Chelsea was going to be a big one. With our goalkeeper, left back, and captain having all signed from Chelsea certain scores were bound to be settled. Additionally, with our number seven in a very serious relationship with their twenty-three, things were about to become interesting. 

For once I didn’t have a 5 am start as I had managed to sweet talk Emma into giving me a lift. Foolishly she had let slip that she was at a house party In Manchester the night before and might be driving down to the game on Sunday, I took that might and turned it into a definite I mean how can you turn a London Derby down. 

So that’s how I found myself waiting outside the Stockport Travelodge, looking very conspicuous on a cold November morning. Emma looked even less excited by the prospect but hey this road trip was going to be fun. Enforced fun, is the best kind of fun. 

After having my second breakfast of the day ( I ate before I left but then Emma offered me food. Would be impolite to say no, my mother raised me right 😏.) 

We were on our way. For once not on the M6 as we had decided the via Sheffield route would be more entertaining.  My sanity was grateful for the change in scenery. 

Travelling with Emma, compounded what I already knew. I missed travelling with people. I missed the banter, the singing and general conversation.  I realised how lonely solo travel had been. I genuinely go 6-7 hours without talking to anyone, 90mins of football, then another 6-7 hours on my own till I get home. I love my football and I would, never,  not do it. However, being an away home fan is a lonely life when you have no one to share the excitement with. 

But I now have you, faithful readers, to share my exploits with. So thank you for restoring my rationality. 😏

One key conversation was about the phenomenon of the randomly appearing player. The women’s game has such a small interconnected community that it is of no great surprise to see famous faces, within the game, amongst the crowd. 

Mine include Faye White who has greeted me at Arsenal, I believe she is one of support liaison officers now. Lucy Bronze has sat next to me at a Manchester City game. I have also been randomly stood near Laura Bassett for a whole Birmingham match, completely unawares. 

However, I have one player who has appeared more than most. Which has led to the genuine belief that I am being stalked by Siobhan Chamberlin this season. Skeptics hear me out! 

The first instance was at a Manchester City friendly. During half time Crick asked the all-important question if I thought it offended Shiv that City‘s chant for Karen Bardsley was about her being England’s number one. 

’Random, no idea, Never really thought about it. Why?  

I didn’t get an answer.

It wasn’t till midway through the second half I noticed half the newly formed Manchester United squad were two rows in front, which included their new number one. 

A few weeks later at our away match at Everton as we were leaving I saw someone who looked familiar. Took me a minute to work out it was Leigh Moore, Shivs other half. Which meant that Shiv could be that far… Oh yup, there she is up in the stand behind me. 

Even more randomly a few weeks after that, I was at a Manchester City men’s cup game against Fulham. I was in the fancy seats thanks to a contact of mine. When I look along the row, low and behold its Siobhan and her dad. Seriously, Shiv we need to stop meeting like 😏  

Legal disclaimer I have never actually met Siobhan, maybe Shiv we should say hi next time our paths cross. 

Emma’s random player seems to be Katie Chapman the ex-Chelsea captain. Low and behold who was going in right before us, I swear randomly appearing players is a real thing. 

This was another game I couldn’t predict. Based on Chelsea’s form last season, we would get steamrollered. Based on their current form we might actually have a shot. 

Having started the season with a lot of 0-0 draws and a crushing defeat at the hands of Arsenal. There was no way to know which Chelsea would turn up. 

FIRST HALF 

We actually played superbly first half. We pegged them back from coming forward. Becky made some world-class saves against her old club and we narrowly missed some chances. Ria Percival once again tremendous down the wing, who’s crosses our forwards couldn’t quite get on the end of. More importantly, we managed to keep Fran Kirby at bay. 

Chances came from both teams, on the other hand, both goalkeepers were in fine form to keep it all level at the break. 

Tensions did seem to be running high. Maybe it’s because of the history of our players with the club or because we didn’t want to roll over on the current champions. 

For Chelsea was out because they had had such an unremarkable start to the season, they couldn’t show weakness to a newer team.  All this energy ended with Gilly getting a yellow, for a bad foul. See it’s not just Kate. 

HALF TIME

Armed with the traditional scolding yet weak tea. I stood observing the crowd, the biggest we had had for a while. Though home fans seemed to be outweighed by the away ones. Seriously either West Ham fans don’t show their colours, or we have issues. I am hoping it’s the former. 

Beside me and Emma I can see a little commotion going on. Lots of little girls squealing and a flurry for autographs. I think, ah yes flash of the infamous ponytail, Raff has been stood next to me for the entire half.  Told you surprise players were a thing.  

Note from my editor: You need to clean your glassesnot seeing people nearby.

More importantly, Raff had brought the newest member of her family. A French bulldog called Pea. I wander over to her on my way to get rid of said tea. 

Seriously why do I do it to myself, life is too short for bad tea.

’I am going to pretend I have to come to say hi to you, really I am here for the dog.’ 

She laughed and I got a cuddle. From the dog, not Raff. Actually, that’s a lie, she hugged me after the match was over on our way out. 

