Tony Hanna's Musings

Possible Moyes changes and the slippery eel

Sometimes you just have to take defeat on the chin and the weekends game at Liverpool is one of those times. Whether Mark Nobles comments about it being a free hit were taken in the wrong context or not, whether you agree with the formation or team selection, on the day Liverpool were just too good. Manchester City found out just a few weeks ago at Anfield that a Liverpool side with Salah, Firmino and Mane all on song are difficult to stop. They let in the same as us too – four. In fact this was the third consecutive match where Liverpool have put four past us. With games to play at Arsenal and Chelsea together with home matches against both Manchester clubs we must hope for more resolute defending if we have any ambition of gaining points from these games. In Sam’s days he would have targeted the forthcoming home matches against Burnley, Southampton, Stoke and Everton. Avoid defeat in these four matches and win two of them and we should be safe. The bookies have us at 10/1 for the drop but it is impossible to have the same confidence as this log jam of relegation candidates shows no signs of clearing any time soon.

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What will be interesting is to see if or how David Moyes reacts to the weekends loss. There are a few players that could come under the microscope. Firstly there is the goalkeeping situation. When Hart was dropped for Adrian, Moyes insisted that Hart would get his opportunity and play Premier League games again this season. I thought at the time that perhaps Moyes thought there would be a time when Adrian’s position would again come under scrutiny. My preference would be for Adrian to stay between the sticks but after conceding three at Brighton and now four at Liverpool I would imagine if Hart was to get his chance again it may be now. Another who could be making way is Ginge. Winston Reid was warming the bench on the weekend and whilst he hasn’t had the best of seasons this is another change that Moyes might consider. It is also conceivable that Cresswell could be the one making way for Reid in a back three and with Evra certainly showing some steel in the tackling department on his debut the back five may well have a very different look about it against Swansea. Whilst showing some nice touches at times it would be surprise me if Mario retains his place. A fully fit Lanzini offers a deal more and I have my doubts that Moyes will play the two together too many more times this season.

I would like to dedicate the remainder of my weekly article to a former player who earlier last month turned 65 years of age.

Every once and a while a player comes along that gets your blood pumping. That happened to me, and I am sure many others, when Johnny Ayris broke through into the West Ham first team in 1970. The little right winger stood just 5’5” tall and weighed nine and a half stone but with his superb dribbling skills he was to prove as slippery as an eel. At first sight he had the swerve of Stanley Matthews and the trickery of George Best and he seemed destined for the top. The next seven seasons were to tell a different story.

Born in Wapping in 1953 Johnny Ayris would spend hours smacking a ball against the sheds outside his parents council flat. He would often kick the ball onto the roof and guess where it would come down before catching it on his right foot. The young kid was addicted to practice and when he made it at West Ham his great love was training. He admitted later that “training was a joy – it was touch, it was pace, it was skill and I was lucky enough to have those attributes. I loved the training perhaps more than the matches and maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a footballer, I should have pushed my case a bit more.”

He made his debut at just 17 years of age at home to Burnley on the 3rd October 1970 and played a blinder setting up all three Geoff Hurst goals in a 3-1 victory. Ron Greenwood gave him a professional contract just two days later and it was not long before the North Bank were singing “we’ve got Johnny, Johnny, Johnny, Johnny Ayris on the wing” to the tune of Ging Gang Goolie. He continued to mesmerise defences until we played Chelsea at home nearly a year later on the 11th September 1971. Johnny was running rings around the notorious Chelsea hard man Ron “Chopper” Harris and the riled defender picked his moment ‘to let him know he was still there.’ Johnny was to later say “I’d been giving him the run around and he was getting really wound up and the crowd were on his back.” One challenge later and Johnny Ayris had flipped over the back of Harris and he landed with a sickening thud. The young winger was all of a sudden having difficulty breathing and he was immediately subbed for Bobby Howe. Hospital tests showed that the injury had caused an air bubble to form in his lung, a condition he was to later to find out could be life threatening. Because of the injury Ron Greenwood would in the future only pick and choose the right games for him to play in, and even then a string of other injuries would curtail his ambitions. John is pictured right at the end of this very notable line up!

