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Mud sticks

Filed: Wednesday, 28th November 2012
By: Paul Turner

I have supported West Ham United all my life and can safely say I owe that fact to my Granddad, Toby. Born to a Jewish father and Irish mother in Whitechapel in 1916, he grew up in the east end for many years in what can broadly be described as not the best living conditions.

Skipping forward a fair few years to the battle of Cable Street, Granddad told me once that he had never seen so many people in one area before and with the events of that day unfolding his heart was racing so much he though he was going to have a heart attack.

In WWII, Granddad drove supply trucks onto the Normandy beaches during the D-Day landings and served in France, Belgium and Holland. He never spoke at length about what he saw and his experiences but there was one story my mum told me that has stuck with me. She described how my granddad visited a concentration camp after it had been liberated and he only ever told my mum the story of what he saw once but she clearly recollects how his experiences bought tears to his eyes.

He was as West Ham as they come, always following our fortunes (or lack of) until his death a couple of years ago. It is out of respect for my granddad that I do not join in "running round Tottenham" when it is sung. I would sing that chant before but never the "F****** J**" part as even I could tell when I was younger that was wrong.

If other people decide to sing that song then that is their own choice but running round Tottenham (which as reported by those who attended White Hart Lane on Sunday was not used) is just one song I feel should belong to a bygone era. There is nothing wrong with seeing Tottenham as a rival but does it really need to get to the stage where it allows some elements to think they can do what they like and offend for the sake of offending? Football is an emotive sport but itís safe to say a line was crossed by a few on Sunday to the determinant of the majority.

The argument between the Society of Black Lawyers, Tottenham supporters groups and Tottenham Hotspur itself over the use of particular words and phrases has been well publicised, but no matter how much someone can try and claim "ownership" of a word, it can still carry with it hurtful meanings and intentions if used in the way it has been before by ourselves and other sets of fans. There has been a familiar argument used to explain those who indulged themselves in vile chanting on Sunday that every club suffers from idiots. That is true and you get someone like that in every walk of life but it only takes one idiot to tarnish the rest of us.

I have heard a number of what could be called unsavoury chants (at best) both home and away following West Ham and at other games of football I have attended. One example that sticks in my mind was in the BML when Yossi Benayoun returned to the Boleyn for Liverpool to be greeted by a group of people behind me chanting "you only scream in the showers". I also have heard the exact same chant used at Tottenham away before.

What purpose does this chant or type of chanting really serve? To have 'banter' with rival sets of fans? To have a laugh with your mates? Itís nothing short of offensive and sad really. Nobody is asking for a soliloquy on the rival team's shortcomings and suggestions as to what opposition fans and players can do with inanimate objects through a short performance piece, but resorting to base level crudeness is not the way to go. We are West Ham United; I thought we were better then that?

The obvious argument that has been used time and time again on the KUMB forums and elsewhere is that you canít tarnish a whole group of supporters with the same brush because of the actions of a minority and that is true, but what is also true is the saying "mud sticks". Those that attend matches or follow West Ham closely without having to resort to borderline racist comments (or indeed highly offensive and/or racist comments/chants) know the score in general but the way in which those who are less connected to our club are more easily influenced by media reports.

If you use any kind of search engine you can pull up several articles relating to last Sunday's game from around the world from India to New Zealand, America to Brazil. Many of these reports repeat themselves but the key phrases remain: hissing, Adolf Hitler, anti-Semitic. These are just some of the phrases I have seen over and over, amongst others. The truth of the matter gets lost in the sensualisation of the issue by those reporting but it canít be argued with and has been widely accepted that a minority of West Ham United fans let themselves and everyone else down on Sunday.

The biggest issue facing West Ham United out of this whole situation is not how the FA will find against our club - be that with a warning, a fine, games behind closed doors/reduced attendances home or away - but a loss of reputation home and abroad. Players of all walks of life or orientation still decide to play for clubs or in countries that have a reputation (fairly or not) of abuse or racism because money talks and opportunities that present themselves to make a living dictate, in most cases, a player's career - but a reputation can still leave a mark. It can also affect potential supporters abroad and at home.

