West Ham United fan Joe Morris gives us his view on why the Hammers and Upton Park hold his affection after years of support.
For as long as one can remember my favourite team has been West Ham, once known as Thames Ironworks and one whose hold on my imagination stretches back to the latter part of the 1970s.
Those with an infatuation for pop music, art, hang gliding, wine-making or basket weaving will readily identify with my almost lifelong connection with that famous team from London’s East End. Supporting the Hammers has long required both tolerance, faith, loyalty and an unwavering belief that one day we might just emerge with the Premier League title – or the old First Division as we traditionalists might call it.
At the end of the 1970s your author would take up residence on what would become known as the freezing South Bank terraces at Upton Park. Every fortnight your author would steadfastly stand come rain or shine, shivering during the winter and then rejoicing at the
merest hint of Spring sunshine. He would make a special point of strolling into the ground at least three hours before the game. This may sound the strangest of admissions but he loved nothing better than the smell of hot dogs, hamburgers and the wonderful atmosphere in the ground.
At roughly 12.30 your author would begin savouring the special sights and sounds that football grounds that are renowned for. Outside the ground police horses would stand patiently as hordes of claret and blue masochists would stream into the ground. It’s often said football is a religion and if this is the case Upton Park is the cathedral. The whole congregation of claret and blue supporters constantly chant good natured songs and wounding witticisms about the opposing team.
For as long as your author can remember football fans would spend 90 minutes pouring out their heart. There were the insulting comments, horribly vulgar jibes about the supporters parentage and a whole variety of jokes about the players on the pitch. It was entertaining, funny but occasionally terrifying and intimidating if you were close to a threatening fan.
Football of course was all about swaying scarves, lovably cheerful sing songs from the passionate supporters and fan solidarity. They turn up every week armed with their very own repertoire of humour, hatred and utter filth. They shout and holler louder and louder until eventually they run out of obscenities. They may be UNITED UNITED! but you suspect their mouths ought to be washed out, cleaned and permanently silenced but then football might just lose its unique magic.
At Upton Park your author moves about restlessly in anticipation of the 3.00 kick off, furiously stamping his feet on cold November afternoons and then breathing a sigh of relief when the players emerge from the tunnel. For he, that tunnel has been graced by the elegant conductor and maestro who was Trevor Brooking, a player of exquisite playmaking gifts and a man singularly cool, calm and composed while others were losing their head.
Brooking was a player of vision, foresight, remarkable intelligence and two of the most educated feet football has ever produced. Brooking would stroll and swagger through football matches as if totally unaware of the noise and commotion around him.
Then there was the stick thin figure of Alan Devonshire. Now Devonshire loved nothing better than running with the ball. Like a galloping horse this slim, willowy man would set off on quite the most incredible of dazzling and mesmerising runs at opposition defences, a player of stunning stamina.
Then there was Geoff Pike, a busy, bustling and hard tackling midfield player who loved to make his presence felt at all times. Pike was the engine room of the team, a player of fire and brimstone, courage and bravery of the highest order.
There was Pat Holland who would play the game as if his life depended on it, shirt flapping outside his shorts and ball magnetically glued to his feet. Holland was football’s great adventurer, wandering and exploring new territories. He was like one of those mountaineers on an expedition who never give up on reaching the summit.
So there you have it.
Your author shuffles away from Upton Park when the match is over, muttering regrets if things had gone pear shaped but glowing with joy if victory had been achieved.
This is what football is all about, its very essence. Sometimes you’re transported onto another planet, floating around in sheer ecstasy when things are going well but cursing under their breath (though this football supporter would never admit to actual cursing!) when the team are hammered 6-0.
Your author has always supported West Ham United and could never explain why. Perhaps it had something with geography, birthplace and background. Your author’s uncle and grandfather were ferociously fervent West Ham supporters and both used to live within cheering distance of Upton Park. Your author has almost inherited that support and not a moment has passed without questioning one’s sanity or despairing of the men in claret and blue ever achieving anything. But although he has not stepped into the Upton Park lions’ den for over 20 years it would be hard to imagine your author ever changing his allegiance. Claret and blue West Ham is your author’s football hobby, interest, a constant source of fascination and annoyance in equal measure.
They might have given me nothing but heartache and headaches in the past but the Hammers will always blow bubbles and, for all their resemblance to an old time music hall act, will always be my team.
Come on you Irons.
Download the free fanatix app now for iPhone: Sport news, social features and more!
Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr: