It was that time of year for my furthest-away away day this season. Since the demise of poor Yeovil from the Super League, Brighton has become the mammoth trek I undertake. This time, Kate was fully on board as I had promised a weekend of sun (not likely), sea (very dependent on the first) and of course football. In order to make the most of our weekend away as well as it being cost effective we were up at the crack of dawn on the Saturday. The coach at quarter past 6 was not an easy one to stomach. We decided to go fancy by going by national express rather than a Megabus [Allie really does treat me like a princess, folks – Kate]. Like, you actually get a break on these ones to buy all of that service station nonsense you don’t ever need but mysteriously want once you cross that threshold. I just stuck with a double shot coffee to perk me up.

After a fairly smooth coach journey (which was a rarity I enjoyed having even if it doesn’t make for entertaining reading) We were in Victoria ready to head down to the seafront. However not before being outraged at the ticket cost to get to the great big blue. 50 quid!! For a forty minute journey!! The rail company may as well have a black mask and swag bag. Once I got over that shock, I had to have a bar of chocolate to regain focus. Ah, national rail ruining my bank balance and my waist line.

Finally in Brighton, we began our weekend in the place noted for fresh air and fun. (Five points to Hufflepuff if you get that reference.) I shall not bore you with those details as that not why you read this fine publication. I shall only give the highlights.
After being stung by Thameslink trains earlier, I told Kate I was to not spend any money on non-essential items. Let’s see how long this lasts.

Well…it lasts about the time it took us to walk from the station to the local second-hand shop. I tried to resist, dear readers, but they had stacks of old movie magazines. When I am not running up and down the country I watch black and white movies. If it was made after 1965 I generally don’t want to know. I told you I was cool. So, with my wallet even lighter, we head off to our accommodation.

Further highlights of our trip on the south coast were; lots of rain, some delicious Lebanese food and a trip to Brighton pier where, to escape the rain we found refuge in the amusements where we whiled away our time with the 2p machines. After all, it would rude not to. Half an hour later we came away with three packets of Tango flavoured jelly beans, three lollipops and a yo-yo. Can you tell how happy we are with our winnings.


Finally after a long day it was time to retire ready for the even longer day ahead.
Up bright and not so early on the Sunday, we went in search of some breakfast. After contemplating multiple options we finally settled on what we thought would be a nice simple place. After ordering toast with tea and a chai latte, we settled in to discuss the day ahead. Our food came and we thought nothing of it. Until I took a swig of my chai latte. Then almost promptly spat it back into the mug.

“What in god’s name is that?”
Kate looks at me like I lost my head “Chai latte like you asked for.”
“It bloody well isn’t it. And if it is worst one I have ever had.”
Kate takes a swig and pulls a face. I just look at her smugly with an I told you so face.
“I think that is a normal latte and she’s just dumped the chai mix in.” Twas not the nicest of experiences. With mediocre toast which was more liked scared bread, we had failed on the breakfast front.

After that joyfulness we headed off to get our train to Three Bridges. I wanted to get every last penny out those 50 quid tickets so we were gonna do what was our National Rail given right to do and have a break in journey. Perfectly legal and perfectly confusing to the ticket gate man, who tried to take our return tickets from us. I was about to quote the rule of carriage [Yes friends, I am dating (and you are reading the blog of) a rail nerd – Kate] at him until he waved us through the barrier. Either he didn’t fancy the argument or he knew I was right. I am going with the former.

We then had to work out our away to Crawley Town FC. I had been before, I knew there was bus. What direction that bus went and where you pick it up from? Nope, not a clue. After some bungling, we finally find the stop. At which we found there would be a 20-minute wait. In the rain. A very brief consultation decided that we would cab it. Which is a fine decision – the cab it however was not. Firstly, the driver chastised us for waiting in an awkward spot. When Kate explained we didn’t know as we were not local folk he still just kept repeating that we should be waiting in a more convenient place. Over and over again. After the longest 10 minutes ever we finally reach the ground. Where the driver just gestures wildly as where he us going to drop us off. Once again we explain we are foreigners in these parts. Still, no help so we tell him to chuck us out somewhere near the ground.

Second issue to arise was our giant backpack. Would they allow our camping monstrosity to be allowed through the gates? Turns out if you distract the steward with all the pretty and eclectic badges [Particularly the sparkly dragon one – Kate] on your other bag they wave you on through. Result for us, though slightly terrifying as we could have had anything that bag.

Finally through the gates, we wander down to where West Ham was warming up. After having a nice chat with Avit and being roped into being on his podcast we were joined by some follow hammers Mark and Emma (different people from the previously mentioned Emma and Mark) and took our seats for the game.

Where we saw my old nemesis the Brighton mascot. As you can read from my previous adventure on the south coast I managed to offend the seagull by giving them the crossed hammers. Well as said seagull came around again. Kate gave me the warning glare of don’t antagonize the mascot. But I couldn’t help it, folks, the crossed hammers came out. This time the seagull had a bit more of a sense of humour and just banged on the Brighton badge in retaliation. Well played, Sally Seagull, well played.

We were joined by more hammers so we could be strong in voice. Unfortunately, Reece my partner in crime from the American Hammers could not join us. He claims it was train issues, I say he didn’t want to face the cold on the south coast.

The girls troop out in claret and pink this time wearing the new breast cancer awareness shirt. Great idea, noble cause but maybe with different shorts. Claret and Pink did clash rather. Right coin has been tossed game on.


We started brightly against the seagulls and Martha Thomas gave them trouble from the start causing their defenders to go in for some bone-crunching tackles. However, it was Brighton who had the first clear chance of the game. Whelan with a powerful shot from outside the box rattling our crossbar. This seemed to shake the team slightly and we ended up making some tackles that we’re dangerously close to red card offences. Our German defender Laura Vetterlein went leg clattering challenge on Brighton’s Umotong which she was lucky to only earn her a yellow.

We as fans decided we needed to gee them up a bit. So we started to sing. A lot. It started with standard Bubbles and We Love You, West Ham. Mark, on the other hand, was prepared with some of his own for each player. My personal favourite is for Gilly, I just can’t get the timing right. [Any former boy scout should be able to get the hang of it pretty quickly though – Kate]

Well it seemed to work as five minutes later Martha Thomas scored a beauty of a goal. Catching Brighton off guard with Alisha bombing it up the pitch from a goal kick. A swift pass to Martha who smashed it home smack bang in the centre of the goal.

0-1 to the girls in claret and pink.

This seemed to liven the game up and both sets of players were gunning for possession which led to some very tasty football let me tell you. We carried on chanting for them to get the ball moving once again. Except Kate. Kate sat there cold. [It was CHUFFIN FREEZIN my love, I was singing internally – Kate]

Finally, the whistle blew for half time and the girls all trooped in to get warm.


Emma kindly offered to go get us a brew and Kate was turning slightly blue from cold. So much so she had cracked out a blanket and big winter coat. With her glasses which she needs to watch the game, she looked like an owl. Her words not mine. Which led to the discussion of classic children literature. Who says West Ham fans aren’t civilised. Anyone else remember the owl who was afraid of the dark? [His name was Plop and I loved him very much when I was six years old – Kate] Anyway with tea in hand, the girls back out, we are ready for the second half.


Once again this game started to get physical from the offset. Within the first five minutes, we had a shot inching wide, a free kick awarded due to a bad foul and then three fouls awarded against us. Phew!

Then 15 minutes in, disaster struck. It seems that Brighton had held on to that foul by Laura Vetterlein and had been gunning for her all game. A ferocious foul in the 60th minute knocked her out cold. A tense few minutes whilst the medics were on the pitch working on getting her round. The relief was palpable when she managed to walk off the pitch herself for her own substitution. On comes Hendrix who has been in phenomenal form so here is hoping that was about to continue.

Ten minutes later we caught another break as Brighton were getting desperate. A nasty challenge by Kerkdijk to stop Martha who was on goal meant a pen to us.

We all looked around at each other slightly confused. Do we have a dedicated pen taker? Our money was on Cho after her fantastic one versus Reading last year. However, it was Dali who stepped up. Cool as you like, no stuttering, she sends the keeper the wrong way and slots it home in the right hand corner.

0-2 to the Cockney girls. Which is exactly what we sing at them. We haven’t shut up all game. In fact Reece tells me we have made the FA Player commentator stop a few times as we drowned them out.

Three minutes later we get our third. Alisha who had been looking sluggish all game perked up when Leon came on the pitch. Some quick play from out back and our Norwegian superstar Kvamme made a punt up the right flank. This fell beautifully to Alisha who scored with a powerful shot from outside the box.

0-3 to the visitors. We were cruising, and us little group of about 12 were out shouting the entire home crowd. Except for Kate who was still sat there cold. She was enjoying herself honest. [I was! I can be cold and enjoy the football at the same time! – Kate]

We kept that edge up until the 93rd moment when a scrappy clearance led to Brighton getting one back. Which was the final score down on the south coast.

As the players did their lap of honour we treated them to a rousing rendition of Bubbles ,which I am sure they appreciated – we even had a few of them singing along.

With that, we trooped out of the ground to hopefully get a nicer Uber driver to head back home via Birmingham.

How Claret is Kate? She sat through the entire match and cheered at the right moments. We are getting her there folks.

It’s another London Derby, it’s another home game, it’s another trip down the M6. Joy! Except we are not heading to Rush Green for this match. For if you go down to the East End today you are sure in for a big surprise. If you go down to the East End today you will find 20,000 members of Claret and Blue Army chomping at the bit to recreate their not-so-glorious 80’s past. Except now these old ICFers will be surrounded by their little rebels in claret and blue so they have to behave.

But Allie I hear you cry, West Ham played away that weekend. Indeed I reply to you the Men did indeed with a sterling performance against Bournemouth. However, our girls have been given an upgrade. !Our Derby will be played at the rather large, rather impressive and rather controversial London stadium. It was a big day for our fans but more importantly for our girls in Claret and Blue.

Personally, it was an even bigger day for me as I was about the get my biggest audience ever. Two weeks before the match, my phone flashed at me. Mitch Waddon is now following you.
Hmm, what would the media manager want to follow me for?
Mitch Waddon was sent you a message.

Oh jeez, what have I done now? Horror filled thoughts. Thoughts of banning orders and all sorts filled my head. I can spiral very quickly you know. It what supporting West Ham does to you. However, my doom-filled thoughts were soon placated. Turns out Mitch had seen my tweet about nearing 10,000 miles on my adventures and wanted to know if I wanted to write something for big match program. Well of course I did. I think I might have squeaked inside. Well, to be honest, I probably audibly did which caused my co-workers great concern.

I spent many hours and days working on, editing, rewriting this piece and I am extremely proud of what I wrote. Others have told me that it is the best piece they have seen me write. That could well be because it’s much shorter at only 800 words. Nevertheless please find it here and you can be the judge.

The Tottenham game was the first game this season without my new travel buddy Kate. She instead was in her element with her day job at a festival all about yarn.  So once again I wearily drag my old bones up at 5 am with my pre-packed breakfast. Yes, I have turned over a new leaf no more Maccys breakfast, for I am trying to save the pounds both in fat and monetary terms.

Ah, Megabus how I had missed you. This one luckily wasn’t too full so hopefully, there was no drama. However, of course, it’s me, on a Megabus. There is bound to be something. This time they managed to get to Watford Gap before it all kicked off. I think the early set off time meant people were too tired to unleash their true personalities. As any regular Megabus customers know they only stop for a driver change, not for passengers to go for a wander and buy the £1.10 Kit Kat or the giant animal hand warmer for the bargain price of twenty quid.

Be that as it may, through their sleep-addled they missed the very important part of the announcement do not get off the bus. A rugby scrum formed to get off the bus. Who knew the hand warmers were in such demand. This lead to a shouting match between said passengers and driver. For a full 15 minutess! However, it was fruitless and they sulked back to their seats. Megabus, one: irate passengers, nil.

I ignored them all and just plugged my headphones and listened to my new playlist. 6 hours of random music courtesy of our goalkeeper Anna and defender Brooke. After joking about it in an interview, they came through and sent me an eclectic mix of music. Certainly a good way to drown out the fruit and nuts on the bus.

Arriving in London a whole half an hour early I made my way to Stratford, dodging the tourists with the inconvenient suitcases as I went. The closer I got to Stratford, the more claret and blue I saw, the more excited I got. Long gone are the days when it was just me, a handful of other faithfuls and the odd player’s parent.

Walking through old Stratford to get to new Stratford I was surrounded by hundreds of supporters all hungry for the match. The tribe was coming. Mixed into the home fans were a few of the Spurs contingent. Unlike for our male counterparts, there was no need to separate the two sides. In front of me were a family of four. Your stereotypical mum, dad and 2.4 children. The two boys who could not have been more than four and six respectively. Who whenever they saw West Ham fans, shouted as loud as their little lungs would let them “Come on you Spurs!” Cute right? Well, it was until their father got involved.

“No kids, use the chant I taught you.” he says with glee.
Suddenly three voices in unison started to shout.
“Y** Army Y** army.”
I narrowed my eyes at this. I know, Spurs fans, before you @ me, you guys have ’reclaimed’ the word. Let’s be honest though, it’s not your word to reclaim is it? Teaching the small humans this chant, not cool. No matter what you say, it is a slur and has no place in the game.

Having hurried past the family and fought my way through the shopping centre. I finally made it down to the stadium. All prepared for the upcoming steward search. Bag open, check. Arms out for the wand, check. Turn to be wanded the other way without being asked. The steward looked surprised how well I knew the drill or how little I complained. Once a steward’s daughter, always a steward’s daughter.

After accosting a programme-seller to buy many a programme, I wandered to find my tickets from the box office. However, in typical West Ham fashion, the box office I was told to go to was closed. With no signage, I had to guess where I was meant to go. Turns out it was the ticket office by the shop, where I was treated to the sea of luminous pink. West Ham had launched a special shirt to raise money towards breast cancer. A rather noble cause and one that must be applauded. A bit bright for me so I may give this one a miss. Then again, on the other hand, I am in a bidding war with different players to have their names on the back of my shirt. With so many players and too few shirts I might just have to cave. Good on my club though for such an initiative.

Despite Kate’s absence, I was not alone as my folks (who sensibly got the train down) and Tom who is one of my fellow contributors at Since 71 were also joining me. Now I had the joyful task of trying to find them. Or rather have them find me.

In my best horse racing commentator voice…

It’s Tom who takes an early lead arriving into Stratford, however it’s Stratford London, not International.
The folks arrive at the right station. there is some confusion over which shop we are meeting at. It is Stratford, guys and dolls, with the Westfield centre, there are many.
Tom finally gets through the masses, however, there is also some confusion over which shop I mean. The club one for the record.
It’s neck and neck, it’s gonna be a close one in who is going to relieve my boredom.
The folks are going through the steward search so they are in the final stretch.
But is that a feature writer I see in my midst?

