West Ham Till I Die
Talking Point

Why aye man. Why I can't really dislike the Toon.

There are some defeats that are worse than others. Stands to reason that there are some defeats that are better than others. A defeat to Spurs scores higher on the pain and suffering scale than a loss to Arsenal, for the simple reason that I hate Spurs with every sinew in my body and I merely find Arsenal an annoyance. In that same train of thought, there are some teams that I don’t really mind losing to, for a variety of reasons. I genuinely don’t mind losing to Newcastle because I have a secret admiration for the giant of the Tyne. Listening to another defeat was obviously not on my to-do list for Saturday morning, but ultimately, it was a loss I can stomach.

Why do I have this love for the Geordies you ask? Firstly, it’s more of an absence of a dislike, rather than love. There is only one club I could love. They command a grudging respect at a push. Fundamentally, I see many similarities between us and them. Two formerly majestic clubs who have trophy cabinets gathering dust, two fan bases that could rival each other on loyalty and passion stakes and two histories littered with memories of the times we almost made it, or the times management screwed us over.

“What is a club in any case? Not the building or the Directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It’s not the television contracts, get out clauses or the marketing departments or the Executive boxes. It’s the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your city.” Sir Bobby Robson

Sir Bobby got it, and in one immortal quote sums up a feeling about football that is almost impossible to encapsulate in fewer words. St James Park will always be the centre of the world for many Geordies in a way that the Olympic Stadium will never be for current West Ham diehards. A Magpie mate of mine recently told me he didn’t know how I was coping with losing our home. There are plenty of shared values between the two clubs. They also know what it means to cope with loss and disappointment. On a continual basis. The club has more than a fifty-year domestic trophy drought, at least ours isn’t that bad. And yet, week in week out, the faithful fill the seats. Both clubs are based on the unwavering, unconditional love of generations of families of fans.

Another reason I’m quieting admiring of the Toon is that they have produced some of the greats of English football, and pride themselves on their homegrown talent as much as we do. I grew up in the Gazzamania and then Shearer-era of English football. There were always Geordies on the telly representing my country, and at their peak were the recipients of national adoration. I remember seeing Saturday’s fixture many seasons ago, when AS was at his physical prime. As the hormonal teenager I was at the time would tell you, the man had thighs like tree trunks. Everyone else looked scrawny on the pitch next to him. I spent most of the match transfixed. Anyway. Back to how Newcastle mirror West Ham’s commitment to further local talent that have gone on to do well for England. Or close enough. That was supposed to be the point of this paragraph.

And ultimately, the Newcastle fans in my life are some of the most genuine, passionate, hopeful fans I know. The only thing that would come between them and getting to St James on a matchday is their mam. They have a love for the game that I see in the West Ham diehards in my life. More of a religious zeal than a love actually. Sort of like they would turn on you if you spilt anything on their hallowed black and white stripes. Or said anything derogatory about Gazza – seriously, some of the most ridiculous defenses of his most extreme behaviour came from my Geordie mates.

So in conclusion, yes another defeat hurts, but this defeat hurts less that others. If we are going to lose (and we clearly are going to continue to do so) then I’m a little bit pleased it’s to a club that I have grudging respect for, and not a team that makes my blood boil.

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West Ham Till I Die is a website and blog designed for supporters of West Ham United to discuss the club, its fortunes and prospects. It is operated and hosted by West Ham season ticket holder, LBC radio presenter and political commentator Iain Dale.

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