Oh, I lead such a hard life. Also, you can follow Pea on Instagram, totally worth it for cute pictures on a bad day.  Pea raff

SECOND HALF

We were less fortunate in the second half and of course, it was Bachman who was going to score. Both goals were outrageous which most, if not all keepers would not have a chance at saving. We countered, pushed, pulled and tried everything to get back into it. But alas It wasn’t our night. 

Though my highlight was seeing Millie Bright and Brianna going head to head. Told you there wasn’t a player she wasn’t too scared to take on.

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We end the game losing 2-0. 

But I felt positive from the performance, it hasn’t been another 7 goal drubbing and we had played well as a unit. I have to keep reminding myself we are a new team that is just cementing the foundation to become great. 

And with that thought, I left Rush Green to go home. Back on my own, the lone wanderer. Ah well, it had been nice for some company for a while. 

Next time it’s down to the South Coast to watch them take on the Seagulls, Rich you finally make an appearance and I officially meet our very formal German. 

COYI

I am going to try and keep this one shorter and sweeter than Part One.

LIVERPOOL HOME

We lost 1-0. The end.

Not really, just my poor attempt at humour.

Liverpool were an unknown entity this season. The biggest casualties in the season’s transfer window, they lost 13 players and their manager in a very short space of time, which had resulted in a younger squad having to get to grips with the league much sooner than they had anticipated.

West ham was missing Hendrix, who was resting because of injury, and Rafferty, who had picked up a knock against Manchester City. It was definitely not going to be a walkover.

I had decided to break up my journey and stay with friends this time, as another 5 amstart would have killed me. I had been congratulating myself on this piece of decision-making, when I realised (as I was hurtling down the M6) that I had very unwisely left my ticket on my dresser.

Now I love my club, I do, but whose bright idea was it to just issue a ticket per game instead of having season cards?!  I mean, come on!

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Thanks to the lovely ladies in the box office, a replacement ticket was waiting at the box office by the time I got to London.

After spending the night with my best friend and her two gorgeous but slightly mental dogs, back to Rush Green I went. I was slightly on edge with this one as it was the most unpredictable fixture since Reading. Other games I could gauge based on last season’s performances. As previously mentioned, there was like one original player left, so who knew?!

We went behind within 15 mins thanks to an unlucky rebound. Becky Spencer had made a great save, only for it to spill into Sweetman-Kirk’s path for her to slot it home.

We pushed hard in the second half with Kiernan, Visalli and Flaherty all trying but we couldn’t quite clinch it.

The back to back defeats were disappointing but our defence was looking stronger. So every cloud.

Two highlights for this trip were to finally meet my Twitter friend Emma (she will play a bigger part in the Chelsea blog) and to collect my gift.

Once again, dear readers, I had been sent on a mission from the Twitter Gods. Glen, the goalkeeping coach, had chosen me to pick up a pair of goalie gloves from our number 13, Anna Moorhouse. News of my 16 hour round trips had reached him and he wanted the Twitter universe to know that someone at the club was grateful. So that put a smile on my face even if the final score didn’t.

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EVERTON AWAY

Another local-ish game and, having been promised fish and chips by the sea, Mum accompanied me again. Although, truth be told, I had no idea how I was going to deliver on that promise. Southport is technically Southport-on-Sea, but that is a total misnomer. There is no sea to be seen. Like anywhere. Just lots and lots of sludgy sand.

Our first obstacle was getting from one Liverpool station to another. What should have been a 5-minute transfer took near to half an hour. Eventually, Mum did the very un-Londoner thing and asked for directions ,forgetting rule one in the Londoners Code of Honour: Thou shalt walk around aimlessly until you find it or give up and go home.
It turns out we were directly opposite. Can’t see the wood for the trees and all that.

After another hour’s Mersey Rail ride, we were at Southport. Seriously, this is almost as bad as Rush Green! Why do the women’s teams not play in the same city as their parent club? Due to my mother’s understandable but slightly irrational phobia of being late, we were over two hours early so we decided to walk to the ground. Foolishly, my mother also agreed to let me navigate as I had been here before for a Manchester City match. Honestly if you hate being late, not a wise move to get me to lead!
’Are you sure this is the way?’
’Yeah.We turn here to go over the bridge and across the train tracks.’
’It looks like we are going into the Asda delivery yard!’

Now, dear readers, it doesn’t take a genius to work out who was right.

After a quick stop in the pub, ( Mum’s shout, as my bank card couldn’t take the hit), we headed to the ground.
As we entered the ticket office, we saw a young woman pull up beside the ground.

’That’s an opposition player, isn’t it?’ Mum whispered.

’Yeah, it’s Georgia Brougham. She used to play for City.’  I answered.

