I’ve always been a West Ham United supporter. Both my mother and father’s families were supporters and so, as a child, I didn’t ever consider following any other team.
It’s true that for most of my lifetime, they haven’t been a fashionable team to support but up until recently, with seemingly one “scandal” after another making us more and more unpopular with other teams, they were always a team most people had very little against.
This season hasn’t been great and it’s seen us languishing at the arsehole end of the premiership week in, week out. It seems likely that we’ll go down and, though it does hurt me to say it, we probably deserve it. You can blame the manager and the owners if you like – most will – but the players have to take responsibility for their inabilities on the pitch and it shouldn’t take the likes of the magnificent Scott Parker to get the team motivated.
Last weekend, as a birthday present, I was treated to VIP seats and a pitch side tour at The Boleyn Ground. I couldn’t hide my excitement in the days leading up to it. On the day, an old school friend asked if we had a chance of winning and that got me thinking quite deeply about why it is so many thousands of us support the Hammers when we could support one of the top teams. And it is because there is always that chance of winning.
As a West Ham fan, we no longer go into any game expecting to win. And so when we do it is so much sweeter. Supporters of Manchester United or Chelsea, for all their millions and quality players, must go into nearly every game expecting a win and fearing defeat. To be a West Ham supporter we go into every game hoping for a win, or a draw or at least a bit of passion from the players we idolise (though unfortunately this season we have been lacking all of these). But, we can look back and say that we did at least beat Manchester United 4-0 (forget the fact that it was pretty much the United second team because it was still full of incredible talent), Liverpool and our bitter rivals Spurs. We’ll take those memories with us into the Championship if we need to and will probably be talking about them for months to come. Because that’s what we do.
If, as seems likely, we go down, we all know that we’ve been there before and we’ve bounced back quite soon after. Years of experience has taught us to be optimistic about the future. To be a West Ham supporter isn’t just about the results; it’s about the history and the quality of football. It’s not about the glory; it’s about Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking and Paolo Di Canio.
And it’s about the hairs that stick up on the back of your neck when the whole of the ground sings I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.