West Ham v Millwall – What happens now?

by James Baker

Wednesday, August 26th, 2009

I have been a West Ham supporter for the best part of 30 years and have seen many ups and downs over that time. I have had a season ticket for the past four years and love being able to go and see the team I love every other week. It is a great feeling to know you have a ticket for every league game. My old chums Dexy (you’ve heard of him, right?) and Briggsy accompany me to every game and we enjoy a pint and a pie and hopefully a good game. I am passionate about my club and fiercely proud of our tradition, our working class roots and some of the legends that have graced the club over the years. I have to say, though, that this morning I am at one of my lowest ebbs as a Hammer, and Christ there have been a few!

I am so pleased that I actually did not attend the game last night. Briggsy and I were working late and couldn’t attend and Dexy is in remission after an arduous weekend of drinking at the V festival at the weekend. Cup games are not included in our season ticket so we were not too bothered. I know, you say, this is Millwall. Ok, we have a rivalry with Millwall. It has been there for years. It is hard to say exactly why. They are South London and we are East. They have played the majority of their lives in the lower leagues and we do not meet that often. Both clubs were established through rival ship building works at the turn of the last century and I suppose this is the underlying factor. There were a couple of flare ups in the 70’s but since then, it has just been people talking a good game.

Granted, I was not there to witness first hand the scenes last night but I have seen the TV footage which I am sure most of you have. It just appears to be a lot of fat blokes with too much beer in them and idiots going on to the pitch and then when they get on the pitch, they don’t know what to do with themselves. All the gesturing and posturing at the away fans seemed to stop as soon as they set foot on the pitch. Did these guys want to fight the away fans as they always claim to do? No, they got on the pitch and bottled it and waved their shirts around their stupid heads. What were they trying to achieve? Everyone looks hard when they have a few hundred people with them. You’re on the pitch boys, the Millwall fans are there, go and get them. Pathetic!

The stuff going on outside the ground looked pretty horrible. In the past, these games have been lunchtime starts so people couldn’t have a drink. Now I appreciate why.

I spoke to a few season ticket holders I have gotten to know over the years and they said there were people in our stand that they had never seen before. Obviously, they had just come along for a tear up.

It has been a terrible few days for the Hammers. Firstly, we had the shocking news about Callum Davenport. We then lost to Tottenham, which is never nice and then more heartbreaking news with the death of Jack Collison’s father. We then have this and any public sympathy we may have received is completely out of the question.

I went on to a fan site this morning and some moron was saying that this was what football was about, two working class teams having a tear up. We are animals after all. Does working class roots mean you have to fight? Does working class roots mean you have to destroy the reputation of your club? Is this man an idiot who shouldn’t be allowed to watch football? Real caveman stuff there!

Losing to Tottenham is always a hard cross to bear. It is even harder to admit that they are playing some great attacking football and are a good team to watch. It was a really enjoyable game on Sunday with the wrong result for me. Yes, there was some good banter and singing but most of it was all hand bag stuff. We lost, and I went home like most others to enjoy my Sunday dinner but feeling that we had played well, was excited about our new signing, Jiminez and looking forward to our next game. Rivalry is great and football is tribal to an extent. But we all go home to our families afterwards and look forward to the next game and possibly dine out on a result every now and then. Going in to work with that wry smile the next day, these are the sort of things we go to football for.

I took my 7 year old godson to the Tottenham game on Sunday (Dexy being away and enjoying himself). He loved it and I was so pleased that he came along. His mum had been worried about him going along when I had discussed the possibility of him going over the past couple of years. I told her these things didn’t happen anymore. How wrong could I be? Ban these idiots and get out of my club. You don’t deserve to watch this great game.

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  • JJ

    The big questions here are

    Why wasn’t the authorities prepared for this?
    Why were fans without tickets allowed to travel to the ground?
    Why were fans allowed to invade the pitch?
    Why were players hurling racial abuse at Carlton Cole?

    Is this all PR for The Firm when it’s released on Friday? Makes you think!

    Thank god uncle Dexy wasn’t there.

  • dexylongshot

    I was up watching Sky/Bbc feeling terrible. I’m still lost for words, a sad sad day for the Claret and Blue and football in general. We & Millwall deserve to be banned from cup competition. Their was racial abuse aimed at Carlton Cole too. I’m sure FIFA will be taking a good look at this before the next meeting discussing our World Cup bid.

