Guest Post

On the road again ...

Guest post written by Voice of Reason

The Infirm City Firm have set the alarm clock, recharged the SatNav, checked the tyres, oil and water, stocked up on Werthers Originals and ventured forth once more into the great outdoors.

A new season, new hope (but not too much) and off we go.

The Infirm City Firm were active early with a substantial presence at pre-season games starting with the kids’ game at Dagenham & Redbridge where BSB (plus his son), Safehands, Russ, Nigel and myself saw a 2-1 win for the boys against a pretty experienced D&R outfit. A special mention to Mrs BSB who went to the Pipe Major pub near the ground before the game finished, reserved a table for all of us and even pre-ordered the drinks. What a trooper!

This was followed by the splinter group of Russ and BSB travelling incognito to Germany to meet their handler, the mysterious man known only as HH, and to watch the two Werder Bremen games. Most of their time on the continent is a subject of rumour but we have ascertained that they were bowled over by the German policewomen and eventually tunnelled their way back to Blighty. They also reported that they were presented with the largest dinner this side of the Urals. It was a sharing platter ordered personally by Herr Hammer of Hamburg (a man with an infamous gargantuan appetite) who took away what couldn’t be eaten in a hired pick-up truck.

Russ, BSB and myself also went to another kids’ game, at Billericay which ended in a 3-1 loss but attracted 4,000 fans so a great night for the small town club.

Then the season started properly with the first league game of the season, away to Manchester United at Old Trafford. There won’t be too much detail about the games here as everyone knows what has happened so far but we were well beaten, 4-0, by a very strong and powerful team. This was the day when Nigel was granted full membership of the Infirm City Firm for his services to Flag Design. Credit to Safehands as well.

Unfortunately we were unable to take the flag into Old Trafford as it was 6 inches too long to meet their regulations! This is the same bunch of oiks who wouldn’t let me take a Kindle in a couple of years ago – probably because they were scared I would read them to death. Excellent catering was provided by Mrs BSB in the luxury in-car cool box supplemented by smoked salmon rolls courtesy of Safehands, very daintily prepared by someone with hands like shovels. Roadworks on the bloody M6 meant a long and late journey home. I really hate those 4pm Sunday kick-offs.

Next stop Southampton, the second of three successive away league games due to some blokes and girls running around our running track. Safehands, Russ, BSB and myself had the pleasure of welcoming Liddy into our company and, following an executive breakfast in an a la carte caff somewhere in Kent, we met Tom in Southampton as well and also had the enormous pleasure of the company of Ooh, ooh, Barney Magrew who made his own way there and was entrenched in the pub by the time we arrived. Now, this was the day when we became suspicious of BSB’s claims that he has spent years as a London Cabbie. The way he slapped the butter on the rolls he brought would indicate that he is probably a plasterer – and a pretty poor one at that! His catering skills, whilst well meaning, are nowhere near Mrs BSB’s. This time we couldn’t take the flag into the ground because it didn’t have a fire safety certificate! Yes, honestly.

Breaking News: Next week the ICF flag applies for a passport and has a CRB check.

A 3-2 loss but plenty to be encouraged about from the second half performance.

I made a solo appearance at the League, or EFL, or Carabao Cup tie at Cheltenham where I went as a guest of a friend who has a couple of season tickets there. A competent performance against a fired up lower league team. Job done. It was strange, however, that there were around 800 empty seats for a game that was officially sold out.

The third away league game on the bounce was the long and winding road to Newcastle to watch a pretty abject performance. Ending in a 3-0 loss. My original plan to stay over on Saturday night was curtailed by my mate having to pull out at the last minute, so I travelled up with Russ, BSB and Barney who, after a lengthy absence, turns up two games in a row. We didn’t even try to get the flag into the ground as the view was that, at the height the away fans are, it probably would be visible to anyone apart from a passing satellite.

