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A little Cup magic

Filed: Tuesday, 21st March 2017
By: John Courtney

What with all the negative stories about at the moment and the Chairman's failure (yet again) to keep his gob shut, I thought I’d take a moment to write about something completely different. Sometimes nostalgia helps put some perspective back into your outlook.

I saw a clip in a tweet the other day from our famous defeat to Nottingham Forest in the 1991 FA Cup semi final in which Keith Hackett made it all about him. Interestingly enough he felt the need to say sorry some 23 years later - although it made no difference to me (I still despise the man).

The thing that struck me about that even today (and having been there) was the noise from us that you could hear on the TV. Despite getting an absolute shooing we were outsinging Nottingham Forest, who were wiping the floor with us (with a little help from Mr Hackett!)

The support that day was incredible. I was on the Holte End (it was divided half-Forest and half-West Ham) and it was an away day that even now, some 26 years later, I am so proud to have been at.

I went to school with Spurs fans, me and my best mate Ross (who I still go to games with today) used to get terrible stick from them and it's where my hatred of Spurs comes from, to this day. The Spurs v West Ham final was on, Spurs had done their bit but our name was on the Cup.

We watched Gazza's goal in a TV shop window outside Birmingham New Street and it was now our turn. Surely we wouldn’t mess this up. Even as a Second dDvision side against Cloughie's first Division Nottingham Forest. (Yes kids, they used to be bloody good!) It was written in the stars it was going to happen wasn’t it?

Was it Hell, it wasn’t to be and the rest is history - or was it?

Something happened that day, something that made us different from every other fan in the country which made us all very proud. It was my first "I was there" moment in watching my beloved West Ham.

From the moment Tony Gale got sent off, the support from us all as we sang "Billy Bonds' claret and Blue army" over and over and over again, and louder and louder (even as Forest scored their fourth goal) was incredible.

What an atmosphere. Even some Forest fans we spoke to after the game just could not comprehend what they had witnessed. It really was truly magical stuff from the Irons faithful.

There was a long wait to slay that ghost of 1991 (15 years to be precise) but I found myself back there in the main stand with my father in-law as Middlesbrough awaited. It wasn’t the best of games but thanks to Marleen's epic goal we were back at Wembley (well, Cardiff) against the Champions of Europe.

The thing that I remember other than the amazing chant of "Johnny Lyall's claret and blue army" was all of our supporters being right behind the team, it was as if it didn’t matter that all the usual people you went with every week with were not around you. It didn’t matter because we were one.

A collective voice all heading in the same direction, to the FA Cup Final! Even in that Final, despite the result, the fans were incredible. Steven Gerrard, who broke our hearts that day said the following:

"It really moved me that in their hour of utter desolation. West Ham fans stayed behind to applaud as I lifted the FA Cup. I’ll never forget that sporting gesture. I’m Liverpool through and through, head to toe, but I have a place in my heart for West Ham supporters after Cardiff."

Fast forward to last year, it really was our year; when that French bloke banged that free kick in at Old Trafford I have never watched a game there and felt more confident. The crowd behind the team, nothing could go wrong. (Could it!?)

Yet again, as in 2005 and as in 1991 it did go wrong. Supporting West Ham, you know it usually does go wrong - but to the majority of us, that’s West Ham, that’s what being a supporter is all about.

Ask yourself this. Would 1991 happen today? Not a chance. Why? Because we’d all have left and got the train! We’d have all been on our phones tweeting saying how Slav should be sacked, Noble should be dropped etc and so on... you get the point.

We are all Football managers these days and all far better at picking the replacements for players out of form and a manager who isn’t quite getting things right. But after last season Slaven Bilic deserves our support. After last season he deserves some slack.

Yes, it’s not been great and I get the reason people want to leave early is because it is such a pain to get there. But it is our pain now. Upton Park tube wasn’t exactly paradise either, was it? (Think about those queues in the rain as away supporters were steered in and onto OUR waiting tube trains.) Nostalgia is always great when it suits, but sometimes the reality is that we don’t actually want to face reality.

Most fans feel like we have been done up like a kipper. The reality is that we must deal with it. There are 20 teams in the Premier League competing for three trophies (four if you are in Europe, however briefly). 20 into three does not go!

So what more do football fans want? Passion, commitment and being able to cheer and sing for your team. It does make a difference. I for one would love an FA Cup in the cabinet but I am realistic to know this doesn’t happen very often. (once in my 41 years).

So to the new age fan, with their access to social media and ability to troll players if you are not happy, let me ask you this: if you had a bad day at work and a bloke on the train stopped you in traffic and started shouting random, hurtful, nasty, spiteful abuse at you - how would you feel?

Multiply that by 100/200 and you get the picture. It wears you down. Your opinion is important. But in the stands is where it is most important.

I think the club need to try to change the stadium for the better with singing sections to generate positive atmospheres around the place. But that applies to the fans as well. We really can be the 12th man.

Fans around you who want to sing and support the team but for fear of being "on your own” simply won’t. Supporting your team through thick and thin is vital. Billy Bonds got our support in 1991 because he was one of our own. Slav should be the same. Give him time. It’ll come.

Some may say I am stuck in an era that is totally different to that of 26 years ago! But is it really? 12 months ago we were all so proud of the team and support at Old Trafford. If we are not careful Big Sam will be laughing his fat moobs off as West Ham implodes again!

It’s unlikely, but stranger things have happened. Saturday’s second half showed what that place could be like. So let us take some of that cup magic and sprinkle it on our remaining home games. Before you know it we’ll all be bored and mowing the lawn. Careful indeed what you wish for!

And please, Mr Sullivan, you may be the owner but the club is nothing without the fans... please shut up.

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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