My West Ham: Roy Young

I got am email over the weekend from a reader, Roy Young, who had just been reading Brian Belton’s book, BLACK HAMMERS. I thought I’d share it with you.

I am 44 now and West Ham has been a major part of my life it’s also proudly on my birth certificate as I was born in Forest Gate Hospital in December 1964 and instead of now being known as the borough of Newham back then as you will now it was the borough of West Ham !! (sounds much better) !!

I am the first son of an English women (June) and a Jamaican father (Roy) who came direct from Kingston Jamaica has a ‘stowaway’ so his first port of call was Brixton Prison he was also a professional boxer.

We grew up in Bow and my first recollection of Upton Park was going with my dad aged around 3 / 4 so around the ’67/’68 season, my brother had to wait and instead settle for going to Roman Rd market with mum 🙂

I will always remember those days and the magic feeling I had being in Upton Park with all the claret & blue !! I do remember snidy racist remarks but always felt safe with my dad ‘the boxer from the tough streets of Kingston Jamaica 🙂 Of course for obvious reasons my hero was Clyde Best they were all my heros but here was this man who had to put up with abuse just because he happened to be black and he never showed it bothered him at all indeed he rose above it that taught me a lot !

When my brother reached an appropriate age we included him in on the fortnightly journey from Bow Rd to Upton park ! So now there were 2 brown kids with big afros alongside our ‘minder’ and dad !! We were a rarity indeed I never recall seeing other people of colour at Upton Park them days apart from Clyde and Ade !!

So we were regulars at Upton Park from ’67 to ’74 when unfortunately my mum had to run away with us due to the violent nature of my father we ended up in Bristol via various women’s aid refuges or as they were called back then battered wives homes.

On subsequent visits I have had to endure racism one time in particular stands out to me whereby I got in late for some match and somehow found myself in front of thousands of fans doing the monkey chant I just remember smiling !! They will never ever put me off of supporting my club !!

I remember us watching the ’75 cup final in Bristol with our claret & blue uniforms on !! We were also both top footballers and are well known throughout Bristol as the 2 ‘Ammers Roy and Barry !! We have remained passionate about West Ham and has you rightly say it’s something your born West Ham I cannot explain why this West Ham burns so bright in my soul but it’s lovely !!

Roy has promised to update his story from 1975 to the present.

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32 Responses to My West Ham: Roy Young

  1. JackHammer says:

    More power to you Roy, it must have taken great courage just to be at Upton Park in those days, I have heard less and less racial abuse as the years have gone by, but nowadays I do squirm when some idiot starts and wish I had enough courage to put him down and get him thrown out of the ground for life, which is the only way to stop it.

  2. Gus says:

    Awsome story mate ….cant wait for 75 onwards …West Ham played a big part in my Nans life in the 60″s and 70’s as she moved over from Malta with my Grandad , Mum and other family members in the 60’s she her self took me to West Ham in the late 70’s (8 yrs old) and they have stuck with me for 30 yrs but i shall never forget the first match i went too with my Nanna ….

  3. freddie 19 says:

    Can’t wait for the update. I’m not racist at all,I’m Awlays interested in hearing about the connection between football and racism. I strongly believe footabll, as any other sports, should bring ppl together instead of creating barriers…

  4. Hey Roy, many thanks for sharing your story. Clyde Best was a great hero of mine, too. He was so cool. Powerful, strong, and a great guy. I saw him score a fantastic goal at Leicester City.

    Regarding racism and thinking back to my own experiences, I used to play alongside a black lad in a team in the late 60s at Primary School. He was one of very few guys with West Indian heritage in our neck of the woods (High Wycombe in Bucks had a different population make-up then).

    His name was Bernard James and he was a fantastic player. I got picked for the district team and couldn’t believe when Bernard wasn’t. I was incredulous when my dad said to me: ‘He won’t get picked, because he’s black.’

    I was mortified to think that this should be a barrier to selection. I’d never come across racism … it just wasn’t part of our family make-up, so to hear my dad say that people discriminated in that way really shocked me. I must have had a very sheltered upbringing to that point. But then my eyes were opened and it was around that time that I started to go to away matches and it saddened me when watching the Hammers that our players were abused in that way.

