Like all Hammers fans, I take pride in wearing the claret shirt and with goose bumps, I proudly sing ‘Bubbles’ when our beloved boys walk out on to the hallowed turf. That feeling when Upton Park erupts as one of our own smash home a goal is, quite simply, indescribable. I get lost in the euphoria of the celebrations and always wonder how it must feel to be that player who prompts this reaction from 35,000 adoring fans. Incredible, I imagine.
While I am the type of fan who whole heartedly celebrates when a goal is scored, I am also guilty of a grumble now and again. I groan with disappointment at a missed opportunity or when possession is lost easily. But I can safely say I am not one of those people who shout abuse at the very same players who, more often that not, leave me applauding their efforts. It is those types of fans that frustrate me. You know the ones I mean, those that when the camera flashes past them, they are giving a player the finger or shouting obscenities in disgust at their performance. What disturbs me most is when that very same fan has a small child copying their actions, showing them that this behaviour is acceptable.
I fully understand people’s frustrations when they spend their hard earned money on tickets and they are left disappointed. But, does paying for a ticket give me the right to shout abuse, or in some cases much worse, at someone who is probably trying their best to avoid a hammering from the crowd? If so, at what point does it become unacceptable?
The headlines are currently coming thick and fast; our apparent racist chants at Tottenham, the attack on Sheffield Wednesday’s Chris Kirkland by a Leeds fan, and recently, the viscous attack on a Dutch linesman that left him dead after a youth game – albeit this was by players but is still, undeniably, shocking.
I am not for one minute saying that people should keep their opinions to themselves, or that all fans are alike, but I do wonder where the line is. Supporters can be an incredible advantage. I can vouch for that as a player myself, there is no greater feeling when a crowd – no matter how big or small – cheers in ecstasy at something you or your team has done.
Thankfully, all of the West Ham fans I know are the passionate kind that sings to get behind their boys, not to smother them with abuse and revel in their failings. In my opinion this hate in the game is too consuming and overshadowing the genuine football fans that exist.