It is Tom who wins the Allie-Needs-Company derby!

Tom is an Athletico  fan for his sins, so when in the UK he travels around the different stadiums he wants to visit and watch some football. Unfortunately, it seems this year in following such a process means he is unwittingly following Tottenham this season. Well, that won’t do at all. Poor Tom.

The Parentals appear not long after and we all wander into the mania that is the club shop. I proudly show them my program article, to which my mother lavishes praise and my dad just chuckles. Which we all know is universal dad-speak for pride.
After the shopping trip where mum got her new shirt of the season and I pointed out the shirt I would like for Christmas we made our way into the stadium. Sorry, Alisha, you will have to wait until the new year to see your name on these small shoulders.

The pride I felt seeing so many fans coming to see my girls was indescribable, only tinged with a slight where-were-you-in-the-freezing-cold-last-November annoyance. However, I want nothing more than for our girls to be loved and adored by more people – so, bring it all on I say. After the obligatory overpriced Heineken (thank you, Tom, for the round) we took to our seats for the game.


The sound of 20,000-odd fans singing Forever Blowing Bubbles was spine-tingling and I was hoping for some football to match.

Tottenham came out of the gate very quickly, having a lot to prove after a lacklustre start to their top flight campaign. One minute in and Kit Graham narrowly misses putting the visitors ahead. Ten minutes later it was Bristol City alum Rosella Ayane who was unlucky, her shot skimming the crossbar inches from the top right corner.
West Ham looked a little lost, to be honest, and some harder fouls meant the game was rather stop-start and we were not finding any sort of functioning rhythm.
18 minutes in and we had our first shot on target with a Kate Longhurst chip which was pushed out by the keeper for a corner.

For the next 15 mins it was a lot of fouls and free kicks from both teams it was like a Hanna Barbera carton. Repetitive! Foul, free kick, foul, free kick. Still everything was much of a muchness and no one was getting anywhere. The break came for Spurs 10 minutes from the half time whistle. A cross from Ayane found Rianna Dean’s head. A pinpoint cross with a pinpoint header meant a rather large leak in our defences.

0-1 to Tottenham.

Cheers go up from the row of girls in front. Oh great, I am sat behind Spurs fans. This was going to be fun. Tom was happy as Rosella was in his fantasy team. I just glared at his glee.

We came back at them straight away with Leon missing by inches with a low right-footed shot. However, our attack just fizzled out and nothing much occurred until the whistle blew for half time.


I was unimpressed, however Tom was having a good time and had brought some vegan snacks which he kindly shared. We sent marvelling at the number of people in the stadium and the fact my tweet was being shown on the big screen. A good show of love from the club today. All in all an uneventful half time.


You would hope that as we were trailing we would come out all guns blazing. Which we did, but this meant our finesse was definitely lacking. Dali was brought on to try and strength our firepower. Instead, we weakened our midfield by taking the only holding midfield player we had in Tess Middag.

Our passing became sloppy and I honestly don’t think we completed a string of passes longer than three before they were intercepted. Going forward Thomas, Leon and Lehman all had the potential to pull us back into the game. However the closest we came was hitting few goal posts. We literally could not get it into an open goal when Becky Spencer missed timed a run for a clearance. It just wasn’t falling our way.

Then at 84 mins, Tottenham struck again; a bad foul by our Norwegian Kvamme gave Spurs a free kick. Another set-piece that we were unable to defend. Former Birmingham player Lucy Quinn managed to get her right foot to it. Poking beyond our keepers out stretched hands.

0-2 to the North London club.

Tom smiles at me “You Guys have been unlucky to not get something out of this game”. I just huff and eat more sunflower seeds.

That is how the game ends. We lose to Tottenham again and I am annoyed again. However, despite the result, it was a great day out and hopefully we can be back at the stadium soon.

How claret is Kate? Well, even though she couldn’t come, she did make the right noises when I went on my mini rant.

You join us today on a day of split loyalties, as you see it is the game that sees the Bluenoses come to town. Which means the little pocket rocket, the human dynamo, the all-round sweetheart Bri Visalli would be returning to her old stomping ground.

Except…we love Bri, but we love West Ham more. So, maybe not-so-split loyalties at all.

This time it’s not just me and Kate, but mum was making use of being a season ticket holder and coming with us for the first home match. Which could only mean one thing. I was going to get picked on today.

Things were chugging along nicely without incident until we reached our first stop. Service stations are condensed microcosm of society all coming together to ponder life’s age-old question; do I really want to pay £1.50 for a Kit Kat? 

I also believe people leave their manners at the door of service stations. Maybe because they are tired, maybe because they know that they won’t need to return. Or maybe they haven’t discovered the word ‘please’ in their vocabulary. Either way, we had yet another coffee shop incident. I feel these maybe these will replace the odd ducks on the Megabus.

For this week’s guest on the service station hall of shame, we have a tourist at the Corley south services. As we wait patiently for our drinks, a woman comes barrelling in front of us, looked peeved to say the least.

“No ice in my coffee, why is there Ice in my coffee.”

We all look at her coffee that she is holding. It’s iced coffee folks, it’s not like someone put ice cubes in her soya caramel macchiato – which by the by is my drink of choice if anyone sees me in a coffee shop and wants to bring me a pick me. 

Back to the angry ice lady. The barista explained that iced coffee contains…you know…ice, but she was not having it. So the poor barista had to scoop out all the ice cubes of this coffee and handed it back. The coffee was then promptly returned to the barista demanding it be topped up with coffee. For a third time, the coffee handed back and not even words this time just gesturing she wants it wiped down. The poor barista was so flustered when she got to us I felt we had to be even kinder to her then we would be normally, and we are pretty damn cordial.

Other than the bizarre coffee lady we made it to Rush Green with no major incidents, only to discover that we were dressed completely inappropriately. You see, coming from the North at such early hours it is inevitably raining. So you dress accordingly, i.e. not to get pneumonia. However, when you go south of Watford Gap the clouds part and the magical yellow ball in the sky appears. Basically, what I could’ve said in three words is. IT GOT HOT[Typical Allie. Why use 3 words when 60 could do the same job? – A very sleepy proofreading Kate]

We roll into Rush Green where I am greeted not by one Ambiguous Staff Member but two. Original Ambiguous Staff Member (from hereon in known as O.A.S.M.) greeted us by warning the ball girls that we were trouble. The aspersions cast on my character I tell ye. This was then compounded by another staff member who shall be known as N.A.S.M. Once again casting aspersions that us three were trouble. Well, just me as I was the only consistent fixture. I shall not stand for the sullying of my reputation. I am nothing but courteous to the staff. I might be a little rambunctious but what West Ham fan isn’t.

We finally get into the hallowed halls of Rush Green in time to see old favourite Bri Visalli in her new kit come out of the tunnel. She looks bamboozled as we cheer her name, we put this down to the heatt. We also found Ed with his brand-new pro camera. Oh goodie, more pictures for me to steal. As per usual we traipse around to follow Ed to get his perfect angle. Today was behind the far end goal in the blazing heat, things I do for good pictures.

Whilst waiting for the kickoff, we talk about the other fixtures we are going to. For me obviously all of them, Kate as well. [This is a bare-faced lie. See below. – Kate] Mum as many she can stomach the coach for. Ed as many as he could amidst the four teams he was flitting between. This led to a discussion about  the big game in March at Leigh.

“Yeah, the Manchester United game falls on Mothers’ day this year. So, A) I don’t have to abandon my mother this year and B) we can have the bonding experience of being beaten up by marauding Man U fans.

Ed gives me a withering look.

“Because Chelsea away was on Mothers’ day last year” I explain. Though thinking about it now I think Ed’s judgement may have been more about the second half of my statement than the first.

The Birmingham subs were finishing their warm-up when one of them skies the ball over the crossbar as if they were going for a three-point field goal. Quick as a flash, a blur in a tracksuit jumps the hoardings and vaults over the seven-foot-high wall behind us. Which is no mean feat.

“Is that Rach Wiliams?” says I.
“What’s she doing? They have stewards for that” says mother.
“God knows what’s behind there, she could do herself an injury.” says Kate.
Ed says nothing.

A ball comes flying over, and then so does the blur in a blue tracksuit. It IS Rach Williams.

“Hey Rach, it’s a good thing that knee’s better.” says I.

She turns and gives us a thumbs-up. “Definitely couldn’t do that if it wasn’t!” and as quickly she appeared she disappeared.

My mother turns to me, “Do you know her?

Kate laughs. [I don’t believe there’s anyone in the world Allie hasn’t met – Kate]

“Nope, that there just Rach Williams, England legend and an all-round good egg.” I have briefly met her before. See blog post here.

Finally, the teams are lining up, Bubbles is blaring, we are ready to go.


We begin pretty even stevens from kick-off. An attempt on goal from us is matched by their attempt goal. A foul by our midfielder resulting in a free-kick against us was later played in reverse with a foul by their midfielder conceding a free-kick to us. Once again Martha Thomas was winding up defenders to the point of frustration. Her speed alone was causing some very sloppy fouls. Before the first half of the first half is out, Birmingham captain Kerys Harrop has been carded for a bad foul trying to outpace our number 9.

After many foiled attempts from the girls in claret and blue (OK, like…four) [The rabbits in Watership Down count 1-2-3-many…Is Allie a Rabbit? – Kate] we finally broke through the iron-clad Birmingham defence.  Once again Thomas showing her absolute class in winding up the Birmingham midfield working on a cracking run from the centre spot. A slip pass to Dri Leon who found the bottom left corner.

1-0 to the cockney girls.

This spurred Birmingham into overdrive trying to claw back into the game. In the space of five minutes they had four attempts at goal. All were denied by our super new keeper Courtney Brosnan.

During the dying seconds of the half, Bri Visalli came barrelling down the left flank. Looking dangerous with her speed, she was attempting to execute one of her trademark pinpoint crosses into the box. Except she had not contended with her former midfield compatriot who shall remain nameless. Said midfielder went in for a bruising tackle and Bri ended up in the dugout. Welcome back Bri.


Very uneventful half time. We swapped ends, we wound up O.A.S.M. and we cooed over the diddiest ball girl. [SO DIDDY, honestly I was close to tears – Kate] 15 mins just flew by.


Keeping up our dominant display from the whistle. The Skipper Gilly almost replicated her headed goal at Chelsea last season. Denied by Birmingham’s young keeper with a fingertip save.

Leon was denied two minutes later; her shot was just wide, dragging across the goalmouth after a West Ham set piece.

We had a muddled middle in this game. End to end with silly free-kicks and unnecessary corners from both sides trying to cement the points. Birmingham City was probably the team on top to be honest. Edging further and further into our third. Things started to get frantic and then PANIC! We could see a player on the floor and Courtney frantically beckoning the ref over.

“Who’s down? I can’t see from here.” I ask. Kate using all of her 5ft 11 ness to stretch over and see. [Technically I’m 5’10” but I’m happy for any of you to think of me as 5’11” if you want – Kate]

“Looks like its Gilly, she is clutching her face.”

After some long agonizing moments, Gilly clambered to her feet, looking slightly dazed but ready to carry on. We all let out the breath we didn’t know we were collectively holding. It later transpired that Bri might have allegedly been the cause of it by accidentally kicking Gilly in the face. Oops.

In the last dying seconds, drama occurred. The controversial decision over whether the Staniforth goal should have stood or not.

Lucy Stan’s (the people’s republic of) long range shot seemed to skim past Courtney’s outstretched hand. Except she pushed it into the goal post and out for a corner kick. Everything was such scramble we couldn’t see clearly. Birmingham celebrated the goal, West Ham cried that it was never over the line. Shockingly the referee sided with us and indicated no goal. The resulting corner ended in nothing and the final whistle blew.

Our first win of the season.

Afterwards, we waited to see Bri as it had been a long summer since we last had the pleasure. Of course, Bri was still super popular so we were waiting a little while.

Never fret as this gave us a chance to catch up with captain fantastic Gilly after her blow to the face. She had a thumping headache and was a little dazed but she was still raring to go.

As she was leaving she asked who was coming to the Conti Cup match the following week. Ed bowed out stating he was off to watch one of his many teams. Gilly turns to me

“You’re coming, right?” I shake my head. She looks shocked. “What do you mean you’re not coming?

“Sorry Gil, I’m away. This one booked a weekend away in Edinburgh’

Gilly looks at Kate, “Oh I see how it is, you get yourself a girlfriend and suddenly you’re skipping games.”

Kate felt well and truly admonished. I am sure Gill loves you really, hun. [For the record, I did consult Allie before we booked the tickets – we both forgot that the Conti Cup fixtures hadn’t been announced yet. – Kate]

After a little while, Bri finally makes her way around to us. After a round of hugs, she smiles at Kate.

“Finally, get to meet you after seeing all of you on the social media posts.” Kate also gets a massive hug. Bri laments on the game and try and cheer her up and show her I am wearing last year’s shirt with her name on the back.

“That’s great but we didn’t win.”

I laugh “Yeah but we did.” She glares at me but I placate her with a hug.


After a long chat it was time to go home. Via many attempts of finding a Luton Chippy. Just don’t ask ?

Next time it’s the big one. We take on Tottenham in the London Stadium.

How claret is Kate? Well after the ’telling off’ from Gilly not very I would say. [Look, I just edited 2,000 words at 10pm, if that isn’t dedication I don’t know what is. – Kate]

It is only fitting that my season begins properly at Borehamwood, as it was at this fixture last year that I first fell in love with my girls in claret and blue. As with last week my trusty sidekick, driver and all-round good egg girlfriend Kate is with me. Having recovered from meeting Gilly last week, she is ready for the most important derby this weekend ;).

However, my footballing week actually began slightly earlier when I entered enemy territory. Manchester City announced a meet and greet for their new signings, which included the G.O.A.T. Ellen White. As dedicated followers of this blog will know, my dedication to Old Chalky knows no bounds. You can read how costly my last meeting was here.

So there was no question that I was going to go to this thing. Even if I wasn’t that fussed about the other four new signings. Just like the old days, I bombed it out of work like a bat out of Hell to the Etihad.  Due to its awkward timing, it wasn’t very full so I got a chance to have a proper chat. I was wearing a t-shirt a friend had designed for me for the world cup, based on my most commonly-used phrase during the Men’s World Cup; “There is only one England Number Nine and it ain’t Harry Flipping Kane.” Except I might not have used the word flipping. The fact she was number 18 this campaign does not matter. As another friend once said that means she’s doubly good, right?

So here I was standing with the Man City hardcore, wondering what I was doing there and would I get lynched. However, I had an ally in my old Man City mucker, Sal. She is the one who christened me Sav and we love her very dearly. Well, we did until she decided to give me a taste of my own medicine.

