Don Perretta is Head of Football at North One TV (producers of, among many other things, F1, World Rally, Big Ron Manager, Fifth Gear and the Gadget Show). He produced Football Italia on C4 and Bravo for many years. He was also a print journalist for many years (a staffer at Time Out for most of the 80s) and co-founder of Fortunes Always Hiding.
How did you become a Hammer?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t a West Ham fan but it was definitely my own decision as a young child, as there were no precedents in my family (I’m the eldest son and my dad sort of supported Fulham but he wasn’t really bothered). I grew up in South East London, so the natural choices would have been Charlton and Millwall. Happily, they were rejected before I even knew they existed. I was aware of Moore, Peters, Hurst and Ron Greenwood from about the age of four, and my support was nailed on when I saw a hugely exciting 4-3 home victory against QPR on a tiny telly in grainy black and white. For a long time I thought that game was around 1963/4, but I’ve since checked (soccerbase.com, what a site!) and it was in fact played on 2nd November 1968. So I guess that’s when I officially became a fan.
Your first game?
Though I don’t remember much about it apart from the noise and not being able to see much at all, my first game was a 2-0 home victory against Chelsea in August 1969, just before my ninth birthday. I’ve no idea who scored (I’d like to think it was a brace from Geoff Hurst) but my abiding memories of it are hearing ‘Bubbles’ properly for the first time (one of our neighbours had introduced me to the song but it only made sense inside Upton Park) and wishing someone had brought something for me to stand on. I later realized that it was my introduction to the North Bank. I no longer need anything to stand on.
How many games do you get to?
At the moment I get to loads of games. I’d had a season ticket for many years but I gave it up in protest at the Bond scheme (spit). I started to go more regularly about eight years ago (when Di Canio joined) and now I’ve got three home season tickets (Dr Martens Upper) for me and my two Hammers-mad kids, plus two away season tickets. Sheer madness but that’s what Tevez and salvation do to you.
Most memorable moment?
I thought this one would be hard but actually it’s the tearful/joyous moment at 2006 FA Cup Final when I eventually located my son at 14:50 by the fence at the perimeter of the Millennium Stadium. That was when I slid him the ticket I’d managed to get hold of inside the stadium via a friend who worked for the club. I’d been quoted £1500 outside. No way. And before you start wondering, up to that point I’d only managed to procure two tickets and it was my daughter’s turn to go as I had taken my son to the semi-final at Villa Park. We lost the final, of course, but it didn’t seem to matter so much because (a) we’d played so well and should have won and (b) I had my two children with me. My poor and long-suffering missus, who’d also come up on the off chance, had to sit and watch it in a wholefood café in the centre of Cardiff. Of the games we’ve actually won, top of the list is the 4-0 at White Hart Lane in 1981 when David ‘Psycho’ Cross scored all four goals. Priceless. The worst experience was the day trip to Palermo. In so many ways.
Have you met any Hammers players?
Luckily, through my job, I get to meet lots of footballers, some more palatable than others. Hammers I’ve met and liked include Sir Trev, Tony Cottee (an absolute gent), Frank MacAvennie (nice bloke, lives up to his rep though), Trevor Sinclair, Tony Gale (another gent), Alan McKnight and Alvin Martin. I was lucky enough to be invited to Paolo Di Canio’s house in Loughton (a gated affair with all the predictable modern footballer excesses). He had an enormous TV screen – I mean really enormous, nearly as big as the screens at Upton Park – and his wife made me a lukewarm cup of espresso coffee. Funny what you remember. He did give me the shirt he’d played in against Charlton though. Which was nice. A West Ham player I wouldn’t want to spend any more time with is John Moncur. I’ve met him twice, which to my mind is two times too many.
Favourite current player?
Robert Green by a country mile, a fantastic keeper and obviously a real character. And I quite like the idea that he’s being ignored for England duty as I believe it affects a goalie’s club form. Look at David James, in the best form of his career (he even comes for crosses!) and no longer a serious England contender. QED.
Describe last season. How did it affect you?
Last season was the most traumatic/uplifting ever. Bitter experience told me we were definitely going down (as well as that 4-0 defeat at Charlton) but a little voice I could barely hear kept telling me we still had a chance. At first it was immensely frustrating as we weren’t playing THAT badly, we just weren’t getting the results. But then our form really dived apart from the Arsenal and Man Utd home games; the Argentinian experiment wasn’t working (it had still to bite us in the bum); Nigel Mediocre in my eyes had lost all credibility/integrity; and I was hearing bad things about why Pardew had lost the dressing room. But then the turnaround happened (strangely thanks to Spurs) and so did the great escape. Last season did additionally engender in me a bitter dislike of many football/sports writers who consistently and provocatively misreported the Tevez situation. Eggy was a colossus throughout – I shall miss him greatly. I also took particular exception to columns written by Oliver Holt, Henry Winter, John Ley and Richard Williams. They will not be forgiven, ever.
What are your hopes for this season?
That we field a fully fit side that plays to the best of its ability. Realistically, I’d hoped we’d avoid the relegation scrap (which we have), so now rather than do a Charlton and take our foot off the gas, let’s bloody a few noses and push for a place in Europe. We can have some fun.
Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
Really hard – but after much thought it’s Ludo, Ray Stewart, Slaven Bilic, Bobby Moore, Julian Dicks, Mark Ward, Billy Bonds, Trevor Brooking, Devo, Paolo Di Canio, Tony Cottee. I notice there are none from the current squad, which is probably about right.
What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham?
Amused tolerance, mostly, and occasional congratulations. Thankfully there are no Blades fans in the office as we would almost certainly have come to blows.
When you’re reporting on West Ham games how difficult is it to be objective?
Luckily I’ve only ever had to do it once when we beat Hull City 7-1 so objectivity (unnoticed) went out of the window.
Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is…
…the time spent waiting for the ticket office to answer. (Record: close on 2 hours).
Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is…
…the sense of unity and ownership among the fans. Owners, players, managers and officials may come and go but we’ll always be there and we’re the best fans bar none. And at least once a season, the team rewards us with a stellar performance that makes all the suffering seem worthwhile.