We did, however, get a photo with a passing Newcastle fan (on the left) who then took us to the bar he uses before games and introduced us to some of his friends. What a nice chap, although, to be fair, I have known him for getting on for 20 years. It was also good to meet Dan Coker and his wife at the bar before Mrs Coker departed to spend all of Dan’s money in the City Centre. There was also something new to be learnt on this trip (well, for some of us at least). Apparently, Barney is a bit of a dab hand at interior design.
So much so that he is known, in some circles, as Laurence Llewellyn Barney, or LLB.

Public Service Announcement: The Infirm City Firm support the LLB Community.

Coming back down the A1 we were obviously disappointed with the way the game had turned out. But disappointment is really all it is, not the wailing and gnashing of teeth that seemed to be foremost on the internet. Although there was some anger amongst the fans at the game, their reaction always seems more balanced than many who don’t actually attend. I really don’t know why this should be but the poll that was conducted on C&H which delivered a 70% plus vote in favour of Slaven Bilic being sacked was, I think, done on Saturday night so most of the participants were probably keyboard warriors as those who went to Newcastle would have still been on the A1.

I guess if there is to be a change of manager it may just have happened before this is published. Personally I hope not. We are probably all grateful that we have a home game next although waiting 2 weeks, due to the international break, is frustrating. 3 points against Huddersfield is a must.

Finally, a couple of points – well three actually:

  • The rest of us are really grateful to both BSB and Russ for all of the driving they do to these away games.
  • As a non-contributor to the in-flight catering I am grateful for those who feed and water me on these journeys.
  • And finally, the Infirm City Firm Flag (which is planning to make its official debut at West Brom, now has its own Twitter account. Please visit @infirmcityfirm and follow the flag.

Guest Post

Showcase of WHTID Photographer Dawud Marsh

Guest Post by Dawud Marsh

Photography is my passion outside of following West Ham and I thought I’d share some of the photographs I have taken from our first season at the London Stadium. I actually really like the stadium because it offers such strong visual lines for someone like myself especially in the setting of the Olympic Park, which is actually really well planned and laid out. Even if the stadium lacks the same planning and careful thought as a venue for football you can always take a great photo.

I am happy for everyone here to share my images – as long as you credit me. If anyone would like a print I am happy to send a copy at cost price – framed or unframed just email me at dawudtmarsh@gmail.com.

If you’re interested in my photography – I am currently doing a lot of floral photos at the moment – you can pop over HERE

Hope you enjoy the photos.

Dawud


The Iron Liddy Column

The Way We Were ..... Try To Remember

Memories ….. light the corners of my mind .…. and the headers, the tackles, the mazy runs, and the goals.

It’s Mother’s Day and I’m sitting here reflecting on one of my Mum’s favourite records, in fact the only one I ever remember her buying as an EP when I was young, and it occurred to me that a modified line from Gladys Knight & The Pips’ 1975 hit would make a good epigram for an article that I’ve been mulling over for a while.

Some of the regular readers of WHTID will know that sadly my Mum was finally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a year ago and it was during my efforts to inform and educate myself about this cruel disease that I discovered that football is being used as a key to unlock dementia patients’ memories and to engage with them in a meaningful and therapeutic way.

In 2011 a social enterprise called Sporting Memories Network (SMN) was founded to run community-wide sports reminiscence projects. Their aim was to use archival sports images, reports, and memorabilia to engage older people in both stimulating conversation and reminiscence to promote mental and physical well-being. Sport is a powerful medium for many people, providing memories of great games, sporting legends and marvellous victories, but also the friendships made and the sense of community that playing or watching sports brings. Talking about sporting events and cultures of the time helps to give people their identity back and reconnect them to the people and generations around them.

The SMN initially ran a pilot project with fifteen care homes in Leeds to test and refine their approach. After receiving background training, each home was supplied with archival images and a training manual. The project was evaluated by Dr Michael Clark, Research Programme Manager, Personal Social Services Research Unit at the London School of Economics. In his evaluation report, Dr. Clark wrote:

“The Sporting Memories work is appealing to people and draws out enthusiasm and personal information that would otherwise have been dormant.”

His report noted a positive impact not only on the wellbeing of residents but also on the staff, as they too enjoyed hearing about great football games of the past.