    Times have changed, but we do still have too many bigots around, and this shows itself in so many ways.

    I look forward to reading more of this, so thanks for putting it on the blog, Iain.

    N.B. If anyone knows of a Bernard James from the High Wycombe area, late 1960s and beyond, I’d love to have a beer with him. Maybe I’ll try Facebook…

    Any others on here with Facebook pages, by the way? Be interesting to link up that way. (Iain does, I know, but I haven’t asked to be linked as a friend, for fear of him thinking he’s being ‘facebook stalked’.

  5. Fitzhammer says:

    Lovely story Roy – Sadly it reminds me of the 1970’s/80’s when I took my mixed race nephew to Upton Park and was mortified by the monkey chanting and bananas being thrown on the pitch (v. West Brom). Incidently, he was regularly called a golliwog at school, which is why Carol Thatcher’s remarks can never be defended.

    Thankfully those days are gone, but what has to be confronted is the anti-semitism directed at Spurs and the homophobic chants directed at Sol Campbell.

  6. MickeyN says:

    I am of Asian origin and have supported/followed West Ham since I came here from Kenya as a 7 year old in 1966 (Hurst, Moore, Peters – who else could a kid support?). I was never subjected to racist abuse at UP (or possibly never registered it). I vaguely knew that West Ham had a reputation for being followed by a “racist crowd” but I remember more the great affection the fans had for Ade Coker and Clyde Best. Maybe I had it wrong, but I do feel there was a lot of media mischief around even then. I also think that the nature of abuse is different – very few of the chants, even racist or homophobic, seem to be “race hate” or “gay hate”. They seem to be mainly to put off opposing players (like we did when Paul Ince returned to UP with Manure). Why is it when you call Thierry Henry a “useless black bastard” the one word you’ll get in trouble for is the thing that is true? Why is it an issue to call Sol Campbell a “nancy”, yet everyone revelled in calling Peter Beardsley “ugly”? I am in no way advocating any of this type of abuse (and I certainly agree that there are occasional disgraceful steps across the line) – I don’t even think fans should boo their own players – but does it not strike anyone that, whatever you call them, these Baby Bentley multi-millionaires are becoming a bit precious? Whatever the Race, Colour, Creed COYI!!

  7. royaqub says:

    Greetings my fellow Hammers!
    I thank you all for your kind comments! I am determined to keep my promise to Iain and continue from ’75 to present day, I will give it a go soon as possible!
    Being mixed race I have always been totally mystified how people could be racist as there’s good and bad in all races!

  8. IronMick says:

    Thanks Roy – was really nice to read your memories – your obviously a man of integrity and courage to smile in the face of adversity.
    MickyN raises some interesting points about people ( particularly the media) being over sensitive to absolutely everything but there is most defiantly a line between friendly banter and hateful abuse. Unfortunately the sickening anti-sematic chants are common place.
    I’ve raised this issue before and FitzHammer is quite right to raise it again. I can’t even comprehend how people think that this is fine (and I wish I could say that it is a small minority) This is no different to racism, homophobia or anything else that is deemed unacceptable and I have no idea how people are still getting away with it.

  9. Roymondo says:

    A great post. more power to you, Roy.

  10. Stelios J says:

    Nice one, Roy. The first game I ever saw (1969), West Ham boasted: Bobby Moore, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, Trever Brooking, Billy Bonds, Frank Lampard and Harry Redknapp, in the starting XI, but Clyde Best was probably my first hero. I still have the programme from that day (against Derby), and John Charles is the featured pic. Didn’t Clyde have a brother at West Ham?

    St. J

  11. phil says:

    Stelios

    It was John Charles who had a brother who also played a few first team games – Clive.
    Talking of anti-semitism at West Ham and being Jewish myself it was hard to know how to take this when I used to go to games. Most of my Jewish friends also support the Hammers and followed them all over the country. I always wondered how many of the morons new that the bloke standing next to them could also be Jewish.
    Also where do they think Eyal Berkoviz and Yossi Benayoun came from?

  12. Stelios J says:

    Thanks Phil, I recalled that just at the point I remembered how to spell ‘Trevor’.