I was slightly confused by my mother’s newfound seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of the women’s game. Had she been swotting up before the match? I was so proud!
’How’d you know that?’’The Everton tracksuit gave it away.’ Mum deadpanned. Maybe not then.There were more West Ham fans than I had anticipated, although the majority were family of the players. Having run into Geoff again, we took seats together. Brooke Hendrix, our number four, was out, having broken her nose twice in as many weeks. She came over to say ‘Hi’, which was good because Geoff had an all-important question to ask.‘Here, Brooke, your nose? Kate didn’t do it, did she?’ Brooke laughed and shook her head.‘Oh good, only because she’s got form for that.’ She broke the Yeovil goalie’s jaw once by accident. And then another player’s nose.’Brooke bid us adieu, looking well and truly terrified of her new teammate.
Later in the game, Geoff remembered some poor Chelsea goalkeeper, who also had a facial bone broken in a friendly. That game had to be called off.

Side note: Kate, who was mortified by her Dad’s stories, blamed her inherited pointed elbows. It’s a running joke now though that whenever a foul is conceded by West Ham, we always ask if Kate did it. 😂

FIRST HALF

We conceded within five minutes, a mix-up between our back line and our goalkeeper meant that Everton’s Walker could squeeze between the two and slot it home.  We were on our way to three defeats on the bounce.

The Everton fans were quite quiet, even when they scored. I suppose the last team games has been against fans with drums and chants. Everton with their polite clapping, seemed odd in comparison.

Thankfully, a well-timed header from Ross in the 19th minute brought us level. I knew there was a reason we had stolen her from the Sky Blue Mancs.

Everton are a very physical side, very aggressive and hard to break down. There is no tackle they are afraid to try, no player they are afraid to take on. Even Kate ’bone breaker ’ Longhurst was cautious around their midfield.  We played further back, going for the long balls rather than the 50/50 challenges.

Right on the whistle a lovely throw in led to a beautiful goal by Lehman, our number 7.

We finished the half with a narrow lead, looking bruised.

HALF TIME

Crick and I will usually send each other updates on the score of the matches that we are at. So I quickly messaged Crick our score at half time. I also complain that I am cold but we have managed to get the families around us to chant
My phone buzzed. her message said that she wasn’t surprised, as we should beat Everton. She sent a virtual face palm at the mention of the chanting.

Dear friends, every time Crick says we should beat a team, we do not. It’s like she curses us. Unless it’s Yeovil. I will give her that. (Sorry Yeovil)

SECOND HALF

We started the second half a little brighter, buoyed by the late second goal.
At 51 minutes, a second Everton goal skipped through Spencer’s fingers. Didn’t I tell you Crick had put the mockers on?! Thankfully it was ruled offside.
A couple of minutes later Briana Visalli was tearing down the wing when a defender slid in for the tackle and sent her flying. Bri ended up almost in the side hoardings.

’Oi!’ I yelled from the stands. ’You leave her alone!’  I am very protective of Bri (not that she needs my protection from anything).

An Everton fan behind me did not appreciate this nor did they appreciate the penalty the tackle had awarded us.

’She dove for that! Never hit her that hard!’

Mate, if she’d been hit any harder, she would have landed on Southport Pier.

The Everton goalkeeper got low and made a great save. We were in for a nervy second half.
Both sides had great chances but both keepers (and the woodwork) were on form.

During the last five minutes of normal time, tensions were running high both on and off the pitch. We had two bookings in five minutes (surprisingly one was our teenage striker, Leanne Kiernan. The second one was less surprising. Just check the title of this blog if you don’t know 😏)

Off the pitch, the Everton fans were finally finding their voice.
’Ref what was that?! Send her off!’
’ Cheating gits, get up!’

Me, being mouth almighty, wasn’t standing for that.
’That was a tackle and a fair one at that, unlike your lot!’ My mother glares at me.
‘You’re gonna get us killed by a bunch of Scousers, you know that, right?! Shut up!’

Finally, after six LONG minutes of extra time, the final whistle blew and we had won.

We made our way down to the barrier to say goodbye to the team.
As we waited, some bloke came up to us moaning that the stewards wouldn’t give him any programs.
They cost a quid. Of course they weren’t gonna give them away. Still, he wouldn’t shut up so I gave him mine because there was nothing about West Ham in it and I repeat it was a quid.

Kate came over to talk to me and her dad for a while and the program guy asked her for her autograph, which Kate happily signed. A few more minutes of chatting and he approached her for an autograph again. Confused, Kate checked he was sure, as she had already signed it. But he insisted so she signed.

Bri came out to see us and started to chat with Mum. Program Guy reappeared asking for an autograph. Our number 15 was about to sign when he shook his head and gestured for Kate to sign.

’Look mate, I will but I am still number 12 that hasn’t changed in the last 4 minutes!’ He still wanted his third autograph. Life long fan there, Kate.

We headed out after this and made the long walk back to Southport, managing to avoid all supermarket loading bays this time.
We even managed to get Mum’s fish and chips by the squishy sand. Close enough. And so ended a successful away day.

This one, however, came back to haunt me a few months later when a mate tagged me on Twitter. It seems the documentary about the team had caught some crowd shots. The crowd being me, Mum and Geoff.

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However, it’s only after watching the documentary I realised you hear mouth almighty before you see me.

All together now: COME ON WEST HAM!

