Don’t forget to take part in the WHTID readers survey. Click HERE
My decision to emigrate from England to Australia in 1981 was the hardest in my life. To leave friends and family was hard to do but I knew that my opportunities in life would be greater if I made the move. The other heartache for me was discarding the fortnightly visit to my beloved Hammers. I had been going to Upton Park for 13 years but I did not realise just how much I would miss the place three decades later. In the final two years of my life in England the Hammers had won the FA Cup final against Arsenal, made the League Cup final against Liverpool and had won promotion back to the top flight by winning the old second division. It was so hard to leave all this behind.
The first decade living in Australia was like living on a different planet football wise. Pay TV and the internet were a long way from their inception here and in fact the only chance to see English football was a half hour goal highlights show at 11.30pm on a Monday night. Australia was so far behind in the pre-communication World that even number one single tracks in the UK would only get into the charts here some 9 months later. In the first few years the only chance I had of following West Ham was the newspaper cuttings from the games that my mum would send me by post. These used to arrive about 3 weeks after the games but it was the best we could manage. Some years later the local TV station extended the football show to an hour, showing the highlights of one game and the goals from the rest of the division. However, the station was so biased to showing just one team that we renamed the show, “The Liverpool show”. Worse was to come though as the Hammers got relegated in the late eighties and again in the early nineties meaning that all TV coverage of West Ham disappeared. Back again to the wait for mum’s newspaper clippings.
From the mid eighties through to the mid nineties I had bought myself a short wave radio. At last I could tune into the BBC World Service as they gave a commentary of the second half of one game on a Saturday afternoon and also updated latest scores. That meant getting out of bed at 2am on a Sunday morning and trying to tune the radio station in, as the reception was at best fuzzy and more often very crackly! Constant retuning meant that you often got West Ham 1 Arsenal zszszszszsz. My wife was really doubting my sanity by now as I would climb back into bed at 4am, often only learning what the final score was for my nocturnal efforts.
Finally in the late nineties we had the introduction of Pay TV and EPL games were shown on a regular basis, although watching all West Ham games was still not guaranteed. Only selected games were chosen for viewing but that was to change in recent years. Providing you pay for the Pay TV subscription we can watch any game we desire in the EPL, just by pressing a select red button on the control. The 21st century also provides the internet where we can catch up with all the latest news and also blog on sites like these. The fear of relegation hangs high still each season as the drop would also mean a blackout of West Ham coverage over here again. The 32 years here have not dented my love for our club and I have managed to get back quite a few times over the past 20 years to get my Upton Park “fix”. Like the prolonged wait for Pay TV and internet, I am now waiting for the “beam me up Scotty” technology, that will mean getting to the Olympic Stadium and back before the missus gets out of bed on a Sunday morning.