In 2013 a dementia care unit was built close to Sunderland football club’s Stadium of Light. The Roker ward – named after the club’s former ground Roker Park – at Monkwearmouth hospital, provides 12 beds for men aged over 65 who have both functional and organic mental health needs. This unit replaced a ward in Cherry Knowle hospital in Ryhope, which previously successfully trialled sport as a focus for reminiscence therapy. The Sporting Memories Network worked with the ward staff to show them how they could use images of famous footballers and sports stars from days gone by as a trigger for conversation, debate and reminiscence.

Finding meaningful ways to connect and engage with dementia patients is always challenging. Football provides an alternative focus for men who are often reluctant to join in other group and reminiscence based activities. Memories of players, matches and sports events from 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years ago can become clear when prompted. Geoff Willis, the ward manager said:

“It’s often difficult to engage older men in meaningful activities but using sporting memories as a framework has worked for us; most clients are keen to share their memories about football. They become animated and passionate and have so much to tell you.”

The Sporting Memories Network ensures that new materials are made available on a regular basis to keep the sessions and conversations fresh. They now even publish a weekly reminiscence newspaper called The Sporting Pink based on the tradition of many city-based evening newspapers in Britain to produce a special weekly edition with football news, published each weekend known both colloquially and formally as the Pink ‘Un. They were printed by their mainstream newspaper on pink paper, hence the name. Some were included with Friday or Saturday editions, and some were sold separately. In addition to the Pink ’Un, a lesser number of such papers also produced a Green ’Un, printed on green paper, which covered horse racing. Going out to buy the Pink ’Un or Green ’Un on a Saturday evening was a tradition for sports fans across the country for many years. SMN’s The Sporting Pink newspaper is filled with archival sporting images and match reports for the staff to use for reminiscence.

As well as hospital centered initiatives the SMN also run community based projects in England, Wales, and Scotland which are volunteer led. Premier League, Football League, Super league, and County Cricket Clubs are involved in hosting and running some of the groups. Other venues include libraries, museums, social clubs, and pubs.

The network has gained the support of current and former sports stars including footballers Robbie Savage, Chris Kamara and Nigel Martyn; and David Coulthard, Ross Brawn and Nico Rosberg from Formula One. Sporting bodies such as the Professional Footballers’ Association, and the British Racing Drivers’ Club, are also supporting the work. Some of these sports personalities have added their own recollections to the SMN’s online database of memories which is hosted and maintained by the associated Sporting Memories Foundation

The SMN also works with professional sports clubs by raising awareness of dementia through scheduled league matches which are designated ‘Memories Games’. This aspect of the Sporting Memories Network work was acknowledged in the first annual report on the progress of the Prime Minister’s challenge on dementia and their work with Everton Football Club was published as an example of best practice in the Alzheimer’s Society 2013 report on Creating Dementia-Friendly Communities.

In a 2014 interview by The Telegraph Tony Jameson-Allen, a former psychiatric nurse and one of the co-founders of the Sporting Memories Network, said:

“Using sport to engage and interest elderly people with memory problems is a great way to help them feel alive again. Using football for reminiscence-based activities for older people has been very popular, especially among men; we get them together for 90 minutes once a week ….. we use images and photos to stimulate memories, and even serve Bovril and meat pies at half time.

“Every week, we publish a version of the traditional Saturday paper Pink ’Un. We added a spot-the-ball competition, and found that women were particularly keen. It seemed many ladies had a shared memory of not being allowed to fill these in, as husbands liked to mark where the ball should be.

“We’ve found older people would rather talk about which pub they went to on match day, rather than discussing topics of loss such as the War; sport doesn’t usually hold negative memories – they centre on community, humour and friendship instead.”

More recently, in November 2016 the Alzheimer’s Society’s initiative Dementia Friends launched their own football memories group to help combat the effects of dementia. The UK’s leading dementia charity is asking all 111 Premier League and English Football League and Women’s Super League clubs across England and Wales to run Dementia Friends Information Sessions.