    I’m half Greek half Scottish; thankfully, the scumbags haven’t targeted we few for minority abuse…yet!

  13. Gavva says:

    Good stuff Roy. Other peoples “West Ham history” always fascinates me. And I’ve always been proud of West Ham’s history regarding black players. Even if it took some time for certain inbreds on the terraces to accept, West Ham I believe were one of the more progressive clubs when it came to playing black players. From John Charles in 1963 to playing three black guys in the team in 1973 (Best, Coker and Clive Charles). I would guess that 1973 wouldn’t have been a particularly easy time to be black and living in the East End, but having a quarter of your football team represented by black players, I’m hoping would have helped. Well I’m sure it raised a smile at the very least!

  14. Stelios, you must have been thinking of Clevor Trever (sic) the song by Ian Dury.

    Knock me dahn wiv a feaver… Clevor Trever!

  15. Stelios J says:

    Just cause I ain’t never had no nuffin worth nuffin, ever, Graybomeister? Saw him and the Blockheads at the Dominion in another lifetime. Don’t let’s get started on Plaistow Patricia!
    😉

  16. … or Billericay Dicky!!

    Went and saw him at a number of places, including a magical night at the Hammersmith Odeon. Then, years later saw him at Cambridge Corn Exchange, just weeks before he died.

    It was a fantastic atmosphere, and you could tell he was very poorly, but it was an electric night. It was as though a few hundred people had crowded round a hospital bed to visit their best mate. I mean that in a very nice way, too, not in a morbid way.

    He received a great send-off and was left in no doubt as to the high esteem in which he was held.

    OK, apologies for going off topic, but as Stelios hinted, this was a very clever lyricist, even if his songs were often a bit rude.

    Back in Hammer-land, these polls are bringing out some fantastic ‘where are they now’ fodder. Anton Otulakowski, anyone?

  17. Stelios J says:

    Bobby Barnes was another. Surprised we haven’t got hold of his nephew, Giles, yet!

    St J.

    (shhh gbm…I was at school when that wonderful album came out; o, what fun we had asking the other boys whether they’d bought “new boots and panties”!

  18. Johnny B says:

    Big yourself up Roy mate! And of course a big thank you to my mate Brian Belton for such an important contribution to the history of this great club and its community! “From the mile End road to the…”

  19. E1 says:

    Great storey roy and welcome, I am a couple of years older than you and used to get the mick taken because when we played footy in the street i always wanted to be besty and just for the record I am white,so you can see the problem I was born in stratford and most of my family were dockers and a lot of my mates were black i could never and still don’t see what the big deal is with skin colour and as you said There is good and bad in all races.
    GOOD LUCK TO YOU AND YA BRUVVER!

  20. DevoDevo says:

    Bobby used to drink in the Charleston pub in Maryland Point (now closed).

    Nice post, Roy, I can remember well the first black kid to join my junior school circa 1970. His name was Michael Semper. Us white kids loved touching his hair, short tight curls (not short & curlies)which we found strange. God knows what he made of our locks!

    There is a book called “Black Hammers” if anyone is interested?

  21. E1 says:

    outlakowski came from barnsley in 76 left for southend 79 then went on to play for millwall and palace, after that no idea.

  22. kittyking27 says:

    Great to read the comments guys!!!I’m Roy’s Mum….I’m thrilled to see that after all this time Roy has been able to put the experiences(i.e up to 1975) on this blog, but more, to read your comments is SO uplifting and makes me more determined to put our experiences out there ,as a bridge to understanding. West Ham FC have been so significant in our lives ,hope the players read this blog Iain!!June Young

  23. BRISTOLHAMMER says:

    roy if you are still in bristol drop a line here as a west country hammer it would be nice to get in touch with a few locals

  24. Doc H Ball says:

    Both Roy and Brian Belton are a credit to our club.

    I got run out of the old West Side for wearing a Rock Against Racism badge in the 80s. It’s still one of my proudest moments.

    That said, I think a lot of the racist/anti semitic/homophobic chants etc don’t necessarily mean what they appear to. I’ve heard Ray Parlour being called a long haired Essex boy by long haired Essex boys, supposedly racist kids idolising Cass Pennant and the so called liberal middle classes spouting more deep rooted shi£e than anyone else.

