Nostalgia

My Journey From Gooner to Hammer

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


Financial

The £36 million pound bill West Ham faces in January

On the very day that the January Transfer Window opens West Ham face some rather large bills which need to be re-paid or refinanced.

Note 20 on page 32 of West Ham’s 2012 Financial accounts explains the terms of our current bank loans.

It explains the primary bank loan to West ham of £30,527,000 provided by a syndicate of five banks and secured freehold land including the Boleyn expires on the 31st December 2013.

A further two unsecured loans are both repayable a day later on 1st January 2014. £5,167,000 is due to CB Holding ehf (The Icelandic company which inherited West Ham through its major share holding in Straumur)

A further £1,058,000 is also due on 1st January 2014 to ALMC ehf (formerly known as Straumur-Burdaras Investment Bank)

This amounts to a grand total of £36 million which needs to be re-financed or paid off by the day the January transfer window opens.

It is a common misconception that all multi millionaires like our chairman keep tens of millions of cash in the bank. Successful business men like our owners will make their money work for them in different investments most of which will not be liquid or easily converted back to cash.

In the case of David Sullivan much of his wealth is tied up in a vast property portfolio through his property company Conegate Holdings which has £245m of assets, £110m of long term debts and £35m cash in the bank.

I am sure it is wishful thinking to believe that David Sullivan will use this £35m in the bank of this property company to wipe out the remaining debts at the end of this year. This business needs working capital to buy and invest in new properties otherwise it would of used some of this cash in the bank to pay back some of its £110m of long term debts.

This same property company already owns 12.5% of West Ham and has loaned it £16 million pounds.

In 2011 Conegate sold the 999-year leasehold of the old Radio Times buidling (35 Marylebone High Street) to a pension company for £32.3m

This is almost an identical amount to what our owners invested into West Ham after our relegation to the Championship.

Unless West Ham makes a statement in January we won’t know how they intend to re-finance or pay off these £36m of loans. The financial accounts for that period will not be released until 2015. How this affects any possible January transfer window budget remains to be seen.

UPDATE:

Since this article was published I became aware that David Sullivan covered some of the question of re-financing in his Interview with Graeme Howlett from KUMB.com in August.

When Graeme asked about the extra 25% of shares Sullivan acquired in West Ham he replied:

“It was all to do with restructuring the bank debt. If I bought these shares they would take over the bank debt which ran out in December. It’s been renewed for another three years and I’ve put a bit of money into the bank debt as well. It’s complicated really”

So it appears the pressure is now off for January.

You can find the full interview from KUMB.com here


Nostalgia

The 1972 League Cup Run: An Exhausting Time

In my short time writing mainly nostalgia pieces for this site, we have looked back on some wonderfully sunny days in the Hammers history. It would not be the West Ham way if we did not remember one evening that was filled with gloom and despair. In fact it was two evenings really as we look back at the League Cup semi-finals against Stoke in the 1971-72 season.

It was an exhausting time for the players and fans as West Ham’s League Cup run started with a draw at home to Cardiff before winning the replay 2-1 in Wales. Next up was Don Revie’s mighty Leeds. Again a draw at home followed by a totally unexpected 1-0 win in the replay at Elland Road after extra time! Two games down and both had gone to replays with one going to extra time. Just to ensure things did not get easier our next game was to be against Liverpool at home. More than 40,000 packed Upton Park that night as Pop Robson scored a late winner in a 2-1 victory. So to the quarter final and Pop scored a hat trick in a 5-0 win against Sheffield United to ensure a two legged semi-final against Stoke City.

The first leg was at Stoke and we came home with a 2-1 win and the Hammers were just 90 minutes away from Wembley. The second leg at Upton Park saw Stoke take the lead in the 73rd minute after a Tommy Taylor and John McDowell mix up. In the final minutes there came a memory I have never forgotten. I was right behind the North Bank goal to witness Harry Redknapp brought down in the box and Geoff Hurst stepped up to take the penalty that would have sent us to Wembley. Well, history tells that Gordon Banks was to save Geoff’s spot kick and take us to extra time yet again but with no change to the 2-2 aggregate score. So a third game was necessary and was played at Hillsborough where the kick off was to be delayed by traffic congestion. Yet again it went to extra time but with no score it was to go to a fourth match to finally decide our fate. Ron Greenwood had lost the toss after the match for choice of venue and then found out that the team coach had been sabotaged. During the game someone had taken the petrol cap off and filled the tank with sand!