After the brief show-and-tell of the new players and the ego-boosting of how they are going to win the league, they decided the players would walk around rather than the standard sit behind a table and pose awkwardly. Waiting for my turn slightly impatiently, I leave Sally talking to the new Portuguese forward Matilde to go find Ellen. She smiles when she sees me; I’m not sure if that is because she recognised me or because her media training is just that good.

“So I am being a bit cheeky as I am not really a Man City fan.” I flash her my new piece of ink. “I’m hammer like you. However, I had to show you my shirt, that I had made.”


She laughs “Yeah I saw that on Twitter during the World cup.

“Well I wanted you to see it as it’s because of you I got my missus. She saw the shirt thought it was funny and came over and said hi. Rest is history.”

She looks at Kate and smirks. “Because she knew who I was, you thought safe bet?” Kate laughed and nodded, I got my photo and that was that.
Or so I thought.

Sal had been gabbing to Mathilde so long she had missed Ellen when she was talking to me, so we dutifully wandered around to where Ellen had got to. After their photo, Sal started to chew Ellen’s ear off about the impending derby.

Ellen nodded with Sal’s assessment of derby nerves. “Yeah I mean, I’m a West Ham fan, but I get it.”

Sal looks confused “You’re a hammer, I didn’t know that.”

“Yeah Sal, why do you think she’s my favourite?” I poke her jokingly.

Sal then takes great pleasure in being a little git. She looks Ellen up and down and remarks. “Really Sav, I’m pretty sure it was another reason you liked Ellen.” 

Now at this, I went beet red, Ellen threw her head back in a cackle and Sally looked very pleased.

I mumbled “I have a girlfriend now, you’ll get me in trouble.”

Ellen laughed again and clapped me on the shoulder. I just ran away.

Back to my people and back to the claret and blue, much less embarrassing. Leaving at the luxurious time of half nine this week, I rather am getting used to this ‘having actual sleep on a weekend’ lark. I dunno how I am going to cope in a couple of weeks’ time when Kate has the audacity to be working during the grudge match against Tottenham. People who have missed my Megabus exploits will no doubt be in for a treat.

All was heading swimmingly until we made our first pitstop. I had been asked to send pictures of me for a project I am working on with Liverpool John Moores Uni (all will be revealed later on that one.) I made the mistake of asking my creative girlfriend to take them for me. I thought it would be a quick snap on the phone and we are done.

Oh, how wrong I was dear readers. After a kerfuffle with a memory card, I find myself being posed, placed and in some cases prodded [Loving prods only – Kate] in order to get the right shot. They actually turned out quite nice, though I do believe you can see resignation and impatience in my eyes. You be the judge.

Finally, we were on the move and bombing it down the motorway like a bat at of hell. If a bat out of hell was concerned about the average speed checks on the M6. We were finally going through the villages of Hertfordshire to get to Borehamwood. Much prettier than the Mill Hill Thameslink route. We drive past a tiny station called Radlett and I look slightly confused.

“Wait where are we, I thought we had passed Luton.” Kate nods to the affirmative. I was very puzzled. Clearly finding the expression on my face amusing, Kate began grinning at me.

“Luton is before Radlett on the train line, thought you knew that, rail connoisseur.” Referring to my old occupation as booker of train tickets for the philanthropists and the scholarly.

“Look I know the rail network inside out, I can get you from A to B even if you have to go via C. Do I know what order they go in, no of course not.”

Finally, at Borehamwood I had a new logistical problem, I had never encountered before. A full car park! Like…what is this madness? I get to the ground, I walk in. What do you mean we have to leave this hunk of metal somewhere safe?

A quick map search provided a car park not too far away which Kate let me direct her to. Clearly, folks, she did not do the precursory pre-dating internet stalking to know I can’t navigate my way out of a paper bag.

“You need the last exit…nope I didn’t mean that one.”

Kate glares at me. “It’s really obvious that you don’t drive.” 

Finally all parked up, we rock up and head towards the mass of West Ham flags as the teams began lining up.


It was never going to be easy against the reigning champions. However, we came out guns blazing from the get-go, with new signing Martha Thomas already frustrating the Arsenal wingers from her first touch of the ball. So much so that Viktoria Schnaderbeck receives a yellow within the first two minutes of play.

After the initial surprise at our energy, Arsenal seemed to be setting the pace, settling into the game well with 7 shots on goal in as many minutes. The champions were showing their quality. Finally, Beth Mead broke through with a rocket shot from the right flank. No keeper in the world could’ve stopped that, except maybe Hope Solo back in the day.

1-0 to the Gunners.

We seemed to droop after this, disheartened to have conceded so quickly. Our pace dropped back and we seemed to get sloppy in our passing in our defence. Our outfield players were more than holding their own though, despite some very odd positioning, particularly Kate Longhurst. For a midfielder, she seemed to be very far away from well middle.  Oops. Mr. Beard playing about again.

We were keeping the majority of the posession but we couldn’t quite get the shots off. Thomas had a very near chance assisted by Kenza Dali who in turn squeezed the ball the wrong side of the post moments later.

Once again, we were frustrating the Arsenal team into making silly mistakes and bad fouls. Leonie Maier picked up a yellow for going after Dri Leon our number 20.  However once again this frustration spurred Arsenal on, showing why they won last season. With half time approaching, Arsenal chipped another forward and past our keeper Courtney’s hand; a first goal for the new Dutch International Jill Roord.

2-0 to the champions. 

It appears that the lack of play from our defenders was frustrating our forwards and just before the whistle Leon was booked for a bad foul on an oncoming Arsenal attacker.


“Despite the fact we’re losing, I think we’re doing alright” I say brightly to the gang. I get looks of disdain. Ok, just me the eternal optimist.

Rachel, a Gooner and a friend from my travels following the England squad, appears by my side as if by magic. She slings her arm around me and smiles, “Alright? Found any more players I don’t actually know you want me to introduce you to?”

“Still not forgiven me, Rach?”

Let me explain, dear readers. Gather around for storytime. A long time ago (well, this summer) in a far off land (well, Le Havre in France) after a tremendous battle (well, England had just beaten Argentina at the World Cup).

At the bar was Rachel Brown Finnis, ex England number one, who was buying a round for a rather massive group of people.
Our Rachel looked over and muttered to us “Ah Finnis! She yelled at me once when I was standing behind her goal. Actually I believe it was ‘I don’t want this Riff Raff behind my goal’.”
My eyes lit up “Ah mate, that’s a brilliant story, you just have to tell her that.”
Our Rachel looks at me like I have grown an extra head. “I am going nowhere near her. She is scary.”

A lot of back and forth goes on between us and after I got her a light from a rather bemused French Man when (my thank-you was a very gruff Cockney “Cheers, mate”) I had finally convinced her to talk to Finnis.

Rachel (the famous one) ended up being lovely and was slightly mortified when Our Rachel told her story. We had a great time with Brown Finnis and when we left we Our Rachel was only slightly shaky. I’m blaming the 8% she was drinking.

Our catch-up lasted all of half-time and we were ready to go for the second half.


I can honestly say this second half of football was the best football I had watched West Ham play ever. Clearly, Matt Beard’s half time talk had lit fireworks under the team.

The second half we dominated in position and skill. We ran rings around the Arsenal defence (apart from Jen Beattie, apparently we didn’t want to go anywhere near her). [She is very tall and very Scottish, I’d be scared to get too close to be fair – Kate]

Martha Thomas had two shots denied before the breakthrough happened. A foul by Beth Mead led to a free kick on the right flank. Erin Simon swung the ball in and it reached Martha for a power header down into the bottom right-hand corner.

2-1. Game on.

However, nothing further came of the opportunities that were gifted to us, including a completely open goal as the Arsenal goalkeeper decided to go walkabout during a goal clearance. Frustration was growing amongst the hammers, resulting in Jacynta getting a yellow card for a nasty tackle on Kim little.

Our last attempt was a free-kick right on the edge of the box due to an Arsenal back pass. Even then we could only manage to scrap it wide.

So it ends there; a narrow defeat to the current champions. However, the progress we have made since last season is astounding.  We played them three times last year and conceded four goals against them each game.

It’s funny how exactly the same result can feel so different. Last week the 2-1 loss against Tottenham was a defeat snatched from the jaws of victory. This one felt like true progress.

With that we headed off back up the M6 to find what delicacies we could find in the various Welcome Breaks, Motos and Roadchefs on our way.

Next week it’s the first home game of the season, Mum is back for the ride and so is one Miss Bri Visalli.

How-Claret-Is-Kate Scale: Has set her lock screen to a photo of Gilly Flaherty

[FYI, if you want to know anything about our relationship, Allie told me this was the most romantic thing I’ve ever done. – Kate]


Ah is that a strange dummy sat on top of an ATV on top of 18 wheeler? Do I spy the Bescot stadium? That’s right we are back on the road – and the dreaded M6 no less. Preseason has fallen upon us and for West Ham, most of our friendlies have been played behind closed doors and the season starts next week. It has been a short off-season this year, although my withdrawal symptoms are as strong as ever. I mean, the World Cup filled a little of that gap but nobody is quite like my girls.

However, there is one important difference in my adventures this season. I am no longer a lone ranger, a one-woman crusader, the single nutter on the bus. For France brought a rather beautiful change in my life, in the form of my new girlfriend Kate. We met in the most romantic city of Paris, at a watching party for France vs Norway and the rest as they say is history.

Both southerners in the north, we had been circling each other for a while it seems, with many near misses at gigs, football matches and just Mancunian life. Meeting at the World Cup was important as it answers the one question everyone – and I mean EVERYONE – has asked since;

Does she like Women’s football? Or are you going to have cut down on your footballing?

Dear readers, I would never compromise like that! …And also she is totally down. A former Man City fan (well she will be by the end of the season), Kate has not only agreed to go all games with me but also do all the driving. Result! Fewer Megabuses for me. In celebration of this development we will have a new feature on the blog – the how-Claret-is-Kate scale. But more of that later.

We start at a more respectable 9am instead of the usual eye-watering 5am. I am loving this deal already. With our packed lunch (no more double hash brown bagels for me) and an eclectic mix of songs on our driving playlist, we were off.

All was going swimmingly, so swimmingly readers I thought I would have nothing to tell you. Would my new relationship status, whilst making me extraordinarily happy, make me a very dull writer? I mean Kate must be slightly insane to agree but she’s not methadone lady level of crazy. A refresher for anyone who has forgot

Fear, not loyal readers as one of our scheduled stops was at a service station which had just been infiltrated by a coach party. You could hear the moaning from the other side of the service station before you saw the twin-set-and-pearls set. Just buying a coffee was a palaver, with the two in front of me firstly not deciding what queue they wanted to be in. Then tripping over my feet and glaring at such an affront when I was minding my own business. The pièce de résistance was hearing one of them demanding more coffee in her latte. No pleasantries or manners from these women, just a short harsh bark of COFFEE. Kind of made me miss the Megabus. I mean, we get all sorts of fruits and nuts on there but at least they are polite.

After being shocked by such behaviour, we made a quick getaway to try and find a more calm, serene and accepting space. Kate decided to take me on a whistle-stop tour of her home town. Great, except Kate is from LUTON. So much for that then. [Look, I showed you the nice bits. There were trees! – Kate] Actually after a quite glorious detour, we finally made it to Rush Green. It was like I had never been away. To be honest I felt like a bit of a celebrity, being welcomed back by all staff members, laughing that here I was back for another season.

Finally, in the ground, we went to find Ed who was very excited to have been given permission by the club to use his proper camera. Which in turn made me excited as it meant photos I could steal. A total win-win situation in my book. Ed just rolled his eyes and told me to take what I needed as usual – he loves me really, folks. I will tell you what I am not loving mind is the instant pick-on-Allie relationship Ed and Kate built. This is not what I expect from my girlfriend and my photographer/sometimes train buddy/only Chelsea fan I can really stomach. (Rich you don’t count as your main team is the mighty Wolves.) In somewhat of a huff I went in search of Miles. Miles is one of the assistant coaches who I become quite friendly with last season. In fact, it was him that told the staff and team what a dedicated follower I was. I credit him for allowing me to create such a relationship with the club as a whole.

I find Miles down by the hoardings as he was getting ready to take his place on the bench.

“Think you can get away with not saying hello?”

He looks and smiled giving me a hug.

“Surprised you made the trip down” I give him a look. Laughing, he hugs me goodbye as I wish him luck.

Back to the two chuckle brothers [Do I get to be Barry? – Kate] who seemed have bonded far too quickly for my liking, I take my place to watch the match.


We came bursting straight out the gate, our new attack looking fearsome against an unsure Tottenham defence. Our new number nine Martha Thomas was absolute fire cutting through the middle and linking perfectly with Adriana Leon on wing. It was one of the most confident performances I had seen the team play, we certainly could hear Spurs’ Gemma Davison getting rattled.

All of our summer signings were chomping at the bit to make an impression. The first one to do so was Jacynta (yes I am copping out of her surname) our Australian wonderkid slid through their midfield like a hot knife through butter. There must be something about wearing the number 15 at our gaff. Having been Bri Visalli’s number last year, she was certainly our little dynamo.

Another stand out was our new second keeper (Anna has been promoted quite rightly to the number one both in theoretical placing and her physical number). Courtney Brosnan is a young, hungry keeper who whilst she wasn’t troubled much in the first half, kept composed to make some beautiful saves.

The breakthrough came on the 23rd minute with a lovely piece of interplay between Thomas and midfielder Tess Middag.  Middag was supposed to be one of our big hitters last season, but unfortunately an ACL tear on international duty put paid to her starting last season. Having her fit and healthy means we now have a more definitive midfield. Holding up play, Middag floated the ball down the middle of the pitch and Thomas found herself on the edge of the box to curl a right-hand shot under the keeper.

1-0 to the cockney girls.

After that we kept getting stronger and had the majority of the possession, our plays quick and slick but we just couldn’t quite crack the defence again.

Towards the end of the half Tottenham had their first real chance of the day. Lucy Quinn, Tottenham’s new export from Birmingham, cut past our defence but ended up skying the final shot. With that the ref blew for half time.


It was at this point Emma rocked up to join us having been caught up in weekend traffic. Emma was not as enamoured by our performance as I was. The team looked too leggy according to this one. I, on the other hand, was eager for the new season to start, encouraged by what I had seen. Emma also joined the ‘Let’s mock Allie club’. Why am I friends with these people again? I miss Mrs. Raff, she would have defended me.

Ed decided he wanted to move round to the other side of the ground, for lighting or angles or some such. We all trooped around with him, with only minor complaining. As we wandered a familiar face was coming to towards us, well two familiar faces. The Kmita twins, Mollie and Rosie, had come down on their weekend off to see their old club. After quick chat and hug we left them be, though this blogger would like to take a moment to wish Rosie the best of luck for her season with the Bees.


