My West Ham: Roy Young

February 17, 2009

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.


My West Ham: Matthew George

April 19, 2008

Matthew George is Political Editor of the Western Daily Press.

How did you become a Hammer?
I was brought up in a London overspill town where tens thousands of people were relocated, including many Hammers fans from the East End, and I supported them as most of the people around me did. The other main team was Millwall, so I had a lucky escape there.

How many games do you get to?
Season ticket holder in East Upper, so almost all home games and then I usually go to the London away games, and a few longer trips as well, such as Everton and Bolton this season.

Most memorable moment?
So many to choose from. Just from the last 5 years, I’ll never forget being at Birmingham when we got relegated for the wrong reasons, along with losing the play-off final to Palace. The win over Preston was probably the best moment, and then the Cup semi-final win over Middlesbrough and most of the final, and also being at Old Trafford for the last part of the Great Escape last season.

Have you met any Hammers players?
I did spend a day at training at Chadwell Heath when Alan Pardew was the manager, and met some of the players, but I spent most of the time with the staff, including Roger Cross, Kevin Keen and the legendary Ludo, who claims not to be from that near Moscow after all. Christian Dailly was the friendliest of the players, and Repka had the most impressive car, a gullwing DeLorean-style monster. No wonder he got upset when people scratched it.

Favourite current player?
Mark Noble, as he is a fan who really wants to the play for the team, and has that mix of skill and commitment that Hammers fans always want.

Describe last season. How did it affect you?
I went to the Bolton 4-0 defeat that cost Pardew his job, and thought we were certain to go down because we seemed completely demoralised. But after playing better against Spurs, despite losing, then the lucky win at Blackburn, and the 1-0 win at the New Library when Arsenal had about 30 chances, I started to think we might escape, and we did have a world-class striker in Tevez. I am still annoyed that the most extraordinary escape for relegation in decades was overshadowed by the nonsense Wigan and Sheffield were talking over the Tevez situation. It’s all gone quiet over there now.

What are your hopes for this season?
In the last few games I would like to see Curbs give starts to Sears, and more chances for Collison and Tomkins; as long as we stay in 10th, and above Spurs, we might as well plan for the future.

Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
In an attacking 3-5-2 formation and not including the World Cup winners as I did not see them play live

Miklosko
Dicks, Martin, Rio,
Bonds, Brooking, Devonshire, Cole (Joe, not Carlton or Mitchell), Noble
Di Canio, Cottee

Subs: Green, Potts, Carrick, Cross, Tevez.

What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham>
The ones who don’t support West Ham are all glory-hunters and part-timers – who cares what they think?

When you’re reporting on West Ham games how difficult is it to be objective?
I’ve never had to, fortunately – I don’t think I could.

Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is…
That racist song about Spurs

Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is…
Everything else


My West Ham: Pete May

March 11, 2008

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

Parkes
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.


My West Ham: Daniel Schweimler

February 21, 2008

Daniel Schweimler is the BBC’s South America correspondent, based in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
How did you become a Hammer?
The first game I ever went to was West Ham v Burnley in the old First Division sometime in the mid-sixties. My dad, a chef, had a rare Saturday off and took me on the back of his scooter. We lost. We then moved out of London and I grew up supporting Aldershot in the old Third Division. But in my early twenties moved to Forest Gate and a job as a reporter on the Ilford Recorder – back in Hammers territory!

Your first game?
See above

How many games do you get to?
Now, none. I’ve lived the past two years in Buenos Aires where I’m the BBC South America correspondent. I see a fair few on tele – less now that Tevez has gone. When I was living in London I worked shifts so usually get to seven or eight home games and one or two away games a season.

Most memorable moment?
I was in Cardiff for the play-off final against Preston…but the following day walking up Green Street with my kids and seeing the open-topped bus was probably my happiest and most memorable moment.

Have you met any Hammers players?
My wife finished third in a charity running race in Victoria Park and Steve Lomas presented the trophies and signed our football for us.

