West Ham United v Blackburn Rovers, Upton Park, London, January 1999
“Buy the ticket. Take the ride.” As I write this, just last night, English Premiership side West Ham have lost to the Wellington Phoenix, a team who came eighth in last year’s A-League. Not quite the club history that was supposed to be written on this first trip to New Zealand… but it might get them invited back! This is what supporting the Hammers is all about. In fact the claret & blue rollercoaster of joyful pessimism that is this club has clouded my memory to the extent that I can’t remember results. I was sure the Everton match (Day 12) was a draw, and I thought I saw a home loss to Blackburn… but no! It was a 2-0 home victory, with both goals slammed in the first half: one by defender Ian Pearce, tho other by everyone’s favourite fascist, the ‘mercurial’ Paolo di Canio - easily my favourite Hammers player, and I am in no way alone in that. I do remember being less goggle-eyed this match, and taking more in, watching the frustration of the penned in away fans to our left, screaming at the team. Hammers fans in the front row on the Priory Rd side, screaming at Rovers players taking throw-ins - giving them a warm vocal welcome from only meters away. The chants for Rio Ferdinand and di Canio. One colourful tale I remember being told was before we went into The Queens pre-match, about a bit of rowdy the home fans were making years back, it was getting out of hand, so the Old Bill sent one of their dogs in. Apparently the dog came flying back out through a window, sans one of its ears. True? Legend? Well, if they eat Whelks, those Cockneys will eat anything. But they do make me smile, so accordingly the tune pick is Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel with ‘Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me)’.