In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear the story of Jack, 16 and a relatively new member of the Claret & Blue Army about how he came to support West Ham United through a more unconventional route in the spring of 2015.
“Living on the Kent Coast, growing up I had lived a very shallow life in terms of Primer League football, the nearest Top-Flight teams being those in the faraway reaches of London.
But, this didn’t curb my enthusiasm for Premier League football from a young age, it just meant that when it came to supporting a team, I didn’t draw on the greatest of influences, my friends.
Despite living and growing up at the complete opposite end of the country, many of them supported “Big Six” teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool rather than our nearest Football League club, Gillingham.
I tended to follow suit and picked Liverpool, I never came from a footballing family so this was a decision that I made by myself and I suppose, back then, I could have been put into the category of “Glory-Hunter”.
I never really got to go up to Merseyside to watch the Reds very often because of the distance involved which meant that I was always supporting the club through a keyhole, or that’s how it felt anyway.
The one exception to my friends who all supported “Big Six” rivals was Robert, who was a West Ham Season Ticket holder and a good friend of mine, with whom I played in a football team.
Bobby, as we called him, was often telling me how great it is to be able to watch live matches week in week out even if the results weren’t always as amazing, it sounded like a real thrill.
One day towards the end of the 2014/2015 season when Liverpool, were fighting for the title if my memory serves me correctly, Bob told me of a spare ticket he had going for a West Ham match.
A member of his family had been due to go but had to pull out, he offered me the ticket and despite it being West Ham, it was a no-brainer in my mind and was to be my first taste of live football.
The encounter was against relegation-threatened Burnley and to any seasoned veteran of live football this wouldn’t have been the cause of much excitement, but the night before the Saturday, I was as excited as I had ever been before.
I was picked up in the morning and we made the 90-minute trip to East London, arriving near the stadium around three hours prior to kick-off, I could feel the atmosphere building up in the streets.
I was soon given what I was told was the “West Ham Experience”, which included “Pie N Mash” and a tour of the perimeters of Upton Park, the first stadium I had ever seen.
It looked just as grand as it had in pictures I had seen on the Internet and inside even better, the imposing nature of the terraces and the green of the pitch was some sight in the warm sunshine.
The part I was looking forward to most was the atmosphere and when “Bubbles” was sung and the two sets of teams walked out, I was not left disappointed, it was electric.
For me, the quality of the match didn’t matter, it was just to fact that I was watching Premier League players in the flesh, I quickly learned some of the sings the fans were singing and joined in with Bobby.
I could feel myself becoming a Hammer, Bobby’s family told me that Upton Park does that to people, when Mark Noble scored the only goal of the game, I jumped for joy and found myself celebrating like a West Ham supporter.
From that May day on, I have never looked back, become a Hammers supporter was an easy decision after that, I bought a shirt in the club shop after the game and there was no going back.
Today, I like to call myself a member of the Claret & Blue Army and still attend games regularly with Bobby, now, I feel a true love and affiliation with football, and it would never have happened had it not been for that rather dull home win over Burnley.”