Upton Park – The last hurrah

Tomorrow morning, a morning like many others, I’ll wake up at ungodly o’clock to watch my beloved West Ham United. Tomorrow morning, unlike any other, the result isn’t the most important thing.

 For 90 (and a few additional) glorious minutes, the Boleyn Ground will be the centre of the football universe, and not just the centre of my football universe.

Sadly, when the final whistle blows, a reality that has been looming large for the last three years will hit home – West Ham United will no longer call Upton Park home.UPFarewell

The prospect of the Olympic Stadium being mere months away is exciting, it offers the club a world of potential, a fitting reward for a club who have offered me more despair than happiness.

I started writing this piece after the 3-3 draw with Arsenal. For years I have battled with the emotions of knowing I was never going to set foot inside Upton Park. The reality has been broken countless times by dreams of winning the lotto and making a mad dash across the ocean to have my dreams come true. Alas.

I’ve penned the story of becoming a West Ham fan on many an occasion and it doesn’t need to be repeated here. The sadness I feel is driven further by the sadness my dad, the man responsible for this character building experience, will also never get to grace the highlight of East London. Today we’re figured out that between the two of us we’ve supported the club for sixty-five years. The dream to see a West Ham game together is still alive, just with a new venue in mind, and getting to the Olympic Stadium has taken the lead on my bucket list.

This season has been a season of mixed emotions. On the field they’ve given me more than they ever have, off it, this day has drawn closer and closer. With every game that passes the knot in my stomach tightens.

I’ve always loved the emotions the club have made me feel. The lost sleep, the tears, the looking blankly into the world because other fans just don’t understand. The emotional connection to Upton Park is the same and I can’t wait to build that with the Olympic Stadium.

Over the last few weeks there are periods where I’ve stopped writing this in a desperate attempt to slow the time down, it hasn’t worked, so here I sit, less than ten hours from the final kick-off, hammering away.

The emotions seem more fitting for the loss of a Cup Final, Play-Off Final or one of our once in a generation players (all very real experiences I’ve had) rather than the loss of a big box of plastic seats. But that’s the thing about sport, it makes you feel things you can’t feel anywhere else.

I’ve choked up (and a little more) a few times already, and I expect a repeat tomorrow. I want a win tomorrow, but more than that I want every member of the capacity crowd singing their lungs out for 90 minutes for those of us who wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.

West Ham United are a family. Families grow. Let’s give our spiritual home the party it deserves tomorrow and embark on the next big task – Becoming the club we have always shown glimpses of being.

Dreams?

I’ve looked everywhere.

Come On You Irons.

Be careful what you wish for

As soon as Sam Allardyce was sacked West Ham fans were told they needed to be careful what they wished for. Allardyce promoted stability – something which a mid table club should apparently aim for. Slaven Bilić had great experience in Europe but was yet to manage in England.

West Ham fans were on the hunt for one thing in their new manager – someone who played the exact opposite style of football as to what was served up under Allardyce.

Bilić has done the first thing that what asked of him. His side plays with flair, they aren’t scared to try new things andmark-noble most importantly it’s exciting to watch. It’s the West Ham way, without which the club wouldn’t have the rich history they do.

Three wins and two losses to this point is unsurprising. What is surprising is that two of the victories have come away at Arsenal and Liverpool.

The common theme in those two victories was going out with everything to play for and the knowledge that the side was good enough to win. In the Allardyce regime the mentality would be to try to hold on for a 0-0 draw, a mentality that often ended in tears (see the back-to-back losses to Chelsea and Arsenal that sent the season spiraling last year).

On Saturday we travel to Manchester City with the belief that we’ll be the first team to a) score against them and b) take points from them this season. One point? Three points? I don’t see why we can’t take three, they’ve had a midweek game and are coming off a loss.

The two David’s have finally realised that results come when you open your wallet. The club will post a loss for the financial period but in doing so have purchased players who can bring the club into a new era.

The move to the Olympic Stadium is huge in many ways. Have on-field success and the sky is the limit. Have a bad year and we’re constantly battling to get ahead upon entry into the new stadium. This is a statement year for the Hammers and every statement thus far has been positive.

The departure of Kevin Nolan was met with glee by some fans, but it is fair to say that he was a victim of being a long-time staffer of Sam Allardyce. The negative football and defeatist attitude had been fed to him for far too long. I feel there was a role for him in the team, however his departure lead to the biggest victory of the year.

Mark Noble. Captain of West Ham United. I remember saying as early as 2010 that he had captain written all over him and could be the greatest player the club has had in my lifetime. He’s an East End boy, his blood truly is Claret and Blue, and more importantly he is everything that the club are trying to be. His goal and celebration against Liverpool, his rush to Payet after the opener against Newcastle and THAT face during his WHUTV interview after we’d beaten Arsenal are further proof he’d die for the shirt.  Sure we could have offered Song or someone else the job (and I’m not for a second suggesting that Song doesn’t love the club), but nobody fits the role more than Noble.