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The whole incident had a lasting effect on his confidence but he said he felt no grudge towards Harris. Johnny was also to come off second best to the infamous Tommy Gemmill of Celtic in a match played for Bobby Moore’s testimonial. John was to play only 69 games for West Ham over seven seasons, scoring just two goals. Following the Harris incident most of his time at West Ham was spent on the bench or in the background. Nicknamed “Rat” to his team mates because of his ragged looks, the Hammers fans dubbed him “Cyril Lord” after the carpet king, for his propensity for hitting the turf after having the rug pulled out from under him! Johnny Ayris loved every minute of his West Ham career but an incredible talent was wasted in some ways as his love of just playing overshadowed the real issue of playing professional football in a time where his light weight frame was no match for the battle hardened men of that era. Between December 1973 and October 1976 Johnny Ayris became our super-sub, making twenty five appearances of which 15 were from the bench. In many of the early matches he played though, he was one of the most exciting talents you would ever wish to see.

Guest Post

We’ve had Wurst Weekends!

Guest post by Big Safes Buddy

Given it’s FA CUP weekend, and we are not involved, I thought I’d cobble together a guest article

It was on our pre-season trip to Germany that HH introduced Russ and I to EbiWhu. We didn’t know at the time but we had spotted him ourselves earlier when West Ham were playing Werder Bremen at a remote outpost called Schneverdingen. When we drove into this lovely little town on our way to meet up with H, we spotted a retro Hammer’s tracksuit top and beenie hat bowling down the road on his lonesome.“Blimey Russ, I said, “Has H been on a diet?” (Alright I made that bit up.) Later on, at the game, H made the introductions and afterwards, over a bit of grub and a few beers, whilst all things Hammers and football were being discussed, we mentioned how we’d like to go to a Bundesliga game some time – and Dortmund in particular.

Ebi told us how difficult it was to get tickets and it involved a ballot, but he’d see what he could do. To our delight we got a call early in the new year to tell us we’d been lucky and that he had managed to get hold of a couple of tickets and plans were put in place for the FA Cup weekend of 28/29 January. Also, not only were we going to see Dortmund v Freiberg on the Saturday but Leverkusen v Mainz on the Sunday as well. Incidentally, we actually missed out on a treble treat because Cologne were at home on the Friday evening, but I was at her majesty’s pleasure and the bleeper on my electronic tag would’ve caused chaos on Ryanair! Alright, I made that bit up as well, as I was actually on Jury Service, which meant we couldn’t fly out until Saturday morning. What followed was a marvellous 2-day football tourist experience. Our host Ebi was waiting for us at Cologne airport and his car was not hard to spot. See if you can work out why?

There was no time to waste and it was straight into it with a drive over to Dortmund. We arrived really early but so did lots of other people and there was already a decent vibe about. We went into the megastore for a nose around where Ebi very kindly insisted on buying both me and Russ a Dortmund scarf as a souvenir. Now, apart from the Daggers I’ve never been adorned in another club’s colours, but we were guests of Ebi, and his fanatical Dortmund supporting son Thomas, and anything else would’ve been down right disrespectful.

