Friday, 7 August 2009
Best Fans? West Ham, Newcastle, Sunderland, Villa, Chelsea, Tottenham
I have run into a spot of bother by stating my opinion that West Ham fans are not the best in the Premiership. How very dare you, indignant Hammers fans have demanded. How can you claim to be a Hammer and yet not think West Ham fans are the best? The responses are, of course childish. Do I love my wife? Yes. Do I think she is the most beautiful woman in the world? Well, she comes close but there are a few out there in Hollywood who just edge it. Do I love my children? Of course. Are they the most wonderful human beings ever to walk upon this earth? I wish!
So what makes a great fan? Being a season ticket holder? Perhaps. A willingness to travel huge distances to support your team? A stronger claim in my opinion. How much of your salary as a percentage that you spend supporting your club? A good measure perhaps. Thinking about your club more often than you think about sex? Maybe. Thinking about your club whilst having sex? Possibly. Reaching climax whilst thinking about your club whilst having sex. Very possibly. Climaxing whilst thinking about your club even when not having sex? No, that's just gay!
To me, supporting West Ham is about certain values. There are two types of West Ham fans, as revealed by the Turds and Egg Interregnum. During this stain upon the club's history, the Claret and Blue Klanites as I call them, revealed themselves to be every bit as plastic as the new breed Chelsea fans. The C&B Klan, in the name of "supporting the club" were prepared to ignore our history and traditions and voice support come what may. Long ball football? Bring it on! Recruiting mercenaries? Lucas Neill loves the club, not the money! Freddie Ljungberg knows Arsenal are history and West Ham are the future! The prospect of success was all that mattered to this group whilst Curbishley was in charge, that and a thuggish belligerence that involves shouting down any voice raised in dissent with "Come on you Irons" and "Claret and Blue Army". With their tats and replica shirt uniforms, this bunch are the Nazi foot soldiers of the club, dreadful yobs who hiss to simulate the gas chambers when we play Tottenham and engage in racist chanting. This breed is a spin off from the old ICF, a hang over from the 1980s, a generally ill educated bunch which, sadly, features some highly intelligent individuals who lap up the adulation of their low foreheaded brethren. Strangely unattractive physically, if you fancy some anthropological investigative observations, pop into the Castle on match day and you will find plenty of these guys swilling back lager from plastic mugs. The drinking vessels, some might argue, are a metaphor! I cannot say these guys are not true fans, they are, but they are not the fans I associate with the club, they were spawned by the repetitive "Johnny Lyall's Claret and Blue Army" days, the period when West Ham fans started to lose their distinctive identity and became the belligerent "army" that so many now celebrate.
For me, the true West Ham fan is very different. When I visited the Boleyn during the 70's I was surrounded by "true" Hammers, a special breed of fans who understood the power of humour, irony and self deprecation. Where-ever you were in the ground, you were guaranteed that a wag would be within five yards of you, churning out witticisms that provoked laughter even in the depths of footballing despair. Some of the humour would be utterly unacceptable in the modern era but, racist or not, it was focused on "our own" and was without perceived malice. The spite and ire targeted at Luis Boa-Morte was not in evidence, we knew that Clyde Best was clumsy but that was because the poor sod kept "tripping over his spear". Of course that is racist, of course we cannot sanction that sort of humour now, but could "Til Death Us Do Part" , "Love Thy Neighbour" and "Mind Your Language" be televised today? It was a different time, with different values. Yes there was racism on the terraces and amongst the fans but West Ham were, nevertheless, one of the fore runners in playing black players - Best, John and Clive Charles - and the comments were not laced with hatred or malice, they were a way of laughing with a player, excusing his incompetence rather than turning on him with hatred. Bobby Ferguson? Not the best! Peter Grotier? Even further from the best! Useless Eustace? The nickname said it all! We could be honest. Supporting the club did not mean blind devotion to every member of the team. But at the same time, it did not involve booing your own! Do I rate Boa? No. Would I ever boo him whilst wearing a West Ham shirt? Absolutely not! Would I try to claim he was Premiership quality just because he is a West Ham player? That would be stupid in my opinion. That is where I and the Klan separate and go down very different paths.
For me, supporting West Ham is about an allegiance to the values of the club, not just to the flag. Under Curbishley, I remained a fan, nothing could persuade me to support another team, but I hated what was happening to the club I am compelled by birth to support. During this period, I started to contribute to a West Ham forum on the net, voicing my opposition to the corruption of the club, speaking out against the "Charltonization" of West Ham United, and in the process I made many enemies. The Klan turned against against me with claims that I must be a "Spud". However, I am reassured when I read many posts on here. A hard core of "true" West Ham fans remain, although I fear the vast majority are "of a certain age" which means that, in twenty or thirty years time, our fan base will be indistinguishable from those of all the other clubs.
Best fans in the league? Well, the Old School fans were, in my opinion, the best - imbued with East End humour and a sense of perspective. We were East End, we bought hooky goods and had a sense of family. We knew we weren't ever going to win the league, but we didn't care. What we wanted was good attacking football - and when it all went wrong, we had laughter to help us through our tears. And from 66 onwards, we had the consolation of KNOWING that we had won the World Cup. And after 70, we knew we would have retained it but for the incompetence of a Chelsea keeper and a stupid substitution.
Anyway, that's my take on things. If you have looked in and waded your way through all this, feel free to leave your opinions on who the best fans in the league are and why. My suggestion is Newcastle. I was at Upton Park when we thumped them 8-1 (Beardsley went in goal!) and heard the Toon Army chanting "We want 10" when our eighth goal went in. That was class!
Posted by Hammersfan at 15:35