With the game underway and a change of goalkeeper, West Ham almost lost the lead from the off, with Quinn mirroring her action from the last half. This was quickly collected into the safe hands of Anna Moorehouse.

We immediately countered with Leon running down the wing but her attack was snuffed out by the Spurs defender Siri Worm with a fearsome tackle. Leon continued to look our biggest threat up front, finding herself one-on-one with the keeper. However, overexertion meant she toppled herself before she could get a shot off.

We were eventually made to pay for the shots we didn’t take. At 81 minutes a miscommunication between Moorhouse and the back three lead to a scrappy goal for the North London club.


This was then further exploited by Tottenham, whose own player named Leon found a hole and exploited a weak link in our backline and squeezed a low shot which escaped Anna’s outstretched hand.


That’s where it ended folks, a loss snatched out of the jaws of victory. We all finished sort of feeling so slightly mopey.

However, I had a mission given to me by the footballing gods. One reason I managed to convince Kate to reconsider her Manchester City support (which was just a marriage of convenience anyway; a sensible enough choice for a new football fan who only lives 3 miles from the Etihad) was because of our captain Gilly. For our captain is better than yours, which is true for all clubs to be fair. To quote Kate: “I would follow Gilly Flaherty into battle”. The devotion was strong. [Look, here’s the thing. Come the revolution we’re gonna need strong leaders and my gut tells me Gilly would rise to the challenge. – Kate]

My birthday present this year had been a new away shirt with Flaherty 5 on the back, which had been my end of the bargain I had made with Gill last season. So I had to show off and make Kate blush. Two birds, one stone. We made our way to our captain and she smiled when she saw me and gave me a hug.

She turned to Kate and stuck out a hand.
“So you’re Kate, the one I have to say hi to.” So yeah, I might have had a word with her before this meeting. Kate to her credit did manage to get through this meeting with dignity intact. Yes, before people ask, I did tell Gilly about Kate’s militaristic statement towards her. As anyone who’s read my previous blogs will know, I am a bit of a git.

After having got the standard player-pointing-at-my-back photo, we bid Gilly adieu.

Knowing what a long drive we had back, we took only a brief rest break in the Club house. As standard, we caught up with the Longhursts as well as Julia our number 10, who spent most of the game as a ball girl. Clearly, the ambiguous staff member was right there is no age limit on the job. Find previous post here  Also see a picture here

As I stood nursing my drink, I hear a little shriek and Alisha Lehman, our number 7, come rushing forward to give me a hug. She turned me around and lightly slapped me on the shoulder.

“What did you do?” The Swiss International’s eyes narrowed at me.

I look confused. What had I done?

“Your shirt, Why is it a number 5?”
I laugh at the realisation of what she means.

“Should it be a number 7?” She nods empathically and won’t let me leave until I agree upon my home shirt being her.

With that we bid our farewells and head back on the not so lonesome road.

How-Claret-Is-Kate Scale: Still doesn’t know the words to blowing bubbles but conceded the team are good eggs.

Next time, We head back to Borehamwod to take on the Champions and I will be attempting to seize control of the road tunes [You get control of the road tunes when you learn to drive – Kate]. Wish me luck!!!

So this the end. Beautiful friends this is the end.

Well of the season.  We then have the World Cup followed by pre-season then we go again. So you won’t miss me too much, you won’t have the time ?.

The FA had actually made the smart decision of moving the last game of our season to the Saturday, in order to avoid a clash with the final day of the men’s Premier League. Brilliant! Expect the geniuses had made it a half 12 kick-off. Which when you have four hundred and forty mile round trip to do, it is not ideal.

I had three options:

One: Not go ( never gonna happen) 

Two: Fork out for the train ( didn’t really want to do that. But would if needed)

Three: Be up for the three am coach which would get me there on time. Which most likely cause me to die en route. Even with that possibility, it was the one I was inching towards.

However, there was secret option number four! I always talk to everyone when I am at matches, just so I can share my love and passion for the game and specifically this team. Now, my dear readers, I don’t advocate just randomly talking to strangers. Remember the advice from the terrifying cat Charlie about stranger danger.  No? Let me refresh your memory


Nonetheless talking to strangers can be productive. One of these chats led to the topic of the final game and my frustration of the early kick-off. Next thing I know a friendly benefactor agreed to pay for a hotel for me on the Friday before, with my travel now intrinsically made easier I was looking forward to the last game.

It was however blighted by the fact that two players had announced their retirement from the game. Lucienne our number 18 was going back home to finish her Ph.D. and become a therapist in the Netherlands, Lucienne had been a brilliant midfielder for us and had been vital in getting us out of tight situations.

The harder of the two for me to take in was Claire Rafferty announced the Brighton game would be her last of not only the season but of  her career. After three new knees, a couple of titles and FA Cups, it was time for her to call it a day. This was rough as Raff was the first player to really welcome me at West Ham. Always had a smile and a hug for me. Acceptance from Raff so early quickly followed by Bri, I think showed the other players I wasn’t Looney Tunes and wasn’t a threat. Only one of which is true. Which has helped me cultivate the brilliant relationships I now have with both them and their parents. ?

Speaking of parents with Raff going that means saying goodbye to Pauline, Raff’s formidable but total sweetheart mother. I actually told her this on her tribute to her daughter I got a kissy face emoji  for my troubles. Only comment on that post  she replied to not that I am bragging . More on Pauline later


Actually being fancy, I head down on the train after work. Meaning I get into London at a reasonable hour instead of the early hours of Saturday. Nothing really of note happened on this trip. No half-crazed women screaming about their lost methadone, I am half disappointed. Not only is the train more expensive it’s not nearly as entertaining. One the other hand whilst getting a cup of tea ( on a scale of one to ten. Passable not as bad as football tea, not my mum’s fancy stuff in a pot. A solid six) I did get a rather good life lesson from the guy dispensing said tea.

’ What is the difference between a charmer and a creep. A charmer gets away with it.’ Very true my tea dispensing friend, very true.

After my non-eventful train journey, I headed to Stratford where my digs were to be for the evening. Stratford new and Stratford of old are two very different beasts. New Stratford is bursting with life, bars and shops open into the late hours.  A happy place to be. Old Stratford everything was shut by six and the only place to get a drink was if the old man in the park offered you some of his meths. I do look back fondly don’t get me wrong, it was a dive but it was my dive.

Now dear readers if you have followed my adventures so far you would know that this journey has gone far far too smoothly. I don’t get to places without incident. Well, this time was no exception the incident happened at the hotel. I go to check in and the very helpful man asks me how I wish to pay. Excuse me, but I was not informed of this.

I start to panic slightly, I don’t have the money (for this was a nice hotel not your run of the mill Travelodge). Had I misunderstood what my kind benefactor had meant, that they would organise a hotel room for me? Awkward.
Nothing more awkward however then calling said benefactor and asking who was meant to paying. Lucky for me I hadn’t misunderstood and they squared it with hotel reception. Phew!  Soon I had my keys and I was ready to crash for the night, not before snapping a picture of the holy land that was opposite where I was staying. Yes, dear readers, I had a cracking view of the London Stadium outside my window. Claret and Blue dreams forever. 




Waking up at an acceptable time for a Saturday was a rarity I was luxuriating in, as was the hotel breakfast I was about to gorge myself on. Now for the dear people who read this and actually know me. The fact I was excited about food is such a rarity, I mean I am the girl who once forgot to eat for like 22 hours and then wondered why I was slightly peckish. 


Hotel breakfasts are however a different matter entirely, it is the law that if it is a buffet breakfast you eat your weight in foods you would never normally eat. For those interested I had fruit and yoghurt, followed by full Veggie breakfast with two kinds of eggs, and pancakes with Nutella just because they had a pancake machine and I thought why not. Plus copious amounts of tea. Whilst I was stuffing myself like the goose bound for the Christmas table, I had caught the eye of one of the waiting staff. Well, it was hard to miss the bright claret shirt amongst the other smarter higher class guests. 


’ Ah, West Ham, you definitely staying in the right place. Do you get to see them often?’


I was about to explain what I actually do when she cut me off.


’what about our girls then, didn’t they do well last week. I mean it was Man City but they gave them a good game’  


The pride on my face was so clear. We maybe a long way from equality but we are getting there. After the quick chat and the obligatory crossed-arm gesture. (For anyone who isn’t au fait with this particular movement check out any new signing for our team. It’s obligatory if you have any hope of becoming a fan favourite). I was on my way to Rush Green. Not before I went to the shop to pick up some of the FA cup merch specifically and women’s merch generally.  The selection was disappointing to be honest, again something I hope we can improve upon. At the very least be able to pre-select names when buying shirts. No major incidents from Stratford to Rush Green which was unusual, I mean I even went via Barking and nothing!

As I rock up, I hear an oh so familiar voice greet me. I look up at the now familiar Irish lilt of Mr. and Mrs. Kiernan. Once again finding myself in the customary bone-crushing hug, we walked arm in arm to the ticket office. They seemed much more excited about it being the end of season rather than the game itself, as it meant they were getting their daughter back. Though it was made very clear that Leanne would not be resting. Instead, she was being put back to work on the family pig farm. Good for her moral character, or so her mother tells me. Bidding a fond farewell I went off to find the Claret and Blue Army one last time, for the last time this season here come the girls. 




As it was her last ever game Lucienne was given the captains armband. So it was her duty to kick us off. From the start Brighton were on top of us, their pace up front cutting through our midfield like a hot knife like butter. Dani Buet (is but a surname), former Chelsea player now Brighton superstar leading the charge. Ini Umotong having the first crack at goal, skipping past our back line, only to be stopped by Anna Moorehouse from crossing the line. 


We woke up a bit then with captain for the day Reichardt’s shot from outside the box, skimming the crossbar. Jane Ross was next to make a run, passing the ball to Kate Longhurst on the flank.  However, before the cross could come, the threat was quickly snuffed out by the Brighton defence. 


In all honesty, we were not playing well. Sloppy in midfield and not clearing defensively, a cup final hangover for sure. As with all hangovers, they get worse before they get better. 


In an effort to keep Umotong out of the box, Anna rushed forward out of her area. This allowed the Brighton forward to get behind into space, which lead to a cross to Kayleigh Green from Alieen Whelhan, who banged in the square ball into the open net.

0-1 to the Seagulls.


I am so over the trend of goalkeepers rushing forward to try and clear a ball. Anna has done it before, Karen Bardsley does it.  Adrian used to do it. De Gea did it and cost his team a place further in the FA cup. Seriously, guys have faith in your defenders and stay in your areas. My heart can’t take it. 


More up and down then my teams performance was the weather. What had started out as brilliant sunshine, turned to light drizzle, to not so light drizzle to full on hail.

Despite living in the north now I was not prepared for this with no shelter at Rush Green, I soon took on the shape of an oversized drowned rat. We all suddenly became friends with Mr Longhurst and friends again as they had umbrellas. 


Just before half time Brighton made it 2-0. A bit of deft play from Megan Connolly meant she could squeeze the ball under Anna dead centre from outside the box.


0-2 to the visitors. 


Mercifully the half time whistle went not long after.




There wasn’t really much to say at half time, we all were as miserable as we looked. Luckily the weather seemed to be clearing, that was the only highlight. I did, on the other hand, make my debut on Mr Avits podcast. If you haven’t watched them, you should. Passion at its finest. LINK HERE. Speaking of passion now is a good time to thank Ed for the use of all his photos for my blogs. He now has his own blog HERE. He has been a gentleman and a scholar about me using his stuff. 




Amidst great trepidation, we go back to our match. With Raff still on the bench, the big question remained would she come on for her final game? Would we be able to pull back the two goal deficit? Would I ever be able feel my feet again? I had a feeling the answer to all three would be negatory. 

We started off brightly the second half, managing to hold up play in the middle. We had a couple of good chances but the run of play was definitely against us. Halfway through the half, Erin Simon had the best goal scoring opportunity of the game. A powerful shot in the box which the Brighton keeper could only punch away, there was unfortunately no one in Claret and Blue was following up to tap in the rebound. 


Brighton got their own piece of luck a few minutes later when a mix up on our back line left Amanda Nilden free to square away a shot from the right side of the box over Anna and in to the left-hand corner of the net.


0-3 to the girls in green. 


When we went 3-0 down Geoff was practically apoplectic, the frustration was starting to show on player and fan a like. It was Geoff however who voiced best for us.


’ I have enough of this with the Men, I don’t need you lot to start playing like this as well!’  


We limped on again getting sloppy in the middle defensively. and our attackers couldn’t mount a sustained attack for long enough to put Brighton under any pressure. Finally the nail in the coffin was 3 minutes into injury time Brighton got their fourth. This time Ellie Brazil took a speculative shot at goal which bounced off the post and went in. Summed up the game really. 


That is where the game ended, 4-0 to Brighton. Turns out my predictions were right on all counts as we finished our season a respectable 7th, not bad for a first season.




Post-match it was bedlam as it was the last chance fans were going to be able to see certain players, due to retirement or transfers. Everyone wanted a piece of the players and it was a flurry of autographs, selfies and just general thanks to players for what had been a rather enjoyable season.  I managed to get one of my FA cup T-shirts signed by a few players and was talking with Emma when Gilly beckoned me over, she had been chatting with Ed and something in her hand. 


‘I have got something you’ She gestured to the claret material in her hand. I beamed. At the Everton game Gill had promised me a shirt as a thank you for my support but more importantly to make sure that I got her name on my first shirt of the upcoming season. Gil had come through for me. Result! she hands me the shirt and continues to talk to Ed. 


As I look to examine it, I notice the gold lettering on the front and almost drop it like its scorching hot. 


‘Gill I can’t take this’


She stops talking to Ed and smiles ‘Of course you can, Its yours’


‘No Gill I really can’t take this. Are you sure?‘ She nods, gives me a thumbs up and a hug.


Gill had not just given me any old shirt from her season this year ( which would totally have be phenomenal). On the front it shiny gold lettering were the words. 


Women’s FA Cup final v Manchester City

4th May 2019

Wembley Stadium. 


She had given me her FA Cup final shirt and had got the whole squad to sign it. Seriously I was blown away. As Geoff told me I couldn’t wear that, I had get it behind glass. I still get shivers whenever I look at it now, I don’t think Gilly really understands how much that shirt means to me. 


I also managed to blag some of Claire’s training gear including the coat she gave to Ed which he promptly gave to me stating he would never wear it. Who has two thumbs and has worn that coat practically every day since ?. My final conquest was to get the final trifecta photos of players pointing at my back and their names on my shirt. 

Thank you to Bri ,Kate and Raff being such good sports. 


Finally trooping out the ground, I head into the club house for a final pint of the season with the gang.

As soon as I go in, I am greeted by the biggest of all bear hugs by Pauline. 


