It’s certainly been an up and down year in virtually every area of life. Forget Brexit, forget Trump, for our own little tribe we started the year on a high, and it ends, well, on an up, I suppose. If we can get nine points over the festive season we could actually end up where we started the year – in 7th place. That seemed highly unlikely until a week ago.
Christmas is supposed to be a time for celebration, contemplation and giving thanks. For some of us, this Christmas won’t be quite the same as previous ones. I lost my Dad on Wednesday, and any of you who have lost a parent will know what the last few days have been like. We cling on to our cherished memories, and for me none more so than when I took my Dad to the Play Off Final at Wembley against Blackpool. In my Dad’s teenage years, Blackpool were the Manchester United of their day. His last visit to Wembley was the 1948 FA Cup Final when Blackpool lost 4-2 to Manchester United. He was 19 at the time. It is a day I will remember for ever, not just because we won, but because it was something that I shared with my Dad. And we didn’t do enough of that. He was a very great man, my Dad – one of the most popular people I know. He and my mother gave me and my sisters the perfect start in life, a perfect childhood, spent on a farm in a small rural community in North Essex. Being from a farming family I was supposed to take over the family farm. My life, however, took on a very different trajectory and not once did my parents express any regret about that, although deep down I’m sure they felt it. Like most men of his generation, my Dad wasn’t big on showing emotions, but he had ways of letting me know he was proud of me, without actually saying it. And I loved him for it.
Anyway, sorry, that went on a bit longer than I had intended. Finally, let me say thank you to everyone who contributes to the site on a regular basis, especially Zaman Siddiqui, Dan Coker, David Hautzig and HamburgHammer. Also thanks to all those who comment, and/or come here every day to read our latest thoughts. It’s what make it worthwhile.
Firstly, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish all West Ham Till I Die readers a very Merry Christmas!
Blast from the past
Tuesday 30th March 1982 – The Goombay Dance Band were number one with ‘Seven Tears’ and West Ham United were ensuring it was the Swans who were sobbing in south Wales as Francois van der Elst scored the winner in a 1-0 victory over this year’s Boxing Day opponents Swansea City in front of 20,272 at the Vetch Field.
Belgian attacker van der Elst scored twice for Anderlecht against West Ham as we lost the European Cup Winners’ Cup Final 4-2 in 1976. He signed for the Hammers from the New York Cosmos in January 1982 and this strike at Swansea was his fifth goal in ten games. He scored 17 goals in 70 appearances for the Irons before returning to his homeland to sign for Lokeren.
John Lyall’s Hammers would finish ninth in the First Division in 1981/82, while Swansea would end the campaign in sixth having led the table more than once in their first season at the top level.
West Ham United: Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Alvin Martin, Neil Orr, Frank Lampard, Francois van der Elst, Paul Allen, Trevor Brooking, Alan Devonshire, David Cross, Paul Goddard.
West Ham United’s record signing Andre Ayew could face the club he departed in the summer. A small number of players join him in having worn the shirts of both West Ham United and Swansea City. These include:
Goalkeeper: Noel Dwyer.
Defenders: Andy Melville and Shaun Byrne.
Midfielders: Frank Lampard Junior.
Strikers: Frank Nouble and Lee Chapman.
John Bond also represented both clubs, playing for the Hammers and managing the Swans.
Today’s focus though is on a homegrown Hammers product who returned from a short stint at Swansea to kickstart his Upton Park career. Matthew Rush was born in Dalston on 6th August 1971 and was a right-winger who came through the Academy at West Ham United. He made his debut as a 19-year-old under Billy Bonds in a 7-1 victory over Hull on 6th October 1990, a game famous for Steve Potts’ solitary Hammers’ strike. Bonzo’s boys achieved promotion at the end of that season, a campaign which also saw Rush pick up Under-21 international honours for the Republic of Ireland, for whom he qualified through his Irish mother. He scored his first goals for the Hammers on 11th April 1992, a double in a 4-0 win over Norwich, but the Hammers would ultimately yo-yo back to the second tier. Rush endured a testing two-year period when it appeared his Hammers career was fading and dying. His only appearances in the promotion campaign of 1992/93 came in the now-defunct Anglo-Italian Cup, in which he was sent off in a 0-0 home draw with Pisa, and he had a spell on loan at Cambridge United towards the end of that season.