Next time, we take on the reigning Champs, I take a road trip and a self-induced International break.

COYI

This will be a slightly longer post, as I cover three games in one. The reason for this is threefold.

1) I can catch my blog up the season more quickly

2). There wasn’t enough fun stuff to fill three separate posts.
And most importantly

3) It means I can skim over the 7-1 defeat to Manchester City.

So let’s get that one out of the way.

Manchester City.

One game a season, I can act like a normal home fan. I can get up at a respectable time, go get breakfast with other fans and take a steady amble to the stadium. This week I was a ’home’ away fan.

It’s always weird for me to go back to the Academy stadium. I practically lived there for a year before I began my travels. There’s an air of nostalgia about it. Although can you really be nostalgic about something that was only a year ago? I mean, I get nostalgic about the pie my mother made last week.

What!?!  It was good pie. 😏

I was safe in the knowledge that I wasn’t the only Hammer this time. Having enjoyed herself at Yeovil, Mum was coming with me and this time had enlisted my reluctant father too. I think he was probably only there because Mum had promised him coffee.

Outside the ground, we ran into fellow Hammers. A couple all decked out in Claret and Blue.
Glad to see someone has made the effort up.’ I called
They laughed.
’Got no choice, our daughter’s playing!’

It suddenly clicked that they were the Longhursts, Kate’s mum and dad. And that is how I met the famous (or should that be infamous) Geoff Longhurst, whose tweet went viral when Kate became our deadline day signing.

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Mum and I took our seats whilst Dad went to get the promised coffee. Looking over the team list.
Ooh KB’s injured, we might be in for a shout!’ I joked.

I received a whack on the shoulder with a program.
Don’t be mean to Ellie (Roebuck), still an England goalkeeper.’  I ignored her and carried on looking at the team sheet. ’I just don’t want to them to be embarrassed like the men were.’

Well, that’s put the mockers on it, Mother.’ Football fans, we are a superstitious bunch!

Dad returned and not alone, having managed to find the Longhursts again. The five of us made our own little away section. We needed all the support we can get, we had a drum to out cheer!
There was only one teeny tiny, minute, little flaw with that plan. I had come down with a severe case of laryngitis and bronchitis. My voice was so broken, I not only looked like a prepubescent boy. I sounded like one too.
The other side of Mum was a young family, all dressed in City’s sky blue. Poor mites hadn’t realised what they were sat next to.

FIRST HALF

We were down 3-0 within 17 minutes. Caroline Weir, new recruit for City, (part of the mass exodus from the Liverpool starting 11), had scored within the first 2. The stadium was echoing, booming with City chants. Not to mention that damn, drum which still haunts me.

’She’s big! She’s blue! Shes coming after you! Jill Scott!’

Well, that’s just mean. Poor Jill!

Geoff laughed when he heard that chant.
’Kate used to hate playing City when she was at Liverpool.’ ‘She always had to be the one to try and mark Scotty’
Looking at our midfield it appeared Kate had drawn the short straw again.

HALF TIME

Crick came over to find me at half-time, looking awkward as all hell. It was the first time we’d been on opposing sides.

If you’re here to mock, you can leave.’

Crick laughed at me and telling me she was actually there to see my mother. ‘I like her better than you’. She and mum laughed whiled I sulked.

Again it was an uneventful half-time whilst those two caught up and bantered at my expense so I just carried on sulking.

SECOND HALF

This can’t get any more painful, right?!’ Never, faithful readers, never tempt the footballing Gods. It will, under no circumstances, fall in your favour.

FOUR more goals in the back of our net. Although we did get a consolation goal through Esme de Graaf.
Four more goals meant more chanting from the home fans. More of the drum *shudder*. 😡

‘Right, enough of that! Bubbles on three, Mother!’ And so we proceeded to sing what can only be described as the WORST rendition of Forever Blowing Bubbles ever. Well, I had laryngitis, no idea what Mum’s excuse was.

Side note: whenever I chanted for Irons, the two tots next to me chanted for City.
You’re doing it wrong’ I giggled ’It’s supposed to come on West Ham.’
The parents laughed, but then a little voice piped up.  ’But I want City to win!’  Fair enough, kid, fair enough.
And so I managed to antagonise yet another child. I told you this was a running theme, right?!

The match mercifully finished with a score of 7-1.

I went down to the hoardings just to clap my team off. I imagined that no one felt like hanging around after that result, but as soon as she had finished warming down, my buddy Raff came over. What do you say to a result like that? Not much is the answer. Just as Raff was about to leave my Dad asked for another photo, as our shirts matched this time.

 

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On seeing the photo online, Crick commented that Raff looked very done with me in that photo. (A large part of our friendship is her winding me up over my soft spot for Raff.) Firstly, Rude! Secondly, little do you know, Crick! But more on that later.

Brianna came over and chatted again. She gave me my moment of the day when, after hugging me goodbye, she hugged my parents too. Being very British, I am not sure they quite knew how to handle being hugged by someone they had just met, but it meant a lot to me.