Russ and I were blown away by Dortmund’s ground and especially the world famous Yellow Wall. I saw the Liverpool kop back in the day and I’ve seen the modern version and whilst that is still impressive, this terrace is on another level. And a terrace is exactly what it is; standing only, front to back, rammed full of passionate vocal fans. It’s a huge, but intimate stadium, steep on all 4 sides and we were in the back row on the corner flag but because of the rake we still felt close to the pitch and generally engaged. The noise from the Dortmund fans was superb even though Ebi and his son Tom had told us it was quieter than normal due to various issues around the club

Now I know a lot of football fans over here like a matchday beer but I wouldn’t back ‘em in competition against this lot!! Beer can be taken into your seats over there and boy do they take advantage of it and whilst strictly speaking, smoking isn’t allowed, there was plenty of civil disobedience and blind eyes being turned where that was concerned!! This, allied to the waft of grub and stale beer whirling around the ground and I was back at the Boleyn in the 70’s and 80’s and both me and Russ loved it. Ok, so we could have done without the four chain smokers in the row right in front of us, but it is what it is and without it there wouldn’t have been the authentic aroma that is now sadly missing. You can’t have your cake and eat it or in this case your fag and smoke it! What was also impressive was the sense of real connection for the fans, one example being the buildings set aside to leave their flags and banners etc., etc to save them carting them back and forth. A simple gesture maybe, but significant – and something I can’t see happening at the OS, can you?

The security checks going into the ground were more vigorous than at the OS but you’ll never catch me moaning about that on any level as it’s the times we live in and absolutely necessary. Outside the ground there were numerous cheap, affordable street food stalls and plenty of beer flowing as well. The game ended 2 each which was about right and, if you get a chance, have a look on You Tube for Freiberg’s second goal – truly brilliant! Exiting the ground is pretty much the same as anywhere else with the noticeable exception of the continuous drinking of beer with more than the odd fan worse for wear owing to the sheer volume of the stuff they get through. Policing was also pretty much the same as at most grounds over here as well however but they’ve hit on a good idea to keep order. They hire glamour models and dress them up in police uniforms and in this case even stuck them on horseback

For one minute I thought that Ebi had really pushed the boat out and laid on an elaborate kissogram for us, but sadly not. Sunday morning and following a gourmet brekkie from our kind host it was off to Cologne’s training ground. Only the unused first team squad players from their game that weekend were training but it was still a privilege to be up close and personal to what was an intense session with plenty of quality technique on show. It reminded me of my childhood when we were allowed into Chadwell Heath during school holidays to watch our heroes train. This is another feature that just makes fans feel connected and you have to wonder why we don’t do it over here? As I understand it, it’s common practise in Germany to allow fans into training grounds with the understandable exception of Fridays before a game. I totally understand the fears about social media but, in my opinion, it would be worth the risk. We had a good nose around what really is an impressive set up, the youth teams have their own adjacent pitches and we were lucky enough to see an U14 game going on as well.

From there it was over to Cologne’s stadium. We couldn’t get inside but just had a walk around the circumference. Thanks to our old mucker HH we’d already seen Hamburg and Werder Bremen’s stadiums and it was nice to add another to our list. Next up was Bayer Leverkusen who were at home to Mainz. I was particular looking forward to this as Ebi had spent most of Saturday night telling us how much he didn’t like them, so extra kudos to him for taking us over there through gritted teeth!! He had told us it would be a totally different experience to Dortmund and that their fans were “too nice”. We got what he meant but have to say it was still a great experience in a much smaller but superb stadium. I wanted to ask a Leverkusen fan what he thought of Javier Hernandez and this geezer agreed to answer a few questions provided I bought a bobble hat off him. He didn’t have to bribe me as I was going to buy one anyway as it was freezing and I only had my hammers one on me and I wasn’t going wear that as it just isn’t right is it?

Anyway, he said that he thought Hernandez was a good player and he didn’t want to see him leave. He had heard of West Ham but didn’t know anything about our move to the new stadium or much else really. Our conversation petered out which might have been his poor due to his poor English, but it was more likely down to my poor English! We got into the ground nice and early after what was an even more vigorous frisking down than at Dortmund and the away fans were already in good voice, jumping up and down in their allocated safe standing section over an hour before kick off !! The Bayer fans responded much later on, in much the same way as Palace fans do at Selhurst Park, only bigger and better. All in all it made for a decent atmosphere again and we couldn’t help thinking whilst sat in our seats if only we could have a gaff like this.