Rush remained out in the cold as the Hammers set about establishing themselves in their first season in the Premier League. He joined Swansea City for a two-month loan spell in January 1994, playing 13 league matches and starting both legs of the Football League Trophy Area Final against Wycombe Wanderers that would see the Swans progress to Wembley. The Swans only lost two league matches while Rush was at the club and, although he was back at West Ham by the time of the Trophy National Final, Swansea invited him to attend the game at Wembley.
Rush was handed a surprise start by Bonds on Easter Saturday 1994 against Ipswich at Upton Park and scored a stunning, dipping volley from distance to put the Irons on their way to a 2-1 victory, their first win since New Year’s Day.
Rush signed a three-year contract that summer, rejecting overtures from Kevin Keegan’s upwardly-mobile Newcastle United. He found opportunities increasingly sparse under Harry Redknapp in 1994/95 but did score in successive league matches in late October 1994, a 2-0 win over Southampton and a 3-1 defeat at Tottenham. His searing pace also played a major part in a barnstorming 2-0 victory over champions-in-waiting Blackburn Rovers, Rush streaking away from Colin Hendry late on to lay on a cross which led to Don Hutchison sealing the points in the Hammers’ ultimately successful quest for survival. This was to prove to be Rush’s final appearance in a claret and blue shirt. Three of Rush’s five goals for the Hammers can be viewed in my video below.
Having scored five goals in 55 appearances for West Ham, the 24-year-old Rush was sold to Norwich in the summer of 1995 for £350,000. Three days after signing, on his debut for the Canaries against Sunderland, he badly ruptured his knee. He sought to gain fitness in a loan spell at Northampton and eventually joined Oldham in March 1997 having made just three appearances for the Canaries in his 18 months at Carrow Road. Rush sustained cruciate ligament damage in a match against Carlisle in April 1998 and was forced to retire from the game at the age of just 27.
Upon retiring, Rush went to university for four years to study for a degree in Applied Sports Science and then went on to do a post-graduate course. He studied for a further year to gain teacher qualifications and taught in a sports academy in Manchester for a year before teaching PE at a school in Cheshire for five years. His daughter Lana won a national tennis tournament at the age of ten and Rush moved to Barcelona with his daughter so she could attend a tennis academy while his wife Caroline continued working in the UK. The Rush family later moved together to London with Matthew accompanying his daughter to tennis events around the world. Lana is now 19 and has a tennis scholarship at Florida State University. She competed in Junior Wimbledon in 2012 and 2013.
Rush’s wife Caroline is Chief Executive of the British Fashion Council and was awarded a CBE in 2015 for services to the British fashion industry. Matthew, meanwhile, has recently completed a UEFA ‘B’ coaching licence with a view to getting involved in academy coaching in the future.
The referee on Boxing Day will be Andre Marriner; the 45-year-old’s most recent Hammers appointment was last month’s 1-1 home draw with Stoke. Prior to that, in August’s trip to Manchester City, he had failed to send off Sergio Aguero for an elbow on Winston Reid with the Hammers trailing 2-1 with 14 minutes remaining. The Argentine was retrospectively charged with violent conduct and suspended for three matches, a decision which did nothing to benefit West Ham. Marriner did, however, show leniency that day towards the visitors by failing to issue Arthur Masuaku with a second yellow card on more than one occasion.
Marriner was the man in the middle for our 0-0 home draw with Stoke last season and the 3-0 home win over the same opposition in 2011. He also officiated our 1-0 win over Tottenham at Upton Park in March. Since we achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 the Birmingham-based official has been far from a good omen for West Ham – he has refereed twelve of our league matches, officiating in only two wins for the Hammers, four draws and six defeats.
Swansea City centre-back Federico Fernandez and defensive midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng are doubts. Kyle Naughton could replace Angel Rangel at right-back, while Mike van der Hoorn could come in for Alfie Mawson at centre-back. Jay Fulton could make way for Leroy Fer in midfield. Nathan Dyer (making his comeback from an ankle operation which has kept him out since September) and Jefferson Montero are challenging Modou Barrow and Wayne Routledge for their positions on the wings, while Bob Bradley must choose between Borja Baston and Fernando Llorente up front. The Swans have scored eight goals in their last two home matches.
