The Iron Liddy Column

As the proverb says ‘great oaks from little acorns grow.’ When I wrote that little article about football’s role in creating the First World War Centenary Woods on the spur of the moment on Sunday afternoon I had no idea that it would develop into something so fantastic and that’s all thanks to the response and generosity of you amazing West Ham fans.

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For anybody who missed the first article and would like to know the background to this one the link is here: For Club and Country: Help to get West Ham United to the top of the WW1 Remembrance League

On the afternoon of the 100th Anniversary of Armistice Day the total sum of donations in memory of the West Ham footballers and supporters who fought and died in the First World War stood at £52. As soon as my article was published that evening the donations started to flood in and by the end of the day you had donated an amazing £970, bringing the total to £1,025, which was just over the halfway mark of the West Ham target of £2,000. Over the next 3 days donations continued at a steady rate and the total to date now stands at an incredible £1,701. Take a bow West Ham fans; you are a credit to your club.

In the meantime, despite the press coverage of football clubs all over the UK taking part in planting WW1 memorial trees at their grounds last week, the donation levels for the other clubs featured on the For Club and Countrywebsite failed to move significantly, if at all. Although the campaign has been running for almost two and a half years and the clubs themselves were made aware of it the message clearly wasn’t filtering down to the people it was aimed at ….. the fans themselves. In fact 10 of the 62 football teams featured still have yet to receive a single donation.

The flurry of activity on the West Ham page and the fantastic and sudden increase in donations didn’t go unnoticed by the Woodland Trust, the conservation charity behind the First World War Centenary Woods. Upon reading numerous references to West Ham Till I Die in the comments which accompanied the donations, they investigated our blog and read my article. The Woodland Trust then contacted me on Tuesday via Iain Dale and today I spent half an hour on the phone to a lovely guy called Daniel, who has been behind this campaign since 2014. His role in this brings him into regular contact with our hero Sir Trevor Brooking, who is the ambassador for the For Club and Country campaign; and in fact he had dinner with him just last week at The Imperial War Museum as part of the Games of Remembrance project.

Daniel said that he was blown away by your response to my article and that he will be telling Sir Trev that his beloved West Ham has lead the way in donating to this important memorial and that we will almost certainly be the first club to reach their £2,000 target. This money will be converted into 100 trees, which will be planted in our name in March within the football section of the First World War Centenary Woods at Langley Vale. You can read more about this project here.

During our conversation I suggested that tapping into some good natured football rivalry would definitely pique the interest of fans of other clubs. Although the message of the campaign is a serious one and those who have donated obviously did so to commemorate the West Ham footballers and supporters who died or suffered in the Great War, there’s no doubt that the prospect of coming first in the ‘donations league’ was an added motivating factor. I mentioned the fact that Tottenham had previously been near the top of the ‘DL’ and that I had used this as an extra incentive to get Hammers to donate. Daniel acknowledged this and it was at this point that he wryly admitted to me that he is a Spurs supporter! Naturally this provoked a bit of banter and lots of laughs between us; he even referred to himself as Spud. :)

I also mentioned to Daniel that a WHTID reader and poster called Claret! had suggested including a dynamic league table on the For Club and Country website to reflect the number of donations coming in and he said he would look into whether this would be possible within the functionality of the website. So your idea may become a reality Claret!

And now for the exciting part ….. thanks to your generosity the Woodland Trust are going to be using West Ham and our sterling fundraising efforts as a case study in a forthcoming national press campaign about football’s role in creating the WW1 Centenary Wood and West Ham Till I Die will feature in the articles! If we can reach our £2,000 target before the media campaign takes place it will make Sir Trev doubly proud of us; so I’m appealing again to the members of the wonderful West Ham Till I Die family who haven’t yet donated to consider pledging whatever you can afford to help us over that line. Not only will your name then appear alongside the name of Sir Trevor Brooking CBE in the Roll of Honour in the National Football Museum; you will also have played a part in creating a beautiful green memorial to the people and animals that died in the terrible conflict of the First World War. A memorial that will benefit our environment and stand for centuries to come.

This link will take you directly to the WHU donation page: For Club and Country: West Ham United

Come on you Irons!