So on to the 26th January, nearly two months after the two teams first met, we trudged off to Old Trafford on the wettest and windiest night you could imagine. The stadium was under renovation at the time and Hammers fans that were there that night would remember there was no shelter for us against the elements. The match was packed with incident, starting with Stokes Terry Conroy kicking our keeper Bobby Ferguson “accidentally” in the head. Ferguson had to go off and Bobby Moore volunteered to go in goal. There was not the luxury of three subs back in those days and Ron Greenwood was hoping Ferguson would come good with a small spell off the pitch before considering our only substitute, Peter Eustace. Within minutes Stoke had a penalty and incredibly Bobby Moore saved Mike Bernard’s shot only for the rebound to be drilled back for the opening goal. Still playing with ten men and with Moore in goal, Billy Bonds fired us level and back in with a chance. A sublime Trevor Brooking volley put us 2-1 ahead, and dreaming again, before Dobing made it 2-2. Ferguson was to return in the second half but Stoke were to try and take every opportunity to exploit Ferguson’s now dodgy vision and Conroy struck the winner as we continually back pedalled to try and provide cover for him.

It was finally all over! That Cup run saw us play ten games with three going to extra time and the four matches against Stoke saw 420 minutes played in front of a total attendance exceeding 170,000. In days of muddy pitches and no penalty shoot outs, this tie will never be forgotten by fans who witnessed this incredible marathon that just about had it all – except for a Hammers Wembley dream of course.


Talking Point

Jack Collison loaned to Bournemouth and other news

It has been confirmed that Jack Collison has been sent on an emergency 1 month loan to Championship club, Bournemouth. At first sight, this decision will probably puzzle most fans. Some will reason that at a time when we are severely struggling to score goals, Sam Allardyce has seen fit to ship out on loan a midfielder who possesses a natural goal scoring touch in the final third. No doubt, they will see this as a prelude to a permanent move in January. That could be the case, but it is also more than possible that Allardyce is loaning him out for this short period to up his game time and sharpen his game ahead of him playing a far greater part in first team affairs.

There is no doubt that Jack Collison’s playing development was adversely affected by that fateful knee dislocation picked up in a mid-week fixture at Wigan a few seasons ago. Prior to that he had come in to the first team and looked an outstanding prospective. Displaying good staimina, excellent technique, powerful forward runs and a marked finishing ability in the final third. Post-injury, he has only, hitherto, recaptured his former performance levels in flashes. Most notably, that excellent double against Cardiff City in the 2012 Play-Off Semi-Final in Cardiff.

Personally, I hope that this loan represents an attempt to build up Collison’s match fitness and sharpness. Because, I still feel he has much to offer at first team level. The former knee injury has to be managed, but that is possible these days. We will need to keep an eye on this one. It could be a test, to give Collison three or so consecutive first team fixtures to see how he stands up to a intense period of matches. We shall see?

It has also been widely reported that West Ham are lining up a January free agent move for Malmo’s 22 year old, attacking midfielder, Jiloan Hamad. Hamad has scored 11 times for Malmo in the current Swedish season, which has assisted them to the verge of the title and qualification for next season’s Champions League. There is widespread interest in the player, but he has expressed an interest in playing in this Premier League. Apparently, West Ham made contact with the player’s agent this summer and although no deal transpired, it is possible there may be some sort of pre-contract deal in place. Of course, we all know how much the club’s co-owners love picking up a Bosman bargain, so it could be a runner. Provided that the necessary striker(s) are signed as well. Well one would presume so, but this West Ham and confounding things have an habit of commonly happening!

Elsewhere, I see that Barry Hearn was once again banging his Olympic Stadium drum in yesterday’s Evening Standard. If you get a chance to read the article, you should do so. It goes over all the old disproved ground and need not be repeated here in detail. However, two statements do stand out though. The first was that Leyton Orient have been at their current site for 130 years!!! When in reality it is a verifiable historical fact that they relocated from Clapton in Hackney in 1935-36. The second is that the OS is a mere 750 yards from Brisbane Road. Again, that is just plain wrong, the true distance in 1.5 miles. Leyton Orient can keep feeding the legal profession copious fees on a lost cause, the fact is that all the loop holes in the original procurement process were closed and the 2nd process is water tight. This stadium anchor deal with West Ham is just too important to the future of the OS site, and the delivery of the wider Olympic Legacy in East London, for it to be amended at this stage. Orient should have just accepted the rejection of their judicial review and, instead, sought to develop a strategy to co-exist with West Ham at Stratford. I, for one, believe that it is more than possible.

Finally, some apparent good news on Andy Carroll’s physical rehabilitation from his persistent heel injury. After an initial assessment by Dutch specialist, Professor Van Dijk, Carroll is to be given the green light to step up his rehabilitation work over a three week period. At the end of which, and all things going well, Van Dijk will put a definitive time-scale on his return to full fitness. This initial prognosis by the Dutch specialist has apparently been received with much encouragement by the club’s medical and physio team. So, hopefully a early New Year return is a possibility.