Dementia Friends are working to ensure that football clubs are places where people with dementia and their carers feel understood and included; and to tackle the social isolation the charity knows often follows a dementia diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia. It aims to transform the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about the condition so that people can feel involved and included in their communities and continue doing the things they love.

Dementia Friends Information Sessions will be delivered to match-day staff and stewards at clubs nationwide so that they understand what it’s like to live with dementia and the small ways in which they can help people on match days.

Speaking about the new campaign, Alzheimer’s Society Head of Policy George McNamara said:

“Life doesn’t have to end when dementia begins and people living with the condition should be able to continue doing the things they want to do, like supporting their football club, after a diagnosis.

“Football clubs, which are right at the heart of our communities, can make a real difference to the lives of fans affected by dementia by helping staff and fellow supporters become Dementia Friends.”

There are 1.7 million Dementia Friends and Alzheimer’s Society wants to reach four million people by 2020. Clubs across the nation, such as our fellow East London team Leyton Orient, are showing their support for people by staging Dementia Friends sessions. You can read more about these sessions here

Phillip Smith, Leyton Orient’s Health and Wellbeing Activator, said:

“We are pleased to be able to support Alzheimer’s Society in raising awareness of dementia in the local community of Waltham Forest. We are in a unique position to be able to engage with such a large number of people and as part of the wider health engagement plan the club and trust have developed.

“We are dedicated to improving and supporting the health of our fans and local community members. We want to ensure that fans living with dementia can continue to engage with the club both on match days and within our community sessions too.”

The family of England’s 1966 World Cup hero Ray Wilson, who played for Everton and Huddersfield, and is living with Alzheimer’s disease, is backing the Dementia Friends Football campaign.

Speaking about the campaign, Ray’s wife Pat said:

“Ray might be living with dementia but he still really loves going to watch football matches because the game is in his blood.

“He goes to Huddersfield games with our son, and like most fans he’ll kick and head every ball and make every tackle in his mind because he’s so passionate.

“Sometimes we noticed fans sat around him were a bit taken aback by some of the things he says and his actions, but the more aware of his dementia they’ve become the more understanding they’ve been which is really nice and comforting for the whole family.”

There are 850,000 people living in the UK with dementia which affects many household names like Ray and fellow World Cup winners Martin Peters and Nobby Stiles as well as many footballers who made their name during the 1970s such as former England international Stan Bowles. And of course it affects ordinary football fans like you, me and our loved ones.

Football is such an intrinsic part of British culture that it can also be a touchstone for members of our society who don’t necessarily have a huge vested interest in or passion for the game but they love the people who do. In a moving article he wrote for The Guardian in 2007 Pete May, West Ham fan, journalist and author, talks about football being the bond he still shared with his dad despite their political differences and the encroaching frailties of his dad’s old age. In the same article he talks about his mum’s relationship with West Ham and it’s one that I could relate to when he wrote:

“My mum went to West Ham v Man United in 1971, but was disgusted by the swearing. She always took an interest in the results, though, and became a proxy Hammers fan. We spent a horrible week by her hospital bedside in September. She had Alzheimer’s disease, needed a hip operation and had just been operated on for a burst stomach ulcer. But after two days in critical care, she came round. She was hopelessly confused, and kept worrying about where the family were going to eat, asking, “Shall we go to the Anvil [the local pub]?” Then she suddenly said “I support West Ham!” It was a sign that she knew I was there. Two days later, her body gave up and she died.”

My own mum isn’t really a huge football fan but she’s always taken an interest in West Ham’s fortunes because of me and I liked it when she affectionately used to say “you and your football, you’re as bad as your dad.” In latter years as she’s become more housebound she’s even taken to watching our televised games when she can, I think because it gave her a shared interest and something to talk about to me and Mr L. As her memory has deteriorated West Ham is still the first subject she thinks of when she wants to initiate a conversation with me about what I’ve been up to and I can’t help smiling wryly when without fail she responds to my latest Hammers news with “they play in that big place that you don’t like now don’t they?” Yes mum, sadly they do.

