The GoatyGav Column
When you think about a football club imagery tends to come to mind. The name, the badge, shots of their stadia can all paint pictures for the average football fan. If someone were to say ‘Stoke City’ to me a few thoughts spring up. The old Victoria as well as the new Britannia grounds, miserable driving rain, witty banter (namely the ‘Ronaldo’ retort they had for Manchester United fans’ “He plays on the left – he plays on the right!” Song) and fights between their’s and Port Vale’s fans in my Dad’s pub in Hanley City Centre are some. Then again images of Sir Stanley Matthews also pop up. Along with those thoughts I associate a strong, determined gentleman who gave up hundreds of hours of his own time, and energy, to export the very best values and ethics of our game to underprivileged regions of the globe.
Manchester United are not the most popular of clubs when it comes to fans of others but players like Bobby Charlton, George Best and Duncan Edwards can only serve to warm you to the Red half of Manchester. In the case of Duncan Edwards the terrible Air Disaster of 1958 sent shockwaves around the footballing world. The event, as sickeningly awful as it was, helped contribute to the popularity of the club around the globe and played a part in growing the club to it’s current status of one of the biggest, and most marketable, names in the game.
So when it comes to West Ham United I’m always interested to see how, true, fans of other clubs perceive us. I’m sure that images of the World Cup winning trio, especially Bobby Moore, would be forefront for many. Sir Trev and Billy Bonds must be others who fans have cognizance of. I’m sure that, in more modern times, people go back to players like Paulo DiCanio and many of Tony Carr’s 1999 F.A. Youth Cup winning side like Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand.
It’s not always a positive thing. The vitriol spewed towards West Ham by Bernie Slaven has, unfortunately, not endeared Middlesboro to me at all. That’s not the only thing about them that I negatively associate. Their booing of our rendition of “Johnny Lyall’s Claret & Blue Army!” (always with an exclamation mark at the end) at Villa Park in the Semi-Final of the 2006 F.A. Cup, along with the fact that they couldn’t even fill their end when West Ham could have sold thousands more tickets, is another reason I’m not enamoured of them. But I’d probably have let that go without the former behaviour of their Scottish striker towards our club. On the single occasion I visited Middlesboro I had a really nice evening and was treated exceptionally well by the locals but as far as their club is concerned I have no affection for them.
Away from the players, and on the subject of West Ham fans, much of the time you hear phrases like “fiercely loyal,” “generation upon generation of fan,” “closely knit community,” and “passionate support,” uttered by people in the game. This may not always be the same. Over time it may well change. Should the club become successful then the ‘fierce’ and ‘passionate’ labels may become less prevalent.
Opinions about West Ham’s owners have, I feel, shaped many a footballing individual’s interpretation of the club. They do, in fairness to them, appear to be making every effort to improve things by not ‘airing their laundry’ and keeping things a more behind closed doors. A wise approach, in my opinion, and one that I hope continues.
For me the players, more than any other aspect of a club, shape it’s profile and identity. Perhaps you disagree. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts?
On to Saturday’s game it was a difficult result to swallow for me. Not just because of the opposition but also the fact that we deserved a draw at least. There’s no doubt that our neighbours from the borough of Harringey are on a higher level than our boys at the moment. They’ve consistently qualified for the Champion’s League for some time and for Europe even longer now. On Saturday you wouldn’t have known it. We created more good chances and were denied by an exceptional performance by Lloris. As for the goal you could point the finger of blame at two or three players who didn’t track Lamela. Nobes, who had a disappointing game by recent standards, and Declan Rice were two of them. Contributing to those two not having their best matches and the biggest miss, for me, was the absence of Pedro Obiang. The balance just wasn’t there compared to recent games, in midfield, for me. Only comment I made to my youngest, about the starting 11, was words to that effect. Don’t get me wrong, Snoddy put in a shift, but we didn’t click in the middle of the park the way we have been doing. Many Spuds fans have commented that their team weren’t at full strength – well neither were ours.
Encouragingly the partnership developing at centre back looks full of promise. Balbuena and Diop are already playing very well together. I reckon there’s more to come from the pair. Og and Winston are going to have a real job on their hands if they’re going to displace either of these two.
I’m absolutely gutted to see Yarma out with injury. I guess I should have expected it, as a West Ham fan, but it was the biggest ‘head in hands’ moment during the game for me.
To finish on a positive there are players coming back from injury and Chicha, once up to the speed of the match, certainly didn’t look like a player who’s been out of the side for several weeks.
In summary I haven’t changed my mind about us getting ‘Our West Ham’ back. I like what’s happening with the Pellegrini revolution and am looking forward to the Leicester game.
‘Til then have a great week.
COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!