Slaven Bilic will now be without Diafra Sakho until March. Sam Byram, Reece Oxford, Gokhan Tore and Simone Zaza are also all unavailable but James Collins could return to the bench. Pedro Obiang serves a one-match ban, with Edimilson Fernandes his likely replacement in central midfield. Andre Ayew could line up against his former club, with Manuel Lanzini a possibility to make way. West Ham have drawn on their last three trips to the Liberty Stadium and haven’t won a league game away at Swansea since April 1983.
Possible Swansea City XI: Fabianski; Naughton, Amat, van der Hoorn, Taylor; Britton, Fer, Sigurdsson; Dyer, Baston, Montero.
Possible West Ham United XI: Randolph; Kouyate, Reid, Ogbonna; Antonio, Fernandes, Noble, Cresswell; Ayew, Payet; Carroll.
Good stuff Rapid, and, belated kudos to Hamburg (hope ur feeling better), and a thanks to all contributors to WHTID, Everyone adds their own flavour, and I’d like to say Happy Holidays to all.
The reoccurring theme in the last few articles that I agree with, is no matter your feelings on the rebranding, move, etc, is forming unity and understanding between the “generation gap” for lack of a better term, is crucial if West Ham is to thrive. (And perhaps, survive.)
Obviously, mistakes have been made that cannot be taken back, and I do resent that I was led to believe that it would be more or less seamless (I didn’t expect West Ham to win the Top Flight this year, or next or even 5 years), but I was fooled in how much the original identity of the club was in jeopardy, and it’s history being disgracefully brushed aside. There was no need for the media circus that was “StrikerGate” and if they had it to take back, I bet Slaven does NOT let James Tomkins go, or does James want to, (depending on which side one believes). I could be wrong, but I’d doubt it.
However, beyond the move, perhaps there was some hubris and overconfidence during the off season, a poor transfer, and injuries are much more to blame than the move, in my humble opinion. Yes, unfortunately there were and still are concerns regarding safety and the “hooligan element”, at the London, but all these things can be worked out. Still, West Ham’s work is cut out to try to finish safely and more preferably, comfortably. I believe there is enough quality to survive as is, but I’m not sure there’s enough on either end to finish comfortably, and that’s gonna take some hard work, luck with fitness, a clever move or 3 in January, perhaps, and positive results.
The other message that I think is important, a big factor in survival is going to rest on a bit of harmony, even if you disagree with someone who is boycotting, try to respect that they have probably been going since 1958, and need their voices heard. They have just watched something that has been a part if their lives basically wiped away like so much spilled tea. However, it’s not the fault of the younger or foreign support who may know the modern game better in the first person, as it is due to lottery of birth, and are not necessarily plastic, or fanboys, it’s just definitely a case of "The Times, They are a Changin’. And honestly, there is nothing like an English top flight League match. Especially a Derby.
That being said, I think getting behind the team is very important, in social media, let’s be civil in disagreement, and constructive in criticism, have respect for the word of the true soldiers that travel every bloody week, home and away, over land and sea, and pay their hard earned wage to afford season tickets. Urge the players on the best you can, not tear em down, if they arent contributing, say “kick it up, or kick it on” Recognise that enough on this squad still have enough respect for themselves, if not the Crest to try to turn the second half around.
It’s gonna be a challenge (I’ve been around WHUFC long enough to know that),but unity, thru the highs and the lows, which will probably be many and exciting, is the only to way to save this club is to stick together, share ideas, and most importantly, come up with solutions.
No, I’m not from born and raised within the sound of the “Bow Bells”, but I am from a similar working class ethos in my local professional sports collectives, West Ham’s history, is one of the biggest reasons I chose to follow West Ham once following regularly, even from an armchair. I do admit, the atmosphere at the Boleyn was a thing that cannot be replicated, and words for me come hard to describe, but once thing was for certain, you were at a PROPER English football match, and if you want to experience English culture, go to a football match. Plus due to some belief to the contrary, I’m smart and experienced enough to “understand” and can empathise with enough to know that some of what the video message to the board, was spot on.
Best wishes for a Grand and Healthy Holiday for all, and 9 pts in the next 3 is not impossible (unlikely) but not impossible.