Favourite current player?
Matty Etherington

Describe last season. How did it affect you?
Traumatic! The good side was that living in Argentina, the drama and Carlos Tevez’s involvement in it put West Ham on the map here. Walking the streets of Buenos Aires with my West Ham shirt on, people would shout ‘Wist Jam’ and put their thumbs up to me. It was big news on the sports pages and nearly every painful, frustrating minute was shown on cable TV. I travel a fair bit and got to see us letting in goals in Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru and Ecuador. I was observing penguins on Martillo Island near Ushuaia the day we beat Man U at Upton Park. Martillo means hammer in Spanish!! And my boys (Ben 10 and Lucas 8) and I provoked complaints from the neighbours with the noise we made when Carlitos put the winner in at Old Trafford. We were in London last February and went to that West Ham v Watford (league) couldn’t, mustn’t lose game. As the final whistle blew I looked over and saw my youngest son in tears.

What are your hopes for this season?
I guess we have to be comfortable with mid-table mediocrity. Not sure the nerves could stand another season like the last one and hopefully an improvement next year.

Choose your all time Hammers Eleven:
Ludo in goal. Billy Bonds, Bobby Moore, Lampard (senior), Julian Dicks at the back, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick and Yossi Benayoun in midfield, Paolo Di Canio, Carlos Tevez and Geoff Hurst up front.

What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham?

Football is the main talking point in Argentina so there’s always interest. Back in London we are a small but elite few.

When you’re reporting on West Ham games how difficult is it to be objective?
I don’t report on them so football is one of the few aspects of life I don’t have to be objective about.

Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is…
The lack, often, of any kind of killer, will to win instinct. How many times have we played well and lost? Or been two up with half an hour to go and lost or drawn? It forces you to be philosophical about football and about life.

Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is…
The apparent lack of any kind of killer, will to win instinct. It’s the game that counts, not just the winning. How many times have we played well and lost? Or been two up with half an hour to go and lost or drawn? It forces you to be philosophical about football and about life.


My West Ham: Brian Belton

February 13, 2008

Brian Belton is the author of several best selling books about West Ham.
How did you become a Hammer?
I guess everyone sees this differently, but for me supporting West Ham is something you are born to rather than ‘become’. As a baby my mum sat with me in our yard in Sampson Street, E13 on a spring Saturdays and sang ‘Bubbles’ to me along with the crowd that could easily be heard from where we were. She tells me that when there was a big cheer for a home goal that I’d bounce up and down in my pram and cheer as well. My dad was a goalkeeper in the West Ham Boys side that was coached by Ernie Gregory. Who else was I going to support? Like so many other supporters I ‘am’ West Ham (and West Ham is me). West Ham till I die? West Ham from the moment I was born! But I have good friends who were born from Bangladesh to Trinidad, from Hong Kong to the Falkland Islands whose footballing affinities lie with the inextricable Irons. However, my argument (which they broadly agree with) is that they born to it too. You see there are dozens of East Ends; they exist all over the world. I have a long term pal who was born in the South African East London. His first football shirt put Irons over his heart and there they have stayed (although Orlando Pirates play a surrogate role). Perhaps it is something about being ‘on the edge’, or feeling akin to those who continually punch above their weight or identify with the striving to make something potentially mundane beautiful and exciting. West Ham supporters arise organically but their share a particular ‘soul-nature’ (you can recognize it because it’s claret and blue).

Your first game?
I was taken to my first game at Upton Park by my cousin, Steve, and a few of his mates. I was not really supposed to be in the ground being in my fourth year and my ‘carers’, well, were more than twice my age. However, the dad of one of Steve’s pals worked on the turnstiles and got us in about an hour before the game. We were squeezed up on the ‘shelf’ of the North Bank for the initial Upton Park game in West Ham’s first Division One match for more than 36 years. It was 25 August 1958 and the Wolves of Wolverhampton were the old gold clad visitors.

The first thing that hit me was the shear colour of it all – the turf, the strips and the crowd. I knew the players faces and could recite the West Ham side that had beaten Middlesbrough in the last game of the Hammers promotion season without fault and recall getting on Steve’s nerves as every time a West Ham player received or won the ball I shouted out his name.

It was close to half-time when I yelled ‘Musgrove’ as he picked up the ball on my right (West Ham were playing towards us in the first half). He seemed to run like lightning before sending a perfectly weighted pass to Vic Keeble (‘Keeble!’ I hollered). I can still see him look up for a split second that has lasted the better part of 50 years. His cross blasted into the middle of Wolves goal mouth below us. I found myself shouting ‘Dick’ as the tall Scotsman dodged a challenge before, about 20 feet from the goal-line, in a flash, cracking the ball with a satisfying ‘Tump!’ into the back of the Wanderers net. Unfortunately I don’t recall seeing John Smith’s goal.