Its just the current dangerous period that have to traverse in the meantime! Hopefully, the return of Downing and Joe Cole will have a positive influence and a new strike partnership of Petric and Carlton Cole will deliver some goals. This is a very difficult period and the manager needs to motivate his players and the players need to show unity and a collective spirit to see us through. This striker situation should never have occurred, but we are where we are, and we have to dig in and fight for the points up until the January window. We especially need to reverse this recent trend of conceding points at Upton Park, we must re-assert our former dominance at home. That is probably the key factor in safely guiding us through to the New Year.

SJ. Chandos.


Nostalgia

What’s your West Ham fan criteria?

I guarantee that the next time you meet someone and find out they are also a West Ham fan, you will apply some sort of test in your head to work out whether they are an actual fan and whether or not you should respect their level of West Ham fandom. I absolutely guarantee. You can’t help it. I do it all the time. Never had a season ticket? Not a true fan. Can’t name the 1980 winning cup final side? Not a true fan. Don’t have an opinion on Big Sam’s defensive buys in the last window? Not a true fan. Whatever criteria you use, both you and I need to remember that there are plenty of ways to love this club of ours. None of them wrong per se.

We’ve all got a West Ham fan criteria. That set of rules that we use to decide if someone is one of us. It can be part of a conversation with someone new, when they mention something only a true member of our club could know. It can be something visual, seeing a tattoo for example, some crossed hammers or something considerably less subtle. It can be going to someone’s house for the first time and seeing their framed collection of ticket stubs from the 70s and 80s. And yes that last one is a true story that happened to a friend of mine. She ended up marrying him.

Proving you’re a real West Ham fan all starts in primary school, or at least it did for me. Kids proudly displayed their new kits at PE and swapped stories of weekend trips to Upton Park at playtime. Then it was the sticker books. You were only really considered to be a true fan if you had all the West Ham players, the team shot and the shinys. Filling up the rest of the book was important but you had to get every one of our boys first before you were allowed to care about the other teams. I definitely have photos from this time with other little girls in claret and blue so I know I wasn’t the only one joining in.

Ludek's 1996 sticker

As you get older, the boundaries change and people earn their West Ham stripes in a number of different ways. For some people it was the statistics, numbers and records. There was a kid in the year below me at senior school who could just spout it out like some robot Superfan. I think he spent every Sunday reading the sports sections of every paper and had some weird photographic memory. His predictions for the weekend were based on previous performance, probability and percentages. Needless to say he didn’t have a girlfriend until long into university.

There were other mates I had who used to hang around the training ground in Chadwell Heath with their disposable cameras and autograph books (I wonder how many kids nowadays have autograph books?!). They used to get the bus up there and back after their mums had dropped them off at school. Being able to recount your entire conversation with Stevie Potts was a definite game changer when it came to respect from your peers.

For other people it was about away games – how many you go to, how far you have to travel and what shenanigans you get up to on the trips. Even just going to another London ground for a local derby earned significant brownie points. I heard stories about hiring limos to go to Cardiff, new trainers for trips above Watford and being too drunk to get into St. James Park. Suddenly around the age of 12 and a half, being a West Ham fan takes on a whole new level of meaning, with more commitment and more energy. You start believing that you really will follow this team over land and sea and people who don’t fail the test. They just don’t make the cut as a true fan.

Russell Brand West Ham Tattoo

I remember reading an article by Russell Brand in the Guardian about being cornered in the Gents in the Dr Martens stand, and being made to prove his West Ham credentials by singing a song. “I opted not for the obvious “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” because that wouldn’t have been sufficient testimony to my commitment. I steeled myself, flung my arms skyward and retreated into the accent of my childhood. Going at least three octaves lower than my natural speaking voice I bellowed: “We all follow the West Ham over land and sea …” When I talked about the article with my Dad, there was a begrudging respect for the ridiculous-haired Dandy. With his choice of song Brand had shown that he understood the criteria and went up in our estimation because of it.

Since leaving East London I’ve met West Ham fans born in Honolulu, Christchurch, Barcelona and dozens of cities in between, all of whom have never had the chance to watch a game at Upton Park. I don’t think this affects their status as true fans but it does entirely demolish my criteria. If being an adult and meeting West Ham fans from all over the world has taught me anything, it’s that it’s ok not to have had a Bobby Moore lunchbox and still be a Hammer. If you don’t know all the verse to OLAS however, well that might be another story…


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