It was not only Hamburg Hammer who was in London that last weekend before Christmas. I visited the British capital too and made WESTHAM v HULL my first game in the London Stadium! I was lucky to get two tickets in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand Lower through West Ham’s ticket ballot and two other tickets with a little help from my friends. Travelling together with Mrs. Rapidhammer, my son and my future daughter-in-law it wasn’t a “football only weekend”, though I will focus on my experience regarding the London Stadium.
Well, my feelings after the first visit to the former Olympic Stadium are not euphoric, but all in all quite positive – maybe first of all because of the result, a very important though undeserved 1-0 win due to a Mark Noble penalty and much help from the “man of the match” called “the post”. Having been hit three times in this very game I think the match will be remembered for that post only … . but for me this match will always be something special, my first afternoon at the Olympic Stadium. But now one by one:
Staying in a Shoreditch flat over the weekend we travelled to the stadium from there by bus and walked to the ground for 15 mins, reaching it near the away end, a little left to the main concours. We were late because Mrs. Rapidhammer had to get to Oxford Street in the morning, and we couldn’t get back to the flat as fast as we had thought due to the “bloody traffic” in “bloody London” (as the cab driver said). Then we had lunch at Poppie’s Fish and Chips in Brick Lane and I decided to order the first jellied eels of my life, thinking that eating this typical East end food could be a good omen for a win of our Eastenders in claret and blue.
I have to confess that it took me some time to put away this unfamiliar starter, and then the main dish also wanted to be eaten. Well, it was a nervy bus ride then with repeated phone calls telling our friend with the tickets that we would arrive at the ground very soon.
Arriving at Parnell Road, a bus stop I suppose only a few of you will know, we had to make our way by foot crossing the A 12 motorway and a small river, walking on a flood protection embankment – a lonely though not idyllic area which hardly can be compared to pre-match Green Street with its pubs, cafes, food stalls and matchday programme sellers, and the buzz and excitement which could be felt there on match days.
But when we reached the main concourse in front of the big screen, the feeling and the excitement was there at last, with the crowd queuing up at the gates and the fans getting nervous and shoving each other a little, as “Bubbles” was already played inside the Stadium, and we feared to miss West Ham’s first strike let alone an early goal.
Then, having got into the stadium we had to cross the third bridge of the afternoon spanning the gap between the former lower tier of the Olympic Stadium and the new retractable seating which covers the running track.
We sat behind the goal, with some distance to the part of the stand occupied by the away fans. Of course we were not as close to the goal and the corner flag as in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand Lower of old, but the sight line was good. As far as I remember my last visit to the Emirates, the distance from the seats to the goal line at Arsenal’s ground was identical to the space behind the goal at the London Stadium. What I couldn’t get used to during the whole game was the big screen behind the opposite goal tempting me to watch on the screen what happened on the pitch when the “real play” took place in more distant areas like the opposite box.
As regards the atmosphere during the match, you can’t call the support from the stands extraordinary or overwhelming in this game, but taking into consideration the fairly poor performance of West Ham’s team this afternoon, the crowd cannot be blamed. The supporters did get behind the team, there was some banter with the away fans, and the atmosphere wasn’t very different from the average game at the Boleyn. And to mention that too, there were no signs of any crowd troubles.
To see the really big crowds in the two main stands was amazing, and I think it can make us proud that so many people follow West Ham, that the club had no problem to fill a stadium that has a capacity of more than 60% plus, still having thousands and thousands on the ST waiting list.
We all follow the West Ham, over land and sea,
and also to the Olympic Stadium, on the River Lea!
Having missed “Bubbles” before kick-off, I was very happy that Mark Noble who reliably as always converted a soft penalty and “the post”, our man of the match that was hit three times in one game, secured the playing of our hymn also after the final whistle. Or was it me having eaten jellied eels who made this win happen?
Well, to be honest, I hope not to be obliged to include eels in my match day routine from now on.
In high spirits because of the result, not the performance, we walked out of the stadium to the strains of “Twist and Shout” and tried the new club store. It is big enough and well organised to avoid long queues and being overcrowded too much after the game. Yet I was less impressed with the place into which the John Lyall Gates have been moved from Upton Park, but I think they are better visible when the store is not as full as it is after games.