As I continued to explore the subject I discovered that directed reminiscence therapy based on football has also been adopted in Scotland and that group sessions have been held for sufferers and their carers in the Hampden Park Museum amongst the football artefacts and memorabilia in order to help trigger memories. Andrew Lowndes, of Glasgow Caledonian University, also a mental health nurse, described what happened at one such session:

“220 guys with their families and carers [were] there today. … and the recall from these guys is absolutely fantastic, people who are probably struggling day to day with their memories, but when you show them players from the 1950s and 60s they can rhyme the whole team off and tell you quite complicated facts about games and times when they went to matches.”

He went on to say:

“One of the most understated effects of dementia is the depression that accompanies it. If you are constantly being asked questions about things that you don’t have an answer for it can become very hard to cope with. Most times sufferers know that they don’t have the answer to something simple and that can bring on depression.
These sessions allow them to become a person again, feeling full and feeling they’ve got a connection with other people again with similar memories – this idea of everybody having a collective memory that they shared once upon a time on the terracing perhaps or in the pub after a match, they are able to re-engage with that. And the way that these men begin to engage with each other and the banter that flies around when they begin to do this, is fantastic and you see a glint in their eye; and family members tell us after the events that this was like having their man back again and it’s really very rewarding.”

The impact of football based reminiscence therapy is perhaps best summed up by the wife of a patient involved in the Alzheimer Scotland Football Memories programme.

She said:

“I drive here with this sad person with dementia and I take home my husband. He’s a different person when he comes out … it’s put new life into him, and you can see that with all the men there."

Thinking about the fact that these sessions took place within the setting of the Hampden Park football museum really served to compound my profound anger and disappointment that the current West Ham board took the decision to auction off our club’s memorabilia when we left Upton Park last year. They may only be dusty artefacts to some but for many older West Ham fans, especially those suffering from dementia, they could have been valuable portals to memories which would enable them to reconnect with their past and their present and give them back their sense of identity and self-esteem. Some of these items were procured with the assistance of financial donations by fans for the West Ham museum that was opened at The Boleyn ground in Bobby Moore’s memory on 23rd October 2002; and which silently and mysteriously disappeared ….. but that’s a story for another article.

Feeling very disgruntled with the club I decided to investigate whether West Ham may have redeemed themselves in my eyes slightly by engaging with the Dementia Friends project. While I couldn’t find any evidence of the club being involved in dementia programmes I did discover that the West Ham United Foundation have teamed up with an organization called Friends of the Elderly to host social events aimed fans over the age of 65. Back in March 2015 they ran a 5 week programme during which they invited older members of the West Ham community to share their memories and contribute to a sporting stories project at events attended by people connected to the club over the past 50 years. The programme also aimed to help senior West Ham fans learn how to stay connected to the club online.

In November 2016 the project was relaunched under the name Any Old Irons at an event attended by Julian Dicks and our goalkeepers Adrian and Darren Randolph. Run in conjunction with the Premier League and the Professional Footballers’ Association, the Any Old Irons project is part of the Football Friends programme. The initiative gives participants the opportunity to connect with other fans and local people in their community, bringing them together for fun and friendship. Again, those attending can also learn how to stay in touch with their fellow fans and the club using digital technology.

Don Adams, who’s 67 and from East London, took part in the first Football Friends programme in March 2015. After retiring six years ago, Don found there was nothing of interest for him to get involved with. He said:

“You hear so many things aimed at senior women but little for men. It’s a shame – the Football Friends programme has changed my life. It’s got me out of the house, it’s got me interacting with other people and I’ve made new friends.”

You can listen to an 8 minute BBC Radio London audio recording of the event here
, which includes an interview with Dicksy.

