Nostalgia

I took my (now) fiancee to his first ever West Ham game two days after we got together. Some might call this foolish but he needed to know what he was getting himself into from the off. There are no other options in our crowd and definitely no chances to watch any other games at family gatherings. I’ve dated non-Hammers before and it starts to grate after a while.

Plus, being an American baseball fan, he had no previous affiliations to any English club. I needed to get the claret and blue under his skin just in case he was worth keeping.

We had a typical warm up to the match; a few pints near the station with family and friends and bid our farewells with shouts of ‘COYI’ as we dispersed throughout the Boleyn to our seats. We then suffered through an incredibly dull 0-0 result against Stoke. Not the end of the world but not how you want to introduce your partner to the beauty of the game. I had to take him to Robins for pie and mash after to make up for the spectacular lack of excitement in the previous 90 minutes. Best pie and mash in the East End

Living in California we don’t get to see every game, with the time difference being the biggest problem, so it was a while until he got to see another. The next game we watched was at my parents’ house and we cringed as West Ham got walked all over by Liverpool. The next was his second time at Upton Park and yet again we received a drubbing from Man City. I was beginning to hear murmurs of discontent from other members of my family. Words like ‘bad luck charm’ and ‘bloody Septic’ were bandied around.

The following time we were with my family to watch a game was in March. West Ham were playing Man Utd and we were in Berlin for a music festival. We found a bar showing the game that could be taken over, and about thirty West Ham fans congregated to enjoy some Heineken and shout very loudly at the telly. I should point out that this was all of our friends at the festival with us with the exception of my boyfriend who was back at the hotel. We went 2-0 up in the first half thanks to two penalties taken by Noble, were playing surprisingly well and the singing got louder. Bubbles reverberated across Berlin. Forever Blowing...

At half time, the mood was jubilant and the two Man Utd fans in the corner were starting to discuss leaving (which I seem to remember us thinking was a crap idea – who would we shout at?). Then the love of my life walked in the door. The room got quieter and some smart arse, probably my little brother, remarked ‘Great, he’s here. Watch us go from 2-0 up to losing hideously’…

I don’t know if you remember that game but to cut a long story short, we got considerably quieter in the second half as Rooney knocked three past Robert Green’s gloves and Hernandez added a fourth at the 84th minute to really make it hurt. The Man Utd fans got louder with every goal, and the daggers directed at my poor boyfriend came thick and fast and not that quietly.

This was the match that broke the camel’s back. It was decided that my boyfriend was officially a bad luck charm and could no longer watch games with the rest of the family. I’m still not sure exactly how seriously to take this declaration and looking back now, whether it was coincidence, misfortune or actual bad luck, there was no denying that West Ham did not play well when he was around. I felt sorry for him; all he’d done is get up, walk to a bar and become the subject of abuse. Not really how he wanted his day to start off. It obviously didn’t help his case that we got relegated at the end of that season.

My claret and blue convert

So how did we break the run of bad luck? Well I’d like to say that we made some sort of deal with the devil in a Julian Dicks shirt, at a crossroads at midnight, but as the rest of you will know, the only thing you can do is wait it out. He took it on the chin and being a Red Sox fan understands both losing and superstition. Eventually the gods will smile on our boys in claret and blue and let us have a win, you just have to be patient. And that’s what we did.

There’s something poetic about your introduction to a lifelong love of West Ham being through disappointment and despair. When he finally saw West Ham win after waiting for so long, it made the victory all the sweeter. For a while there, it was a bit touch and go, but I’m pleased to say that he no longer has this effect and he’s now welcome to watch games with us. And you have no idea what a relief that is!