OK, so whilst not on the scale of Dortmund, which is without a doubt the best stadium I’ve been in, it was still a very impressive place to watch your football and the fag smoke blind eye was still very much in evidence as was the drinking!! Leverkusen ran out comfortable 2 nil winners and for the second game in a row we were privileged to see a top-class goal!! This time it came from a young Brazilian, or maybe he is Jamaican as we heard later, Bailey, that we are going to hear a lot more about. Two things stood out for me and Russ over the 2 games – the lack of offside’s and 2 excellent referees. Ok, I suspect we might have just got lucky and no doubt they are not all top notch but worthy of a mention anyway.

The trip might only have lasted 2 days but, because we got so much from it, it felt much longer. Safe standing simply has to come in if were ever to get anything like the atmosphere created at Dortmund and we both agreed that it’s a must. To see all those like-minded singers and shouters jumping up and down and singing in unison was a sight to behold. I’ve left out all the fine detail regarding grub and beer as that’s HH’s thing but, trust me, we ate and drank like kings. If anyone ever gets the chance to attend a Dortmund game then you should take it!

I’ve long been thinking that maybe I would become a football tourist and bail out of the premier league circus. This trip has whetted my appetite. I’ll always be West Ham but there’s a big football world out there and my bucket list is calling. Me and my co-pilot Russ have already decided we are doing the Tehran derby next: Rah Ahan FC v. Paykan FC , on our push bikes, (alright that’s another porkie,) but we are doing a Bundesliga drive over as soon as practical and a couple of the other members of IFCF have already thrown their hats into the ring for that. I know I speak for Russ when I say we were both truly humbled by the wonderful hospitality extended to us by Ebi and his family and thanks again mate, for all you done to make it a special couple of days.

PS for anyone who missed it here’s a little giggle we put together with the help of Nigel Kahn .

Tony Hanna's Musings

Andy Carroll: The Forgotten Man?

Well, that three points takes a bit of the pressure off although wins for Huddersfield and Newcastle only helped to create more congestion again in the relegation battle. The 2-0 win against Watford was again a match of two halves. The performance in the first half should have seen us go clear as with a little luck the disallowed goal was so close to call it could have easily been given; there was a good penalty shout turned down and an Arnie miss which should have been buried. Add those to the goal we did score and the fact Watford created nothing it should have been game over, sit back and relax and watch us knock the ball around for the final 45 minutes. But we rarely do easy do we? Watford dominated the game in the second half albeit without really threatening but relief came when Arnie put the game to bed with minutes to spare. The other good news is that there were no new injuries and we saw starts for both Antonio and Arnautovic who have been sidelined recently.

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Which brings me to an interview David Moyes did last week. When questioned about who was fit and not for the game against Watford he advised that Arnautovic had been training last week but Lanzini was still a week or two away. Fonte was training but lacked some match practice, Reid had a throat infection (which I took no notice of when I did my predictor – damn), and Obiang and Fernandes were both long term injuries. Notice anything? Obiang and Fernandes look certain to miss the rest of the season but Moyes still mentioned them. It might have been an over sight but there was no mention of Andy Carroll. It was a similar story two weeks ago when a match commentator reeled our list of injuries off – but forgot to mention Carroll. Physio room have Carroll down for a return in mid-April whilst some quarters suggest he may be out for the season but one thing is for sure – he certainly seems to be the forgotten player. In past seasons an injury to the big fella would have had us in crisis mode. Arnautovic is the man now and at last Chico is starting to work his socks off and score -the Moyes warning of you don’t play unless you run seems to be hitting home at last.

