Nigel Kahn’s Column

Stuck In The Middle with OS(A)B

Well I know why I came here today,
I got the feeling that something ain’t right,
I’m so scared in case the Club starts to fail
And I’m wondering how the fans will repair,
WHUISA to the left of me,
Hammers United to the right,
Here we are, stuck with the OSB

Yes we’re stuck in the middle with you,
And I’m wondering what it is I should do,
It’s so hard to know who just to trust
And the fanbase is all over the place,
WHUISA to the left of me,
Hammers United to the right,
Here we are, Stuck with the OSB

When the Daves turned up in Jan 2010 there was general relief at their buying the club rather than the other mobs who had missed out. The fans looked as them as fellow fans and there wasn’t any real protest against them – one of the reasons may have been that, at the time, there weren’t any organised supporters’ group.

When the move to the OS was mooted and I looked into it, I couldn’t understand why nobody was really questioning “was this right?”. The Bond Scheme had been successfully defeated by fan action, led it seems by the plethora (long word for me but I believe it fits) of fanzines at the time (two of them being OLAS and On The Terraces) which had rallied the fans against it. There was even a club meeting with the editors of the fanzines as they were so worried about the ability they had to influence the fan base.

Jump forward to 2010 and the lack of fan organisation led me to start trying to get the fans to take notice all was not right with the owners’ claims. I didn’t have a clue what to do, wasn’t internet savvy, didn’t use chat forums or West Ham websites. All I knew was to stand outside the gates and shout. That lack of knowing what to do was evident to me but with no organised supporters’ group out there for me to approach, meant it was always doomed to failure. I knew all the time that no matter what, the club would end up in Stratford.

However, because of that failure I met some great people and it was acknowledged that we needed to organise something that would last, and so my WHUISA (West Ham United Independent Supporters Association) dream was born. My hopes were that WHUISA would be the fans’ conduit to the Club to hold them to account but also to engage with them to make fans’ lives better. If we had no engagement then nothing would be achieved.

The first attempt to get WHUISA started was in 2013/14. A meeting was held one night in the Supporters Club, attended by around 40 fans. The framework was laid out, registration made with the Football Supporters’ Federation, rules drawn up and even website domains bought (one of which I personally purchased myself). That incarnation though failed to take off due to one of WHUISA’s driving forces being severely ill (life threatening is not an understatement) which meant WHUISA was put on the back burner.

In 2016 on KUMB, a meeting was announced of a group of people wanting to get together to start a fans trust or independent supporters’ association. I made contact with them and attended the meeting where I handed them the already-formed WHUISA on a plate. They took it and ran with it, with me also joining the committee. It wasn’t easy but I thought at last we had got this off the ground.

It’s no secret now that I have left the WHUISA committee not once, but twice. The reasons are simple, I didn’t like the direction it was being taken on both occasions. My first resignation led to the chairman standing down, which was what I hoped would happen and we could have a change of direction. The new chairman, though, paid a heavy price and was unfairly targeted by the Real West Ham Fan Group (RWHFG) as the ‘red under the bed’ or ‘spy in our camp’. His crime was to fact check with people he knew in the Mayor’s office, what Karren Brady was saying to the fan group who, let’s face it, a fair-sized portion of the fan base distrust and don’t believe. As a result, WHUISA was tainted by a large portion of the fan base who believed what they heard and now didn’t trust WHUISA to represent them.

Come the next election I stood again for the Committee and it seems I won more votes than any other candidate, although the election results have never been officially produced so it’s an unverified claim. I knew the chairman fairly well and was pleased to be working with him to (1) continue building the support after great work by the previous incumbent in growing the membership, and (2) try to show the ‘looney left’ tag was false.

On both points I, hand on heart, think WHUISA has failed.

For me, the refusal to join the club’s Official Supporters’ Board was a mistake as that led to no dialogue with the club other than talking to the SLO which actually any individual fan can do. If WHUISA is truly there to represent fans then sometimes you have to hold your nose and do it on their terms. I sat on the SAB for 5 years and no one can ever say I was a club stooge for it. I used that position to tell the club why I thought their plans were wrong and that is what WHUISA could have done. On the second point, their fascination for foodbanks just played to the left wing tag and it actually had me believing it, so I was left with really no option but to walk away.