The season is still young and there is a lot of football left to be played. In saying that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t got what they wished for.

 

Just like my dreams

Tonight marks the beginning of another Premier League season. The same stories will be played out on the screen, but this year is different.

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting on the lounge room floor of our home in Biloela in Central Queensland, The Australian spread out in front of me. I happened across the Premier League table and asked my dadk7LNwrem (who was on the computer behind me) who I should support, and instead of being given suggestions I was told we supported West Ham United and that was the end of it.

In reality it was just the beginning.

1997 is a long time ago and the experiences West Ham have given me in the same period have shaped me into the person I am today.

This season is different because it’s the last season at Upton Park. Since that fateful night in 1997 finding my way to Upton Park has always been in the top two of my sports bucket list. The reality of it is now it will never happen – I accept that.

The move to the Olympic Stadium could do some wonderful things for the club, or it could backfire and ruin us and a lot of which way that goes depends on this season.

I was against the move from day one because I want to see Upton Park and due to extenuating circumstances it was never a reality. The Olympic Stadium will be a great experience and I know I’ll get there one day.

Stadium issues aside the build up to this season has left me feeling more optimistic than I care to remember. A new manager, an adventure into Europe and players we couldn’t have dreamed of buying five years ago, is this real life?

One thing is for certain – I feel entitled as a West Ham fan and my optimism this year is to thank.

When you think of a club like West Ham you don’t think of raging success. That’s why I feel entitled, because we’re on the move. Have your Liverpool, Man Utd, Chelsea, Arsenal and Man City*. I’m West Ham and like it or hate it we’re the best club in the league.

We’ve got all the things I listed above, we’re the only club to win the World Cup, last time I checked everybody bled claret and blue and we have the loudest fans in the league. Enjoy your trophies, I’ll take being beaten at Wrexham because I’m part of something bigger.

My dreams? A top six finish, a win in the Cup Final, opening the Olympic Stadium against Liverpool and not Yeovil Town

That’s the thing about my dreams…. They fade and die.

 

* – Two of my great mates have been Man City fans since the old Division Two days. I celebrate the success of Manchester City for those two only, and will continue to do so forever.

 

An open letter to Sam Allardyce

Dear Sam,

I make no apologies for the blunt tones in this letter. After all you are familiar with beating people over the head with information, aren’t you? I say this because that’s what you’ve spent the last four years doing at West Ham. All you ever did was tell us how you were too good for us, but what did you do to show us how good you were? Yes, we were promoted at the first time of asking in the Playoff Final in 2012, but I don’t for a second think that was because of you.West_Ham_United_FC.svg

We had one of, if not the best squad in the Championship, and the fact we were not promoted automatically is slightly embarrassing. We’re secure in the Premier League for the third straight season, but for the third straight season your lack of interest nearly brought my club to it’s knees.

I will make one thing clear – From the day you were hired I wanted you sacked. Today is a very happy day for me as a result. I see fans on Social Media and message boards saying we should remember the good times and the joy you gave us – beating Spurs three times in a season and knocking off Liverpool and Man City at Upton Park this season. I will always take pride in those results but they weren’t because of you either. They were because of the heart on the pitch. What we got because of you was you going into your shell on Boxing Day (when we were in the Top 4) and never coming out. If it wasn’t for Teddy Sheringham’s coaching role I have no doubt we’d be visiting Preston next season. But that wasn’t new for you was it? If it wasn’t for a string February in 2014 we wouldn’t have faced Liverpool or Man City this season.

That’s where your problem is Sam. You want us to love you when you were interested in doing your job for about ten percent of the season. Well I’m not buying it. Your football is boring, your team selection is awful, you are tactically inept and any time we tried to tell you, you put your head in the sand. As for your managerial ambitions you are surely having a laugh?

You say you have more ambition than West Ham, you say you want to manage Manchester United or England. Please. I wouldn’t trust you to have a conversation with my six-year-old nephew about the game , much less coach him.

We were, are and always will be The Academy of Football. We’re fluent, we’re fun and while we may not always get the results the supports can’t wait for matchday.

You nearly killed that this season. From March I couldn’t wait for the season to end, and I know I wasn’t alone. We weren’t going to win because you didn’t want to pick a team that was going to get results, you wanted to hoof and hope.

We’ve signed some great players in the last few years but when I look back on your time with us I wonder why anybody in their right mind would want to work with you.

In the past few months you’ve been linked with Fulham and Nigeria. Please don’t do it Sam. Not only because you don’t deserve a chance to redeem yourself from your “efforts” of the past four years, but because fans of the Nigerian national team and Fulham Football Club deserve a glimmer of hope. If you’re the answer then I’ll start looking for the world’s stupidest question.

Fortune’s always hiding , I’ve looked everywhere.

I got my fortune today. You lost something you never deserved to have in the first place.

Good riddance and don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Regards,

Xavier.