Filed: Wednesday, 18th June 2014
By: Paul Walker
It’s getting serious now. We are going to get a new badge, somehow, some way, because that is clearly what our owners and board want.
Yes, I know we are being asked for our opinions and we are being told that no change will take place without a strong consensus, but deep down--I am sure you all agree--the times (and badge) are a’changing!
When the idea was first suggested, my initial gut reaction was to say 'no way'. So much of our legacy is about to be changed by the move to Stratford, so much history, that my initial feeling was to say 'just leave us alone'.
And that is sad, because there is such a cynical view these days about club owners, not just ours, that we don’t believe a word anyone says anymore, instinctively. Modern society dictates that, I suppose; everyone is under such scrutiny, so much of what we are told is doubted.
Sadly, the gulf between the fans and the owners is vast. In fact it is more acrimonious than I can remember in all my years of following the Irons. Some of the abuse that has flooded fans’ sites since the consultation was announced is seriously bitter and twisted.
While our board have clearly impressed on big Sam to make more of an effort to get along with the us, maybe the board need to look at themselves as well because their image could do with a make-over, too.
So, after dismissing the badge change idea out of hand I took a more considered view, and I can certainly understand the need for a fresh approach to broaden the appeal of the club. And after some interesting research, frankly I cannot find any sort of badge that you could claim was definitive.
It has been a badge of convenience for so long, changing with each kit contract or cup final. And it has not changed significantly since 1999, with most clubs regularly changing their badges to allow them to trademark them and see off the fakers and forgers.
The badge has gone through a multitude of changes over the decades, virtually everything has been tried, some with far less success than others. The fuss from fans now seems to revolve around the retention of the Boleyn castle, which to my mind has always looked like a cartoon or a Camelot theme park logo. And as for the yellow (I know people say it is gold, but to me it just looks yellow), where did that come from?
There is not a hint of yellow/gold anywhere in our history, right back to the Thames Ironworks. And for the first half of the last century, there was not a hint of any sort of castle in our badge.
The first castle in the badge I can find, dates back to the famed ‘64 and ‘65 cup finals at Wembley, where a white castle appeared on the shirts for the first time for the FA Cup and European Cup Winners’ Cup triumphs. The yellow/gold only came into use in the first Adidas era, starting around 1980 to ‘83, and then again from ‘85 to ‘87.
Even then the castle reverted to sky blue right up until 1995, and we have had it ever since. Now this is just a personal view, but I hate yellow. It’s an insipid, weak, flimsy colour. I am tempted to say ’girlie’ but you are not allowed to say such things these days.
So if the yellow disappeared, along with the Camelot castle, I wouldn’t be that bothered. If the consultation came up with a decision to revert to a strong image of crossed Hammers, blue, with a plain claret background, I’d be happy with that. In fact, it would be more traditional to our history than anything we have seen since 1995.
The Thames Ironworks badge, on a dark blue shirt,, was a Union Jack. Our then founder Arnold Hills was a great patriot. And from the foundation of West Ham United in 1900 to the first FA Cup Final season of 1923, there wasn’t a badge on our shirts.
For that final, a simple white crest had claret crossed hammers, and claret trim. But that, too, disappeared until the 1950s. Even the 1940 War Cup Final shirt had no badge on it.
The different elements to be considered as the crest evolves
It’s amazing what you can find on YouTube when you start looking, and there’s some lovely footage of that final, when Sam Small scored the winner. It reminded me of a time when I was working in Birmingham, that I sought out Sammy--a born and bred Brummie--for a interview about that final. He was a lovely, humble man who was amazed anyone still bothered about his day of glory.
He passed away at 81 in 1993 a real Hammers hero, having scored the winner in front of a 42,000 crowd at Wembley with a 6.30pm kick-off to avoid the bombing. Mind you, TV makes us have a 6.15pm kick off these days for the Cup Final, and there’s not a hint of the Luftwaffe to be seen, just advertising driven TV execs.
Anyway, back to the badges. From 1950 a blue square with claret hammers appeared on our shirts. It became a shield in ’52 and a square and a shield in ’54. Then from ’58 to ’60 we had the iconic V-necked shirt with blue shield and crossed claret hammers that Bobby Moore first wore.
Up until ’64 the square badge was worn, but after that flirtation with the white castle again there was no badge from ‘67 to ‘75.. The white castle re-appeared for the ‘75 Cup Final shirt, and then came the remarkable deep V-yoke with claret strips for the ECWC Final defeat by Anderlecht in ’76. That shirt had a castle too.
The 1980 Cup Final shirt had a claret castle with thin sky blue crossed hammers, and there was no further hint of a castle from then to ’85.
Ok, so the point I am trying to make, somewhat long-windedly I accept, is that the castle is not a significant image of our history in terms of the club badge. The important stuff is the claret and blue, plus the crossed hammers.
If you watch the club’s on-line presentation about the badge consultation, and gloss over all the guff about trying to prove they understand our heritage and have someone doing the design who has been a season ticket holder for 30 years, you get the sense that the club would like to have a plain and simple badge with the club’s name and London 1895 on it somewhere.
They make the point, again, that the club’s name will not be changed (over my dead body I hear you all say) and that must be the case because the boy Jack in his little twerps, sorry tweets, says so!
Now the bit about incorporating London into the badge. That doesn’t bother me much as our new ground will be closer to the City than Arsenal, Spurs, Chelsea, Crystal Palace, QPR or Fulham. And it would get right up the noses of our rivals if we stole a march on them.
It reminded me of something Craig Bellamy said in his autobiography. Craig can be a stroppy little so-and-so with some seriously dodgy mates, but he never gave less than 110 per cent in a West Ham shirt.
He admitted that when he joined us he did not realise how big a club we were, or the size of our fan base, and the fact that "West Ham is really London‘s club". Exactly. The City skyline will be a stunning backdrop to our new stadium, like it or not, and we are more to do with the essence of being Londoners than those muppets from White Hart Lane.
Back in the old days, the docks went right to the walls of the Tower, and West Ham were very much the club of the City.
So, having initially dismissed any change in a rather luddite approach, I am prepared to see what the club come up with. Anything would be better than a toytown yellow castle, with very, very dubious links to Anne Boleyn. In fact, I believe she had lost her head before the place was even built.
What we must not do is lose our heads every time our wonderful owners come up with a scheme for something or other. They may well be Del Boy, Rodney and Torygirl, but they are not all bad... are they?
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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