    This is a difficult and complex issue. Hearing about the lives of people like Roy is invaluable. Respect.

  25. HammerMalta says:

    Gus since you mentioned Nanna and Malta do you have any relation with Malta i`m maltese my self ,i come from Qormi.I was born in 1957 and eight years after my brother Manny emigrated to the UK.Two years after, i was ten then he brought me while on holiday back a West Ham shirt thank you God.The year before England ,oh sorry West Ham won the world cup and obiously Geoff Hurst became my idol.And then the dream of seeing the Irons in action started killing me and it came true in 1974,i was 17 then.I use to live in a council flat Sleaford House ,Blackthorne Street Bow.Then moved to East Ham,Cotswold Gardens,just across Barking Road.I spent two years but could`nt stand the weather but West Ham always been in my heart.I`ve seen them many times and times to come.COYI!!!!!

  26. chris says:

    Intresting comments from roy,I to have read black hammers also intresting in itself.
    I am also mixed race,and its funny how we all identify ourselfs in different ways,my real father I never new but My step father was white and I spent many saturdays at upton park with him,sadly now past away,I can remember a few comments but not much.I myself consider me to be mixed race I am not a black man and I am not a White man,I was born in a white womens womb like Obama.

  27. WHU Kim says:

    Very interesting read Roy and also the posts from other Hammers fans on this thread who come from ethnic or mixed race backgrounds. At the end of the day we all bleed claret and blue whatever our skin colour.

  28. royaqub says:

    Fellow Hammers, I feel I have to interject here 🙂 – many of your comments have truly meant a lot to me and reaffirms that there are much more decent West Ham fans then there are, for want of a better word -‘wrong’uns’- as is the case in the wider world!

    Unfortunately the minority always seem to be the extra vocal ones! For example sitting in the Lwr East Stand at the recent ‘boro fiasco this guy in the sit right behind me felt the need to shout at the top of his voice and in a mock African accent, “ILLUNGA,” EVERY time the ball came even close to our star left back, most bizarre and irritating!
    As you can see my dear mum left a comment stating that your kind words have touched her also, for this I thank each of you as I am sure like myself each of you value your mother’s very much! Mum went through so much problems for us in ’60s ’70s East End, I owe her a lot, she gave us so much strength of character and good values.
    A quick reply to Chris, (9:31pm) I like yourself see myself as mixed race however in my experiences on the whole, people only see the outside and go on to form an opinion on that. (Great that Obama’s a Hammer though eh)!
    Bristol Hammer yes I am still in Bristol! It would be nice to get in touch! If you have facebook(?)look me up under Roy Young mine is the West Ham logo of course! This also applies to anyone else in the West Ham family!

  29. DevoDevo says:

    Roy – the Illunga cry may be a play on “Katunga”, much favoured by Lenny Henry’s African character? I can see why it would start to sound repetitive and irritating, though.

    BTW – the guy that runs our local Wimpy was chatting with me the other day about football. He’s Father came to England in the 50’s (Greek Cypriot) and when he was born his Dad took him to West Ham as a toddler.

    Why West Ham? His Dad’s cousin was Yilmaz Orhan, who played a few times for the club in the mid 70’s!

    Small world.

  30. Anybody remember that story about cricket commentator John Arlott flying to South Africa, and having to fill in a form on the way in?

    In the box next to the word ‘Race’ he put ‘Human’.

    Says it all, eh?

    And there’s the story of the flight attendant who had to deal with a white man complaining about being made to sit next to a black man.

    She says she’ll go and check to see if there are any vacant seats in Business Class.

    She comes back and says to the white man: ‘There is one free seat in Business Class’ and then turns to the black man and says: ‘If you’d like to follow me, sir, I’ll take you to it.’

  31. Goatygav says:

    Good on you Roy. Great read. Look forward to the next installment.

    Love the flight attendant story Grabo.

  32. richo says:

    Missed this post first time round, just read it, great read…I can only imagine what racism was like back in them days as i’ve been fortunate enough to have grown up in a generation where racism is quite minimal.
    I admire your strength and character Roy and look forward to the follow up.

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