West Ham United v FC Metz, Upton Park, London, August 1999
The Hammers had finished an incredible fifth in the Premiership the previous season, and so this year they were “in Europe” as they say, but did not qualify for Champions League (as if) or the main UEFA Cup… so West Ham bounced to UEFA’s Intertoto Cup. Having progressed right through the competition, they now faced French club FC Metz in a home & away final. This was the first leg, at home, and I remember this day especially because my Dad was visiting from New Zealand, so Si & his Dad, Pete, took us along. This football thing was still exciting for me, but Dad was football man, played pretty well in younger days, captained the PNBHS 1st XI… so seeing a Premiership match was awesome for him. I remember him buying the programme for the game, ticking off the squad members in it that were announced would be starting the game… like a kid! As usual we were in the Centennial Stand, with the away fans down to our left, but because they were, well… you know, French, they were getting even more stick than usual. One cockney geezer right in front of Dad and me just stood up and gave the visitors an animated, x-rated, four-letter-word tirade about their genetic provenance and then sat back down calmly. Job done. Bit different from New Zealand, eh Dad? He loved it: the noise, the venue, and especially the speed & physicality of the game. Years later we still talked about it. And after he passed away five years ago, I found his diary from that trip and in it he wrote how memorable it was. Unfortunately, the Hammers players could not match the crowd’s passion on the night, and they lost 0-1 to the visitors which should have consigned them to second place. However, two weeks later they went to Metz, and blitzed the Frenchies 3-1, thus winning an actual cup thing! A performance of which manager Harry Redknapp said “Yeah, I think that was special. That was a real good day for me and West Ham's history.” A tune? Well, in honour of my Pop, who loved Satchmo, I’m going to pick a Louis Armstrong track with tentative East End links in it’s title: East Of The Sun (West Of The Moon).