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Are we just the new ‘bitters’?

Filed: Tuesday, 19th March 2013
By: Paul Walker

Recent events have left me wondering whether we have produced a generation of 30-something fans so deprived of success over the last three decades, that they have become bitter and twisted about everything and everybody.

I know I am embarking on a theme now that is risking me being on the wrong end of all sorts of abuse, but here goes!

Why do some, maybe a small minority, throw coins at our former players, why do they indulge in racist abuse, why are we accused of anti-sematic chanting, why do we abuse our ex-players, why, why, why?

And why does the mere suggestion that Frank Lampard would be welcomed back at the Boleyn produce such outrage? It ain’t going to happen, of course, because we could not begin to match his wages, and he’d be mad to consider it when there’s easy money in the US on hand.

But Karren Brady started it all by making the suggestion in her Sun column, and Gary O’Neil then agreed it would be a good move.

Since then Frank has been bombarded with coins after scoring against us, and O’Neil has been slaughtered on fans’ websites for daring to suggest such as thing. And during the last home game against Spurs, Scott Parker found himself being booed throughout the game.

I will come to the thorny subject of how we treat our ex-players later, but firstly I want to explore the reasons for the illegal behaviour some, hopefully just a few, of our fans indulge in.

Up in Manchester where I live, United fans have long called City fans ‘Bitter Blues’ or just Bitters for short. It’s all to do with City fans spending so much time moaning and whining about Old Trafford’s years of success while City couldn’t win a raffle without losing the ticket!

City fans respond by calling United’s support ’Munichs’, because they believe that Old Trafford has dwelt on the 1958 disaster and turned it into an industry of grief.

City’s lot are not so bitter these days now they have trillions of pounds and can match their local rivals and have started to win things.

Sadly we too have acquired a reputation for being bitter. All around us the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea, Spurs (even Fulham have been to a European final) have had plenty to celebrate. But we have had so little due to incompetent management from the very top and a continued financial shambles.

We are a selling club. Our best young talents have been sold or wanted out to further their careers, just like you and I would want to move on from a small firm to a bigger one with more money if we had the chance. Nothing wrong with that, unless you are a footballer and are branded disloyal.

So we end up with fans who are full of suppressed anger, bitterness at the lack of success and intent on abusing anybody and everybody as they see fit.

I have never been embarrassed of my club, it has been my life, but sometimes I am embarrassed by the antics of some of my fellow fans, and it does the reputation of this club no good at all, giving the media plenty of easy ammunition.

The defeat at Chelsea was depressing enough, beaten comfortably by a much better team of expensive players. Just to get it into perspective, the player who caused us the most trouble, Eden Hazard, cost more than twice as much as the entire West Ham side that started the match.

We are a team of rejects, second division players or aging free transfers. What do people expect? Our manager did not spend a penny in transfer fees in the January window, and is now making noises about wanting big money to rebuild the squad.

Sam knows what he has got, knows what he needs for the future and knows what this group of players cannot achieve. We looked like a team that had played just twice in the previous 33 days, and we were always going to be overrun by a Chelsea side of such expense and talent.

Only the most unrealistic went to Stamford Bridge expecting anything different to what happened. So many of our games over the recent years when we have been in the top flight, have been like that.

So what do our fans do? They hurl coins at John Terry and Lampard, and now we find that some of them been have been arrested and bailed, accused of racial abuse. Our name is tarnished yet again, in the same season that we have been accused of anti-sematic behaviour at Spurs - a police investigation that is still on-going, while a couple of fans have already had their collars felt after that and have been banned by our club.

Is all this driven by jealousy, or just bone-headed stupidity? We really need to be above all this, there is too much hatred and bitterness. It does the image of our club no good.

As does the way we treat our ex-players. Yes, I’d have Lampard back, we could do with 200 goals from midfield. I’d welcome back Rio Ferdinand and Michael Carrick, Glen Johnson too. Even Jermain Defoe and ’arry too. Because they are all better than what we have and life is too short to bear grudges for this long.

Lampard left because his father, one of our greatest-ever players, was sacked along with his uncle. No wonder he was upset. Wouldn’t you if your relations were treated the way Terry Brown treated Redknapp and Lamps senior?

Sure the kid made a few daft remarks, but he’s had to face continued abuse for 12 years now, for what? Being the unwilling victim of Brown‘s treatment of his father.

And of course, our fans heap dogs abuse on Redknapp now at every opportunity. Defoe left after a quick-fire transfer requested penned by his agent. Ferdinand, Carrick and Johnson went to balance the books, as did Joe Cole, and he has been welcomed back.

People say things when they are young, stupid things. I defy anyone not to look back into their own past and not find something they wish they had not done or said. Blimey, we are even abusing Paul Ince’s son Tom now, and it could have cost us the Play-Off Final.

He is just the sort of promising youngster we should be trying to sign. Fat lot of chance with that one. And now Scott Parker is getting stick. I had become almost immune to the abuse our ex-players get, so often does it happen. But even I was surprised to hear Parker booed.

Yes, he joined our most hated enemy, I suppose he half expected it. But when he was with us he gave everything, including the great goal against Wigan that saved us the season before we were eventually relegated.

I am sure behind the scenes he made it clear he wanted out to protect his England place and to prolong his Premier League career. But can anyone really blame him?

Sadly he has become yet another scapegoat for the lack of success over the last 30 years. Everyone gets booed, everyone gets the blame.

Liverpool fans have a way of welcoming back former players. If they like them, the reception is stunning. If they don’t - and Michael Own falls into this category sometimes - they just ignore them, which must hurt even more. Maybe we should try something similar.

But we all love Paolo, even though he went missing for a long spell during the relegation season of 2003. And Carlos too, even though his transfer has cost this club £30m plus. Is there not some twisted logic here somewhere?

Sadly, I feel the abuse aimed at our ex-players is now so ingrained into the club’s culture, that it just won’t go away. But am I the only one who finds it all now just a little tedious? It is all so counter-productive.

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 Jason
12:11PM 30th Mar 2013
''Perfectly said, I for one am sick of the abuse, it makes the club I am proud of look, like a small-minded club with no character or class.''

by Tim Goddard
04:44PM 23rd Mar 2013
''A well written piece & I agree with everything you have said. Lamps Jnr has a great scoring record against us, his motivation? Our fans' hatred of him. What better way to stick two fingers up at us than to keep finding the onion bag. Fans need to move on. How many of us would work for a firm that sacked your dad & uncle?''

by george92payfc@hotmail.co.uk
07:38AM 22nd Mar 2013
''Hear Hear, you can only despair of fans (?) who are so stupid as to boo Scott Parker. Sadly as a committed supporter of WHU I'm now stuck with being associated with the idiots, largely in the Bobby Moore, they'd probably boo him too if he came back with Fulham.''

by simon
06:03PM 21st Mar 2013
''Well said, Paul.''

by Shazza
01:59PM 21st Mar 2013
''In my experience not all ex-players are booed - in fact the majority of them get good receptions whenever they are back at Upton Park. Think you will find it's the way in which the players left the club.

In Lampard's case he got stick when he was playing for us - not that I ever understood that one - so chances are it was going to get worse once he left. Don't imagine we are the only supporters to do this either as with throwing things at players - most teams have a minority of supporters that do this - particularly in heated derbies or if there is a lot of history between the two clubs.

Don't condone it in the slightest but feel that maybe Chelsea should look at getting their players to warm up in front of their own supporters as opposed to the away supporters - surely that's common sense! That would surely put a stop to what happened on Sunday.''

by Simon Hussey
11:01AM 21st Mar 2013

Well put mate - I couldn't agree more. How many of our supporters that merrily boo Paul Ince - or Tom - forget that Ince Snr signed a long contract when he knew that we were certain to get relegated but committed his future to the club anyway? So he was badly advised (like many of the younger players over the years - eg Jermain Defoe) and posed in his Man Utd shirt before the deal was officially done. Well, we all knew he was going and he was only going because the club had booted out John Lyall, the single biggest reason why Ince had signed his contract in the first place.

To me it's like someone heading off to Florida on holiday but putting the old Hawaiian shirt on before they're through passport control. Big deal.

You're also right about the boo-boys' treatment of Scott Parker. Just ridiculous. Defoe always was a self-centred young man which was fine all the time he was our self-centred young man of course. And don't even get me started on the selective racism shown by fans everywhere. There are morons in every walk of life but it would seem that either football attracts more than its fair share or just that it's easier for them to make themselves seen and heard.

It really is all so tedious.

Come On You Irons,

by Gary Rutland
03:29AM 21st Mar 2013
''Well said, I couldn't agree more.''

by buckoessex
12:02AM 21st Mar 2013
''Well said Paul,

Only thing I don't agree with is bringing in players over 32, whether they have played for us or not. Also, all these free transfers, they are normally well past their sell-by date with an injury...''

by g portugal
10:06PM 20th Mar 2013
''I agree with you on most of what you wrote, but not on the bit about Parker.