As we were leaving the ground, we spotted KB going into the tunnel. She was telling people it had been a good day, as it was also her birthday.

Me, the ever bitter away fan: Speak for yourself, KB!

She laughed ‘I was!’ and headed out. KB, I love you normally but not that day.

Crick and Pete (another member of my City family) were waiting for me to see if I wanted to go for a drink with the gang. No, really not after that, but I hadn’t seen them in a while and I had to take the chances where I could.

In the pub, of course, there was mocking and a couple of digs but that’s what families do.  And they are my family. They always looked out for me and never minded I wasn’t a true blue. When I was with them, I was one of them. Now even though I’m not, I am still a member of the gang.

That’s why it’s saddened me recently to see some newer fans to the women’s game bringing the nastier side of football over. I understand the rivalry, football is tribal as I have said.

However, there’s been an attitude shift in some of the newer fans and fans of newer teams. It’s not what the women’s game is about.
We don’t have segregated seating for a reason. We don’t do home and away pubs for a reason. I want to keep it that way. I want the women’s game to progress, of course I do. I want the better facilities, the pay and the respect the men’s game has but not the bitterness, the arrogance and the hatred. Respect is earned not just warranted.

I guess I had more to say on this game than I thought. So stay tuned for part deux of this post where I talk about the two games against the Scousers. After all, you haven’t found what the title means yet!

Mum was not a fan of the women’s game. For many reasons. It just didn’t have the excitement, the passion, the drama and the drive that the men’s game did for her

She has tried (or more likely I had forced her to try). She’d watch the international games on TVand try to learn who the players were, if only to try and keep up with my incessant babble. She also gallantly went along to  Manchester City games with me and became a stubborn member of the Ellie Roebuck fan club when I compared her to KB. Let’s just say that at 5’7” to KB’s 6 foot odd, she did not always measure up! 

But alas it was not to be. I couldn’t return the favour and inspire the same passion for ‘my’ football as Mum had done for me. 

I just don’t like it. I know it might not be politically correct but I just like men’s football’ 

However I am not one for giving up. I decided to give it one last shot.

The first home game I could get to was Yeovil at the end of September and I asked Mum to come along. Well, I use the word asked’, Mum would probably say I didn’t stop nagging until she agreed to come with me


To be honest I think Mum came with me for the nostalgia, as to get to the ground you have go through ourold neighbourhood.  For Mum, our entire journey was filled with key places from my childhood, where I went to school, the pool I learnt to swim in and of course the local pie and mash shop. Cockneys, what can I say! 😉

Rush Green is a bitch to get to from anywhere in London. It’s in the middle of a housing estate in Essex which is served by just three buses on a Sunday. (This, dear readers, is the London equivalent of being in the sticks). 

After a train, two tubes and a bus, we had made it. Although we did almost miss our stop as Mum was convinced it couldn’t be where I said it was

It’s too residential, are you sure we’re on the right bus, Faceache?

Faceache is the delightful and hilarious nickname I have had since birth, in case you were confused. My Mother’s warped sense of humour at its finest. We descend from clowns. Not particularly relevant but it will explain A LOT. 

‘Yes Mother, I am sure. In fact, move. We need to get off’. 

‘Here, definitely?‘

‘Well the giant, crossed hammers I just saw gave it away somewhat. Come on’. 


It was nice to see a few more claret and blue shirts than last time.  In a reversal of my last match there was just one lone Yeovil fan in yellow and green. That being said, I did the maths and Mum and I had still travelled further than the away support. So no excuses for the turnout  😏

After getting our tickets, programs  and the standard football tea, (i.e. weak, scalding hot and in a cup with ill-fitting lids), we were in. 

Whilst the players warmed up, Miles came over bringing with him Paul, our assistant coach.  Paul wanted to meet the rogue traveller who thought 16 hours of travel for 90 minutes of football was a good trade-off. We chatted a little and then he left with a handshake and only the vaguest idea that he had made Mum’s day. 

FIRST HALF


Yeovil definitely play a bruising style of football, which threw our players out of their rhythm. There were lots of chances but we weren’t converting them. Then the unthinkable happened. Yeovil scored. 

The linesman’s flag went up and it was ruled offside. A collective, almost audible sigh of relief. We could hear our skipper, Gilly, yelling at her backline. ‘That was an effing warning. Keep awake’. 


Oh captain, my captain. You may be a Millwall fan but with that passion you are an honorary hammer,whether you like it or not. 

As my mother said, we like Yeovil. We wanted them to win their first match, just not against us.
Side note: when they did win their first match, Mum’s verdict was well done for them but they can’t win anymore. 

We were level at the break. 

HALF TIME


Not much to report at half time really. We changed ends and we tried to get a chorus of bubbles going. We were unsuccessful

 

SECOND HALF



We seemed a bit sparkier in the second half, but Yeovil are hard side to break down.

 

As we were now on the left, it meant we were on Raffs side. 

Is that whose name is on your shirt?

‘Yes’

‘The ex-Chelsea player?’ 

‘Yes, mother’

‘Not sure how feel about ex-Chelsea playing for us’. 

