West Ham United

West Ham United is a famous football club in the East End of London. They are at best a mid-table mediocre football team who have won the FA a couple of times and finished in the top half of the Premier League sometime in the recent past.

I ‘support’ West Ham because I was forced to pretend to know something about football by a classmate in 1968 whilst still at primary school. I really wanted to ‘support’ Manchester United because George Best played for them. He was very cute and always on the tele when I was a child. But Man U were already spoken for: so was Arsenal, Liverpool and Leeds. I chose West Ham because the name sounded nice and because we had no local team to support in Mid-Wales in 1968. (We still have no local team to support.)

They were a good team to chose at the time because England had just won the World Cup and three of ‘our’ players were heavily involved: Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and … erm, another one.


I know nothing about football but have learned to employ key phrases effectively. By using different  websites I can also select half-decent fantasy football teams. By repeating sentences uttered on Gillette Soccer Saturday I can fool my Year 11s into thinking I am a football expert. This amuses me more than it should do.

However, over the years, this football club has gotten into my blood and the sight of their claret and blue kit makes me happy every time I see it. I have two West ham meerkats, West Ham pyjamas, West Ham stationery at school and my son bought me a piece of the Boleyn Ground for my birthday. For some strange reason, even though I have only been to Upton Park once and have only seen them play in the Midlands at Aston Villa and Walsall in an FA Cup tie, this is my team. When they do well it makes me happy; I cry when ‘we’ get relegated. I sing ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ as if I am from the East End of London with some strange but powerful pride.


Hope and Despair or A Day in the Life of a West Ham fan – FA CUP 3rd Round 2013


Despair is infinitely better than hope.

Despair is easy. It’s about succumbing to the inevitable: it’s about acceptance. It’s like floating towards a waterfall, bracing yourself knowing the worst is going to happen and whilst the worst is happening at least is was predictable. Hope is hard work and unpredictable. It takes energy, and massive amounts of intellectual engagement. It’s draining and scary.  It makes you go on, and on, when all you really want to do is to give up. But Hope won’t let you.

So when West Ham draw Man U in the FA Cup final, it’s all so easy. The absence of any hope whatsoever is easy to deal with. And so you go shopping and lose track of time debating on whether you can actually justify buying a new kitchen scales just because the one you’ve got have the ‘oz’ to ‘gr’ converter switch underneath: this really matters because when you are on (yet another) diet and you load a pile of something (you shouldn’t even be contemplating eating in any amount) and discover the machine is switched to ‘oz’ and the calories on the packet are given in ‘gr’, you then have to scrape the food off the scales, flick the switch to ‘gr’ and then load the 12,896million calories of homemade chocolate cake and chocolate orange sauce back on, leaving horrible sticky dribbles all over the scales and down the front of the kitchen cupboards.

Eventually you arrive home, with new kitchen scales obvs! ( ha ha [slight hint of hysteria] ) and you ‘meander’ towards the remote to just see how many West Ham are losing by. And you can actually breathe in delight for a second. “Oh My God! ” 1 – 1. So not total humiliation then.

And then it really begins. The pain. The torture. The faintest of hopes: West Ham score again. 2 -1 The  Hell-holds-no-fear-for-me-I’ve-been-a-West-Ham-fan-for-45-years grasp of “OMG!!!!!” “Yay !!!” “Woop feckin’ woop !!! The “get-fucking-in-there-my-son” butterflies in the stomach !!! More woop woop !! De Gea is all over the place and there really is a ball in the back of the Man U net!!! Yay bloody yay !!!

Einstein’s theory of relativity was considered a stroke of genius. Ha! No football fan ever needed anyone to explain the relativity of time to them. All any football fan needs is an FA Cup match. It’s very, very simple: if you are in front, every second is like an hour, and if you are behind every minute seems like a milli-nano second. But when the commentator starts making comments about time running out for Man U –  oh please –  it’s not quite the same. These are the guys who won a bloody Champions League final in 2 and ½ minutes – yeah, like they are shitting themselves with a quarter of the match to go against West Ham.

But then the minutes start ticking by. And more minutes tick by. And Big Sam is now so OK with stuff Joe Cole is taken off. And then your stomach sinks. RVP saunters (he bloody does) on to the pitch. And if that isn’t bad enough Ryan Giggs starts jigging up and down on the sidelines. Flip flip – stomach churns.

But still you don’t give in. Hope – bastard – keeps you hanging on. Ryan Giggs and Christano Ronaldo were both brought on against West Ham in the ‘Great Escape’. This could be done.

But the hope is measurably fainter. And a little bit of you is glad. ‘Cos you’re knackered now. Holding your breath for 2 and 3 minutes at a time is not funny.

And yet, wtf, RVP and Giggs are not actually making that much difference and for a few seconds here and there the ball does actually leave the West Ham 18 yard box.

And then G. comments, “Still 2-1 then.” Bastard. This is pronounced in a totally confident there-is-no-way-we’re-going-to-lose-to-crappy-West-Ham-but-how-much-longer-is-it-going-to-take-before-we-equalise-and-then-score-the-winning-goal tone that you know you have just been kidding yourself. And Hope starts to hide around a corner, apologising for ever entering your head.

And sure enough, within minutes of this cocky-feckin-little-bastard’s pronouncement – ooo ooo feckin oooo – RVP – (oh please !!! ) 2 – 2. And the kicking-yourself starts. Why, oh why, do you get sucked in like this? Every time ? FFS !!! Did you really think this was going to happen?

Four minutes of extra time. Four minutes! Sarcastically (you hope) Man U still have time to score another 4. But worse still: Hope pokes its ugly little head back up. Their defence has been breached twice. And it lingers there and starts to bloody grow again: like some flithy stench you have scrubbed and sprayed and scrubbed some more to get rid of. And then finally it does start to fade. Only now you don’t really want it to. And you feel slightly sick. And want to punch G. in the face – hard. Harder than you know you can.

It ends. A draw. Replay at OT (oh God, please, abbreviation city or what?) – this is tantamount to giving them the game and saving you the train fare. But, at least there will be little hope there.Hopefully, ha ha ha ha (seriously hysterical now) in two weeks time, they will score 10 times in the first feckin minute and you will be able to go and do something a little less knackering and a little less self-destructive. Like punching yourself in the face.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can learn more about the futility of hope and the relativity of time by watching this film:

 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090852/ ”Clockwise’ John Cleese.


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