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But what of Andy? In the January window rumours abounded that Chelsea wanted to sign him until the news of his latest injury scuppered that quick smart. From what I can ascertain he has been on around 75 grand a week for some time, which in fact is about the same as what Patrice Evra is on! What seemed a lot of money a few seasons ago is pretty much average nowadays. Basically, his injury record has not put him in a position to demand a better deal. Andy Carroll joined on loan in August 2012 and I was there for the final game of the season against Reading when many fans sang “Andy Carroll, we want you to stay”. I must admit it was not a song I sang but I sort of hoped he would sign a permanent deal. Well Andy did of course sign and five and a half years later we can look back on his career with a mixture of feelings, with frustration probably being at the top of most fans lists. He has averaged eighteen appearances and 5.3 goals per season and has not hit double figures in the premier League in six seasons. Aged 29 now and with just over one year of his contract left I have little doubt if Andy had been fit a few weeks ago our owners would have sold him to Chelsea or anyone else who may have been interested. Why not? There is no way he will get a contract extension and at the end of next season he is a free agent.

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Sir Alf Ramsey once said of our own Martin Peters that he was a player ten years ahead of his time. He was referring to the Martin’s vision on the field and his versatility. For me Andy is a player best suited to the game played 30-40 years ago. That is not to discredit the player, far from it, he would have loved playing in the seventies. The likes of Andy Gray and Joe Royle enjoyed great careers playing with a similar style and even in the nineties Duncan Ferguson did the same. Andy does have good feet and control, his hold up play is excellent and in the air there is no centre forward in the country better. But of course there are two big problems. One is his injury record and the other is that teams with Carroll in the side are almost forced to change their intended route to goal to accommodate him. When Brendan Rodgers took over at Liverpool in June 2012 he immediately saw that Andy did not fit the style of football he wanted to play and Sam Allardyce’s West Ham was a perfect fit for the big man and a loan deal was quickly sorted.

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It is not like it is a reoccurring injury that has blighted the player. There have been a plethora of different ones. If he misses the rest of this season his only Premier League goals of this campaign both came in the same match v West Brom. These two goals highlighted what a talent he could of, should have been. A towering leap with a bullet header followed by a side footed shot from an acute angle showing all the guile that belittles any thoughts that he is totally one dimensional. For further proof take a look at his goal against Crystal Palace last season in the video clip below. I am sure if another good offer came in for Andy Carroll in the summer window we would take it with relish. However, on what is now just an average wage at the club, if an offer was not forthcoming I would be happy to keep him if only as an impact player off the bench. What’s your views and if Andy was to be sold off before playing for the Hammers again, how would you look back on his career?

Tony Hanna's Musings

A dying breed of Noble players

A lot can happen in a week can’t it? Get knocked out of the Cup by lower league opposition. Masuaku gets a 6 game ban for spitting at an opponent. The Board fail miserably again in the transfer window. The director of player recruitment loses his job on the back of racist allegations. One point from six in two six pointer games against relegation candidates. Protest marches against the owners are back on the agenda. And only twenty days earlier we were marvelling at the Arnie/Lanzini show that tore Huddersfield apart 4-1 away from home. It’s a funny old game.

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Football for many is an outlet to get away from life’s stresses and problems. A day out at the football to watch your favourite team go give their all could transport you to a different World if only for a few hours. Bobby Moore was earning a few hundred quid a week when we won the World Cup in ’66 and it cost 2/6d for a lad to get into the North Bank. I think I can safely say that not many players played for the money back in that era, it is was all about the playing. In fact football probably lost a lot of good young prospects whose parents directed them elsewhere, towards more stable and better paid career opportunities long term. Our own Trevor Brooking’s decision to sign professional forms for West Ham was made easier as one of the criteria was the clubs decision to allow Trevor to continue on with his studies. Spurs and Chelsea were courting the player but wanted his signature immediately with no clauses for him to further his education. When I interviewed Eddie Bovington a couple of years ago he told me that when he lost his place in the team he saw the writing on the wall and chose to go back into his family business rather than spend the last few years of his professional football career playing elsewhere. Back to 1966 and when England won the World Cup, Sir Alf gathered all the players together and said, “Gentlemen, we have something to discuss. You have been awarded a bonus of £22,000 to be shared between you. One way of doing it would be everyone to have a basic £500, with extra money for appearances”. Without a moment’s hesitation Bobby Moore stood up and said: “No, boss, it will be £1,000 each. We were in all this together and that’s how it will stay”. Put in perspective, a thousand pounds in 1966 would be the equivalent of 18 thousand today.

