My West Ham: Pete May

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
Tevez Hurst
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.


7 Responses to My West Ham: Pete May

  1. Simon goddard says:

    Home game v Blackpool on 30 Oct 70 was obviously a good starting point for Hammers fans – that was my first game too although, sadly, apart from McDowell’s debut the thing I remember most is the stunning goal that Tony Green scored for the visitors. My wife and I now have season tickets in the main stand since the club gave up the North Bank (who remembers the balconies?) for visiting fans and moved the Chicken Run half a mile from the pitch. Only two things I don’t agree with – wouldn’t put a player (Peters) in a best starting XI that I’d never seen in the flesh (he’d gone before the Blackpool game) and the comment about the lack of heroes. I personally know that the memory of LBM will follow me to the grave and beyond!! Top article.

  2. phil says:

    I was in the North bank at that Blackpool game and seem to remember a young lad making his debut on the right wing who played a blinder. No one new who he was because the announcer could not be heard over the crowd noise. Turns out it was Johnny Ayris who could have had a great carear if not crippled by a terrible foul by Chopper Harris against Chelsea.

  3. JackHammer says:

    I really enjoyed Pete May’ s books and will do my best to get hold of ” there a hippo in my cistern” which I hope is about west ham as well?, well done Pete keep it going.

  4. WHU Kim says:

    I’m reading Hammers in the Heart at the moment, brings back a lot of memories so thanks for that Pete!

  5. clack says:

    Is it ‘Hippo in the cistern’ a West Ham book?

    I’m guesing from the title it isn’t? Unless it focuses on Neil Ruddock and the 99/2000 season.

  6. Painter says:

    could never leave julian dicks out in a million years – a true west ham hero, and a good player as well! scored a lot of goals, dicksey.
    so hard to make judgements on the greats – i think i would have put ray stewart at right back and bonzo at centre-half (martin and billic were great too tho!)

    i thought ‘fortunes always hiding’ was the best fanzine we’ve ever had – loads of fun and jokes and satire, there tends to be too much political stuff in the new ones. i was sad to read the last issue, set against the atmosphere of impending doom that was the bond scheme – front page started with a picture of a chimp in a whu kit saying ‘you wont make a monkey out of me! – and finished with [fah is finnishing…] ‘because west ham are just not funny anymore’ – it felt like the end of an era and it probably was.

    i think i preferred standing in the south bank with the rain coming through the corrugated sheet roof, fans roaring songs with passion and the players like kevin keen, martin allen and dicksey running theyre balls off for us to this over-hyped, status anxious bullshit of today. at least we were shit…er…with style then. i think we were proud to be west ham then, and not really bothered how bad we were.

    or maybe i’m just silly nostalgic (probly the only west ham fan anywhere to be nostalgic for the 90’s). best game ever? – beating cambridge 2-0 at upton park to get promoted on final day, the place was bouncing!

  7. Hook End Hammer says:

    Hippo in the Cistern

    Looks a bit “Right on ” for me

    The hilarious true-life tale of one man’s journey from self-confessed planet-killing lad to eco-friendly, green-crusader Dad set against the backdrop of Cool Britannia, Blair’s Britain and the rise of the green movement. Back in the nineties, Loaded journalist, Pete May was your normal twenty-something male: a football mad, beer guzzling, Dr Who watching lad’s lad, quite happy surrounding himself with countless pizza boxes, beer cans and other environmentally unfriendly consumer items. Recycling to Pete was a debate about whether he should turn his socks inside out and reuse them. Then one day, out of nowhere, along came eco bunny Nicola — a greener than green environmental activist. Could two people so different really fall for each other? Would Pete ever change his ways and sign up to the green lifestyle of composting loos, freezing cold houses, multiple jumper wearing, chicken rearing, recycling, cycling, energy saving and general self-sufficiency? This is the charming and funny true-life tale of one man’s struggle to grapple with the good life, go green and get the girl.

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