoring in penalty shoot-outs against Spain in the quarter-finals and Germany in the semi-finals to lay the ghost of Turin to rest. His celebration after scoring from the spot against Spain showed the raw passion that embodied Pearce’s career and is an iconic moment, both for that tournament and in the history of the national team.

‘Psycho’ captained his country for the tenth and final time in a 2-1 win over South Africa at Old Trafford on 24th May 1997. Now 35 and playing under the management of Glenn Hoddle, Pearce was named in the squad for Le Tournoi, a tournament held in France to aid preparations for the World Cup there the following year. England won the competition, with Pearce starting the opening match against Italy, which England won 2-0.

Pearce turned down a move to the Hammers in 1997 to sign for Newcastle but did team up with Harry Redknapp two years later. While at Newcastle, Pearce was awarded an MBE for services to football. He made his Hammers debut in a 1-0 win over Tottenham on 7th August 1999, the opening day of the 1999/2000 season, and even made an England return in September 1999 at the age of 37 – he became the third-oldest outfield player to appear for England after Stanley Matthews and Leslie Compton. It had been over two years since Pearce had played for England, Kevin Keegan starting him in a 6-0 win over Luxembourg at Wembley on 4th September 1999 and a 0-0 draw in Poland four days later, both European Championship qualifiers. The match in Warsaw was Pearce’s last for England – he had captained his country on ten occasions, won 78 caps and scored five goals.

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Pearce made five league appearances in claret and blue before suffering a broken leg against Watford three days after his final England match – typically, he wanted to carry on playing! He made a return to action in February 2000 but only lasted three games before breaking the same leg.

2000/01 saw better times for Pearce though. He scored his first goal for the club direct from a free-kick in a 2-1 home defeat to Arsenal on 21st October 2000, with his second goal for the Irons being a typically thunderous strike in a 3-2 win at Southampton on 25th November 2000. His third and final goal for the Hammers was a stunning, low, driven free-kick to make it 1-1 in an FA Cup quarter-final with Tottenham at a rain-drenched Upton Park on 11th March 2001, a game the Irons would sadly lose 3-2. He was sent off for two bookable offences in a 2-0 home defeat to Everton on 31st March 2001. Pearce played in 34 of the Irons’ Premier League matches, with a further eight appearances coming in the domestic cups. Pearce ended the season as a 39-year-old but had played 42 matches during the campaign at the top level of English football. He was named Premier League Player of the Month in February 2001 and voted Hammer of the Year at the end of the 2000/01 season.

After being beaten to the vacant managerial post at Upton Park by Glenn Roeder in the summer of 2001, Pearce left east London after three goals in 50 appearances to end his playing days with Manchester City, who romped to the First Division title and promotion to the Premier League under Kevin Keegan. All of his goals for West Ham and England, plus those three penalties in shoot-outs for the Three Lions, can be viewed on the WHTID social media pages.

Pearce’s first stint as a manager had been as caretaker at Nottingham Forest in 1997. He became a coach under Keegan at Manchester City before becoming manager of the club in 2005. He became manager of the England Under-21 team in February 2007 whilst still in charge at City but was sacked by his club three months later, taking the England Under-21 job full time. He guided the Under-21s to the semi-finals of the European Championships in 2007 and the Final in 2009 – his captains at both tournaments were provided by the Hammers, Nigel Reo-Coker and Mark Noble respectively. He also worked as a coach with the England senior team under Fabio Capello and was temporary England manager between February and May 2012 after the Italian’s departure. Pearce also managed the Great Britain Olympic team at London 2012. He left his role as Under-21 manager in the summer of 2013 and spent seven months back in charge at Forest in the 2014/15 campaign.

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After a spell working at Portsmouth, Pearce joined former club West Ham as an assistant to new manager David Moyes in November 2017 – having played a role in ensuring the Hammers’ top flight survival ‘Psycho’, who turns 58 today, left at the end of the 2017/18 season after Moyes’ contract was not renewed.

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