This post is different from my usual type of article but due to the recent run of bad results and negative rumours surrounding the club on twitter I have decided I want to reminisce about days gone by and talk about one of my all-time favourite West Ham memories. I also noticed that some of the other topics I intended to discuss have already been covered by other writers on here.
As I have said on my profile on this website I was born to be a West Ham fan with my dad and granddad both being very passionate about the club. I was born in East London (Leytonstone to be precise) and have lived in the area all my life, so I have Claret and Blue blood.
Unfortunately at the impressionable age of eight, that blood was stained for a short period. I went to a school where almost everyone was an Arsenal fan. All my close friends were fans and a lot of my family were too. It is here that I must confess to a terrible sin that I committed. For a very brief and shameful period I decided I would be an Arsenal fan. This disgraceful act only last a few months however I “timed” it well as it was the year that they beat Liverpool in the most dramatic of fashions to capture the title. You would think this would have cemented my place as a gooner for life. In fact it did the complete opposite. My dad and granddad were close to putting me up for adoption but decided to decorate my bedroom claret and blue and make me watch Trevor Brooking videos instead. For the next season I “supported” Arsenal and West Ham. Of course this was still not acceptable.
Desperate times called for desperate measures and my dad and granddad decided their final move was to buy me next season’s full kit and more importantly my first season ticket. I wore that BAC claret and blue shirt with pride for my first ever visit to Upton Park to sit in the same seat that I have for the last 23 years and the rest is history, the transformation was complete!
I remember my first game well. It was against Portsmouth on the 29 August 1990 and it finished 1-1. Guy Whittingham a Portsmouth legend scored for them and Frank McAvennie a West Ham legend scored for us. It wasn’t the most memorable game but it was a very special one for me. It ended up being a great season for us, as automatic promotion was secured.
The one game that stood out for me and the one that had me hooked and cemented as a West Ham fan for life was the game on the 14th April 1991. It was the FA Cup Semi Final v Nottingham Forest at Villa Park. The fact that we lost that game 4-0, it was spoilt by a disgraceful referring decision and it stopped the dream final v Spurs and I still have that as one of my favourite away games. It either shows I am sucker for punishment or something magical must have happened.
Leading up to the game we had been hit by the controversy of Trevor Morley being stabbed by his wife. It had been announced in the press that he had recovered in time and I thought that it was fate that he would score the winner, how wrong I was!
Everything about the day was exciting. My dad hired a mini bus between him and eight mates. They filled the bus with cans of beer, hung scarfs from every window, someone brought a big claret and blue old school bell which was rung every time someone finished their can and the car tape player had bubbles on repeat.
We drove up to Birmingham early, on a very hot day and checked into a hotel, where the party had hired a function room to watch the Spurs V Arsenal Semi-Final game before our match. The game was a great spectacle with Gazza scoring a wonder goal and booking Tottenham’s place in the final. One half of the dream final was complete. The drinking continued and all members of the group were quite legless to say the least (myself unfortunately not included) and we made our way to the ground.
On the way to the match we walked through a park right near Villa Park that was on a hill. I can clearly remember looking at the ground and just seeing a sea of claret and blue. As we approached the stadium another very “merry” man approached our group and gave me a big checked claret and blue flag!! I was absolutely delighted. Of course I will never find out who this man was but that claret and blue flag is still in my old room at my parent’s house and I will always be grateful for that moment. Unfortunately tight security at the ground meant I had to leave the stick outside and never actually got to wave it at the ground.
Before the game West Ham had won the pre match dog race and I was ready to see us win, however we all know what happened in the match. Tony Gale was sent off for a professional foul ( a rule that had been introduced only weeks earlier). It was a ridiculous decision and we ended up losing the game 4-0 in the most unjust manner. Inside as a youngster I was actually gutted and could have cried but it was the West Ham fans that made it all worthwhile. The atmosphere was amazing. Despite us losing all I could hear all game was various West Ham chants. I seem to remember Billy Bonds’ Claret and Blue army going on for at least 10 minutes continuous. I recall singing bubbles at the top of my voice and feeling such pride that this game was being shown to all my Arsenal supporting friends back home.
After the game we headed back to the hotel where we were all staying and the drinking and chanting continued till the early hours despite the result. My dad told my mum that I was well looked after and in bed by 8 o’clock this wasn’t true! I was in the middle of them all now conducting the chanting.
When I got into school on the Monday I couldn’t have been prouder to be a West Ham fan. I took a lot of stick about the result but it didn’t matter as I supported a team who had some of the best supporters in the land!
Unfortunately my first league away game was far less memorable. A 1-1 away draw at Charlton where the only thing of real note from that game was the debut of the Canadian “legend” Alex Bunbury. It is however these highs and lows that makes being a West Ham fan so special. COYI