Filed: Thursday, 8th November 2007
By: Gary Kruse
Towards the back end of last season, a mate of mine went to the Arsenal – Man City game at the Emirates. Mid way through the match, he was up on his feet, singing his little Gooner socks off when he was told to sit down and shut up.
By showing the passion and pride of all true football fans, he’d upset some corporate CEO who wanted to eat a prawn sandwich in dignified silence. A period of doubt followed, during which my Gooner friend considered supporting a team where passion and pride were still seen as a virtue. In short, he considered becoming a Hammer.
These days there is a palpable sense of excitement around the Boleyn. There’s a new owner, a new manager, a new kit and pretty much a new team as well. There’s talk of Champion’s League football in five years, and a move to sixty-thousand seater stadium by West Ham station. The future looks rosy.
But what price are we willing to pay for this glorious future?
It says a lot about the reputation of West Ham supporters that my Gooner friend considered becoming one. It’s a reputation that’s been built over decades of unflinching support through the good and all too frequent bad times. And it’s encapsulated in two legendary F.A. Cup games.
The first was the 2006 Final. Despite the penalty shoot out defeat, the Sunday papers heaped praise on the good-natured rapport between the West Ham and Liverpool fans. Throughout the afternoon The Millenium Stadium reverberated with two of footballs greatest anthems.
After the Cup presentation, according to one report, the Hammer’s fans joined their Liverpool counterparts in a chorus of “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” before giving one last defiant blast of “Bubbles” then leaving, defeated but with their pride and reputation intact.
The second was the 1991 F.A. Cup Semi Final against Nottingham Forest. Again we had to suffer the bitter taste of defeat. Through it all though, Villa Park resounded to the chant of “Billy Bond’s Claret and Blue Army”. As a twelve-year-old kid watching at home, I felt choked with pride. Yes we were getting pasted, but we were still defiant, still singing and showing exactly what it means to be a Hammer.
My worry is that, should we reach the dizzy heights of the Champion’s League, will we lose our roots? Will we find ourselves infiltrated by the Johnny Come Latelys currently filling the stands at the Bridge and the Emirates? In five years time, will the chorus of “Bubbles” that greets the team onto the pitch be replaced with the kind of silence that led the old Arsenal ground being known as the Highbury Library? I hope not.
I would love to see West Ham fighting it out at the right end of the table for once. I barely remember the legendary 1986 season when we were so close to that elusive title, and I would love to see the Hammers raise the Premier League Trophy one day.
But no matter what happens in the future, we can’t forget our past. We can’t lose our soul. We’ve got to keep singing, keep packing out the Boleyn and keep on believing, no matter what happens on the pitch. Success will only mean something if we stay true to what West Ham is all about.
My Gooner mate didn’t turn in the end. But good luck to him. He’ll still be a Gooner when the Prawn Sandwich Brigade has moved onto the next big thing. And that’s exactly how it should be.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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