I felt that the manner in which he left the club, in a big sulk, was unacceptable. I also felt that he did not do enough to get fit to help us avoid relegation last time. Perhaps if he hadn't gone off to play for England he would have been fit for our last 10 games and we might have avoided the drop. And if he really couldn't play, then why ON EARTH did he appear in the last match of the season vs Sunderland AFTER we had already been relegated? We needed him at Wigan the week before.

And what in God's name was he doing sitting with Jamie Redknapp at White Hart Lane watching Spurs play Chelsea before the season had ended,whilst still a West Ham player? Scott Parker earned some of the anomosity that came his way,though I agree with you that booing him isn't the answer.''

by T P
08:03PM 20th Mar 2013
''I remember Martin Peters coming back after moving to Spurs - cannot remember any booing of him. Look at the list of old, fat, crocked, drunk, Arsenal and Spurs players we have had. West Ham Utd remains West Ham Utd, the players come and go, owners, boards, bankers come and go but the club through some strange always process remains the same selling club with occasional moments of glory. I do not know why diferent personalties at all levels do not change the team but it seems that is the way we are!''

by Dave
04:07PM 20th Mar 2013
''You are spot on here. I, like a number travel home and away and I'm just bored of the the abuse we give the former players.

When it comes to it the club sold all of them, didn't try to keep them and took the cash. Terry Brown then cashed in on the club and left us in financial tatters. We have always sold; it started with Cottee and just carried on from there. All of this comes back to our life long president Terry Brown, killed the club and we never recovered.

As for the abuse Harry gets, he played for the club, managed it better than anyone (maybe Lyall is an exception), played the best football I have seen over there in the 35 years I went.
Harry spoke out against Brown and the board and was sacked on the back of it, he had a clue what was going on and was sacked on the back of it.Luckily Storey went as well otherwise we would be another Portsmouth.

We abuse the players who play for us now, not just the ones that left, when did that all start? I was taken as a youngster and told to get behind the lads, Upton park is a disgrace now in how we treat some of the players playing. So its not just old and new players and opposing players, we abuse everyone.

Agree about Tevez, him and his agent are a disgrace, people talk about the last eight games, if he had played for the other 30 before that and also changed his contract (Brown's parting gift to break the rules before selling the club) then we would be £40m better off (people forget the £5m Premier fine on top of the rest).

Time to let go, move on and start supporting the team again properly. Come out fighting like we used to, remember what made West Ham proud.''

by ginghamdress
02:48PM 20th Mar 2013
''We're not alowed to give comments that disagree then?''

by safhammer
02:38PM 20th Mar 2013
''Fans throw coins at former players for the sake of their pension fund. Simples!''

by dangermouse
01:01PM 20th Mar 2013
''Paul Walker seems to have got it exactly right!''

by Steve Jaggers
11:42AM 20th Mar 2013
''Could not agree with you more.''

by ginghamdress
11:40AM 20th Mar 2013
''Maybe JT warming up in front of WHU supporters and FL's so-called natural run taking him to the same place was not provocation? They knew what they were doing.''

by Tell it how it is Charlie!
10:11AM 20th Mar 2013
''Come off it Mr. Walker, it´s a good job you were not around in the 70s & 80s when we had the last trenches "freedom of speech" (the right to offend). The old shout from the police as soon as you walked through the turnsyles "spitters at the front, coin throwers at the back!". Coin throwing has always gone on.

Remember Gordon Strachan, getting struck by a coin from us lot at an away from home FA Cup game in the 80s when we lost 4-2? He didn´t make much of it, not like today. An away game with QPR in the 80s where kids were invited to walk around the pitch with a blanket for people to drop money in trouble is the kids themselves became the object for the coin throwers. Remember the rotten fruit in the theatre when the audience are not happy. I suppose it´s the perils of show business getting things chucked at you when the audience are not happy.

Football is a culture driven by money, lust, power and control issues no wonder the fans have betrayal and deception issues. Is it not time you understood it from the fans' point of view? The East Enders in the late 30s fought Max Mosley on German issues not Jewish! The holocaust or real German treatment of Jews was not really understood until after WW2. We don´t live in a perfect world, Israel to all intents & purposes is apartheid. ''

by michael norman
09:56AM 20th Mar 2013
''I totally agree with all that you say. I have supported West Ham since the late sixties, seen lots of great talents go on to greater success at other clubs. In all of that time I have taken the same view as you describe the Liverpool fans, my only reaction to returning players is to cheer them if I feel they deserve it and ignore them if I think they don't. I have never and will never boo former players or the current team whichever it is.