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Money was not what drove players until too much of it filtered into the game. Prior to the big dosh the players were often local players and there was a symmetry between fans and players alike. Playing on muddy pitches they knew what local derbies meant to fans and there was an emphasis on hard but fair play – well, except Leeds! So fast forward to now and I don’t need to go into detail of how things have changed but sometimes I wonder if money is all that drives some players. We all know about the greed of agents and players and how loyalty to a football club has been chucked out of the window. The likes of Mark Noble are a rare and dying breed. I doubt Mark will play for another club in his lifetime and he knows what a game against Spurs means to the fans unlike some who have to have it explained to them.

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So whilst a players perspective has changed almost beyond recognition, have we the fans also changed? When I was younger and going to matches I used to get the right hump if we lost. An Uncle of mine who used to come over to our place every Tuesday evening used to say to me that he could tell whether West Ham had won or not just by the look on my face. A win or a loss would also mean bragging rights or a bagging on Monday morning at school or work. But it was more than that. It affected your heart, the love for your club. In those terms I doubt anything has changed. Certainly the match day experience has changed tremendously. Bovver boots and hooligans, the ninety minutes of singing before games and the smells and aroma of a proper East End football match have been replaced by shiny seats, replica shirts, popcorn and orderly queues. Some good and some bad then. Social media and blog platforms like this very one mean you can vent and discuss all things West Ham for most of the day and night all week. It is called passion for our club and that is what we fans have in abundance. So when I see Joe Hart laughing and joking coming off the pitch against Burnley when just minutes earlier we had conceded a late equaliser it irks me. When I see Antonio ready to come on as a substitute against Palace away and he has a look of “I couldn’t be bothered” it irks me. When I am told Sakho is injured for months and can’t play when we are short on numbers, then he passes a medical at Rennes, signs for them and scores on his debut a day later it irks me no end. This love affair with West Ham has fast become a marriage where one party has had its head turned.

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Two points from the past three games has done nothing for Hammers fans with nervous dispositions. Reading the blog each day there are some that would see relegation as no bad thing. Others see it as an Armageddon. So how many points will be needed to avoid the drop this season? You have to go back to the 2010/11 season since the magical target of 40 points was actually required to stay up. Since then the highest has been 38 and the lowest 34 with a total average of 36 points being enough to avoid the drop. This season is presently providing quite a uniquely different relegation battle with just three points separating the eight teams above an only partially adrift West Brom. To try and get a better understanding of what may be required this season I hopped onto the PL predictor and entered my predictions on all the Premier league games remaining this season. With so many close calls I probably opted for too many draws as my initial inputs claimed that 32 points would be safe come seasons end! I went back in and made a few bolder predictions and 36 points was the recalculated total. Realistically, another three wins (and throw in a draw or two) should keep us safe but that is not as easy as some would think. We currently have a 23% win record this season and we would need a 25% win record in our remaining games to reach that target. If you want to try the predictor yourself;
click here

Tony Hanna's Musings

How did we become Hammers?

When I was about five my mum and the five kids moved from our council house on the Debden estate into my new step dads house in Loughton. From here on I will refer to my step dad as dad, because that was what he was to me. A year earlier I had started primary school at four, I actually did year one twice, mainly because my mum needed to get out and work. Single mum with five kids and all that. So the move to Loughton saw me change schools as there was one just around the corner from our new home. I guess what you never know about you never miss, so when this new school didn’t have a football pitch and no school football team it didn’t have any effect on me. My dad and my brothers had no interest in football and at the time I didn’t know what I was missing.