‘There she is, come here girl!!’ What a welcome. I stood talking to Pauline about how proud she must have been of Claire after all these years and whether she would miss being a players parent. She would, however she is looking forward to less stress about if her daughter would come off the pitch in one piece. 


‘ You know it is shame that your Claire is retiring, I would of loved to have had her do something for my blog’


Pauline looks at me with a glint in her eye. ‘I will make her, don’t you worry’. She turns to her daughter ‘ Claire, you will do something for her blog won’t you’. Claire nods ‘Yeah of course’. Pauline smiles’ there you go and if she doesn’t let me know and I will have words’. 

As I was grabbing my pint, I was behind Geoff who was getting his. I thought I would try my luck again. 


‘Here Geoff, I have just had Pauline convince Raff to do something for my Blog. Any chance I can ask the same of you with Kate?’. 


He nods ‘ I don’t see why not’. 

When Kate enters about 5 minutes later the request was made. I say request it was more along the lines of ‘ you will do something’. Ah parental pressure for the win. I also putting this in so I can gently nudge my two victims, I mean interviewees. ?


As we are sitting around having one last pint, Mark comes over to me looking quite nervous. 


I need a favour’ I eye at him suspiciously. ‘ I need you to go over and get Rossy’s autograph for me’ Now I am just confused.


Why can’t you do it, she is standing like right there’


Mark looks sheepish ‘ I might have accosted her after the FA Cup about some transfer rumours I had heard. So I can’t go over there’ 

‘What do you mean might have’

‘ Ok I did accost her and ask her about the transfer rumours‘. These rumours turned out to be true. Good luck at Manchester United Ross


I roll my eyes and take the pen and photo from him on the distinct understanding he owed me one.  


Hey, Jane do you mind’ I said as I proffered the photo and pen. She smiles and shakes her head and takes the pen off of me.

As she is signing, an idea comes into my head because I am mean.


Hey Rossy, you know you were my Mates favourite player at Man City, she was devastated when you left.’ Jane smiles ‘ Like really devastated, as you left on her birthday’. Rossy has the decency to look slightly embarrassed. 

Yeah sorry about that’

‘ Well funny you say that, I have a bet going with another Man City friend of mine that I can’t get a picture of you holding a sign up saying Sorry Rach, clad in your West Ham gear.’

She thinks for a moment and nods ‘ Go on then go find a bit of paper.


Well dear readers, who knew Jane Ross had such a wicked sense of humour.




With that Ed and me decided to head off back to train station and thus ended the 2018/2019 season.


It has been a whirlwind folks and I am so grateful that I have made the jump to following the claret and blue. This blog has been a lot of fun to do and I would like thank those that gave me the idea and who have been a massive support. My proof readers over the past six months in  Miller ( the Wolves fan and downright awesome, Legend, Gentleman, dude who lets me pinch his stuff- mess up his You Tube suggestions with women’s football and country music videos.) Authors note (Can you tell which on proof read this one 😉 ) and Fisch (who does not care about football at all but has been very good about learning).


 As I will be starting as I mean to go on the blogs should be much nearer to the matches rather than the monthly delay I have been doing. There will also be more video and audio content. So watch out, the adventures will only get bigger and better. 


Signing off for this season. 



Today was the day…. what all the preparation and training all season has come to, No not the girls and their final! No dear readers I am talking about me and preparing to travel on the Megabus overnight, because yes friends I was blighted by another set of engineering works. Thank you National Rail.

 As the FA in their infinite wisdom had put the last home game of the Premier league on the same day. Despite pleading with Southampton, no arrangement could be made to move the kick off time. My mother decided that she would instead come and support the girls despite previous protestations that she would go to the men’s game we had tickets for..

This was for three reasons:

One: She had not been particularly impressed with the whole layout of the London Stadium. The atmosphere nor the match itself.

Two: When were West Ham last at Wembley and when were they likely to be again? You have to take all trophy moments when they appear.

Three: I think she had developed a soft spot for our girls and actually preferred the idea of seeing them play over the boys.

Not such an early start this time as it was going to be such a late end, and with no major bank holiday traffic we were cruising with no serious issues.   Off to Wembley! But dear readers if only life was that simple; I mean I was travelling on match day with mum. On a coach, something was bound to go wrong.

Around three hours into the journey, this woman starts barreling down the aisle of the bus screaming.

’ It’s a medical emergency stop the bus, Stop the bus.’

The driver slams on his brakes,  moving over to the hard shoulder.

I have left my silver make up bag at the coach station and it has my medication in it. I need my medication. I will go into withdrawal without it. It has my methadone and morphine in it.’

Well, way to overshare lady. The whole bus shifted then. Like we weren’t meant to be listening but we couldn’t help it.

The driver tried to calm her down but to no avail. In the end he had to radio through and ask the driver of the next coach to bring it down. A long wait in Victoria was instore for this lady.
She came back up the stairs looking a little relieved.

I can’t believe I did that, that’s like the stupidest thing I have ever done.’ she says to no one in particular.

I turn to mother  ‘she is on methadone I am gonna assume there have been stupider things’

Cruel yes but it made my mother giggle.

After that little drama we were only half an hour late. Though the number of messages I had from Crick you would think it was hours.

Who keeps messaging you?’ mother laughs as I roll my eyes as my watch buzzes for what feels like the fiftieth time. Yes I have an Apple watch! I am one of those people.

“Crick, she’s bored at Wembley I think. All of her group are coming from the North so she’s on her own”. As I reply for the fiftieth time. No we are not there yet. I can’t be too mad at Crick as it turns out she was trying to surprise us and meet us off the coach. Except she couldn’t find arrivals and by the time she did we had buggered off.

After some garbled directions involving a Starbucks, a Pret and not knowing my left from my right. Crick by the grace of God finally found us. Which led to her and my mother becoming a super team, of making fun of me. I am so hard done by, you wouldn’t believe. Crick had declared herself very much team Suzanne so the teasing was relentless. Which is why I get my own back on my blog ?.

As we trotted off to Wembley,  Crick and I made a pact. That no matter who won and who lost, we could be happy for the other person and we wouldn’t gloat. I particularly emphasized to Crick if she particularly wanted my mother to continue to like her there will be no gloating.

Walking up to the stadium the atmosphere was electric and a lot more claret and blue then sky blue could be seen. This was probably due it bring local for ’us’ and there were no trains for them. Still the Cockney sparrows were in full voice and ready for battle.

My aunt and cousin had decided to see what all the fuss was about having seen my ongoing travels, I suppose also it was a chance to have a Wembley day out. They did seem a bit shell shocked to meet my other family in claret and blue.

’Allie is the quiet one in our family’ my aunt says to the motley crew I had assembled which consisted Geoff and Deb ( Kate, our number 12’s parents), Ian ( honorary Hammer, really supports Liverpool), Emma, Mark, JT ( also known as Flag man) Lucy (our newbie ) and Crick ( the interloper).

JT laughed and looked at my aunt in shock.

Her? Quiet! No chance can hear her halfway around the stadium most games

I nod my head bashfully.

’You’ve never heard me at a footie match’

As we were soaking up the atmosphere both going in, Emma dropped the bombshell that she had secured an interview with the insert team name football team, for an article in the Sun newspaper. More importantly, she wanted me to do it with her.
Despite my trepidation, it actually went really well and the actually included a lot of my nerdy knowledge on the women’s game. If you are interested you read it on the new media page on the site.

Finally, it was time to go into the stadium. The butterflies in my stomach had turned into great big birds. Sure we were the underdogs but maybe we could do something.


We started out strong as Man City with both teams on the attack from the whistle. Nikita Parris for City being the first to break forward, thankfully she did what she is prone to doing and was flagged offside. You could hear the infamous Nikita scream of frustration around the stadium.

’ oh do shut up ‘Keets, just get on with it’ Ian said rolling his eyes. He wasn’t here for Parris’s play acting.

Side Note: When it was announced that Nikita was moving to Lyon a tweet went round applauding the left backs who would no longer have to waste game time waving at her to get up. Nikita is no doubt a talented player but when she doesn’t get her own way she tends to resort to simulation.   – insert tweet link?

Side Note to the Side Note: Crick is going to kill me for that and mention all the things Alisha Lehman did in this final, but this not a Man City blog. As much I might have my sky blue family, this is adventures in CLARET AND BLUE.

We responded immediately after the Parris offside, if Jane Ross could have been touch quicker with her response to a Ria Percival cross we might have been one up. Instead, it went out of play.

Man City seemed rather sluggish this first half, their fierceness didn’t seem to be there and they were getting sloppy. We definitely tried to push forward and take advantage of this but we just couldn’t quite make it work.

The one player on their team awake was Parris who was definitely not backwards in coming forwards and was getting behind our back line far easier than I would have liked. However a bone-crunching tackle by Gilly, our captain fantastic, soon put paid to that.

It was half an hour in when we had our best chance. Erin Simon pinged a beautiful cross on the right flank, Jane Ross jumped up and executed the perfect header. We were sure it was going to go in. What we hadn’t factored in was the cat-like abilities of Karen Bardsley who pulled off the save of the game. Showing the crowd the reason why she is the England number one. (Hey Crick does that make up for the Nikita crack?).

Gilly was by far our most vital player and was running her back line with military precision, snuffing out a push on the attack from the England midfielder Jill Scott. Manchester City still weren’t showing their flare just yet and we were showing our East London grit to frustrate them.  Frustrate them we did as a few moments later, Jennifer Beattie went in for a heavy challenge to take down our number seven Alisha Lehman. Now here is some contention, my Manchester City friends say Alisha dived for it. I say have you seen the size of Jen Beattie compared our Swiss Wizard. We shall agree to disagree.

We finish the half on the an even keel with no one breaking the deadlock.



We were all a bag of nerves at half time, we had played well, better than the previous times we had played City. Silly mistakes were creeping in though, mainly that Anna would not stay on her goal line and kept dashing out.

We were sat in front of some very friendly Americans who were all kitted out in West Ham gear. Mark who will talk to anyone asked how they ended up supporting West Ham. Turns out we sat with Erin Simon’s, brother, uncle and best friend. It’s a good thing we had been very complementary about her as that could of been awkward and I have been caught out like that before.

Once on the stands at Man City, I was making a crack about Ellie Roebuck’s height and was elbowed rather viciously by Crick in the ribs. Outraged I turned to look at her with all the indignation I could muster. Like Paddington levels of a hard stare. She just rolled her eyes at me.

‘Her dad is right in front of us you prat‘ Ok she didn’t call me a prat but I do try and keep this blog vaguely PG.

At half time Ian, Mark, Emma and Lucy all went to the concessions. Ian on hunt for food, the others on the hunt for beer. Me I just sat and nursed a tension headache. This game was getting to me. It was nearer the second half and they still hadn’t returned. Not that i particularly cared I just continued to feel sick.


This part is hard to write as it is heart-breaking as a West Ham fan to write. The gang just about made it back five minutes after the whistle rang to commence the second half. We honestly went to pieces this half and Manchester City kicked their pace up and showed why they had been a force to be reckoned with all season. They may have lost their chance at the treble but they were determined to do the tournament double.

We had the first chance with Leon firing over the bar after a beautiful run down the flank by Lehman from our own half. However this was the only shot we had pretty much all half.

The first goal was conceded around the 50 min mark. Keira Walsh fired a long range shout from outside the area which evaded Anna Moorhouse’s out stretched hand.

0-1 to Manchester City.

We switched out Raff for Bri at this point, hoping the pocket rocket could launch a fire under the flagging team. Her pace seemed to confuse Manchester City and we had a decent run of possession but we couldn’t break the brick wall that was McManus, Houghton, and, Beattie. Leon again was threatening and pinged a brilliant cross into the box at 66 minutes but unfortunately no one was thereto meet it.

We then tried again to attack with pace swapping one Celtic international in Scotland’s Jane Ross with another in Ireland’s Leanne Kiernan. Brilliant play from both a little firecrackers out pacing their markers beautifully but we couldn’t quite make anything happen.

We went two nil down after the 80th minute. Georgia Stanway ( or Georgina Stanway as the announcer called her See previous blog post about standards ) belted the ball from outside the area which has now become her signature. As with Walsh’s goal there was very little Anna could have done.

The third goal, however, was definitely a keeper error. I love Anna and I do not blame her for the loss as we win as a team and we lose as a team. This on the other hand was just painful.

Lauren Hemp had come as a sub for Man City and was playing 1-2 with Beattie. Seeing the oncoming defender in Beattie, Anna rushed out to try snuff out the danger and missed. Left an open goal for Hemp to finish. Me thinks that Anna has spent a bit too much team watching Adrian our second keeper in the Men’s team and not enough time watching our Hammer of the Year Fabrianski.

That’s how it ended 3-0 and our hopes of silverware dashed. Like the song goes I am forever blowing bubbles, they reach the sky and just like my dreams they fade and die.

We as fans nonetheless did not stop cheering and chanting for our girls. We wanted them to know we loved them still, we outshouted, out sang, every other possible fan base in the stadium. As Mum said we made the final, that wasn’t in the first year game plan.

We were heading out to meet Crick who once again promised no gloating. Actually, when we did meet her she said all the right things and was quickly invited to join us for drink.

Whilst en-route to meeting the aforementioned victor, Emma decided to continue to show her dedication to the team. Continuing to yell “IRONS” at the top of her lungs, at random interludes wherever and whenever the urge took her.

My mother looked at me with concern, there were a lot of Sky Blue still kicking about and she was convinced Emma was going to get thumped.  See Mum it’s not just me that antagonises the opposition.

Mum stage whispers to me as Emma chants for what feels like the hundredth time.

where did you find her from’


’explains a lot really’

We all trooped into the fan zone for some overpriced beer and some good conversation. Well lots of winding Crick up, they may have won but she was definitely outnumbered. Still we took come some cool photos to show no hard feelings.

The bar was near where the West Ham girls were having their after game party. So we hung around hoping to commiserate with them before we sent them on their way, respectfully still showing our love.

As we were chatting a woman came up to me noticing my Raff shirt.

’ sorry for interrupting but Claire Rafferty is the bar now. You should go say hi whilst you have the chance. I mean you have her shirt.

I smile and tell I don’t want to bother her after the loss. That’s what I love about the women’s game everyone looking out for everyone to get their moment. What she didn’t know was I speak to Raff so much that she probably eye rolls when she sees me ?.

Once again I feel myself being pulled into a big bear hug. I look up and see the twinkling Irish eyes who have hugged me before. Leanne’s mum greeting me like an old friend.

We chatted briefly and again Crick got a bone-cracking hug of her own.

’ I love Leanne’s mum, she’s so lovely ’.

My mother mockingly glared at me ’ I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t introduced’


I quickly got pulled into another proactive mamma hug. This time by Pauline (Mama Raff!!) who was equally as welcoming if not more so. I did remember to introduce mum this time. So hopefully out of the doghouse.