How many games do you get to?
I’ve never been a season ticket holder. It feels like joining something and I’m not a great joiner of things. But it also goes against the spirit that first took me to Upton Park; I’d be obliged to sit in the same seat every time I go to a game and as someone who has always gone to football to watch the crowd as much as the game that was never going to suit me. Family, friends and friends of friends loan me their tickets when they can’t make it or I buy in advance (this is usually when my kid and wife come with me). I often find myself sitting with visitors when I cadge on a Gooner or one of my associates who is a Spurs fan. At away games it is not unusual for me to be found sitting with the home crowd. It is relatively easy to get into games at Bolton and Wigan for example. I like talking and listening to different people at matches, it gives me sort of cross sectional view of why people support and keeps me in touch with how people feel about things.

Most memorable moment?
I’ve been present at every final West Ham have made since 1964 and I suppose I should say one of those. The Cup Winners Cup final in 1976 was a great game. Like many of the Irons’ finest moments it was a defeat, but we did it fabulously. But my most memorable moment was something a long way away from that match in time and status.

I used to go to reserve games at West Ham’s Upton Park ground. They don’t do that anymore, the pitch is saved, in the main, for first team games. I started attending reserve games when I was about five or six. My four or five mates and me would play for the Hammers against Spurs, Arsenal or, for some reason I can’t recall, Estudeantes de la Plata in the FA Cup final in Castle Street, E13, waiting for gates to the North Bank to be opened at half-time allowing us to ‘flood’ into the near deserted edifice. The North Bank stood where the Centenary Stand now overlooks the Iron’s sacred turf and from its forsaken, yawning entrails we’d watch snatches of the game between mimicking first-team match days, crushing up together behind a single barrier, shouting warnings like, ‘stop bumming me’ and loudly questioning, ‘who’s pissed in my pocket?’ whilst imploring the claret and blue second string to, ‘Coom-yon-uuu-Iiiiionnnnzzz!!!’. Other distractions from viewing West Ham’s twilight regiment of future and past being pulverised (memory’s a bitch) included games of ‘he’ and standing directly in front of lone pensioners. We would look at these old boys in counterfeit shock as they pelted us with a comfortably predictable deluge of verbal filth. We would also mime ‘crowd riots’ (a challenge for such a small group with a collective age of 35) or line-up one behind the other and ‘do pushers’, sending all of us tumbling down the stand like over-coated dominoes. Another favourite pastime was congering up and down the near uninhabited concrete chanting, to the tune of the Seven Dwarves classic, ‘Hi-Ho!’; Mile End, Mile End, Mile End, Mile End, Mile End…(such performances could go on for an near twenty minutes and occasionally more than an hour). This was the mantra of the ‘Mile End Mob’, a collection of youth gangs that would meet at Mile End underground station to become West Ham’s travelling buccaneer army of the 1960s. The ‘Mob’ was made up of the young tribes of weekday rivals from Stepney, Canning Town, Whitechapel, Dagenham, Hornchurch and all the ‘villages’ North of the River, East of the Tower, an area still then pock-marked by the ravages of the blitz and continuing poverty. Come the next first-team game, this conglomerated ‘crew’ would crush together onto the North Bank to renew their collective allegiance to the mighty Hammers. One day we would join their ranks and carouse around the urban wastelands of England celebrating being ‘us’. But on that winter’s evening, as the flood-lights of the Boleyn Ground broke through the icy mist that shrouded London’s docklands, maybe 500 dawns into the ‘swinging’ decade of the last century, we were far too young to be part of that. Our ambitions were set on becoming ‘Snipers’, the under-13 (more or less) cadet core of the ‘Mile End’. It was just after singing and swaying to the Sniper hymn, Snniiiipuzzz! Snniiipuzzz! that I got knocked unconscious.