What I didn’t fancy at all was the long way to Stratford after the game, a walk even more uninspired than the way to the stadium from Parnell Road bus stop in Bow which we had taken before the match. No one was there to sell food or badges, no pubs or cafés line the road and being locked out from getting into the Westfield Shopping Centre showed that football supporters aren’t really welcomed in this area. Though I can understand that the crowds have to be managed to make their way to Stratford Station, this cold and unhospitable way back from the ground was a real “turn-off”.
But all in all, my feelings after this very first visit to the former Olympic Stadium are positive. The club has done well to seize the opportunity of moving to a bigger ground when it was there, and now we have to make the best of it. Things will get better, we will get more used to the new surroundings and a new match day routine will be developed by those who can go regularly. And for me as a supporter from outside the UK, a trip to London watching West Ham will always be something special.
Of course I still miss Green Street and the old Hammers Social Club where one could have a pint or two after the game, I miss the West Ham Hotel with its view over the pitch, I miss the short walk to the World Cup sculpture before the game (of which I hope that it will remain at the junction of Barking Road and Green Street near the former Boleyn Ground), and I also miss the small Catholic Church of Our Lady of Compassion near the towering Stadium…
But come on you Irons, let’s see the positives! We can grow as a Club, as had our stadium, and when not only the results but also the team’s performances will start to improve, we will share more and more memories of great games at the OS – and the London Stadium will feel home after some time.
I for my part am looking forward to my next experience at the new home of the mighty Hammers – sometimes next year hopefully when we come back for another weekend to “bloody London” (as not only the cab drivers call it when they are stuck in the traffic jam …). Thank you to Paul from the new WHU Indepent Supporters Association for helping us out with the tickets, I very much hope to meet up again, and also to have time to see some of you guys from “West Ham Till I Die” next time!
Come on you Irons, have a wonderful Christmas everybody, and let’s hope Boxing Day and New Year’s Eve let us move further up the table – to midfield security!
I spoke to the man behind the youtube film which went viral in the last twenty four hours. West Ham fan Jonny Madderson answered my questions about the video which has struck a chord with many West Ham supporters.
SW> It is a very powerful video, can you tell me a bit about yourself and your history supporting West Ham?
JM> I’m a London-based filmmaker and have been a West Ham fan for 25 years. My older brother is also a West Ham fan. My first game was 2-0 v Oxford United in 1991 – Stuart Slater was amazing that day. Never had a season ticket, but always gone from season to season. I used to like sitting in the east stand at the Boleyn Ground.
What made you make the video?
There is a huge disconnect right now between the club and the fans. The board claim the migration has been a huge success but the fans are unhappy and feel disillusioned. That disconnect creates a negative atmosphere that spreads – you can feel it in the stands, on social media, in the press and in the pubs. This season has been one big downer! (And I haven’t even started on the football yet!)
But rather than whinging or infighting or regretting what can’t be turned back, we need to unite and move forward together – without ever forgetting what makes West Ham special.
That’s what this film is about. A sort of rallying cry to become West Ham United once more, and make this stadium a fortress.
SW> What would you like to change?
JM> The biggest hope for the video is that it starts a constructive, urgent conversation between the board and the fans that leads to positive change.
To be clear, we are not living in the past. Football is a business, we know we need to make money to keep up with the times and see good football on the pitch. The stadium move is progressive and ambitious and could be a very exciting opportunity – but it won’t be easy to pull off and the board need our help.
So far, the fans haven’t been brought along the journey and we haven’t had any input in the shape of the Club’s future. The board need to acknowledge this, drop all the bluster about the success of the move, and recognise that improvements need to be made and the fans should be integral to these changes.
One significant problem for example is the match day experience. It feels like a trip to the Excel centre right now – we need to work hard to make it feel like a trip to West Ham and the board need the fans’ help – so that it doesn’t end up being a marketing department’s vision of what a west ham match day experience is.
The film doesn’t try to solve the problems by any stretch. But hopefully it starts a conversation.
SW> How do the board become world class?
JM> It’s easy to talk a good game, but to become world class you need to deliver on it too. So when big talk about player recruitment doesn’t materialise, it feels small time. When you talk about the stadium migration as a resounding success, yet your fanbase feels more disillusioned that at any other time in recent memory, it feels small time. We are at a crossroads right now and the board need to step up their game – how they move forward will define the future of the Club.
We can’t blag this one… Let’s make sure we get it right!