At the beginning of February this year the Friends of the Elderly Any Old Irons project was the subject of the Radio 4 Appeal which you can listen to here

The next Any Old Irons event is on Tuesday 4th April when West Ham fans over the age of 65 have been invited to share their memories with David Gold during a free afternoon tea at East Ham Working Men’s Club. You can find the details of this event here. Spaces at the tea are limited and will be allocated on a first reserved basis. Those interested in attending should call 0330 332 1110 or email hello@fote.org.uk

The dates for the next two Any Old Irons 5 week programmes are:

Wednesday 26 April – Wednesday 24 May
Wednesday 21 June – Wednesday 19 July

If you are over the age of 65 and interested in attending you can reserve a place via the same contact details. Telephone 0330 332 1110 or email hello@fote.org.uk
Please consider passing these details on to older Hammers, particularly those who you know aren’t connected to the club online. They’re probably the fans who would benefit from this the most.

I feel somewhat mollified by the Any Old Irons programme of events but I still think that a new West Ham Museum would be a valuable asset to our community, particularly in view of the empirical evidence unearthed by my research. We have an aging population and cases of all types of dementia are a growing concern. A properly curated museum would offer a permanent base for these valuable therapy sessions as well as other measurable benefits; but as I said, that’s a subject for another article.

I expect that a few of our younger readers stopped reading after the first paragraph or two. You may think that none of this is relevant to your life now but in what will seem like the blink of an eye you or your parents could be facing these issues too and football could prove to be the key that will enable you to open the door and step back into a past where you can find your loved ones again. You may roll your eyes, sigh and keep scrolling when another nostalgia article appears and all the old gits on WHTID start banging on about the good old days but one day soon these days will be your good old days too.

I’ll leave you with some sound advice from Gladys: Some West Ham memories are much too painful to remember …… so it’s the laughter we’ll remember, whenever we remember The Way We Were


Competition

PAYET FORWARD - TICKET GIVEAWAY!

UPDATEALL 3 PAIRS OF TICKETS HAVE NOW BEEN CLAIMED AND I HOPE 6 HAPPY HAMMERS HAVE A FANTASTIC EVENING ON ME! COYI!

A while back I bought six tickets for the event Hammers Heroes – The Strikers which is being held at The Cliffs Pavilion, Southend this coming Monday, 19th October at 8:00 pm.

The show will feature Tony Cottee, Frank McAvennie, Bryan ‘Pop’ Robson, David Cross, Dean Ashton and John Hartson and the proceedings will be hosted by the quick witted Tony Gale. I’ve seen all of these former players on stage before and it promises to be a very funny and entertaining evening. Tony and Frank made a formidable double act on the pitch and their symbiosis translates well to the stage; they had me crying with laughter at their tales of Frank’s antics last time.

Unfortunately I’m now not going to be able to use the tickets and it seems a real shame for them to go to waste. Therefore I’d like to offer three fellow Hammers the chance to secure a pair of tickets absolutely free of charge. All you have to do is email me your name and address at ironliddy@gmail.com and two tickets will be winging their way in the post to the first three people who contact me.

There’s no catch, this is a genuine act of altruism and all that I ask in return is that you do a good deed or act of kindness for another West Ham fan at your earliest opportunity ….. in other words PAYET FORWARD. See what I did there? ;)

They’re decent seats in the front stalls and it would make me even happier if they went to people who would love to attend this type of event but would ordinarily find the cost prohibitive. I hope the six recipients have a great evening.

UPDATEALL 3 PAIRS OF TICKETS HAVE NOW BEEN CLAIMED AND I HOPE 6 HAPPY HAMMERS HAVE A FANTASTIC EVENING ON ME! COYI!

Lids x


The Iron Liddy Column

What a Kop Out

I was thinking about what Sean said in bed yesterday morning …. hmm, perhaps I should rephrase that. See the trouble that bad grammar can get you into?!

I was in bed yesterday morning thinking about the fact that Sean had just referred to the new East stand in the OS as ‘Kop style’ in his article on Claret & Hugh and as comments started to trickle in I could see that I’m not alone in being unhappy about the term. As a West Ham supporter who has already bought my seat in the East stand I have a particularly vested interest in what it’s called and I admit that it did rankle when the term ‘Kop’ was bandied about during Karren Brady’s marketing videos and at our presentation at the reservation centre back in May.

