I don’t get this Hammers fan
Dan Silver – Daily Mirror
I have a confession to make, and it it this: I am a glory hunter.
Not your average glory hunter, admittedly – no spurious Liverpool or Manchester United connections for me – but a glory hunter all the same.
I first started supporting West Ham United in 1980. Or, more specifically, at 3.13pm on Saturday, May 10, 1980, when Trevor Brooking scored the only goal in the FA Cup final win over Arsenal.
I remember watching the game on television as a six year-old with my not particularly football inclined family, and being asked by my sister who I was supporting.
Having never really considered the question before, I plumped for the team in white, who were a goal to the good. West Ham United.
‘Good,’ replied my sister. ‘They’re our local team.’ Which, by happy coincidence, they were, our house sitting pretty much on the border that separates North East London from Essex, the Hammers’ heartland.
On that giddy spring afternoon, I envisaged a glorious – and gloriously successful – future. One filled with famous victories, countless trophies and world domination. Anything – everything – seemed possible.
At this point it’s worth stating the obvious: I am also the world’s worst glory hunter. Over thirty years since, the only trophy I have witnessed a West Ham captain raising is the Inter Toto Cup. A trinket so small that it quite comfortably fit into the palm of Steve Lomas’ hand.
All this and more came to mind last night during the more interminable moments of my team’s laboured victory over a workmanlike Stoke side that saw us limp into the quarter-finals of the Carling Cup.
With West Ham seemingly snug and settled at the bottom of the Premier League, this extracurricular cup run has taken on greater significance. The received wisdom appears to be that midweek victory might provide the impetus for Avram Grant’s chronically confidence-shy players to start performing better at the weekend instead.
As though Carling Cup success would be a means to another, more worthwhile end, rather than something of value in itself.
And it was then that the surprising realisation hit me (honestly – it was, for the first hour at least, an extremely dull game): given the unlikely choice, I’d rather West Ham win the Carling Cup this year and were relegated at the end of the season than stay up and not win it.
(Of course, in an ideal world I’d like us to lift the trophy AND stay up. But then I’d also like to see Lionel Messi lead the Hammers out at the Olympic Stadium in 2013. While riding a unicorn.)
For most fans, such a thought would be sacrilege. Top flight survival has come to be seen as sacrosanct, something to be achieved at all cost.
Even if the reality is that such survival amounts to little more than an undignified scrabble to finish in 17th place, thus ensuring the cycle may continue for another nine miserable months.
Yes the financial repercussions would undoubtedly be severe. The future of the club may well be put into jeopardy. And West Ham would likely find themselves cast into the football wilderness for many years to come.
But having seen many more relegations than Cup finals in my lifetime, I’m sure that both I – and the club – will cope.
And supporters of Portsmouth FC might argue otherwise, but the modern trend for football fans caring more about the contents of the balance sheet than the trophy cabinet is yet another blemish on this most beautiful of games.
Tomorrow marks the occasion of my eldest son’s fourth birthday. An age when he’s gradually exponentially aware of the world around him.
He’s had the stock answer to the question, ‘what football team do you support?’, down pat for some time now. I am nothing if not a diligent father.
But it’s only in the coming months and years that he will understand what it means to support a football team.
And how sweet it would be if he – and the thousands of others like him – could consummate his relationship with West Ham at Wembley?
Perhaps at the very moment Scott Parker scores the winning goal – a stooping header would be nice – against Lukasz Fabianski.
‘Yes the financial repercussions would undoubtedly be severe. The future of the club may well be put into jeopardy. And West Ham would likely find themselves cast into the football wilderness for many years to come.’
Still happy to see us go down for a cup. I don’t get it!