My West Ham: Martin Kelner

Martin Kelner is a journalist, author and radio presenter.
How did you become a Hammer?
Long story. Grew up in Manchester watching rugby league. My dad was a fanatic, and our local team, Swinton, was about the best in the country in the 1960s. Would go to the occasional midweek City match, and sometimes on Saturdays, after rugby league became a Sunday sport, but was never totally committed to football. As a result when I went to work in London in 1975, I needed a team to support, and chose West Ham because I had always liked their style, could relate to the homely, working class atmosphere, and it was on the District Line and meant I did not need to change trains.

Your first game
Carlisle, early 1975. Their one season in the top flight. Not a classic. My abiding memories are of Billy Bonds ploughing through the mud in classic buccaneering style, similarly other great beards of the era like Graham Paddon and Frank Lampard, and of Patsy Holland making the most of the little bit of dry ground on the wing. Holland scored in a 2-0 win, taking the ball round the Carlisle keeper and lifting it out of the mud into an empty net. Forget who scored the other. Bobby Gould?

How many games do you get to?
Not many. I live in Leeds now, and with four kids it is difficult to justify leaving the missus at home on a Saturday while I swan off down South, so usually only make it when I am working in London. This season has been the worst yet. I have only been to the Middlesbrough and Sunderland matches at home, and Blackburn and Newcastle away, and will be going to Manchester City cup replay next week.

Most memorable moment?
Has to be Trevor’s goal in the 1980 final. I was behind the other goal, and in those days at Wembley it was very difficult to make out anything going on at the other end, so the goal came to us in instalments. First the net billowed, then the roar, then the scarcely believable rumour went round the crowd claiming Brooking had scored with his head. Brilliant, and made better by the tenner I had on West Ham to win at 7- 2. Thirty-five quid in those days would buy you saveloy and chips, a stone of monkey nuts, fourteen pints of Watneys Red Barrel, and a woman.

Have you met any Hammers players?
Have interviewed Tony Cottee, and bumped into Alvin Martin at Talksport a few times. Both charming gents.

Favourite current player?
Carlton Cole. I have heard him getting dogs abuse from the crowd, and I instantly side with players who have to overcome the unthinking hostility of their own followers. I think he has done a top job, holding the fort during the injury crisis. George McCartney has been a revelation, and from the limited evidence of TV matches, I should say Freddie Ljungberg looks as though he is becoming a worthwhile acquisition.

Describe last season. How did it affect you?
I was delighted to see Curbishley installed as manager – I think we have one of the best in the business – but fully expected him to have to rebuild from the Championship. Then came a scintilla of hope, then we dared to dream, and finally fulfilment. My son supports Manchester United, and my sister and her husband are season ticket holders at Old Trafford, yet all three were pleased for me, so there was a rather sweet, warm, feeling. Strange the delight at seeing such a popular figure as Neil Warnock cast into the outer darkness.

What are your hopes for this season?
A mid-table finish, a repeat cup victory over Manchester City (which may be a vain hope by the time this appears) followed by a semi-final spot at least, and then a clean(ish) bill of health allowing us to make a realistic assault on a European place next season.

Choose your all-time Hammers eleven.
In classic 2-3-5 formation: Mervyn Day; Ray Stewart, Frank Lampard Sr.; Bonds, Martin, Moore; DiCanio, Brooking, Tevez, Peters, Sissons

What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham?
I do a late night show for Real Radio Yorkshire, covering West and South Yorks, so Sheffield United is one of our teams, and quite a few Blades fans work alongside me. Where previously their attitude towards me was gently patronising, now I feel unalloyed hatred.


5 Responses to My West Ham: Martin Kelner

  1. Keith R, Aylesbury Hammer says:

    Thanks, Martin. (I particularly enjoyed your work – years ago, on BFBS).

  2. DaDon says:

    With a bit of luck that unalloyed hatred will have some more fuel very soon. Now that we’re pretty much secure mid-table, a good cup run including a hugely satisfying caning of the Blades would be the icing on a decent season. Is life that kind? Probably not but we can dream.

  3. nr2iron says:

    “Son supports Man utd” tut tut!

  4. Plaistow54 says:

    Martin, i know exactly how you feel. One of my sons who plays is a Man.Utd. supporter & i have to wash the shirt on occasions but i do treat it with respect. When we play them it is family feud, but i hold the upper hand at the moment. I think you are right as regards Curbs, Cole & Ljungberg. Curbs gets a lot of flak from some quarters but he has done well so far especially considering the pressure he would have been under. If i may, a story about Manchester. About ten years ago i worked with a fellow who was about 70, who was the teaboy on a job. After a few weeks, we had talked about football, he said he would bring something in that he had never shown anyone that he kept in his wardrobe. Thought nothing of it. Next day he pulls a ball out of his bag. It was a ball signed by the 58 crash side. He had been a groundsman at Old Trafford & they signed it for his birthday a week before Munich. I held it for ten minutes & touched each name shaking. I still tremble when i think of it. I left & lost track of him many years ago so i don’t know what happened to the ball, not my business, but true story. Good luck.

  5. WHU Kim says:

    I was at that Carlisle game! Can’t remember who scored either.

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