Slowly the players came through, I got a hug of Bri and Brooke ( who made a point of coming to say hi. I felt very special.)

Raff came over and started chatting with us. Telling us how unwell she had been game. Suddenly the substitution made sense. Just as she was leaving two important moments with Raff happened.

One: As she was leaving, she made sure she said good to everyone. She hugged those of us who she knew and shook the hands of those she didn’t. Class personified! When she got to Crick she looked her up and down and turned to me.

’ what have we got here then’ looking offended at the interloper. Crick was about to explain herself. When Raff’s facade cracked and started to laugh.

’Nah I am kidding’ she said shaking Crick’s hand. ’Nice to meet you’

Two: she gave us a very important life lesson.

When you lose you booze.

Claire Rafferty England legend ladies and gentlemen!

Just before we left our captain Gilly came over to thank us for our support. She apologised for not getting us the win but told us we would come back bigger and stronger. As she was saying goodbye like Raff hugged who she knew and shook hands with those who she didn’t. Which led to my favourite moment of the night.

As she was shaking hands with Crick, she looked up and pulled her hand back and looked at the group.

what the eff is going on here then’ looking at Crick decked out in full Man City kit.

’ Nah Gill she’s good people, She’s good people  ’

She looks at me and something clicks.

oh is this your mate from the blog. Alright yeah she’s good

Crick didn’t speak for like five minutes. Her eyes wide.

Gilly Flaherty knew who I was’

’She speaks’

’Oh shut up Gilly knows who I am’

With that bombshell, we left as mother and I faced the lengthy coach home. Which I thought I was well prepared for.

What I wasn’t prepared for was my mother elbowing me in the ribs when she shifted in her sleep and being jolted down the B roads on a massive detour.

Needless to say, the Sunday was a write-off.

Next time its last game of the season, I have a mysterious benefactor, we experience all sorts of weather and Gilly makes this fans year.


Up with the larks once again, heading to the west of the country this time for the away game at Bristol City. Despite the ever looming final approaching this week was still quite important. Bristol were directly ahead of us in the table but this was their final game of the season. The official final game in May would be Bristol’s buy week due to the league being odd. If we beat Bristol today we could overtake them if we won our final game against Brighton.


I was staying with a friend who had gallantly offered to get up to see me off when I left on Sunday. This was quickly retracted when I announced that I would be getting up at 5 to be on my coach at half 6. Instead she left me with the makings a good breakfast and cup of tea to set me up on my way.  Greatly appreciated as it meant I did not have to grace Maccy’s with my presence and I could be slightly more healthy then my usual double Hash brown bagel.


I had never been to Bristol before and this trip was going to be slightly different than the others for two reasons.  One the Stoke Gifford stadium  was actually pretty easy to get to unlike the myriad of other women’s stadium. No dodgy transport systems I had to try and navigate, less chance of me getting lost. Then again this is me, with my sense of direction I could have huge neon signs lighting my path and I would still end up turning down a dark alley convinced I was going the right way.


Secondly I actually had built in some breathing space between arriving in Bristol and having to make my way to the ground so I had some time to kill to explore this new city. Guys and gals and all in between, I was actually going to see more than motorways and a non-league football ground.  :O


The coach to Bristol was quite uneventful, however I still couldn’t escape the dreaded M6 but this time when we went past the Walsall FC Bescot stadium halfway point, we were going to take a different turning which sad me was quite excited by. The route to Bristol is slightly odd in the fact once you leave Birmingham instead of jumping back on a motorway, you end up going through a lot of suburbia culminating into go through a very well to do housing estate which I am sure its wealthy residents truly appreciate. The common people traipsing through their nice neighbourhood on a bright blue bus, clutching of pearls at dawn.


Arriving in ‘Brizzle’ (seriously Bristol just no) I set about finding something to do. As I wondered around the city I came to a conclusion, in that Bristol is slightly bizarre. Not the people but the layout, there is no direct centre in Bristol like in the other cities I had been to. Birmingham has the Bullring, Reading has the shopping district. Granted all centre points were based on commerce but at least it gives you some sense of navigation. Bristol looks like a town planner got bored and decided to just randomly plot points on a map and/or the city was too polite to ask what were they thinking. A complete emperor’s new clothes scenario. Due to poor planning on my part, this meant I had to trek twice to Bristol station which is rather out of town. I am sure if you live in this great city, you learn to love it. Nonetheless dear friends it confused my poor sleep deprived brain and I just ended up wanting a sit down. Maybe this why I usually only ever see motorways and the grounds I travel to, it is all that my brain can piece together in it jumbled state. I therefore found refuge in the local greasy spoon and spent my sightseeing time nursing a veggie fry up and a good cup of builders tea. Yes I had two breakfasts don’t judge ;).


Heading back up the hill to Bristol Temple Meads, this intrepid adventurer was ready to go shout on her team in the ferocious heat. But first I had to get there. I had been informed by those who had been here before that it was impossible to get lost. That you went Bristol Parkway station turn left and just keep going. Ten minute walk at that and you would be there. Now dear readers why does my brain see that as a challenge. I managed the first two parts successfully, but I ended up walking far too far and ended up in popular supermarkets car park. For those keeping tally that is the third time this season. One intentional (Yeovil) and one was not (Everton). So two for three in me being an idiot.  In my defence the ground was hidden behind a very modern school with an even more modern sports hall. That and I got distracted by the West Ham team bus which I was sure would lead me to where I needed to be. My error was I was following the bus AFTER they had dropped the team off, I am more than a little special.


Bristol City’s ground is another little bizarre ground just like Aston Villa’s. Because they wanted it to be a an all-purpose ground for the local universities and schools it’s a hodge podge of everything. So I found myself walking on to a running track, around the temporary players tunnel trying to find some fellow Hammers. My usual gang would not be around due to various prior commitments. Most noble so I could forgive them, Ed had gone to see Millwall which I could not. Whilst on my search, I heard a shout of Hello and then a oof some little arms squeezing the life out of me. I looked down at the small blonde person in a West Ham shirt who was staring up at me. No its wasn’t Bri our number 15 (sorry Bri) but one of the twins I had met at the Birmingham game. Their dad had been kind enough to take my Ellen White photo for me and his daughters clearly remembered me from then.  Hello to you too random human. Having now found my new tribe I stood with them.


West Ham’s squad was a bit depleted, Anna Moorhouse’s suspension meant we didn’t have a spare goalie. Kate our fiery number 12 had picked up another yellow card in the Brum (Birmingham for none UK readers) game. Meaning she was now suspended for one game. To be fair that actually worked out in her favour as it meant she could join her family in cheering sister on the London marathon. ( For those interested Lauren ran it in 3 hrs and 4 mins which both phenomenal and insane.) Plus a couple of players had picked up a couple niggling injuries which Matt was keen to not aggravate. One glaring admission on the squad list was that Gilly our captain, who had so far played every minute was on the bench. My new friend turned to me with a little concern


She’s not injured is she, last thing we need before the final’


I shake my head and whisper above prying ears


‘Nah Gill is on too many yellow cards, one more and she will be suspended and that game will be the final. He is making sure she doesn’t do something daft and go after one of the Bristol forwards whilst trying to clear the ball.’


He nods and starts talking to his girls, who are really excited about maybe meeting Anna this week, who was understandably too upset last week. Anna had travelled up to help with Becky’s warm up and gladly came over to talk to the excited eight year olds next to me.  As she was signing their stuff I took the opportunity to ask the question we had all been wondering.


‘Here Anna, any word on the ban’ She looks up and smiles ‘ Just the one’ The silent end of that sentence for us both was thank god. The little ones seemed excited too as they told her that meant she would definitely be in the final. Anna laughed and said only if she was picked by Matt but the small humans were convinced there was no other choice.


The twins were also excited to see Raff and squealed when she waved back. She then sees me and waves at me too, I manage to hold back the squeal. Raff looked up at me again and asked if I knew the Chelsea score. The former champions were playing Lyon in the champions league. Once a blue eh Raff. She asked me to keep her updated at half time. I indicated I would and she ran off down the tunnel to get ready. I suddenly felt very hot, like I was being watched. I look down and see two sets very intent eyes staring back at me. Mouths agape.

What do you want small humans? ( Comment from the proof reader, Small humans – and you stand how tall?. A lofty 163 cm which is 5ft 4 in old money I will have you know.)


Their dad laughed and told me they were in awe at the normalcy of my conversation with Raff. Well kids players are people too, speaking of said players were coming out the tunnel/ gate thing and away we go.




We have a small squad size, see above about the depletion, so when we have one commanding person missing you feel it. When we have a few missing, it’s like we are different squad. Having both Gilly and Kate out, and Anna not controlling the back line we felt a little rudderless, toothless even . Jane Ross had been designated captain for this game in Gilly’s absence but even though she is a passionate player she is very quiet. The same goes for Becky, who whilst an excellent goalkeeper isn’t as vocal at where she needs her players which can lead to miscommunication and preventable errors.  One breath of fresh air to hear was Ria Percival, our number two on the wing take charge. Another player who can silent but deadly, really showed why she is one of New Zealand’s national team stalwarts in this game.


One benefit if you will of how Bristol City have their pitch set up is you are VERY close the pitch and you can hear every conversation the players are having. Bristol’s number 10 was getting very aggravated with the defensive game we seemed to have found ourselves in. After another ball went out for a throw in she vented this frustration vocally by uttering the F word quite loudly.


The two little girls next to me seemed rather scandalised and turned to their dad with pure shock on their faces.


Dad she said the F word’

Their dad laughed ‘ Yeah she said football, that’s all loves. She said football.’

The blonde one of the two looked at her dad incredulously ‘She did not’ 


We did seem to run the game this half, despite who and what we were lacking. Both Ria and Dri Leon, our Canadian hero made fine work of ruling the wing. We also had the fire power of Raff and Brooke our number four to help Becky out in our defensive half. Up front we did have some chances but Sophie Baggley, Bristol’s goal keeper was very quick to snuff them out. Sophie has had a blinder of a season for Bristol and has managed to keep clean sheets against some of the big boys including holding Manchester City to two draws which some argue cost them the title.  Kiernan and Visalli both were trying a few tricks and flicks in the midfield but Bristol had a slight height advantage and they couldn’t quite play Rossy through. Overall it was a rather frustrating half. You can see that Gilly was itching to get in there but you could also see that Matt had no intention of risking it.




Raff came running over to check the Chelsea score and gave me a hug as thanks. I spent this half talking to my new friend about his love for West Ham and how he was trying to instill this into his kids. It reminded me so much of mum trying to do this with me and I felt a small pang of nostalgia. I also pitied the youngsters who didn’t realise the years of suffering they were about to endure. Being a West Ham fan is not for the faint hearted.




I didn’t need to tell Raff the end result as the look on her face told me she had seen that Chelsea had been narrowly beaten by Lyon and were not making the final. We slowly took to the field and prepared to do battle once again. We fought hard right off the bat but we were still being sloppy. Thank god for for Bri who managed to fend off the advancing Bristol forwards. As with most West Ham games it is always the chances we couldn’t quite put away that punish us the most. To quote the comedy legend Jaspar Carrott ‘ if it had gone in the back of the net it would have been a goal. 


Around the 55 minute mark Bristol brought on Heather Payne who made an almost instantaneous impact. Moving forward at pace she managed to slip around Becky and shoot home. Conflicting reports about who the goal should be attributed to. Whether it was all on Payne or if it was nudged in accidentally by Raff. Either way we were on the back foot.


1-0 to the Vixens.


The wind was taken out of our sails for the next ten minutes with our midfield doing damage control, from a revived Bristol squad. Thankfully we managed to pull ourselves together and five minutes later we had our equaliser. Brianna punted a ball up field and found  Alisha Lehman. The Swiss international tried to turn a shot off but was blocked by Baggley, she then found Leanne with the rebound whose first shot was blocked but second times the charm and slipped through with a close range shot from the centre of the box.


1-1 and we were back in the game.


We fought hard then seemingly buoyed by the this sudden turn of fortune and we kept pushing for the win. With Jane Ross hitting a shot just wide over the top cross bar we were getting close.


Just before the end of the normal time, Brianna pinged a cross in from the left flank. Captain for the day Jane Ross leapt high and headed the ball into the top right corner. Bristol looked devastated but we had just clinched the double over them.


1-2 to the girls in claret and blue.


That’s how it ended a victory which will fill us with hope for the cup final.


After the match me and my new found friends waited to clap our players off. Raff came over and gave the girls a high five which I think probably made their year. Raff did not seem impressed with the quality West Ham had shown in game, being very critical of their performance.  However not all victories are beautiful, some are hard fought, ground out and ugly. A victory is a victory is a victory.


Brooke and Bri came and spoke to us and I had a quick chat with them both. Brooke bee-lining for me and giving me a bear hug telling me she knew who I was as I was there week in and week out. I nod, yup that’s me.


Are your parents coming over for the final’. Brooke nodded ‘ I think they booked flights as soon as Cho’s penalty went in. I smile remembering how infectious their enthusiasm.

I sat with them at Reading, they are very proud of you’. Brooke looked slightly horrified, ‘ I am so sorry you had to go through that.


After her substitutes warm down Gilly came over and chatted about the upcoming final. Suddenly one of the little girls tugged on Gilly’s sleeve.


Gilly can I ask you a question’ 


Gilly looks down and smiles ‘ Of course you can mate.


Why do you keep getting Yellow cards’ 


Me and their dad shared a look, turns out little ears were listening to our conversation.


Bless Gilly she took it in her stride.‘ You know why because Refs are silly that’s why‘. Cheers for that Gil


Our final conversation was with Jane Ross who seemed engrossed in conversation with her Scottish team mate. A few failed attempts to get her attention needed when the two twins screamed for her to come over. Note to self if you want to talk to more players have two cute kids with you, works like a charm.



Just as I was leaving I ran back into Leanne’s mum and had a wonderful catch up. I loved hearing how much Leanne was enjoying her time with us and that was considering herself a Hammer now, also her friendship with Kate which was making her mother beam with pride.


With that I bid everyone adieu as I tried to not get lost again back to the station to make my way home. I just about managed it ;).


Next time it Final time, we had to Wembley we have an interloper in our midst and our captain renders Crick speechless.

It’s a West Ham weekend folks. As well as Easter which means only one thing… (no not chocolate, well it might) I was talking about something more quintessentially Easter in the UK, engineering works on major national rail routes. Yay, so Megabus it is.

A blistering early start on Easter Saturday, this time joined by mum and dad. The power of football eh! The coach was insanely packed, the world and his wife having to use them since national rail’s impeccable timing. When you have been on as many coaches as I have in the last few months, you realise it takes a special breed to stomach the four and bit hour journey. Mostly it’s broke students and large families who have afford the more effective and more socially timed transport options, there are also the odd ducklings that make you go huh.

