Whether you’ve been a Claret & Blue fan for 60 minutes or 60 years, there is something that we can all agree upon and it plagues every Hammers supporter. It isn’t always easy, it isn’t always pretty and good results are never a given…but that just makes us as loyal like no other and proud of what we are, where we’ve been and where we’re heading towards!
Ask any fan of any team and you’ll probably hear a similar tale, and whilst most fans can only aspire for greater things, we as West Ham supporters have a growing expectancy to improve our standing not only within the league but also of our ability to attract big money transfer targets.
As fans of quality football, we want it played in a certain way…we want passing, progressive and attacking football. When other teams were digging balls out of the mud up to and including the 1960s & 70s, we were trying to show them another way…our way…the West Ham Way!
As supporters of our great club with a rich history of successes, also rans and failings…we always hang on to the notion that we should be playing better quality football. It isn’t a dream, because we’ve seen it before and it’s within touching distance at the beginning of every season!
As fantasists, we probably assume that the dream should surely become a reality, that every player will have the heart of Mark Noble, the passion of Julian Dicks, the culture of Sir Trevor Brooking and the mercurial talent of Paolo Di Canio!
The mainstream media would have had the world believe that we should be happy with our lot, mid table obscurity, Mediocre Malcolms swimming in the elite pond of richly funded achievers. Rarely have I heard sensible commentary from pundits or those worldly learned journalists, who feel free to criticise the team at any given opportunity, bemoan us fans for having any opinion they don’t agree with or labelling us all with the same set of misgivings.
Usually any negative story about a singular incident, a small group of individuals or indeed about all of us, whether supported by facts or pure speculation, somehow translates into a guilt we should all share.
Last season, when it was touch and go whether we would be dragged into the relegation battle at the end of the season, there was much punditry telling us to stop our bitching and expect no more than a mid table finish at best. Because they seem to know more than we, they seemed to ignore what we were told, they freely gave their opinion as if it was fact without actually knowing the FACTS!
From the outside looking in, one might forgive their bluster as we have struggled in the past to maintain top flight longevity and bring any consistent success or indeed silverware to the club. However, our move to the London Stadium was supposed to be the dawn of a new era, a pathway to success and a ladder to assail our lofty ambitions…but that dream…it did fade and die!
So what of us now and where do we go from here? Well, the club needs to address the issues raised by the fans and to rebuild bridges to form strong alliances. There has to be much improved communication within the club and amongst the fan base too. The board must show strong leadership and an ambitious commitment to deliver on promises made. They must support their staff; from the manager to the youth players and the wise investment in players needs to be more adventurous too. Then and only then are we fans…the realists instead of fans…the fantasists!
As supporters, we have always had a lot to say about our club, our football and our way of doing things but only in recent times have our voices had the platform to be heard effectively. Mainstream media have had their way for far too long and their opinions remained unchallenged until open communication medium became a reality. Social media, YouTube Vlogs, Fan Cams and Fan TV such as the very creditable West Ham Fan TV, Hammers Chat and Irons United…to name but a few, are pulling in the same direction as fanzines to provide our version of the truth…a version that had escaped television, radio and print media for many years.
In truth, I am a fan and a fantasist. I believe we should be better than we currently are and the players should be over performing however my support is unyielding. I may berate, bemoan and chastise but I’ll cheer, cajole & encourage in equal measure, no matter where I may be. I dream of us qualifying for Europe, lifting the FA Cup…even the Carabao Cup should be respected. I want us to win every match but I am realistic to settle for a committed performance at least.
With my Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Marvin’s depression a standard, there is a faint glow on the horizon. An apparent dislodging of media bastion opinion towards us and a motion of understanding and bewilderment of how our club has been operating. I would imagine this being a reaction to increased retaliation from our fans when we hear things that just aren’t correct. After all, radio stations have phone-ins, editors have inboxes whilst pundits and commentators have twitter accounts to jump onto.
We’re by no means out of the deep doo-doo yet in terms of Premiership survival, nor are we anywhere near cured of our internal infirmities, however we can stand tall with our continued high altitude ambitions and the endless yearning for better days, better football and better performances, whether anyone else agrees with us or not.
Whilst we may not tangibly own our club, whilst we question the suitability and integrity of the current guardians of our galaxy…we are invested like no other into a club that has been within us the majority of our lives. In any other meaning…we own this club and we are its living and breathing conscience. We are forever West Ham Fans and we will surely fantasise about a brighter tomorrow!