So now we have to add racist chanting from fans to the stories of gambling, a dressing room dividing along racial lines, underperforming players, illegal transfers and goodness knows what else. I regret it all. Like many people, I have second and third and fourth teams, sides I have a soft spot for for a variety of reasons, usually centred on one moment in that team’s history. West Ham are one of mine, and here’s “my” West Ham in action, back when they seemed, to an eleven year old boy, to be an attractive, warm, family club:
Those days always seem on the verge of resurfacing. How many ex-West Ham players now play at international level? The names roll off the tongue: Lampard, Ferdinand, Defoe, Joe Cole, Michael Carrick – and there are quite clearly more to come, especially once this nightmare year has finally ended.
Relegation might at least free them of the kind of mockney media hanger-on, the kind that used to attach themselves to Chelsea in the ’90s, who have been littering the airwaves with trash talk about life in the shadow of the Boleyn. I don’t mean Russell Brand, who seems to be genuine about it. Is Iain Dale? His West Ham blog (no link – not worthy of one) reads like a literate parody of the genre:
Whatever happens, we’re West Ham. We stick together through thick and thin. We are, as the title of this blog says, West Ham till we die.
Is he serious? Does he mean this? Do they deserve it, in any sense of the words you might choose?
For a while, West Ham have been used as an exemplar of the kind of small, plucky local club with local players which isn’t into money and displays the traditional values and so on and so forth. No citations – but you know you’ve all seen and heard this stuff, especially in and around the FA Cup Final last year. As usual, when “traditional values” are referred to in English football – the traditional values that are almost certainly historical and sociological hokum, it all ends in tears and violence. The club’s been purchased by foreign millionaires, the players, though genuinely local in some cases, couldn’t care less, the fans (some) are racist and the football’s falling apart. Against Spurs on Sunday, trouble flared as West Ham’s early lead evaporated under pressure.
On the positive side, the darkness is always deepest. For once, I suspect that the vote of confidence is an honest one, and that Curbishley will be given free rein to rebuild. I don’t think there’s much of a More Than Mind Games curse, so let me say that I fully expect him to be there in four years time, in charge of a harmonious, successful club challenging for European places. Oh, and he’ll look four years younger, too…