I’m proud at the attempt I and others made in trying to get WHUISA launched but to me, it’s almost like I’m Frankenstein and WHUISA is the monster I created and it’s not behaving how I always hoped it would.

The demise of the RWHFG movement left a vacuum – you can’t deny that they, for a short period, had the fan base united with an aim. Once that was lost, I felt it was a missed opportunity that won’t come round again. Yet now we have in Plaistow, on the Saturday morning of the Leicester game, the first meeting of Hammers United – a group formed recently to fill the void left after the RWHFG demise. I have joined their Facebook group so I could see what they were about and what/how they wanted to achieve it. I also wanted to see who was organising it – were they people who could bring us together as one?

burnley flag man

There is one man who is a member who could be that figurehead, Paul, aka Bubbles, or most may know him as the flag man at Burnley. The man who walked onto the pitch with the corner flag, re-enacting the Bond Scheme protest of 1993, and planting it in the middle of the pitch. His reward for such action was a life ban from the London Stadium and possibly a 3-year ban from all football stadiums (which I believe is handed to all pitch invaders). I read his posts on the FB group and watch his videos and you can see the passion he has for the club – he also wants to get the fans a better deal, something I’m sure we can all agree on, but yet I’m still not sure about the group and what it can achieve.

The Club say they will only use the OSB to meet with fans, so Hammers United would need to look to get involved to sit at the table. Some of the admins on their Facebook group have links to recent fan groups that supported the march (and then not the march) and, although the admins were not the organisers, I still find myself cautious with Hammers United especially considering the damage that was done to the fan base in March last year over decisions, threats and consequent fallouts. They have cracked down on any posts criticising other fan groups which is good to see and they maintain they want to unite our fans again, so I will watch with hope that they manage to achieve what they say. I agree with much of what they stand for, but then again, so did the ex-Chairman of WHUISA who was hung out to dry, vilified and now ultimately serving his own self-imposed ban as the threats made to him and his family shamed our club.

The Hammers United meeting starts at 11.30 at Plaistow Community Centre, Queens Road West, E13 0PE. I may go for the beginning of the meeting before heading off early to meet my friends from across the pond so if you’re interested in what they’re about, see for yourself.

OS(A)B

For now though, as the re-worked song by Steelers Wheel that starts my article, we’re stuck with the OSB as fan representation. I won’t knock them though as it’s not easy being disliked just for being on it, they all give up their own time to try to help the fans’ life improve. The problem is, can they really change the Club with the way they engage and treat their fans?

Only time will tell.


Nigel Kahn’s Column

Why First Impressions May Not Always Be Right

When I first discovered WHTID it was way back in 2010, I didn’t know who Iain Dale was, just some bloke with a West Ham website. Articles, it seemed were thin on the ground, not daily that’s for sure, and I can’t say I ever read the comment section.

I had just really started using the internet to read my football news, and the one site I stuck with to begin with was KUMB. It seemed popular and, though to many there I was the lunatic against the move with the petition outside the ground, I found it easy to use.

WHTID for me was like the retirement home for West Ham fans, that didn’t like the cut & thrust of the forums. It always seemed more sedate., slower – more polite actually.

When my new football friend Sean Whetstone then started to supply articles for this site it was natural for me to come on here. I knew Sean well then from meeting him on the SAB and his co-hosting of the ‘Moore Than Just a Podcast’ and built up a so called rapport with him, where basically everything he said at the time I generally disagreed with. So with his articles on here I came to comment, well not so much comment but give him stick and generally become the annoying git I love to be.

I must admit at the time I could take or leave this site, I didn’t really know anyone on here, and to be honest, the fact they had a yank thousands of miles away writing up their match reports I thought was a joke. How could Dave Hautzig not only beat me to be the MTJAP fan of the season, but how could he get a feel for the game sitting wherever he lived in New York, watching at home. I perceived him to be not just an out of towner but near enough an alien, a newbie jumping on the EPL bandwagon and supporting my team just because of that damn stupid hooligan movie. Not the best of first impressions.