On this coach we were graced with one such duckling; Who firstly almost killed the coach handler with her HUGE suitcase, then fell asleep and started snoring VERY loudly. Finally, she almost got left at Watford Gap services when she ignored the drivers instructions that it was a driver change only, off she toddled into the service station. If it hadn’t been for us passengers she might still be there. It takes all kinds in this world.

For once there was no traffic in London and we actually made it on time. We could take a leisurely wander to Stratford for the West Ham men’s game. It was mummy dearest’s first time in the new ground, so she was more excited for that half of the weekend. Don’t worry fearless readers that opinion has since changed. (Father stayed in Ilford)

I on the other hand, was more excited for the Sunday fixture. Obviously. Well, to be honest, I was more excited about seeing the opposition number 9. Our opponents this Easter weekend were Birmingham City so it was a chance to see Ellen White play, although I got in serious trouble the last time I saw her play at club level. More on that later though, as I suppose I should talk about Saturday as I did bill this post as a West Ham double.

Olympic park still doesn’t feel like home to me. It doesn’t have the bite that Upton park once had. It doesn’t roar, make your heart sing, or strike fear into the soul of opposing teams. We did however at this game unveil our new carpet surround. Tottenham may have the Champions League, Arsenal might have the Europa League.  But we have carpet, claret and blue carpet I don’t think you understand.

Though it is always good to see the boys play live, as we so infrequently get the opportunity but it’s just all a bit soulless. I mean I know it’s for growth but who we kidding we are West Ham! We wouldn’t know what to do with European football. Christ, we got into the Europa pre-qualifying rounds one season due to the fair play rule, scuppered our preseason so bad that the following season we had one of highest foul rates so that never happened again. On a sort of related note, I don’t half miss James Tomkins, hell of a defender.

 I am confident Wolves will do better next season with 3 possible qualify rounds in July to make the Europa league proper. Did I mention my proof reader and lender of the laptop is a Wolves fan? He pays me to let him put in his witty comments, by pay I mean he doesn’t bitch when I bogart his laptop for blogging purposes.

I am not going to do a match review of the Leicester game if you want to know what happened there are numerous newspaper articles telling you. INSERT RANDOM ONE HERE.

Coming away from the match mum turns to me and echoes what I have been saying. The game itself was fun, however she did not like the London Stadium. I suppose if you there week in, week out you get used to it. Not for me I’m afraid.
After a very long journey back to Ilford which involved a TWENTY-FIVE MINUTE queue to get out of the bus station which meant the bus ran over time and had to turf us off in Manor Park. Seriously Stratford bus station has no system for buses at all, I have seen more order at a five year olds birthday party.

Back in Ilford we catch back up with Father dearest who had taken the opportunity to return to his East London roots. Nothing too sentimental just a trip to a Pie and Mash shop, where he tried to convince he had only had one pie one mash not his standard two. He would of got away with it to, if he hadn’t posted a picture on Facebook. Sorry dad not buying the I used a stock photo excuse.

Now the rest of us needed feeding so we braved Ilford high street. Which is an interesting if not overwhelming experience. If Ed thought Barking was bad, may he never grace Ilford on a Saturday.  Suitably scarred by the experience we scuttled back to our hotel.

The following day was equally scorching and the merry band of Cokers head over to Romford. We had a lot of time to kill and on Easter Sunday, there was very little to do to kill said time. After marvelling how much it had changed since we left which took all of five minutes we had to think of something else to do.  As we were deciding our fate for the next couple of hours. I saw a familiar face walking towards me carrying a well-known Seattle coffee chain cup. It did take me a minute but she recognised me right away.

Hello trouble’ she smiled
’Hi guys’ the California drawl very out of place in the Essex market town and pulled me into a bear hug. ’ are you down for the game
It was our number 15 clearly getting a last-minute caffeine boost before the game.
I nod and point to the fact I am in fact wearing her shirt.

’ Excellent choice’ she laughs. We chat briefly before we continue on our separate ways. Now how often does that happen? That not only do you see one of your team, they actually stop and recognise you. Bri had however given us the inspiration of what to do next, we agreed to go get a caffeine boost of our own.

We still didn’t kill that much time and ended up getting to Rush Green early. First one’s in the gate, which meant my dad got to meet the ambiguous staff member who we all know and love. After a bit of gentle teasing of each other, they both started on me. Great it’s like having two dads exactly what I wanted. ?

However one exciting piece of news was my mother has decided to become a season ticket holder next season. This is great for many reasons; One it means that I will actually have company on the road. Two and most importantly I will have someone to share my witty repertoire with rather than just in my head. I dunno if you quite know what you are in for mother.

It was absolutely sweltering out so my parents went to find the only pieces of shelter there is at Rush Green. I, the numpty, decided to stay outside with my West Ham family in the crazy heat. As we were so early they hadn’t even announced the squad list. Still hoping Birmingham’s number nine was going to get a look in. Though I had no idea if she was even here. Furiously checking twitter to see if anything had been released, not looking where I was going I bumped into a very tall man.
’Sorry mate’ 
’it’s alright’
Not a very interesting exchange I hear you cry. Well when I finally looked up from my phone I recognised the man I had walked into was Ellen White’s husband. Good sign that she’s here then.
At this thrilling interlude, it is a good time as any to you the story of how Ellen White once got me in trouble.

Back when I was following Man City as I am doing with the Hammers I followed them home and away. One fairly easy away day is Birmingham City. A team that season Man City played twice in a very short period. Having beat them in the FA Cup match fairly comfortably surely City could do the same in the league game.

Two important things happened at this game;

One: it’s the game that I have been mistaken for the youngest I have been mistake which was 11.  Upside to that I got in for free on their sister club program, the downside I was 26 at the time.
Two: Man City did not win thanks to two beauties scored by the aforementioned number 9. Both absolute screamers from outside the box which floated over Ellie Robuck’s head. I couldn’t help myself, after all Ellen is my favourite. I cheered for both goals which were against the team I was actually supporting. To say the atmosphere on the journey home was frosty was an understatement.  What can I say they were good goals!
SIDE NOTE: I told this story to Gilly once who told me in no uncertain I was definitely not to do it as this game. Wouldn’t dream of it Gill, my love of West Ham our strips my love of Ellen. Just ?.

We now go back to our scheduled programming of the game in hand. Everyone looks like they are suffering from heat exhaustion already but kick off is ago. ( this match report will be interrupted by guest appearances as I ended up talking to interesting people during the game.)


I don’t know if it was the heat was getting to West Ham but they were acting very cagey towards the Birmingham forwards. Within the first ten minutes, they had a shot from outside the area which thankfully Gilly, captain fantastic herself, managed to turn out of play. The resulting corner wasn’t dealt with fantastically with Moorhouse out of position, the ball fell to Claire Rafferty to punt it up field off the line.

That seemed to wake us up and for the next fifteen minutes it was an even match of end to end football, neither side making use of their chances.


We interrupt this fascinating report of the game to bring you this special bulletin. Well we don’t but it was at the point I spoke to my first special guest. We could see someone in a Birmingham City tracksuit walking around the pitch.

I turn to Mark who was standing beside me.

is that Rach Williams coming around.’
We both try and do the I am not staring but I totally am.

yup definitely Rach’  

Rachel Williams is a former England and current Birmingham City legend, with brief spells at Chelsea and the now defunct Nott’s County. Probably best known for her friendship with Laura Bassett and for being a fearsome forward.  However her season this year was cut short in a pre-season friendly when she tore her ACL. Having gone for a loose ball she overstretched, when she went to stand up she twisted her knee and something pinged. The something turned out to be the ACL.

She came over and chatted with us about her frustration at not being able to play and slow pace her recovery was taking. We briefly chatted about previous Birmingham manager Marc Skinner and his transfer to the United states as the new Orlando Pride coach. Marc it seems was well loved among the Birmingham girls and they were sad to see him go. Not the longest chat but I can confirm Rachel is super lovely.


Our breakthrough came around 25 minutes into the first half. Kate Longhurst who was celebrating 100 appearances in the WSL pinged the ball across from the left flank, dipping perfectly for an aerial overhead kick by West Ham’s Canadian superstar Adriana Leon left of centre past Hannah Hampton’s outstretched hand.  One of the best goals all season and we were on the up.

1-0 to the Hammers.

Our luck seemed to be on the up,  we had more possession, more shots which we couldn’t quite put in the back of the net. A lovely run by our Number 8 Leanne slipped the ball past the Birmingham defence to Brianna our number 15, but she couldn’t quite pull the shot off.  We were however snuffing any potential danger out quickly and even Ellen White’s energy seemed to be nullified.

Somehow we a had however angered the footballing gods and just before half time they began their retribution. A split second of madness changed the entire course of the game.
After a fleeting pause to deal with an injury to the Birmingham goalkeeper, they surged forward.. Moorhouse charged forward to stop the shot and caught the ball. Outside the area! By the look on her face Anna knew she had messed up.


We were down to ten and we had to regroup and bring on Becky Spencer, off came Brianna and on came our number one. The entire of ground seemed to be in shock.  We couldn’t quite believe what had happened to get a Red Card in the Women’s game is rare.  I mean Drew Spence has broken a few limbs and has only ever received a yellow as the highest punishment this season.  As a fans it was like we had one collective thought what does this mean for FA Cup final? Becky is a cracking goalkeeper but Anna had pulled off some insane saves and had played every round so far.

The resulting free kick for Birmingham was at close range on the right hand side. Hayley Ladd stepped up and a simple swooping strike eluded Becky and we were back on level pegging.



There was only one topic of conversation with my West Ham crew, what does this mean for our final? All of us were furiously googling for previous incidents to give us an idea of punishment.  Nothing was conclusive at all varying opinions and stories and rulings just added more to the confused soup of our conversations, my parents came and joined us in the heat to add to our discussion. I know its only football but it felt very life or death. Just before the teams came back out, the officials came out to do a last minute warm up. The referee in question came over to stretch and Geoff took it upon himself to be our spokesman.

Here mate, you know…

The Ref looked up with a weary look on his face.

‘Are you asking me about the length of her ban, I have no idea what it’s going to be’

My mother was fuming at that response.

‘How can he be so irresponsible and dish out a card and not know the consequences’. We had no response for her. What it boiled down to was the reason the referee put down for the card. If he said it was a professional foul then it was one game which be Bristol the following week. However if it was the deliberate act of stopping a goal scoring opportunity then that was a three game ban and Anna’s season would come to a premature end. We were once again at the mercy of the man in black. ( No not Johnny Cash )


Our team dynamic was completely thrown off, we didn’t seem to know how to adapt our formation at first and it took a lot of quick thinking from Gilly, Brooke our number four and Raff to keep the game on an even keel. For the first 10 mins Birmingham had the lion shares of possession and it was a case of putting out fires rather than starting any sparks of our own. Hayley Ladd, Chloe Arthur and of course Ellen White were looking to punish us and capture on the golden opportunity they had been gifted.


This is now a good moment folks to talk about the other special guest that we spoke to on the terraces. A rather friendly man came over to talk to Mark, who has followed the national team for years and seems to know EVERYBODY. They chatted for  a while before he introduced us to Jon who seemed to know a lot about the England set up and some of the Lionesses. Jon was excited to go to France even though it’s not guaranteed.

Though based on her current performance, we should be well on the way’. He then shook our hands and went on his merry way. I look at Mark confused -my face saying the who the hell was that? Mark laughed.

That’s Jon White, Ellen’s dad’. Well there you go folks. You meet all sorts watching the women’s game.


We seemed to get it together for the majority of the second half, frustrating the Birmingham forwards. In Ellen’s case quite audibly when she got flagged for handling the ball. She uttered a very loud COME ON !!! Which echoed around Rush Green which made us laugh from our end.  We held on until the 75 minute when Chloe Arthur capitalised on an error by Becky Spencer and smashed home a shot at close range into the top right hand corner.

1-2 to the Blues.

Despite our best efforts that is how the game ended. Anna’s sending off through us out of shape and we never quite recovered. The other significant event was Kate Longhurst picked up another yellow card  which meant she was suspended for the Bristol Game.  Which is better than the final and it meant she go watch her sister run the London Marathon so a win win I suppose.

After the game I made a beeline for the players tunnel, this time not to talk to our girls. I had been saying all game that I wanted a picture with Ellen whilst I was in a West Ham shirt.  While I was waiting I ended up speaking to more West Ham fans and managed to bargain the use of my Sharpie if they took my photo for me, after a while of waiting in trooped Ellen looking slightly weary.

‘Hey Ellen, Do you mind a quick photo even though I am oppo’

She laughed ‘ Yeah, your West Ham you’re alright’ We had a brief chat how I planned on getting her name on the back of my England shirt and we took quite a nice picture.

Once this was done I went and found my parents who were panicking we would not make out coach, I was quietly confident that we will be fine. As we have learnt dear readers I am not good at my directions and I was very wrong. So we had a backup plan of going through Marylebone to Birmingham and then back to Manchester that way. At an eye watering £44.00 each! So that Ellen White selfie cost us £132  as a family, I am sorry that happened however Mum and Dad I would do it all again and regret nothing ?.

Next time it’s up at the crack of dawn to Bristol, where I watch the match on running track, I get to actually explore the city I am visiting  and find out important things about our Captain fantastic.


Remember, all that time ago when we played Reading away. How I was grateful that it was in Reading and not their usual home ground. Guess who jinxed themselves and now had to try and get to High Wycombe?

West Ham had got the draw we had all wanted. Reading was never going to easy by any means but we had set the precedent of beating them before. On the other hand, the magic of the FA Cup could prevail.

An even earlier start for me and I was up and out the door by half 5. Quick pit stop for the traditional Maccys breakfast and I was ready to begin my day. The day was definitely going to be a case of planes, trains, and, automobiles to get to the home of Wycombe Wanderers.
First up a coach to Birmingham ( here’s hoping it’s more successful than last time). Then a quick sprint to Moor Street to make the connecting train.

Luckily as it was not St. Patrick’s day we actually made into Birmingham early which meant I could get an early train. This gave me time to catch up on the twitter drama of the morning.

Our game was the early kick off with the Manchester City v Chelsea game on at 3 pm.  A careless BBC pundit had made the statement that whilst admiral that both Reading and West Ham have made a semi-final. The ‘Real’ final would be the match at 3 pm. This, as you can expect, did not go down very well with our lot. Especially Raff who had to go to Twitter to vent her frustrations.

