October 26, 2014

West Ham 'til I die

West Ham United - Academy of Football

West Ham United – Academy of Football

You don’t have a choice when it comes to supporting a club like West Ham – you are chosen. Ever since I was a child I have never felt confident when it comes to watching my club play. Even if we are playing a team three leagues below us and we are 3-0 up at half time, I still know there’s a big change we will end up on the losing side.

I have supported West Ham for over 20 years and we’ve never won anything. Every season is an emotional rollercoaster and it’s edge of your seat stuff, year in year out. That’s what being a fan is all about.

If you cut a West Ham fan you will see claret and blue pour from every vein in his or her body. Sometimes it feels like a burden and a ten-kilogram weight of frustration hanging over my stressed out shoulder blades. I often hear people say if West Ham would’ve kept the players they produced they’d be up there challenging for the league. Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick, Joe Cole, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard are just a handful of names who have used ‘the academy of football’ as a stepping stone to superstar status. Why is this?

West Ham United are a famous, cultured club who play football the correct, attractive way. A contemporary style of sexy football. A unique brand of modern day disciplined build up play. We are a shop window for foreign players looking for a leap frog club in England. The bright lights of London and the history of West Ham are a combined passport for mercenaries to assist in their personal climb into the mountainess dizzy heights of the Premiership’s summit.

Players know that forging their way into Upton Park at the expense of some of the home-grown protégés will mean they will learn the English game the correct way. We have become a stepping-stone for ambitious outsiders who have absolutely no intention of staying at the Boleyn Ground.

My Dad first took me to Upton Park in 1986. I was five years old and so excited. There was just something magical about the East End of London. We’d drive into London in the morning and I’d be buzzing as I looked around at all the high-rise buildings and council flats.

I’d be glued to the window as we seemed to just glide through the capital and everywhere I looked there was either a big red double-decker bus or a jet black, old fashioned taxi cab. A pub on every street and at least three kebab shops every 100 meters.  There’d be old men standing on the street corners selling newspapers and I couldn’t take my eyes off the gigantic billboards. The sides of people’s houses had graffiti scattered on them.

Something incredible happened when we entered the East End. Green Street is just like any other road in London. There are shops next to each other and a boozer on every corner. And plonked in the middle of this fantasy world is the stadium. It’s almost as if when God was making the world he just picked up this little stadium and placed it perfectly into a little gap created for the ‘Academy of football.’

Upton Park and its surroundings were just so full of character. ‘Full English’ cafes, pie, mash and jellied eels. The Queen’s market reminded me of Albert Square in Eastenders. This place would be full of interesting characters touting for business and trying to make a few quid. The same people would be there each week selling anything from fruit and veg to boxes of shoes. One stall had hundreds of overflowing women’s shoes. The market was packed like a tin of sardines as the cockney geezers used their distinctive accents to try and entice customers. Indian families would proudly run their family business from within this little place tucked away in the heart of East London.

A little further down the road a sea of claret and blue would slide through Upton Park tube station. There were a mixture of different West Ham shirts worn by a variety of fans from different backgrounds and cultures. Today our team is playing and everybody is united and proud to be part of this unbelievable magnetic atmosphere.

We’re never going to win the League but we will NEVER support another club!

‘West Ham til I die!’

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