Iain interviewed David Gold on his late-night LBC programme, I think it was back in 2011 or 12. That night I was in the supporters club, attending a meeting of WHUsView, an organization I was helping to set up to give fans a vote in the move, which the club were against doing. That night DG said “West ham fans are born into it, they don’t support a club then change their allegiance” or something along that lines. As I was at the meeting I didn’t hear it, but luckily, I managed to hear on the LBC website what DG was alluding to that night.

I then tweeted Iain DGs quote & pointed out that sitting opposite DG at that time was a man who admitted he was a Man U fan up until the age of 10, before seeing the light to become a (choose your words carefully Nige) a Hammer. Now, naturally Iain didn’t take it lying down and came back at me. I think he missed my point which wasn’t knocking him for supporting Man U but actually I was trying to prove DG wrong in his claim. Not all are born into supporting their club. In fact many choose. Mad people as I like to call them.

I met Iain for the 1st time outside the gates of Upton Park. He was holding a WHUsView voting card & I was collecting the votes outside on Green Street. I tried to explain to Iain my tweet and why I did it. I can’t remember if he accepted it in the way I meant it, but let’s just say, we didn’t part as friends.

As I said, I started hanging around on here when Sean joined, & through commenting you get to know the regulars & it can be hard at first. The word Clique is like a dirty word around here, but I’ll admit, I did find that there seemed to be one between a section of the commenters, who obviously knew each other well. Sometimes it looked as if they hunted in a pack – upset one upset them all.

How did I get past it? By perseverance & ultimately meeting them. The garden of the Black Lion pub was great meeting point & it was there I met BSB, Liddy, Safe, Russ, and VoR, they had arranged a WHTID meet up and Sean was attending – not that I just follow him around everywhere he goes. I did actually drink in the Lion long before I ever knew him, but anyway, I am not a great mixer with people I don’t know but it was BSB who came over to chat to me, and a great friendship was born.

It is hard to come into a group of people that seem to know each other very well and try to integrate yourself into joining them but once I had, I begun to see why they object to the clique accusations. There is no clique. They welcome anyone, even arrogant self opinionated objectional big heads such as myself. It does take both sides to make that friendship, and perhaps seeing past the short comments on the site and see the people for what they can be.

The point of this article is that while first impressions do count they don’t need to be the final impression or the correct one.

That Iain was happy with me to write for his website shows that now he has met me and podcasted with me, I hope to think he trusts me and maybe, possibly, likes me. (NOTE FROM IAIN: I do!)

David Hautzig is one of my closet West Ham friends now. We talk regularly, we have met and will be watching together at the Leicester game. Through Dave I’ve also the pleasure of the friendship with his best mate John & love their company at games. Considering again what my first impressions of the man were, it just shows you how wrong someone (me) can be. To hear Dave & John explain how in the early 90s they used to go from bar to bar in New York trying to find one showing West Ham only to be disappointed and left with radio commentary if they were lucky made me in a way think how some complain about the journey we have to get to games.

I still read the other West Ham forums and post sometimes on them, but it is still this site I come back to as a friend. It is the friends on this site I socialise with outside of football games as well and to introduce to my closet friends and I trust them with them.

The fact I am here writing stems from another writer walking away & taking his articles to another site due to harsh comments he received. I know from experience that reading harsh comments can demoralise you, but what writers should accept is that not everyone is going to agree with what you have to say, and to that point sometimes you have to take it on the chin. You need an ego If you want to put your view out there to the public and try to influence what they think. Not necessarily a big one, but you’ve got one but the rule of thumb I’ve always gone by is “if your prepared to stick your head above the parapet, be prepared to take an arrow in the eye”. Now that saying may on the look of it seem insensitive bearing in mind who came before me, but it is a saying I have long used to explain to some why I can accept some abuse that comes my way, and for that reason will keep using it.

Basically, if you disagree with me, feel free to tell me or others on here. No skin off my nose. You can be blunt as you like, but, make sure you put why you think I’m wrong. That way we can debate it properly and in the end, both agree why I was right all along.

This is a great site, with great people some I have met, some I so look forward to meeting (DT & SK especially) and long may it stay so.

Nigel Kahn will be writing a column every Thursday morning


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