The GoatyGav Column

Up until Saturday afternoon I’d only ever watched West Ham, from a Corporate Hospitality seat, as an away fan. Whilst it’s always great to see the Hammers in action, live, being an opposition away fan in a home box, or suite, is probably my least favourite way of seeing the boys play.

Thanks to my good lady I finally got to watch the Claret & Blue from home Hospitality seats. Quite impressed I was too. Family and friends joined me for the ‘treat’ which was an offer from the club at a fraction of the normal price charged for the dining and hospitality package in the ‘Great Briton’ suite.

Brunch in the Great Briton Suite

Not too sure what to expect our party arrived, minus one who was otherwise delayed, outside Entrance B to the London Stadium at 10.00. Once through the doors I left the ticket for the straggler in the ‘Glass Box’ room – an incredibly polished, if not slightly clinical looking, facility that compared favourably to previous entrances to suites I’ve visited.
My party had already headed off up the two sets of Escalators from the foyer to the Great Briton room when I began the automated climb. Once again I was rapt by the plush surroundings which reminded me, if not on as grand a scale, as the new, main building at Royal Ascot.

The service was extremely good from all the staff. Special mention to Alex who took great care of us.

We sat down to place settings that were top drawer. After the first cold one I was regretting having breakfast earlier, which I always do before leaving the house, and decided to leave the Brunch for a little while in favour of a second beer. Too early for a lager, maybe, but it was my birthday treat and I was determined to let my hair down so the amber fluid flowed for the rest of the morning and afternoon.

Allen McNight and me

One of the most impressive aspects of the day was the time and attention afforded to us by our former goalkeeper Allen McKnight. I can’t speak too highly of the Northern Irish keeper who signed for us from Celtic in the ‘80’s under John Lyall. Allen was highly engaging, interesting and a great compere for Brian Dear and Keith Robson who were also doing the rounds of the tables. Not really knowing the fella particularly well, beforehand, I really liked the ex-keeper’s style and demeanour as he happily spoke to our group for a decent period of time. We found Keith Robson extremely personable and Brian Dear was really funny while recounting stories of his playing days.

Marlon & me

The other Ex-Pro on duty was Marlon Harewood who happily agreed to have photos with many of us. He’s looking in great shape as shown below with my Nephew who’s the same age as him.

Marlon and nephew

The game, as you all, undoubtedly, know, got off to a fantastic start with Arnie pouncing on the loose ball from Ogbonna’s saved header. It should, probably, be mentioned that Diangana’s corner to set the chance up as a great delivery. Despite the early lead the West Ham support was extremely quiet. I wonder how many tourists were at the game however the away fan visitors from Birmingham were superb and generated the decibels with, virtually, non stop singing throughout the match.

After Marko’s substitution the tempo of the side reduced and Birmingham started to see more and more of the ball until the half time whistle. We were mystified as to why Arnie was taken off – a sentiment that the player seemed to share as he shoulder shrugged towards us in the stands after seeming to question the decision with Pellegrini. In hindsight the change of personnel made sense but at the time it appeared to be a strange one. Alan McNight was a little baffled by the decision, too, as our dialogue with him continued at half time. I’m happy to report that the beer flow also continued at the break.

Hosptitality seats

The second period continued much the same as the first with Birmingham enjoying more of the ball but rarely threatening our goal. The extra bottle of Moretti did seem to loosen my vocal chords, however, and, despite being in a corporate section where nobody signs, I wasn’t discouraged enough to belt out several songs with the support of friends and family – and ‘belt out’ would be an apt description.

With the introduction of Felipe Anderson on 79 mins the game changed again and it wasn’t long before the Brazilian had put Andy Carroll in with a great chance of scoring. Unfortunately a heavy touch took the ball the wrong side of the post before AC could finish and so we went in to the last few minutes with that feeling of foreboding as Wes Harding had performed a similar feat a few moments before Carroll’s muffed (A phrase inspired by the Dan Coker’s pre match piece with the video of the 1965 game against Birmingham) chance.

Sister and nephew in hospitality seats

After the final whistle we went back and enjoyed a couple more bevvies before moving on to the Howling Hops bar at Hackney Wick. Nature called at Highbury & Islington station so the opportunity for another scoop was taken advantage of, during the natural break, at the ‘Famous Cock’ pub where we had a good chat with a few Brummie fans.
While I won’t be rushing back to a leather padded seat in the near future I have to admit that we had a terrific day with some great memories and progress in to the fourth round of the Cup to boot. Here’s hoping for a decent draw.

Fame at last - in the match programme

COYI! West Ham 4 The Cup!