Fans deride in the whole those who chose a club because of its trophy hauls or particular players and they had no previous affiliation, but to those who own clubs they are a source of money. Cardiff City didnít change the kit to red for the fun of it. The change was made to market the club to the Asian market. Was Dong Fangzhuo really signed by Manchester United for his prowess in front of goal? Truth is, clubs want to maximise revenue streams as much as possible and that covers not just sponsorship but followers who would be willing to buy merchandise, subscriptions and any other trinkets branded with the club they now follow.

Incidents like that on Sunday only go to tarnish our reputation. Those who already follow West Ham United in the overwhelming majority of cases will stick with the club, but anyone not yet persuaded might chose to go elsewhere.

As I said before, mud sticks.

*Paul Turner may also be found on Twitter at @P_Tizzle31.

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.

Your Comments

by Rob
09:58PM 4th Dec 2012
''Lets not put this into the banter bracket. This is abusing a race and religion. I love the rivalry with Spuds, and I am not adverse to giving their support some proper stick. But to relate our banter to the worst human atrocity that ever happened and the fact that plenty of Hammers are directly related either through blood or association with the Jewish community is quite frankly embarrassing and wrong.

I beg the question. Do any of you have a real problem with that race?

The term 'Yid' is where it gets a little more complicated. Spud fans call themselves this because of their allignment to the Jewish community. Is the term Yiddish not a phrase that is used in the Jewish community? But then again a black man can call a fellow black man a nigger and this is acceptable. A white man cannot call a black man a nigger. Is it the same that a christian cannot call a Jewish person a yid, although that is what they call themselves?

I have Jewish affiliation in my not too distant past and I am proud of that. I just cannot see where the lines are drawn here. The Hitler jibes are way beyond the pale though. I would like to think that this is just down to pure naive ignorance and not anything more sinister.''

by Ben Quigley
10:58AM 2nd Dec 2012
''Well said Paul. We constantly pride ourselves on being the 'Academy of football'. We also need the standards and to take the moral high ground that goes with the mantle. West Ham fans should be leading the way in witty banter with rivals, not tolerating an undercurrent of moronic, racist taunts from a minority that have no place anywhere in society, let alone a football stadium.''

09:20PM 30th Nov 2012
''Do you really believe this is anything but no more than banter?''

by Tim Mardell
11:19PM 29th Nov 2012
''Paul, Very good and powerfull piece. My heart sank when I heard the chants, I pulled up a few youngsters singing that "running round" song in the Queens pub earlier this season, they couldn't see what i was going on about, ignorant of the effect and offence of what they were singing about.

It does seem a different thing from the late 70s right-wing skinhead viewpoint which was a real political affiliation though, more a winding up thing.

My granddad fought in the first WW and most of the men in my parents familys fought in the second WW. Me and my mates stood up to the right-wingers in the music pubs and clubs around London in the late 70s/early 80s, now these out-of-town youngsters need to learn some history of the club they preportedly support. Unfortunatly it's going to come down to us all to put a stop to it by confronting them again and pointing out the error of their ways.''

by Sue
08:41PM 29th Nov 2012
''Mud does indeed stick - sad that the idiocy of the few are been seen as my view, or the view of the majority of West Ham fans I stand with. They don't indulge in the Tottenham chant. Football has done a lot of work to get rid of racism - quite right, to get rid of homophobic behaviour - quite right, now is the time to stop this anti-Semitic chanting, so the majority are heard and reported on and not the minority of ignorant fools.''

by Mr Moon
02:09PM 29th Nov 2012
''I couldn't agree more. I met two clients this week, both Spurs fans, who were at the game. There is usually a lot of banter with them but this week they were clearly shocked and hurt by what happened. They listened to my comments about it being a small minority but I'm not sure they really believed it. We need to address this problem ourselves.''

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