In time with our homage my little choir pointed towards what was then the enclosure where visiting supporters would be directed, the despised South Bank (that would eventually metamorphose into the Bobby Moore Stand). The South Bank would be transformed into the ‘home end’ in a rather lame effort to break the cult of the ‘Mile End’ and control match day trouble. The tactic was to mark the end of the MEM, but it gave rise to its more malevolent successor, The Intercity Firm.
Our ‘Sniperian’ sonnet had been going some moments when the ball was murdered by the chest of West Ham’s Johnny Byrne. The stained sphere fell, seemingly as slow as a leaf, to receive a mighty belt from the Byrne right boot. The shot screamed towards the goal, but with the lightest kiss atop the away side’s bar, the oscillating orb cannoned on…straight towards…me. I don’t know how, when or why I decided that I wound head the ball back at Byrne, but spreading both arms wide, I pushed my compatriots aside and flung myself towards the on-coming missile. I saw it spinning in the air, turning like some mad banshee, it screamed its coming and I knew I would make contact; I would meet this challenge and connect with my team. I would be totally Hammered! The last thing I remember before leather met cranium was marvelling that so much turn could be applied at such great force; then the lights went out, at least in my diminutive, infantile nut anyway. In the expanse of my childish unconscious I had a little dream wherein Percy Dalton (the peanut man) was arguing with the West Ham manager Ron Greenwood about the state of the buses, Ron was calling in Yogi Bear to arbitrate, him being smarter than the average bear, when illumination was restored. I awoke looking into the face of Johnny Byrne. Like, England international, most expensive footballer ever, Johnny f****** Byrne! ‘You okay sonny?’ he asked looking concerned. My modest firm were standing round in awe, little Colin Jones, the amazing two foot Trinidadian, smallest giant in the East End, was mutely holding out a crumpled piece of paper and a blue, betting office pencil. Byrne had jumped out of the fantasy realm of the pitch into the stark reality of the North Bank; he had crossed the divide of dreams and run up the terraces to where I lay. ‘Yeah’ I said, trying to pretend that my flight down twenty feet of terraced hardness had been deliberate. I was planning saying something like, I do that all the time John when he remarked, ‘Good header’ and gave a little chuckle as he helped me to my feet. ‘Thanks’ I replied with all the nonchalance I could muster. He signed Tony’s scrap of putrid papyrus and trotted back down to where the other players were, quite rightly, looking up at him from the other side of reality. That autograph would be with Colin forty years on. He carried it into eternity in the top pocket of the suit he wore as he was cremated in little Catholic chapel in New York after a long battle with an evil illness.
My first conversation with Johnny Byrne would not be the last, but our next chat would be separated by the tumult of my teenage years and John’s combustive reign in world football. But we never really parted. As I followed him and his West Ham, we were all Hammers. Incited by Bobby Moore, our coming was felt like the distant thunder of Zulu army jogging, inextricably, across the veldt. At the best of times, just when the opposition thought it had heard the last of the Irons, the portentous presence of Moore would coagulate in the middle of the park and the buzz of swiftness around the ball would start, eliding out space and enveloping it, Byrne, Hurst, Boyce, Sissons, Brabrook would dazzle, dizzy and confuse to weave the Hammers back into contention. Sophisticated in assault out of defence, passing along the ground with intoxicating accuracy, rarely did the ball take flight; darting runs carried it to rock the enemy like lightening bolts from the claret and blue. A collusion of deft passing and on-the-ball skill was their only authority. That West Ham side had the ability to generate an idyll of football. Never had so much soccer anticipation been stirred to be so thoroughly sated. I wrote Budgie’s biography a few years ago (Burn Budgie Byrne). For me he was one of the most talented players that ever graced the claret and blue.

Have you met any Hammers players?
I think it is more than a hundred now. From the earliest days of the club’s existence players would coach in local schools after training in the afternoon. My school was just a few minutes walk from the Boleyn Ground and Clyde would take that stroll to coach us on Southern Road playing field, now the home of Newham United. So he was one of the first I met. He worked alongside another Hammers pro, George Andrews. Clyde would coach on the run, playing alongside us, constantly chattering tips and instructions. George would stand on the sidelines. Clyde’s quiet Barbadian tones were not at all foreign to us, my school boasted dozens of ethnicities, but we had no experience of ‘deep Caledonia’ culture. This being the case, the only thing we could understand from Scots George was his screamed Highland war cry “Will Ye Nay Stoop Shooootin’!”