As I lay there pondering the issue I realised that I didn’t even know where the name ‘Kop’ originated. Being a bit of an anorak when it comes to etymology I decided to Google. No doubt many of you football buffs are already cognisant with its origin but I hope you’ll bear with me while I share the story for the benefit of those who aren’t, because it is actually quite an interesting piece of football history.

To me the Kop has always been synonymous with Anfield and I’ve always presumed that it was peculiar to that stadium; so I was surprised to learn that the first time the term was applied to a football stand was actually at Woolwich Arsenal’s Manor Ground in 1904. A local newsman likened the silhouette of fans standing on a newly raised bank of earth to soldiers standing atop the hill at the Battle of Spion Kop.

The Battle of Spion Kop had been fought four years earlier during the Second Boer War on 23rd and 24th January 1900. It was fought between the South African Republic and the Orange Free State on the one hand and British forces on the other, during the campaign to relieve the nearby city of Ladysmith. Spion Kop was the largest hill in the region, being over 430 metres (1,410 ft) in height and it lay almost exactly at the centre of the Boer line. If the British could capture this position and bring artillery to the hill then they would command the flanks of the surrounding Boer positions. As it transpired, it was a British defeat.

Of all the Boer War battles Spion Kop retains an appalling notoriety for the incompetence of British leadership and the slaughter of the small number of men engaged on each side in the struggle for the top of the hill. The battle graphically showed the failure of the British Army to understand the requirements of modern warfare as their tactics failed to cope with powerful long range artillery and magazine rifle fire. In addition it highlighted the need for proper systems of communications and reconnaissance, as well as maintenance of chains of command in action and training and leadership at all levels.

It is also famous for being the battle during which the young Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi found themselves on the same hillside. Churchill was a journalist stationed in South Africa and he had also been commissioned as a lieutenant in the South African Light Horse by General Buller after his well publicised escape from Boer captivity. Churchill acted as a courier to and from Spion Kop and General Buller’s HQ; while Gandhi performed the role of stretcher-bearer in the Indian Ambulance Corps he had organised.

Although the common English name for the battle is Spion Kop, throughout the Commonwealth and its historical literature the official South African English and Afrikaans name for the battle is Spioenkop. Spioen means “spy” or “look-out”, and kop means “hill” or "outcropping.”

In 1906 Liverpool Echo sports editor Ernest Edwards pinched the London journalist’s term for Arsenal’s bank of earth when he wrote of a new open-air embankment at Anfield:

“This huge wall of earth has been termed ‘Spion Kop’, and no doubt this apt name will always be used in future in referring to this spot.”

The name was formally applied in 1928 upon construction of a roof. Subsequently Liverpool FC fans have credited the Kop with being a memorial to the fact that it was members of the Lancashire regiments who fell during the battle but in fact regiments from all over the UK were present and also suffered losses.

Further research revealed a bigger gap in my knowledge of football grounds than I originally thought. Although it was the first terrace officially named Spion Kop, many other English football clubs and some Rugby league clubs applied the same name to stands in later years. Villa Park’s old Holte End was historically the largest of all Kop ends, closely followed by the old South Bank at Molineux, both once regularly holding crowds in excess of 30,000. In more modern times work was completed on Hillsborough’s Kop in the mid 1980s which, with a capacity of around 22,000, made it the biggest standing area in Europe at the time. After the Hillsborough disaster in 1989, the Kop was the last part of the Sheffield Wednesday ground to be converted to all-seater accommodation, the change finally coming in 1993 to comply with new FA Premier League regulations following the Taylor Report. This had the effect of halving the capacity, but the Hillsborough Kop remains one of the largest single tier stands in Britain.

A full list of British grounds with a history of a Kop stand can be found here: Spion Kop Stadiums

Worried that it was just me who was oblivious to the history and existence of Spion Kop stands in British football grounds and that my article would have you all tutting and yawning, I quizzed Mr Lids. He also didn’t know the origin of the term or that it was applicable to any ground other than Anfield. So cheers Sean, thanks to you I learned something new in bed yesterday morning that my husband couldn’t have taught me! ;)

So now we’re all up to speed on Spion Kop stands I can’t say that I’m any more enamoured with it as a name for our new East stand at the OS. ‘Iron Kop’ might have a bit of a ring to it in parodical terms but it’s not exactly auspicious is it? The site of a British defeat due to the incompetency of our leaders. Not only that, you can’t help but think of a seething mass of Scousers whenever the name is mentioned. Nah.

