Where have all the real football fans gone?

by James Baker

Wednesday, October 8th, 2008

Time for a rant!!

Not had one for a while! I’m sure a few of you go through the same thing I do when you go and watch your beloved team each week. You buy a season ticket and you sit with your chums. Before the game you have a beer, maybe a cheeky pie and even a Bovril when times are cold. A pint after the game to toast a victory (occasionally) and you have a good day out. However, they don’t ask you who you want to sit near to in the ground. Now I hate to say it as they support the same team as I do, but there are so many idiots that sit around me at the moment, it’s frightening.

Being a West Ham supporter is never an easy task. The once happy-go-lucky, typical West Ham fan seems to be a distant memory. You could always rely on some good banter at the Hammers and there was always a strong bond between the players and fans. Today, though, these things seem to be in short supply. The hard-nosed business that is now football combined with the tribal nature of supporters is creating aggressive, ignorant, unknowledgeable fans. Of course, aggression has always been part and parcel of the game but at least people seemed to know what they were talking about.

I was at the disappointing home game against Bolton on Sunday. No disrespect to our friends in the north, but Bolton are not the prettiest of teams. They have been a Premiership team for a number of years now and this has been built on the back of simple philosophies that have been managed well. As much as I didn’t like him or the teams he turned out every week, Big Sam Allardyce was a master at getting the maximum out of journeymen pros and creating a team that functioned very effectively in the top flight. Players like Okocha and Djorkajeff lit up the team on occasions but you new what you were getting with Bolton most of the time, ask Arsene Wenger! As disappointing as the Hammers were on Sunday, Bolton should be applauded for their spot-on tactics and for the ease with how they contained the home team for most of the game. They came to do a job and they did it well. They could not have expected to be handed the first goal in such a manner but fair play to them.

That first goal was down to the Hammer’s goalkeeper, Robert Green. Now I’m sure most of you have been aware of the growing clamour for the past two seasons for Green to feature in the England set-up. The reason for this has been his outstanding performances over the past two years. He is the best keeper I have seen at Upton Park since the eighties and the giant Phil Parkes. He has kept us in so many games and has arguably won games almost by himself in the past (Arsenal away a couple of seasons ago when we became the first team to win at the Emirates). He has an amazing record of saving penalties and is a wonderful shot stopper. My only slight criticism of him is that sometimes he needs to dominate his area a bit more. However, this is a minor criticism and he has been our best player over the past two seasons. So imagine everyone’s surprise when he made the first big mistake many of us have ever seen him make on Sunday by dropping a dolly of a cross at Kevin “the lump” Davies feet for him to score. He then went on to parry a shot 5 minutes later that usually he would have held and that was 2 – 0. I was amazed and I think most fans were too. What really amazed me was the reaction of the crowd.

Sarcastic cheers every time he came for a catch followed for the rest of the afternoon from our own fans. Call me old school, but I thought that was the job of the opposition fans. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Our best player needed our support more than he has before and some of the crowd decided to take the rise. Now maybe I have had a sense of humour failure here but I just can’t understand it. Confidence is a fragile thing with goalkeepers. Just ask Paul Robinson or David James at certain times of his career. It was no surprise to me that he didn’t deal with the second goal in the usual Greeno way. I’m sure he will be fine as he is strong character but funnier things have happened and Green’s temperament will now come under serious scrutiny. I was delighted that Don Fabio did not hold it against him and included him in the current England squad.

Alan Curbishley left West Ham back in September due to a lack of backing from the board. However, he never won the Hammer’s faithfull over with his no-frills brand of football and his reliance on the long ball. I thought of him as a decent guy who didn’t have much luck with the major signings he made. He never once put out “his team”. Gianfranco Zola has come in and been a breath of fresh air with his more traditional, West Ham tactics and his refreshing honesty. I like him and think he will be a success. I was amazed that supporters were booing the team as they left the pitch at half-time after not playing that badly and was even more amazed as people threw their match day programmes on to the pitch as Bolton scored their third goal. Of course, I was disappointed but it was one game when things didn’t go right. We are trying to play the game on the deck and we passed the ball around nicely. Perhaps Zola should have reverted to a 4-4-2 when we clearly lacked width in the second half but we all know how difficult it is to score when 11 men are behind the ball defending a 2 goal lead. When they are as big and as physical as Bolton, then it is even more difficult. To boo the team when the fans are now getting close to the brand of football they want is ludicrous.

There are four young guys that sit behind me and they spout absolute nonsense all game. They moan about every misplaced pass or bad decision. They fail to see the idea the player has had to pass the ball in a certain area or why a player has made a certain run and it drives me crazy. I bite my lip every week. Towards the end of the game on Sunday, I overheard their conversation regarding back passes. One of the guys said he didn’t know that the keeper used to be able to pick the ball up when a player passed it back to him. Ok, the rule was introduced in 1992 and these guys were probably about 5 but surely they should know that. Do people not watch archive footage of the old days? My love for the Hammer’s meant I had to know about all their history and meant reading books and watching videos. Surely, they must have seen a game before 1992 with a back pass. I thought it was amazing, maybe it isn’t.