This kind of thinking is something I am very passionate about. In fact, I have written a whole blog post about it. (insert link) But in summary, it’s becoming very clear that in media circles unless you are ‘top three’ nobody cares. Which was evident during the Lionesses half time show. A 3-minute feature on the Manchester City/ Chelsea semifinal match with Jill Scott and Keira Walsh. We got to learn all about what they thought of Jill scoring against them and what Steph Houghton’s ownership of the captaincy has spurred them on. Riveting stuff ?.
But Hammers and Royals fans do not fret, we were not forgotten. Thanks, Gabby Logan for 30 seconds of remembering there was another match the same day. You know the earlier one which had been shoved on the red button. Tell you what for viewing figures we will call the Manchester City/ Chelsea game a tie and they can just replay that one at Wembley. Since that’s the match everyone wants to see. Insert eye roll.

SIDENOTE: It was pointed out to me that this feature was done as there were only players from the second semi-final in the England squad. Pretty sure Jade Moore was playing and also even more sure she plays at Reading. ?‍♀️

One positive from Raff’s tweet is it seemed to unite fans of the four teams. All acknowledging it wasn’t fair, hopefully, the BBC and other media outlets take note.

Thanks to Megabus and Chilterns punctuality and eagerness, I arrived into High Wycombe with plenty of time to spare. Having only seen the ‘Spoons on my previous visit I took the time to explore as I had half an hour to kill till the next the bus. I always thought Wycombe was fancy. Turns out it’s a real student town with newsagents selling Glenn’s vodka for 6 quid and four pizza places within a 3-minute walk of each other.
It does, however, have a really nice Starbucks with overly friendly staff who were far too perky to someone who had been up since 4 am.

Now fully caffeinated and only slightly jittery I made my way to get my bus. There were a few Hammers waiting as well and we all piled on together. Conversation turned to what fans would do if we got to the final as it clashes with the final home game of the Men’s season.
I can’t believe this is actually a dilemma for some people. Gee let me think, watch us play for nothing against a relegation addled Southampton in a bog standard league match Or go to a Wembley final? Not Hard.

As we approach the ground we reach my first issue of the day. Spoiler Alert there would be many. I had pre-booked my ticket to make sure I could get in. West Ham dutifully sent me a ticket envelope, all nice and printed. However, inside there was an address ticket and nothing else. Typical West Ham ?. So I had to find a kindly steward to let me in.

This was easier said than done. Sure the stewards were very kind and very helpful. Expect none of them knew what I was supposed to do. I was sent from pillar to post, ticket office to reception. I just wanted in!!
Finally, a ticket office clerk took pity on this very put out and flustered West Ham fan and let me in with proof of purchase. I was however in the wrong end. I could see the Claret and Blue army and they were down the bottom.  So off I trot to my people.

’ you can’t go down there, its for prepaid only’ a voice called after me. A less than friendly Reading steward.

No I am prepaid, I just had ticket issues’

prepaid only, you can so sit in the neutral end over there with the day tickets.

Ok two problems with that.

One: I am pre-paid so I should be with the West Ham lot.

Two: this neutral end has A LOT of Reading fans in it. Yeah that weren’t happening.

When she was distracted by another fan, I bombed it passed her. This happened once more when Emma arrived late and couldn’t get down to our end. Again the old bait and switch, when the steward was distracted.
My mother who is an ex-football steward was not impressed with my antics when I relayed this story. Sorry, I understand respect the law of the stewards but mother needs must.

Finally in the right end I meet up with the West Ham gang including about 10 members of the Longhurst family. 800 strong in the Claret and Blue end. Ready to cheer our little hearts out. The nerves were definitely kicking in.


Reading were hungry for the game from the offset. Fara Williams shot a somewhat ambitious ball from outside the box within the first 15 mins. Thankfully this was comfortably saved by Anna. Another Reading push for goal thankfully snuffed out by a great challenge by Claire Rafferty.

This seemed to wake us up and we started to have the lions share of possession. A very ambitious overhead kick from Brooke Hendrix in the box didn’t quite pay off, almost Brooke you could have been our Pele. Then 5 minutes later Leanne cut back behind the Reading defence but her effort was blocked by the last remaining defender.

The last chance of the half was ours with Gilly hitting the crossbar with a thundering bullet at pace.

We end the half 0-0


The main topic of conversation was definitely the referee at half time. Firstly I would like to say I know who would be a referee. They can’t do right for doing wrong. However, this one was dire. Every little flinch a Reading player tried to sell he bought which ended up in a lot of free kicks for them. In very dangerous places. Keep the Ref issues in mind folks as they will resurface later in this post.


I wanted us to come out this half all guns blazing. Instead it was Reading who lept out the gates first. A cross came to Rachel Furness whose header smashed into the top right corner.

0-1 to the Royals.

Credit to West Ham fans though as we didn’t stop singing, chanting or cheering. But you hear the bite of nerves with it. 40 mins to turn it around.

Beardy had brought Brianna Visalli on, a move welcomed by most West Ham fans. Pacy in midfield she was turning most of the Reading players over, getting into pockets of space which seemed impossible to the mere mortal.

Come the 60 minute mark it proved the right decision. Failure to clear from the Reading defenders meant the ball fell to Bri’s feet. Unable to get the shot off her self, she managed a quick pass to Lehman who toe-poked the ball into the bottom right corner. To be honest the goalkeeper should of got to it, but Reading’s misfortune was our favour. Our stand erupted.

1-1 Game on. GAME ALL THE WAY ON.

The joyful feeling didn’t last very long. Gilly our fearless leader was deemed to have handled the ball in the area and Reading got a penalty. With Fara Williams stepping up this was not going to be pretty. Fara doesn’t miss penalties, Fara doesn’t miss…  and its hit the left hand post. The rebound quickly cleared by our defence. Still 1-1! I think my heart stopped beating for a few moments.

Both sides tried to push for the winner but it proved a more challenging task then first anticipated.

It was scrappy but it was looking more and more like this game was going to extra time.  Jane Ross’s header couldn’t quite connect with the ball properly and it went wide.

Just before the whistle, Kate Longhurst goes down with an abominable tackle by Jade Moore. Yellow for Moore and the sidelines for Kate for treatment. There is something painful in watching a player go down, something even more painful watching with said players family. According to Raff the first thing Kate said was she could not miss the final, of that she was determined.  Luckily Kate dusted herself off and got back into it. I am sure Geoff would say she gets her resilience from him.

6 minutes of injury time and still no team could find the decisive winner. Fara gets the ball and its just her and Moorehouse. We are gonna concede here I feel it. Some call it pessimism, I call it being a West Ham fan.  No Fara shoots wide!  Extra time was beckoning. It’s a miracle I had any finger nails left.


As throughout the game Reading had the most chances, so they  take hold of the game. The players look furious with themselves mostly not putting it to bed earlier. Lauren Burton this time on the attack, in the box and dummy passes to, well no one and it goes out for West Ham throw.

Brianna takes hold of the ball and shoots but it amounts to nothing. Both teams are desperate to avoid penalties. It’s getting heated and short tempered.  If I am honest Reading had the better chances. They also had the better penalty shout with Raff clattering into Jo Potter with a kick to the face, totally accidental but Jo is now out for the rest season with a facial fracture. Later tweeting she has had to have a metal plate implanted in her orbital bone.

Sidenote: When I told this story to one of my Man City friends Pete , he looked shocked it hadn’t been Kate. See Ms Longhurst your reputation precedes you. I blame your father ;).

Gemma Davidson has been subbed on for Reading and West Ham fans groan.

’Gemma Davidson is not a player you want coming on with fresh legs at this stage’ Emma sighed and we all nodded in agreement.

Case and point said player smashes the ball at Anna who makes a heart-stopping save. The resulting corner gets swung in. Looks like a Reading head got a touch to it but it’s CLEARED OFF THE LINE. Thank God Raff was in the right place at the right time.


The tension at Adams Park is palpable. We have 15 mins to avoid the dreaded penalty shootout. We all can’t really talk we just look at each other. It shouldn’t matter this much, its just a game of football but it really really does.


If the game was hot-headed before this half was positively volcanic. Both sides did not want to go to penalties. Every decision was contested every minor infraction blew up. Players were tired and tempers were fraying. Leon wins a free kick in a pivotal area but tiredness wins out and she skies it.
The main fight seems to be in the midfield with players flying in all directions.

Three minutes from time, Reading make a break for it. Sprinting down the wing they aim one on one with the keeper. Out of nowhere Gilly flies into the box and slides into the Reading player. It’s not a good tackle, its a one leg out trip them up tackle. The ball trickles out of play. It’s a penalty, we all know its a penalty the look of horror on Gilly’s face says she knows its a penalty. Anna steels herself knowing it’s a penalty. You know who doesn’t know its a penalty. The referee who signals for a goal kick having deemed Gilly to have not touched it. The relief clearly runs across Gilly’s face. An expression that says, got away with that one. Remember when I said about bad reffing decisions. I will take that one.

Brianna gets the last touch of the game and it does straight to the Reading keeper Grace Maloney.

The whistle blows and the ground goes eerie. Penalties it is. Our stomachs drop, this not the way to go out.
Some of our group had to go, with transport connections to make. Technically I did too but I couldn’t leave now.


Reading are first up. Having subbed off Fara in the extra time it will be interesting who is in their line.

Gemma Davidson steps up, no hesitation bottom left corner.

Reading ✅
West Ham

Next up is Jane Ross for West Ham. Again no hesitation bang top right-hand corner.

West Ham ✅

Second pen Honnudottir misses, skying the ball into the row z of the stand.  West Ham should capitalise on this.

Reading ✅❌
West Ham ✅

Visalli up next and she miss kicked and it was an easy save for Moloney

Reading ✅❌
West Ham ✅❌

Third pen
Lauren Bruton steps up to take her pen and slips over in her run-up. Her effort trickles to Moorhouse who gathers with ease.

Reading ✅❌❌
West Ham ✅❌

Adriana Leon hits low and the ball skips past Moloney. West Ham LEAD.

Reading ✅❌❌
West Ham ✅❌✅

Fourth penalty. The pressure is on Reading to score. Rachel Furness strolls up and shoots low and right. Just out of Anna’s reach and we are back level.

Reading ✅❌❌✅
West Ham ✅❌✅

Kate steps and we all take a deep breath. She looks like she is about to bury right but changes her mind and goes central. Moloney senses the shift and its an easy save. West Ham lose the advantage. If you think it’s hard watching your team taking penalties, again try watching it with one of the player’s families and they miss.

’that’s it I am never going to one of her games again’ Lauren Kate’s sister declares. Me and Geoff share a look and I feel sick again.

Reading ✅❌❌✅
West Ham ✅❌✅❌

Fifth penalty: after this its sudden death.

Up comes Remy Allen, a fearsome player who once told my mate to eff off when disagreed with a foul call.
Good run up and bangs it home in the left hand corner of the net. Reading lead again.

Reading ✅❌❌✅✅
West Ham ✅❌✅❌

It’s all down to captain fantastic Gilly to keep us in the game. Deep breath and places the ball on the spot. Bang bottom right-hand corner, no messing about. Sudden Death it is.

Reading ✅❌❌✅✅
West Ham ✅❌✅❌✅

Sixth penalty and Reading choose their captain Jade Moore. Pretty consistent player who has just been recalled to England. She goes left but so does Anna and with a diving save pushes the ball out. It’s not a great penalty but also what a great save. We could actually do this.

Reading ✅❌❌✅✅❌
West Ham ✅❌✅❌✅

Cho, the South Korean captain is up. The smile on her face shows she knows what to do. We all hold our breath. I can’t look my face buried into Emma’s shoulder. Ball down and BANG top left corner past the keeper. We have done it. We have only gone and bloody done it.

Reading ✅❌❌✅✅❌
West Ham ✅❌✅❌✅✅

The roar from both the players and the fans is deafening. I look at Geoff again and we both are crying. Not for long as Emma grabs me into a bear hug.

’ we are going to Wembley we are actually going to Wembley

The players all run to Cho expect for Kate who runs towards us. Clearly feeling the same emotion as her dad.  Us fans haven’t stopped singing, cheering and chanting. I think the shock hasn’t sunk in yet. The Reading players look devastated as this was closest they had come in a long time.

West Ham make their way over to us all. To celebrate with us. We reward them with a deafening rendition of blowing bubbles and Que Sera Sera. Anna celebrates by picking up Bri and practically throwing her in the air. Poor Bri they do pick on her due to her size. She did, however, prove she knew the words to bubbles. See interview 

Making my way down to the hoardings, I was treated to warm welcome by Pauline aka Mrs. Raff. Both of us in a state of disbelief at what had happened. Raff soon joined us to celebrate, her sister Charlotte was winding her up about not taking a penalty.

’hey I volunteered to go sixth’ Raff said indignantly then grinned ’ but I also said who wants to go before I am willing to step back.

Side note: when relaying this story to Gilly, she burst out laughing.

’Mate, Raff put herself like 11th. I think even Anna was before her in the lineup. ’ oh Raff those are some demons you need to exorcise .

Mrs. Raff was more concerned about the fact I did not have a way to go home since I had no chance of getting my coach. Meh, I will figure something when I get Brum. I managed to grab Kate and Bri both so excited and hugged me as soon as they saw me. Both lamented on the missed penalties but you couldn’t shake the pride beaming from them. Though Bri was slightly concerned at again I had no way of getting home.

you need to learn to drive, save you all sorts of bother.’ I would but trust me Bri I would be a menace on the road.

As I was making my way to see Gill, I felt myself get pulled into the biggest hug. Alarmed I looked up and did not recognise the woman hugging me. Ah well, this is awkward. That was until she spoke.

’ we did it, we actually did it, they are going to final’ she said hugging me tighter, with the thickest Irish accent. Oh she was Leanne, our number 8’s, mother. I don’t know if she thought I was her daughter’s teammate, had seen me about around the ground or was just overcome with emotion. But I will take it, I needed the hug.

Bear hugging our skipper as words would not come out. Standing with Gilly’s dad, you could feel the pride radiate out. He was also was very concerned with getting into hospitality.

Just go to reception and tell them you’re West Ham and they will let you in. A life long Millwall fan he looked horrified at the thought.

I will not’ and he skulked off to find a different way in.

Finally, we took pity on the stewards and left with the lofty dreams of Wembley. My mother who had been watching from home texted me asking of she could come to the final. Mum was actually going forgo a West Ham men’s match in order to come to our final. Progress I feel has been made.

Still the question begged how was I going to get home. Thankfully, Cross Country have had the wonderful marketing ploy of making their advance tickets available up until 20 mins before the train was due to leave. So I just had to wait at Birmingham new street until a cheap one emerged. With a beer and pasta, I was living life.

Finally, I was on my way to the land of nod with the dreams of Wembley filling my head.

Also, for those who might be interested, the ’final’ semi-final ended in a 1-0 win for Manchester City after an last minute own goal from Chelsea. So we clearly had the more interesting game. Ah well.

Next time its heart vs well heart as I need to decide how much I actually like Ellen White and I have a very pricey selfie.