So we need a name for the East stand. The North and South stands are already taken care of and will proudly bear the names of our heroes Messrs Moore & Brooking as they do at the Boleyn. No doubt the West stand will be the Betway stand for the foreseeable future but the East remains nameless, as far as we know.

Inevitably the question has already been posed and I’ve seen many calls for it to be called the Chicken Run in order to retain the links with our past. As a sucker for nostalgia myself I can empathise with that desire but the compact, almost cosy image that the name conjures up seems too incongruous with the vastness of our new East stand somehow. Personally I think it would be good to have at least one stand with a brand new name to reflect both our history and our new era and that the ghosts of the Chicken Run are better left swaying gently in the past.

So instead of getting out of bed to feed the cats and make the tea I lay there thinking laterally. With a founder fortuitously named Arnold Hills that would seem an obvious choice, what with the word ‘kop’ being Afrikaans for ‘hill’. In your best Julie Andrews voice: “The Hills are alive with the sound of Bubbles ….” Perhaps not.

This set me off thinking about hills and high places in Newham ….. Beckton Ski Slope? Nope, that’s just taking the piste. Probably the highest points games at The Boleyn have been watched from are the flats in Priory Road or the block that used to stand behind the North Bank; which was famously, and dangerously, used as a grandstand when West Ham played Hereford in an FA Cup fourth round replay in 1972. ‘ealf and Safety? That’s for yer bloody pansies innit, as dear old Alf would say.

Hmm, The Priory? That sounds like an appropriate place for 20,000 poor souls hopelessly addicted to West Ham with little chance of recovery. I don’t think I want to sit in a stand with a name that’s synonymous with rehabilitation though ….. in the words of Luther Ingram, if loving you is wrong, I don’t wanna be right.

What about our shipbuilding heritage? Surely that’s a rich vein of inspiration I pondered. A bit of horizontal Googling revealed that the final battleship to be built by Thames Ironworks was HMS Thunderer, the last and largest warship ever built on the River Thames. The Thunderer? That isn’t a bad name for a wall of noise. However, further reading revealed that before she was built Thames Ironworks had been struggling for some time, with most orders going to the Northern yards. Arnold Hills threatened parliament with the prospect of some awkward questions and as a result Thames Ironworks received the order for the Thunderer. Although it was a very important and prestigious order, the building of HMS Thunderer broke the shipyard. Even though Britain was in the grip of a massive naval shipbuilding race the banks withdrew their loans and the Thames Ironworks shipyard at Bow creek went into bankruptcy, causing massive unemployment in Blackwall and Canning Town. Not such a good omen then.

Next I began to think about the characteristics of the battleships themselves and hit upon the idea of The Broadside. As I’m sure you know, the broadside is the side of a ship and specifically the battery of cannon on one side of a warship. Additionally, the term broadside is a measurement of a vessel’s maximum simultaneous firepower which can be delivered upon a single target. This is calculated by multiplying the shell weight of the ship’s main armament shells times the number of barrels that can be brought to bear. Perfect, so our maximum simultaneous fan-power from The Broadside of our new stadium will be 20,000 x as loud as we can bloody sing. WE ARE SLAVEN’S CLARET AND BLUE NAVY!! That’ll confuse the buggers and blow them out of the water.

By now the cats were scratching the carpet in hunger and my husband was beginning to stir so it was time to abandon my solitary brainstorming session to the conclusion that there really is no better name than The Boleyn Wall, which is already a popular choice among many West Ham fans. It tells the story of an important part of our heritage and would ensure that the name of our home for over a century stays on the lips of our fans for generations to come. We may not be taking the castles with us physically but metaphorically we could create a formidable fortress of fans with The Boleyn Wall.

COME ON YOU IRONS!


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