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So when I was eight my dad decided it would be a good idea for us all to become Catholic. It had nothing to do with the fact he and a few of his mates had found the best little private bar in town with the cheapest pints – all owned and run by the Catholic church. Get on the roster for unpaid bar work and you could even close the doors at 11pm and have an extra pint or two. So Tone, you are changing schools now, to the local Catholic one back on the Debden Estate. Much better to have a three mile journey to school than a 200 yard walk if it gets you closer to God. On my first day I made three friends that shared my youth for the next decade. Trouble was, at school breaks all they wanted to do was kick this bloody round ball about – and talk about Tottenham and Orient! I started playing myself a year later and whilst it was a latish introduction to the sport before long I was a regular in the school team and playing every minute of the day I could. My story about becoming a West Ham fan has no deep roots to the area or the brain washing effect parents or family can have on you – affectionately called DNA. In fact I don’t actually remember the point at which I started to make West Ham my team. I started watching Match of the Day and the Big Match and can only assume they chose me and not the other way around. What I do remember though was on the evening we won the Cup in 1964 my dad had taken my mum up the East End for a night out. The next day all they could talk about was how West Ham fans were singing and dancing in the pubs and streets and those stories may have swayed me towards the Hammers. As I grew older the draw of wanting to go to Upton Park was growing stronger.

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In 1967 I was eleven and my mum and dad worked a day job and an evening job and my dad also worked Saturday mornings so getting someone to take me was a bit of an ask. My constant nagging for dad to take me to a West Ham game finally paid off when one morning he said to me; “get your hat and coat Tone, we are off to watch the Hammers”. The level of excitement and anticipation was something I don’t think I had ever experienced before but an hour later my whole demeanour had changed. Arriving at Upton Park at 2.50pm for a 3 o’clock kick off against Liverpool was only going to end one way. Locked out. Some weeks later he took me again, much earlier this time and we beat Burnley 3-2. I was hooked for life from that day on but if I wanted this new West Ham drug to live on I would have to find a way to go every second week without my dad. There was only one option open to me –get alibi’s, lie to my parents and go on my own. That is why the local priest must have got fed up with me real quick. What sins would you like to confess my son he would say each week as I knelt on the other side of the confessional box. “Forgive me but I have lied to my parents, Father”. I didn’t go into all the stories I told about how I was going with friends and their parents or similar, but he must have been shaking his head each week because I was not changing my habits. Anyway, reciting five Hail Mary’s and one Lord’s prayer in order for forgiveness was one of the best business deals I ever struck.

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Money was now the problem. There was no pocket money so I started collecting Littlewoods Pools every Thursday night to pay for my new addiction. Rain, hail or snow the coupons had to be collected but it paid ten bob and that was exactly what the match day fare, kids North Bank admission, program and a bag of monkey nuts cost! Providing my alibi’s didn’t let me down I was cooking with gas! In those days, down the front of the North Bank there were so many other kids doing the same as me. The singing and chanting that usually started about 90 minutes before kick-off was like a fix feeding the habit. As we all got a bit older and taller there was a gradual move from the front to the back of the stand and away games came into the equation. Fast forward 51 years and now it is West Ham till I die. Talking of which. My dad only took me the once and I watched from his shoulders. He passed away in 1996. My first WHTID get together a few years ago included staying overnight at the West Ham hotel – the revamped corporate boxes in the West Stand. When my wife and I went back to our room that night I opened the curtains to look over the pitch which still had floodlights shining on it. I was disappointed that our room was not more central until I realised it was virtually in the exact same spot my dad and I had stood for that match against Burnley in 1967. Emotions were hard to hold back – especially as the game we had seen earlier that day was against –you guessed it – Burnley. That was the last match I was to attend at the old ground.

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That is my story of how West Ham became my team, my passion. How about you? How did you become a Hammer? It would be great to hear your stories too. Thanks to Dazthehammer for inspiring me to make this the topic of the day.

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