Later, drinking in the Black Lion in Plaistow I bumped into Bobby Moore and John Charles. I had met Bob many times as he and quite a few other players (Harry Cripps, Malcolm Allison and Noel Cantwell) used to buy shirts from my father’s stall in Queens Road Market when I was very small (dad bought high quality shirts and sold them at a very small profit, but made more money on the ties and cuff-links that went with them). He would now and then come round to our house with the likes of Danny Blanchflower and Ken McKinley (the West Ham speedway captain). Ken would purchase a couple of dozen shirts to sell at Custom House stadium. As a young teenage I’d very occasionally see Bob at the Ilford Palais and a few years on I often saw him at the Room at The Top (also in Ilford). He’d always say hello and when I was with a girl would chat and buy us a drink – nothing to do with the girl of course.

I met fifty of the players from the 1950s when I wrote Days of Iron (which was an honor and an education) and of course, over five years working alongside John Charles, I met quite a few former players. But Black Hammers led me to interview the likes of Bobby Barnes, Anton Ferdinand, Marc-Vivien Foe and Shaka Hislop.

Favourite current player?
I like Mark Noble, but I’m not alone there am I? He is a fine player, but what I like about him most is that he personifies what West Ham is about. He’s a Hammer through and through; born in Canning Town and coming up through the youth sides. If the day comes when we end up like Manchester United, Chelsea and Portsmouth having half the side made up of players from one particular team (in their cases West Ham) it might be time to start restricting myself to attending Academy games. Once a Hammer always a Hammer; Tevez, Cole, Carrick, Rio even Lamps, no matter how much their current clubs might boast about them as ‘their’ players, in the background, tapping on the back door of their consciousness, there will always be the nagging knowledge, ‘they are Hamsters!’

Describe last season. How did it affect you?
I loved it! Every minute. I loved Carlos and everything he did. I loved that we made him Hammer of the Year. I loved how Curbs led us home. I loved watching Mr Bean moan in harmony with Kevin McCabe (Sharpe went blunt) and most of all I loved watching Dave Whelan being all northern and outraged. Well worth £5.5m. The worse thing was old Yoda saying he was going to fight all the way and then fell on his knees to plead guilty to a charge that some alleged could not have been made to stick. That story is of course still to be fully told.

What are your hopes for this season?
Old Russian saying – ‘hope is the last thing to die’ – I hope we can finish above Portsmouth and Tottenham. I hope we qualify for Europe. I hope people will start to appreciate Alan Curbishley a bit more and remember we stayed up under his leadership and how that run in last season was truly magnificent – given our situation it must rate as one of the best performances ever by a West Ham team.

Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
Always a difficult one; you gonna pick the players you love or the best players (not necessarily the same thing). Also, are you going to look to the likes of Len Goulden, Ernie Gregory, Ted Hufton, Vic Watson, Sid Puddefoot and Danny Shea, the great players of the pre-war period? I’ll go for my best XI from the last 30 years, just to keep it a bit straightforward:

Phil Parkes, Ray Stewart, Julian Dicks, Billy Bonds, Alvin Martin, Alan Devonshire, Ian Bishop, Frank McAvennie, Carlos Tevez, , Trevor Brooking, Tony Cottee

I might have included Paulo Di Canio, maybe instead of Cottee or McAvennie, but the Nazi salutes of late don’t seem in the best interests of the game – Controversial selection – Ian Bishop. But ask the players who see him as one of the most talented Hammers ever.

What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham
I work in higher education and as a person with a passion about identity in sport am probably am a bit of an oddity in this sphere. As such folk mostly ignore my connection with West Ham (although it is hard not to know about it I guess). I try not to sing ‘Bubbles’ at degree ceremonies in Canterbury Cathedral and this is probably appreciated. I think Football is still seen as something essentially masculine, although my mum is the greatest supporter of West Ham in my family and given the strides in the women’s game internationally, but also amongst young women from working class background in the East End and like areas across Britain, I’m not sure this is much more than an out-of-date prejudice. There has also been some wonderful work done recently on the history and social impact of women’s football; to name but a few; A Game for Rough Girls: The History of Women’s Football in Britain – Jean Williams , Boots and Laces: An Insight into Women’s Football in England – Maysun Butros, The Dick Kerr’s Ladies – Barbara Jacobs, Offside?: The Position of Women in Football (Behind the Headlines): The Position of Women in Football (Behind the Headlines) – John Williams and Donna Woodhouse , Out of Bounds: Women, Sport and Sexuality – Helen Lenskyj, A Beautiful Game: International Perspectives on Women’s Football – Jean Williams, I Lost My Heart to the Belles: Story of the Doncaster Belles – Pete Davies, The Game and the Glory: An Autobiography – Michelle Akers, The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World – Jere Longman and the new book about Hope Powell, Dream to Win.

Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is…I don’t hate anything. Some things are hard to take sometimes; the increasing commercialization of the game (although that has always been there) but perhaps more than that the lack of local players coming though, especially from our local Asian community that has some wonderfully gifted players. I saw one little bloke playing in the street (a rare enough thing these days) not 5 minutes from the ground; he looked like Jimmy Johnstone on the ball. As a youth worker in East London over the last 30 years I have seen hundreds like him; why hasn’t at least one of these kids come through?

Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is…
That they are mine.


My West Ham: Ian King

February 6, 2008

Ian King is City Editor of The Sun.
How did you become a Hammer?Confession, first – the truth of the matter is that my home town team is Bristol City. That’s where I’m from, it’s the team my dad supported and it’s the team I grew up supporting. And I still do. However, my career took me to London, making it very hard to see the City regularly. Being a regular football watcher – more than 450 matches and rising – I had to get a regular fix. The Hammers were the London club I’d liked the most as a kid and so, on coming to London, were the team I made a beeline to watch in those early days – nearly 20 years ago. It’s grown from there. The Hammers represent everything that is good and pure about the game and the fans are superb.

Your first game?2-0 away at Southampton in 1984.

How many games do you get to?Season ticket holder, so most home matches. Went to every home match last season but have missed a couple this year.

Most memorable moment?Probably the 2005 play-off final. And Paolo di Canio’s volleyed goal at home to Wimbledon in 1999-2000 was the best goal…although I got very excited by Jermain Defoe’s winner at Old Trafford in 2000-01 (which was overshadowed by the FA Cup win up there later that season)

Have you met any Hammers players?
Yes, I interviewed Sir Geoff Hurst in 1999 when I was working at the Mail on Sunday, in connection with a business venture he had at the time. And I met Sir Trevor Brooking in the corporate hospitality area at the England v Sweden match in Cologne in the 2006 World Cup. And Harry Redknapp when he came into The Sun’s offices in 2000. All he wanted to do was talk about what shares he should be buying, though, and how Davor Suker had talked John Moncur into some iffy investments.

Favourite current player?
For their sheer commitment, it’s hard to see past either George McCartney or Hayden Mullins this season.

Describe last season. How did it affect you?
Despondency, hope and then, ultimately, exhileration. Must admit I thought it was all over that grim afternoon when Fulham got an equaliser to make it 3-3 in the sixth minute of injury time. It was certainly a roller-coaster. Tevez was an absolute hero although hat-tips should also go to Mullins, Neill and Robert Green for their efforts also. My partner was very disappointed though – I’d promised her that I’d give up my season ticket and spend more time with the family if the Hammers went down.

What are your hopes for this season?
Mid-table stability and none of last season’s nerve-shredding.

Choose your all time Hammers Eleven
This is based only on the players I have actually seen physically in action (hence no Moore, Hurst or Brooking, unfortunately):
Ludek Miklosko; Ray Stewart; Stuart Pearce; Alvin Martin; Rio Ferdinand; Alan Devonshire; Joe Cole; Mark Noble; Frank McAvennie; Paolo di Canio; Carlos Tevez. On the bench: Robert Green; Lucas Neill; Igor Stimac (a much under-rated player); Michael Carrick (ditto) and Tony Cottee. Manager would be Alan Curbishley with Tomas Repka as motivational trainer (but certainly not driver of the team bus) and Sir Trevor Brooking in there in some capacity. His record as a caretaker manager is Champions League material.

What do your colleagues make of your support for West Ham?Many of them are West Ham fans themselves and so they welcome it. The rest just ask me what I will do if Bristol City are promoted to the Premiership next season.

When you’re reporting on West Ham games how difficult is it to be objective?I pride myself on my objectivity.

Complete this sentence: The thing I hate about West Ham is…… the anti-semitism of a minority of supporters at Tottenham matches.

Complete this sentence: The thing I love about West Ham is…… the Boleyn Ground when it’s jumping


My West Ham: Con Coughlin

February 3, 2008

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.