West Ham are never going to be the biggest club in the World, England or London for that matter. But they are the only team I could ever support. All I want is entertaining football with a piece of silverware every now and then. Surely, this is what football should be about. In a free market, we cannot control what is going on in football today but it would be nice to think it might one day return to its working class routes. I am reading Bobby Charlton’s autobiography at the moment, the Manchester United years and it is a brilliant read. A great man is not an understatement when describing Sir Bobby and his book does him justice. I can’t wait for the second part to be released. His book is something I recommend to all fans, even if you hate Manchester United. I defy anyone with a love for the game not to acknowledge the great man. Maybe I should give a copy to the chaps behind me and the Tottenham fans that told us Juande Ramos was the best thing since the microwave two months ago and now want him gone. Get some perspective chaps!!

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  • Stevie

    be grateful as West Ham won’t have a team if the old credit crunch gets worse. All the talk of teams going under and the Premier League in 3 billion’s worth of debt, it had to happen!

  • got to be ‘joking here’

    The memory of the football fan is short…lets be honest West Ham should have gone down a couple of seasons back so to see them top six and losing a game against Bolton is no disgrace many teams come unstuck against them to boo them off is unforgivable…

    As for having a pop at Robert Green…try then selling him and getting in a rubbish keeper in as a replacement then they’ll realise what a great keeper he is. The odd mistake here and there is the life of a goalkeeper. Has Petr Cech become rubbish because of the Euro’s…the answer No.

    And yes I agree with wanting to know about the old days I’ve always wanted to absorb and learn everything about your team…I’ve watched as much footage of Boro as I can get my hands on and scrutinised books and web articles just so i know who and where my team came from…

  • Parks numero uno

    Unfortunately these “new fans” are the only ones that can afford to buy tickets.

    we have that in pompey with all the “johnny come latelies”, all the true fans cant afford to go. i remember when pompey were in the old division 3,they were crap but there was a sense of enjoyment and togetherness between all the fans because you were all there for one thing and that was your team.

    people just dont appreciate that anymore,its all about getting names on their shirts and worshipping overpaid prima donnas.

  • dexylongshot

    Top read Bakes, totally agree, there are are some proper twots about who don’t now their born. These are probably the same people who think think Rnb is the be all and end all. RnB is Rhythm and Blues, not rhyming and bitches, get another name for your music (crap Sh*te comes to mind). Sorry, went of on a bit a tangent there but it gets right on my wick. Anyway Greeno. Great keeper, been the best English Keeper for the past 2 seasons, check the stats, one of the Sunday tabloids ran an article in pre season comparing the english keepers in the Premiership 2 years and Greeno came out on top, James was 2nd, I think Kirkland was 3rd but don’t quote me (Robinson wasn’t even in the top 5). Why Green he was overlooked by McClaren is beyond belief (well actually it isn’t when it come to that crashhe ducth carrot-top). I’ve been Greeno watching week in week out for the past 3 years and the howler on Sunday was a shock, a shock because i’ve never seen him make a real clanger, that is how good he is, the hammers who took the p*ss should have a good look at themselves, we’d be playing Doncaster this week if it wasn’t for him, remember that. Have a butchers at my England article tomorrow for more about our Goalkeeping situation, probably the one worry for the 3 lions.

    Also, on the subject of the hammers, apparently an Indian Businessman is looking to come in a take over at Upton Park, he is the 6th richest man in the world with an estimated 22 billion fortune. Surely The Icemen will take the money and get out sharpish, the game is really coming to something if they begin to sell of the family silver just to cover their losses which had nought to do with the football. Saying that, Eggy didn’t help when he brought in Freddie and co on inflated wage bills. They better get move on an all, it looks like the Mad Blatter is about to make a few changes to club takeovers and such, something which could leave the irons right up SxXt creek along with half the league.

  • Darren

    r u on Puff Dexy? RnB?

    Greeno was superb against Arsenal in that 0-1 win, in fact, Arsenal had 37 shots to West Ham’s 5, yet the Hammers did the double over us!

    I’ve said this before in a previous blog it’s one of the main reasons I stopped going to all the Arsenal games, when you hear one of your own fans calling the greatest player that has ever worn an Arsenal shirt (Ian Wright) a black useless prick it almost makes you feels sick and never want to go again.

    Something big is about to happen to the game very soon, salary caps, ban clubs from Europe, the Premier League, England win a tournament, who knows? Either way it’s going to happen! MMW!!!!

  • http://aloadofcobblers.blogspot.com Danny Brothers

    Great blog…there seems to be a culture now of wanting success straight away and every season or you have to be calling for the manager’s heads. No-one likes losing and failure but football fans these days seem to think failure is not finishing in the top three or four rather than being relegated.

  • KIWI

    Nice one………people that abuse players who doing there best make me sick…….if the crowd had started chanting down worry greeno, i bet that second goal would not have happened and the team would have rallied…however you cant convince young c**ts with money to support teams that they don’t really care about…..there should be a knowledge test before you go to a game and if you fail you can still watch the game but with a muzzle.

  • Bob Baker

    Nice blog son, you sound more like me every day(sorry). Real football supporters live through the good times and bad times and come through life as better people. Where did I go wrong with you? Although some of my best mates support WH. as well
    54 years a Chelsea fan

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