‘Well, we have three of them now, so not much choice on that one. Anyway we have had players from Chelsea before in the men’s.’ 

‘Normally it’s the other way round, they steal our youth players’

‘Victor Moses, he was Chelsea then came to us’ 

‘He was on loan. Doesn’t count’ 


‘Carlton Cole then’. Ha. She stuck her tongue out at me which I understood to mean she conceded the point and was grateful for my input

Raff got a throw in right by us. 

‘Go on Raff I called encouragingly to have some cheer going. We do not sing at Rush Green apparently. 

She turned around and gave me a thumbs up before taking the throw. 

I was smiling until I felt a sharp pain across my arm. My mother had just smacked my shoulder. 

‘Ow, what was that for, what did I do?’ 

Oi not when she’s playing, don’t distract her’

Sub Leanne Kiernan made a break for it and curled in a beautiful goal. 

1-0 to the Irons. 

10 mins later Yeovil equalised. 1-1

Then BANG! A minute later sub Rosie Kmita got on the end of a Julia Simic pass. One touch, left foot and top corner. 

2-1 to the Irons. 

It was a nervy end to the game, but we had our first win. 

We walked round to the players tunnel. Going to say a quick hi to Raff and Bri then we will go. OMum? 

One of the staff members was wrangling the ball girls so they could get their autographs and threatened to sell them if they didn’t behave. 


As we were waiting, Dad rang mum to see how she had enjoyed the match. She told him she would call him back and she hung up. He called againAnd again.Three times in the space of four minutes. Mum rolled her eyes. 
The same member of staff laughed and told her ‘I’ll answer it next time and tell him youre just getting your kit back on and to give to it five.’ 
We found that hilarious but when we relayed the story to dad, he somehow did not 😂

Gilly saw us and waved, and Bri came over and gave me a hug.

 

And then Raff wandered over. ‘Here she is, my biggest fan’ she said to Mum as she gave me a big bear hug. I think I probably I went as claret as my shirt. 😳


On our way home, Mum didn’t stop talking about how nice everyone was, that it was so good the players came and talked to you and wasn’t Claire lovely. 
(I think mum might have forgiven Raff for her West London past). 

‘You know, I take back what I said about Women’s football.’ 

Oh aye mother, go on I thought to myself, and then out loud, ‘Why’s that then?’ 

I just couldn’t get behind Manchester City, they just aren’t my team. This West Ham Team though, I definitely can.’  

Just like that I had a convert, after just one game. The moral of this story is never give up and you will get the result you want.

Or failing that, waiuntil your childhood club finally gets a women’s team that you can go and see. 

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And no transport dramas confirms the theory I should definitely not be allowed to travel on my own. 

It felt like an age since I had pulled on the Claret and Blue.

Life and circumstances had conspired to keep me away: the enforced international break, a third 10k run I had convinced myself was a good idea, and the fact I had no holiday left ruled out the midweek games.

Also, the women’s league is odd. Not odd as in peculiar, quite literally odd. There are 11 teams in the top flight so at least one team is guaranteed to not have a game in each week of fixtures.

Kicking off the new season, West Ham were the ones sitting on the bench.

This did mean on the other hand that I had one last road trip with the lads in sky blue: off to Kingsmeadow to take on last season’s champs.
The game itself was not a particularly noteworthy 0-0 draw. One of the highlights being winding up a young Chelsea fan next to me by cheering whenever he cheered. Well, cheering for the opposition whenever he did. The louder he got, the louder I got. Till in the end he just glared at me.  At full-time, I leaned over,
‘Does it make it better or worse to know I am actually a hammer?’ His eyes grew big and he went red in the face. His mother laughed,
I think worse’. He just stuck his tongue out at me.

Incidentally, there’s a running theme of me winding up small children. My enthusiasm must be a trigger for them. 😂

The other highlight was meeting Karen Bardsley, who was very sweet and took a picture with Crick and I. I did semi bully her into using Crick’s picture for her ‘Post Match Selfie of the Day’ Instagram story.
Again Crick was unimpressed with my antics.

Until it worked. 😀.

Like I said I am a bit of git. And poor Crick is long-suffering in our friendship.

Side note:  I got a message from Crick two days later telling me that our friendship was over. I was confused about what I had done until she sent me this.

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Oops, an unintentional consequence of my gittish behaviour 😉

The next game I could get to was Arsenal away and back to Borehamwood. When I lived in London I can honestly say I never went to Borehamwood. Ever! I have now been to/ through that side of London more times than I can count.

Needing to do it on the cheap, Megabus was my friend. So another 5 am start for me. Devotion at its finest, even if I do say so myself.  Concerning though, was the rain which was currently bucketing down. Non- league grounds and rain do not get on and lead to many a match being cancelled. And not ideal for this wanderer who had 8 hours to kill.

Yet, this time I was on a mission from God, well Twitter.
Brianna Visalli, our number 15, saw my exploits from last time and told me I should come say hi next time I was at a match. Who am I to deny such a request?!

