Pete May is the author of IRONS IN THE SOUL, HAMMERS IN THE HEART and was a regular contributor to the fanzine FORTUNES ALWAYS HIDING. His new book THERE’S A HIPPO IN MY CISTERN (Collins) is out on June 2
How did you become a Hammer?
My dad and I toured around various London clubs when I became interested in the beautiful game, age 11. We tried Arsenal, Spurs and Chelsea. There was a brief flirtation with Manchester United because of George Best, but West Ham was the closest team to Upminster station and seemed somehow special. Must have been all those lab coats and high-leg DM boots on the North Bank that did it.
Your first game?
It was West Ham v Blackpool on October 31 1970. We won 2-1 and John McDowell was making his debut. We’d just shifted Martin Peters to Spurs and acquired some old drunk called Greavesie in exchange, although even when an alcoholic he still scored more than Carlton and Luis up front. Back then the band played on the pitch before the game and Hammer used words like ‘custodian’, ‘axiom’ and ‘kudos’.
How many games do you get to?
I’m a season ticket holder in the East Stand and I’ve been to Coventry and Arsenal away this season. Would have been away more but for book writing commitments.
Most memorable moment?
So many. Di Canio’s histrionics in the 5-4 home win against Bradford take some beating. I was at the 1975 FA Cup final and in 1980 I travelled down from Lancaster University and managed to get a ticket for a fiver from a fellow fan to see us beat Arsenal at Wembley. The play-off final against Preston was unforgettable because we’d sold half the England team and somehow returned to the Premiership. Also the 2004 play-off semi-final against Ipswich, Tevez diving into the crowd against Spurs and when we beat Chelsea 1-0 with Di Canio’s goal linger as examples of just how emotive games at Upton Park can be. The 2005 FA Cup Final felt like we are a part of history in the making and I felt immensely proud that our team had helped salvage the reputation of the FA Cup, even if defeat was horrible. I won’t forget losing away to Rotherham or a 6-0 defeat on plastic at rainswept Oldham either.
Have you met any Hammers players?
Yes, I interviewed Paolo Di Canio and he was very keen to talk about Mussolini which makes him quite left wing in Chigwell. ‘¹ve also interviewed Alan Pardew, Glenn Roeder, Harry Redknapp at Sportspages (who claimed not to recognise Leicester Square) and Curbs when he was at Charlton.
Favourite current player?
Robert Green, I guess, although there are no real heroes now Christian Dailly and his curly hair have gone. Bellamy might be entertaining if he’s ever fit, but we desperately need a Di Canio/Tevez-esque figure.
Describe last season. How did it affect you?
I’ve never felt lower than after the Spurs defeat. My six-year-old daughter Nell had to chide me for saying we’d lose before the Blackburn game and she was right. What followed was one of the greatest feats of escapology ever yet we got no credit for it, such was the media obsession with Tevez-gate. Being at Old Trafford was brilliant. I’ve never known tension like it.
What are your hopes for this season?
To finish tenth and get a striker who can score!
Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
Bonds Moore (Captain) Martin, S Pearce
Di Canio, Brooking, Peters, Devonshire
Subs: Green, Dicks, J Cole, McAvennie, B. Robson.
Tough to leave Dicksy out but I feel that Stuart Pearce was much better at controlling his aggression. The side lacks a midfield ball winner but you can’t really leave Dev, Trev or Martin Peters out. Bilic would also be close to making the subs bench as would Cottee.
What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham
There seem to be numerous Hammers fans in the media. Lasagne-quaffing Spurs fans are the worse for taunting.
When you’re reporting on West Ham games how difficult is it to be objective?
Impossible. I could never be a full-time match reporter because it would mean missing watching the Irons.
Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is:
Our complete and utter unpredictability.
Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is:
When I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles is echoing around Upton Park and Wembley. There’s no better football song in the world.