I remember a lot of fans hating Frank Lampard (junior) when he played for us I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now. As you say what was he expected to do when his Dad and Uncle were sacked ?

People who were not even born when it happened (the Man U shirt stuff) abused Paul Ince for years afterwards, and now they abuse his son.

I could go on but I won't.''

by dan
12:02AM 20th Mar 2013
''Brilliant article. That's how I feel too. Good read.''

by TGN
10:37PM 19th Mar 2013
''I am in complete agreement. I am 46, a life-long supporter and have been a season ticket holder for more than half of my life but don't remember the abuse having ever been so vitriolic and I don't think it is because I have mellowed with age.

I have promised my son that when he is a little older I will take him on a full UK tour, every home and away game in one season - I have never managed it myself. But I wonder if that is wise these days if this is what we can expect to witness.

Sadly I have seen anti-semitic chanting at White Hart Lane in the past but my friends and I ignored it and it did eventually die down when it was obvious that those around the offenders were not impressed. But never Nazi salutes. The worst I used to hear was the usual suggestion that the referee was a rabbi.

I am weary of the feedback that I get from colleagues and friends and in having to try to defend the indefensible. Banter is part and part parcel of football and can be great fun - I remember the West Ham fans at Old Trafford a good few years ago singing to David Beckham if he was sure that the baby (Brooklyn) was his to which he just grinned and nodded. A good response and applauded by the West Ham fans.

I remember games all over the UK 20+ years ago when our singing was truly world class: very funny, very vocal, sometimes ironic and sometimes self deprecating. Have greed, envy, footballer indulgence, irregular game scheduling, ticket price inflation and soul-less all seater stadia ruined our Saturday afternoons? I think that they have.

I have a great book, 'Dicks Out', which I bought many years ago having spotted it advertised in the back of Match Weekly, and it lists songs and chants from most British Clubs and if you over-look the songs relating to fighting and some of the sectarian rubbish, there are some absolute gems from a wide variety of clubs. When did we last sing 'I'm dreaming of a Frank Lampard'? Can we have some of the old guard back please - you are sorely missed. TGN''

by Matt
10:17PM 19th Mar 2013
''Very well written piece and I could not agree more with you. If we were the stature of Barcelona, then yes, I would be surprised/annoyed if our talent left, but we certainly aint that... yet!
Ince was foolish to be photgraphed in a Man Utd shirt before leaving his current employer, but why hate the guy? It seems some of our supporters behave like its their wives who have been sleeping with their best mate - surely unforgivable but do you really want to show the love cheat just how bitter you are?

by Stoyan Deckoff
09:05PM 19th Mar 2013
''Great article!''

by Iron57
08:13PM 19th Mar 2013
''A really good piece. It echos very much my feelings. Sadly I'm finding the attitude of too many of my fellow Hammers fans just embarrassing.''

by Mike E. Bitz
07:17PM 19th Mar 2013
''Somebody had to say it. Well done for being the one.''

by James
07:16PM 19th Mar 2013
''Absolutely spot f'in on! For ages I have said if we worked with our father and uncle in any sort of environment and they got sacked I would walk too...after all Harry only asked for some money from the sale of Rio..... sick of our small-minded, ignorant racist fans!

Been to every home game for the last 3 seasons...DESPITE living in Nottingham and am sick of this thuggery attitude towards x players ect.....my dad grew up in the east end and does not have this stupid hatred and anger towards ex players and rivals....Grow up otherwise what foreign superstar is going to want to come to us when we are in the Olympic stadium?''

by Phil
06:56PM 19th Mar 2013
''Paul I couldnt agree more, counter productive jealousy, the booing against Scott Parker a former Hammer of the Year, a fantastic servant to the club. It's just so shameful.

I have to bow my head in shame when the 'big fat Frank' songs start up. The man is a legend and has turned into one of the finest midfielders this country has produced. Let's be proud of his roots and the stand he took when his father got sacked by the club. You can see him raise his game against us, it wont stop I'm afraid, mindless thugs stand amongst us wearing the claret and blue. We are unfortunatley getting a bad reputation, we were once everybody's second team and we are now a team more hated than Millwall.

As for Allardyce, he has done his job and now it's time for him to move on and get someone else. Leave the Premeir League-type football to someone who knows how to explore the different attacking options on offer and not just route one football. We are a bunch of Championship players trying to swim against the tide of inevitablilty. Time for a change both on the pitch and in the stands.''

by john
06:36PM 19th Mar 2013
''Agree with everything you said. Fans should support and worry about their own club and stop slagging other clubs and fans off. They want to grow up.''

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