With West Ham being a new team in the Super League, building a fan base is going to take time. I was hoping to have a better turn out then in the Cup game.

It doesn’t help though when the FA scheduled a key Premier League fixture at the same time against Chelsea. With no way to do the doubleheader, it wasn’t looking promising.

Side note: I quite enjoyed confusing the very helpful ticket man at St Pancras who, once he saw my West Ham shirt, tried to push me on to the Stratford platform. Very kind of you Mr. Porter, but I am off to Borehamwood.

Once more, I was super early and was one of the first in the gate and took my place behind the goal. After talking/ distracting Becky Spencer and getting another wave off Raff, I patiently waited for kick off.

The ground was slowing filling up with fans, Red and White fans. Only Red and White fans, no Claret and Blue to be seen. I mean guys I knew it would be dire but not this bad. Even the stewards laughed, telling me I was the fan they had to watch out for. The ONLY fan.
I am sure there were other Hammers here, but they weren’t wearing their colours. So I stuck out like a sore claret thumb. I am now surrounded by little people and their parents. All Arsenal. This is going to be interesting.

KICK OFF

Now Arsenal fans are notoriously loud, never shut up and have a drum. But mouth almighty here was definitely going to give it her best shot.

Especially when after nine minutes we were ahead. A beautiful shot by Longhurst and we were away. Suddenly this lone East London voice was definitely the loudest.

End to end the first half with us taking the lead twice and Arsenal pulling it back twice. Each time I am getting louder.

HALF TIME

As I was on my own at half-time, I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on around me. Seeing how the other games were going, mainly checking the city game ( I still have a soft spot for them, what can I say. )

However, I could feel a pair of eyes on me. Lots of little eyes. I look up to see about 5 children looking at me. Not going to lie I did feel a bit like a zoo exhibit. I suppose I was kinda loud. I stare back and they turn around very quickly. All except one little boy. So I stuck my tongue out at him. ( I am an adult honest 😉).

SECOND HALF

Our second half was less successful and we let in two goals quite quickly. Still, in fine voice, I kept shouting. Then I heard a little voice.

‘Why are you a West Ham fan?’.

It was the small boy from before, he was looking rather confused as to why someone would be choosing to support a losing team I suppose.

‘Someone’s got to ‘ I shrugged. His parents laughed.

He nods, looking rather pensive, like the weight of the world was suddenly placed on his very young shoulders.

Suddenly, out of nowhere, this tiny quiet voice starts chanting.

Come on West Ham’. Then louder ‘Come on West Ham’. Finally as loud as his little toddler lungs would let him.

‘COME ON WEST HAM’.

His parents stopped laughing, quickly telling him that he was definitely supposed be cheering on the Gunners.
I, however, found it hilarious and it took a lot to stifle my grin.

I did tell you winding up a child would become a theme.

We managed to grab one goal in the second half, almost getting ourselves back in it. But it ended 4-3 to Arsenal.

I quickly made my way over to the tunnel to see if I could find Brianna. Whilst I was waiting, I overheard one of the coaches chatting to a Gunner.

‘At least after this defeat we haven’t got far to go home, so we can’t wallow’.

‘Speak for yourself mate, some of us have got another 6 hours to go’

Miles (I later found out his name) laughed and commended me on my dedication.

Slowly our players trooped off. Raff came and gave me hug and chatted briefly. I got a wave from Jane Ross and Brooke Hendrix. As I was clapping the team, Gilly, our captain extraordinaire, shouted out ‘Thanks’, as she signed some kid’s programme.

She then looked up and laughed ‘oh just the one then’. Told you I was the only hammer there.

I could see Brianna was finally coming up the line. I could also see that the stewards wanted to go home. Dilemma: do I be nice and give up my quest or do I be that fan that winds up the staff. Sorry guys, I chose to be selfish.

‘Hey Brianna, I have come for my wave’.

She came running over smiling.

‘ It’s you, I am so glad you’re here.’ We need to get a picture, right?’ She turns to the steward ‘ Will you take it for us?’

The steward looked confused and turned to me.

‘ Aren’t you supposed to ask them for a photo’.

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Bri is one of the nicest people ever and I am so proud that she’s on my team. Our little dynamo in midfield. She hasn’t found a player yet she’s too scared to take on. Over the course of this season she’s become one my absolute favourites. Both to chat with and watch play. Definitely one to watch out for both in our league and on the international stage. Unfortunately for the Lionesses, Bri is a Cali girl.

Having got my promised photo and wave, I left to head out to the station. Slight problem was I was locked in. Looks like the stewards decided to be selfish themselves and start closing the stadium down.  The ground safety officer was very confused at why I was still there. Or rather how I was still there.

Not my fault my player was a while, Officer 😉.

And back to Victoria I went with a bounce in my step.

I settled on to my coach, ready for the long drive ahead. Speeding along the motorway to take me back to land of nod.

We had pulled into the infamous ‘tween place of the country. The ‘neverwhere’ of the North and South. ( 10 points to Gryffindor for anyone that gets that reference).

