Con Coughlin and I share a page in the Daily Telegraph every other Friday. He’s the Foreign Editor.
How did you become a Hammer?It’s in my blood. I come from a long line of East Enders (I was born in Stepney) who supported West Ham. My granny went out with a West Ham player (name unknown) in the 1920s and my Dad, who was a football writer for the Sunday Telegraph, grew up with them. Harry Redknapp is my Aunt Pat’s cousin.
Your first game? Must have been about 1963. Mr Dad (Con snr) often used to take me to the old press box at Upton Park when he was covering matches, and I think I first went about 1963 (when I was 8) but I can’t remember who we played. I just remember all the players’ names began with “b” – Boyce, Bond, Brabrook etc..But I do remember us beating Preston North End 3-2 in the 1964 cup final.
How many games do you get to?
As I travel so much for work I don’t get to as many as I’d like. I had a season ticket two years ago, but missed so many matches I gave it up. Nowadays probably get to half a dozen a season. Last saw us lose to Everton in the League Cup – aaaggghhh!! Watch all the live games on telly.
Most memorable moment?
When West Ham won the World Cup in 1966 – and, yes, I was there. My Dad knew the copper running security at Wembley, and slipped him a fiver so we could get in. I was 11, and I had a plank of wood on a camping stool so I could see the game (we were standing on the terrace). Every time a goal was scored, the crowd surged forward and I was knocked off my little stool, which I then had to reconstruct. I spent more time putting this contraption together than watching the game. But I do remember Hurst sprinting off to score the fourth goal, and as we came out of Wembley I clearly remember the Evening News front page headline – “West Ham win the World Cup.” I’ve still got my World Cup Willie rosette!!
Have you met any Hammers players?
I used to know a few through Dad. We moved out to Upminister, and Dad knew quite a few of the players who lived in the neighbourhood through work and playing golf. Jimmy Greaves was a close family friend and my brother and myself once went on a boating holiday with Jim and his two boys, Danny and Andrew, on the Norfolk Broads. Whenever we tied up people would come up and say, “You’re Jimmy Greaves”, and he would get all embarrassed and say, no, he just looked like him. He was in his prime at Spurs then and was such a lovely, funny guy. I remember Greavesy coming round to us in 1966 after the Uruguay game and showed us the big hole that had been kicked out of his leg, which made him miss the final. He was in tears over it. Dad also knew Bobby Ferguson, the goalie, who became a close family friend. He still keeps in touch with my Mum from Australia, where he moved after he finished playing. As a student I used to work in the King’s Head pub in Hornchurch which was the haunt of many of the players from the mid-1970s – Pat Holland, Tommy Taylor, John McDowell – etc..and I used to serve them their half a lager and limes at Sunday lunchtime – priceless!
Favourite current player?
Mark Noble. Not only has he got the talent, he’s got the attitude – the Billy Bonds tackle with the Trevor Brooking class.
Describe last season. How did it affect you?
For a lifelong hammer, totally predictable. I was in Cardiff for the Cup Final where we totally outplayed Liverpool and deserved to win. Then a few months later we are playing like a pub team. Typical. But that’s why we love them.
What are your hopes for this season?It would be nice to finish in the top six, but with the injuries we’ve got I think we’d be lucky to get eighth. I’d just like to see what kind of team Curbs would put out if he had everyone fit.
Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
Parkes, Dicks, Moore, Martin, Lampard (snr) Brooking, Bonds, Devonshire, Peters, Greaves, Hurst – reserves: Green, McDowell, Paddon, Cottee, Di Canio
What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham
I think they’d like me to talk about something more interesting – like how to win the war on terror or who’s going to win the American presidential election.
When you’re reporting on West Ham games how difficult is it to be objective?
Impossible. I remember going with my Dad when I was a teenager and sitting in the press box when we stuffed Chelsea 3-0 – I was jumping up at every goal and getting some very cross looks from the likes of Brian Glanville.
Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is…
…they fade and die – Liverpool in the cup final, Everton this season in the League Cup – it’s now 28 years of hurt!
Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is…
…they rise so high – when the crowd gets behind them and they go for it, there’s no better place in the world than Upton Park.