Today I am taking my good friend Shane Greer (who is my deputy at Total Politics Magazine, and who you may have seen on TV a bit – he’s the one with the funny accent) to a football match first time. And where better than Upton Park? Whenever I take someone to West Ham for the first time, I behave like an evangelist. I am so desperate for them to enjoy themselves and want to come back. In short, I try to indoctrinate them into the footballing religion that calls itself West Ham-ism. I try to radicalise them. Today I shall start things gently, by visiting the West Ham Madrassa that goes under the name of Ken’s Cafe. I reckon that if Phill Jupitus is there again, Shane will be so star struck that he will be wearing the Claret & Blue forever.
Shane’s last experience of a football match was as a fourteen year old, when he was a ball boy at a match in Northern Ireland. It wasn’t a happy experience, apparently. The loyalists thought he was nationalist, and vice versa. “Oh, it’s much calmer at West Ham,” I reassured him. “You wouldn’t get any of that in the chicken run,” I said, as my nose grew longer by the minute.
The only person who has resisted the West Ham charm school is my partner, John. When we first met, in 1995, he came to about a dozen games and at first he affected to enjoy it. I hadn’t realised how little he knew about football. It became apparent when he cheered when Southampton scored a goal just after half time. I look daggers at him. “But West Ham have scored,” he said. “No,” I said. “They changed ends at half time”. I fully expect to have a similar experience this afternoon. When John started bleating about the cold and asked why people had to swear so much, I knew it was pointless. Even the attraction of staring at Steve Potts for 90 minutes had an increasingly limited appeal for him.
So, any tips on what I should tell Shane about how best to behave at West Ham? I am sure he would appreciate the benefit of your knowledge.
And if you’d like to teach him yourself, we will be in Ken’s Cafe from about 1.45 to 2.30.