I was thinking the other day about how much joy West Ham had given me during my 34 years of existence. I wracked my brains really hard and the best I could come up with was when we won the Intertoto Cup. But as soon as I thought of that, I thought about us getting knocked out by Steau Bucharest in Europe the following season. I thought about the time I watched us in Cardiff in the only ever FA Cup Final we have reached during my lifetime and then I remembered Steven Gerrard spanking it in from 57 yards via a Lionel Scaloni assist from a throw-in and Anton Ferdinand missing the crucial penalty because his stupid corn rows obscured his vision at the vital moment. I thought about that amazing team we assembled with Paolo Di Canio, Trevor Sinclair, David James, Michael Carrick, Rio Ferdinand, Jermain Defoe and then I remembered that we got relegated with the highest points total during the modern Premier League era.
What is it about supporting West Ham that is just so crushing? We always have such high hopes, we get lured into a belief that we might actually achieve something great, yet we always end up having those hopes crushed like a snail under your foot when you’re taking the bin out. I should have known that it wasn’t going to be much fun after my first ever game in the late 80s when we drew 0-0 at home to Newcastle. I should have taken the hint when my dad took me to see loads of Arsenal games with my brother – home win after home win, Ian Wright goal after Ian Wright goal, trophy after trophy. That was my way out, my only chance of escape and I should have grabbed it with both hands. But the stubborn side of me said, “No. I said I’m going to support this team until the day I die because……I just have to.”
Sometimes I wish I could get that 10 year old stubborn side of me and throttle him.
But you know what? It’s not about the trophies. It’s not about the glory. It’s about the small victories. If we expected to win every game, it wouldn’t feel half as good when we did. It’s about saying I went to Burnley away on a freezing, foggy Tuesday night in February during our first year as a Championship team. It’s about going absolutely mental at Old Trafford when Di Canio slotted it past Fabian Barthez who was waving at his mum in the crowd. It’s about Ravel Morrison running half the length of the pitch to give us a 3-0 win away at Spurs and walking past their fans in the street outside, seeing their bewildered faces like they’d just seen a ghost. It’s about remembering being 3-2 up in extra time in the Cup Final and singing the most emotional round of Bubbles I have ever sung. Ok we might not win Premier Leagues and FA Cups, we might not even be the best club in London. But every time I think of the Claret and Blue shirt, I just feel immense pride. THAT is the club I belong to and the club that belongs to me. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.