  • http://www.freewebs.com/park-academics-fc Daveyboy

    And people thought this problem had gone away, no ammount of SKY sports coverage and prawn sarnies can cover up that football violence hasnt gone away. its still there.

    I hope all people involved get banned and prosecuted. Dont be so hard on yourselves though, the idiots from Millwall are just as much to blame.

    I have a soft spot for the HAMMERS (my mums form that part of london) and I was saddened that it happened.

  • jimmythegent

    It was quite obvious that a lot of the so called supporters were left-over relics from the bad days of the 70’s who had come out of retirement especially and they were no doubt recruiting some new young-uns who have probably never been in something of this magnitude before. There are some pics in the papers of dads holding their boys up for a better view just yards from the melee. Phil Thompson said in this day and age of HD tv, wring out the thugs, name and shame and lock em up. I have to agree with him.

  • Karl Savage

    The best thing that everyone can now do is to support the Football League and police in shopping the idiots that were involved last night. According to the news it appears that some of them did not even have tickets and just got involved in organised violence. I wouldn’t think twice about reporting anyone who threw a bottle at the police or ran onto the pitch. We all know trouble could happen between any two sets of ‘fans’ and as a Leeds fan know that we, as a club, have our fair share of history between West Ham & Millwall. In fact, most teams that we’ve played against for that matter, but I had hoped this had been consigned to history! Let’s stamp this out before it all starts up again otherwise we can kiss our chances of hosting the World Cup in 2018 goodbye.

  • dexylongshot

    Have had Talksport on all day and there have been some interesting interviews, with both sets of fans, pub landlords, shop keepers, security staff, stewards. From what I can hear, West Ham brought in 4 times as many old bill as usual but it still wasn’t enough. The security bloke said the police were leaving a lot of the agg to the security people, especially in some of the more dangerous areas around the ground, including the Priory Road end. Both sets of fans have said that the stewards are there only to try and keep some order, stop people standing up (Which is a non starter in the big games) but stop smoking, basic stuff. Some of the stewards were young 18 year old girls, I have to sympathise with them, you wouldn’t see me wading into 100 thugs for all the tea in china (saying that, the mugs who ran onto the pitch givin it large didn’t exactly run over the Lions either, they sort of got half-way and bottled it). It seems to me that too much was asked of them and there should have been a much bigger police presence inside the ground. In hindsight, it should have been played on sunday lunchtime or behind closed doors (which will be happening the next time these two teams meet).

  • dexylongshot

    *It seems to me that too much was asked of them

    I meant the young stewards by this

  • Barack Obama

    Keyboard Gangsters the lot of you!

  • http://reassessthepress.wordpress.com Sam

    The problem lies in the fact that the initial violence between the fans was organised. The old firms of yester-year were seizing on the opportunity of a fractisious London derby to come to blows. This should have been stamped out by the authorities long before kick off but instead the tension and violence spread like wild fire amongst anyone who came in contact with them and spilled over into the stadium.

    At any away game i’ve ever been to there are usually clearly sectioned off public houses for the visiting faithful to get merry in – and its usually the one as far as possible from any home fans’ hangouts. It seems that this wasnt able to be controlled around Upton park.

    What happened is terrible for English football and a disappointing sight but one that can serve as a reminder of the passion that boils under the surface and how it can infect us all. There is enough coverage of the fighting for the most guilty parties to be round up and made an example of. Perhaps the next hammers game shud be played behind closed doors but then we must try to move on. The English game has come too far since the 70s and 80s for this storm to remain hanging over us.

  • Patrick

    Clearly it was a bunch of mindless idiots who ruined what could’ve been a cracking cup tie. I wouldn’t say they’re representative of Hammers fans as I know quite a few who are very knowledgeable about football and are all round decent blokes. However, the wading on to pitch then not knowing what to do with themselves was more than equalled by Millwall’s racist chants at Carlton Cole. These are people who actually single one of their own players out for racist abuse. They should be identified and banned from attending football for life. Pitch invasions are one thing and they should be punished in some way (fining the club is pointless – they brought in extra policing, it wasn’t them who invaded the pitch) but racist abuse needs to be eradicated full stop. It happens often enough outside this country (Spain, Croatia etc) but we need to lead by example and make sure the idiots who engaged in it the other night are identified and banned for good.

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