Ah just a driver change, we would be off in a minute. A minute turned into five, which turned into ten. Twenty minutes later, we still weren’t moving. There was a fault with the coach so we were shepherded into the services for another 40 minutes, which became an hour. Mate… I just want to go home.

Eventually we were told another coach was coming but five passengers would have to go back to Manchester by taxi.

So, dear readers, that’s how I found myself hurtling down the M6 with four random strangers in a black cab. Most awkward journey ever.  I finally got in at 2am,  only four hours later than planned. It’s not like I had to be up 5 hours later for work or anything.

I really shouldn’t be allowed to travel on my own 😉.

Next time I recap Yeovil at home, this time I have parental supervision and I get in trouble for distracting the Left Back.COYI

I got the idea back in September, but it’s taken me to the New Year to get going with this.

I’ve been called crazy ( Although for someone who moved out to Germany for football, you’d think Mary Earps would understand 😉 ). Others call me dedicated. My bank balance just groans. But home or away, I follow the Claret and Blue Army everywhere.

“Where the hell’s Borehamwood”, or the adventure of my first match.

I followed Manchester City Women last season. Religiously. I had missed live football and after our brilliant performance in the 2015 World Cup, I decided to follow Women’s football. It made perfect sense as City were local and boasted a lot of the international talent whereas West Ham’s women’s team were a couple of tiers down in the Southern conference. With home games in Thurrock and Hornchurch and a non-driver, it just wasn’t feasible.

As with that Dagenham match, I remember everything about my first City match. Manchester City vs Liverpool. The excitement of seeing the England players I had cheered on, sat up late, in the dark, volume turned down low so as not to wake the parents. Watching Bronze, Houghton and Scott was something special.

Side note: one of my favourite moments in the game occurred when Liverpool went one-nil up.   Liverpool‘s goalkeeper, Siobhan Chamberlain, was understandably taking her time to retrieve the ball for her goal kick. City’s Jane Ross (who is now a proud hammer) ran half-way up the pitch and placed the ball in front of Chamberlain and made it very clear she was to kick 😂.

I made great friends with the Manchester City crowd, travelling not just over the country but around Europe following the Women. The adventures we got up to are worthy of an entirely separate blog.

I’d made a promise to myself though that if West Ham Women ever became more accessible for me then I would go to the iron side (see what I did there 😉). With the restructuring of the WSL this season that became a reality and with a heavy heart I left my adopted City family to brave it as a lone Claret and Blue wanderer.

The first issue was, as much as I knew I was a fan, no one else would without a kit. I wasn’t going to make any friends at Rush Green with my old ‘Christiansen’ City shirt, right?! But whose name should adorn the back of my new West Ham Women’s shirt?

Mum was plumping for Ross, having known her from her aforementioned time at City. However, it sort of felt like rubbing salt in the wound. Ross was well-liked amongst my group and they were sad to see her go. (I was ecstatic she came to us, I just celebrated quietly).

My choice was Claire Rafferty. I had a soft spot for Raff from her time in the England squad. The problem was who she used to play for. Mum would never go for that. However, after Raff put her name forward on Instagram, who else could it be but Rafferty 11?

Side note: My mother eventually found out that Raff used to play for Chelsea after watching a women’s sports interview. It was only on because Ellen white was due to make an appearance. Damn my love for all that is EW. She was less than impressed (my mother not Ellen ) but I think I may have been forgiven now?

So all suited and booted, I was ready for the first match which was to be Arsenal. The following conversation occurred that week at work.

“What are you doing this weekend?’

 

“Watching West Ham Women now it’s easier to get to their games. They play Arsenal this weekend at Borehamwood”

 

“Where the hell is Borehamwood?!”

 

“Hertfordshire”. Got to go into London to go out again.”

 

“How the hell is that easier?!”

 

Well, dear readers, (I am going to assume plural and that it’s not just my mum being supportive), it wasn’t. With Euston being out of action that weekend my planned 6 hour trip was about to get much, much longer.

A friend of mine had some spare Chiltern Rail tickets so I just had to get my backside to Birmingham. In hindsight, I should have just got the coach straight through, but free is free is free, right? And I was grateful for the help. I jolted awake at a painfully early 05:30 am but we were away.

Having spectacularly mistimed everything I actually arrived at Borehamwood an hour and a half earlier than needed, and so began a wonderful love affair with my new team.

Firstly, despite the fact she should have been warming up, I got a thumbs up and a hug from Raff thanks to my new shirt.

‘Well that went well’ I thought. A little acknowledgement goes a long way with fans. I am sure others who have met their favorite players, like me, agree you buzz about it for ages.

The match itself was brilliant and, even though we lost, it led to a rather big revelation. As much as I loved City and as much as I adopted them and they adopted me, there is nothing quite like cheering on your childhood team.

I thought I would try my luck and get a picture with Raff. After all, I had her shirt. A few problems though:

Problem one: Would she be in any mood to seeing as we had just lost?

Problem two: I can’t take selfies to save my life and I had come on my own. Time to find a friendly steward, methinks.

Problem three: She was the other side of the pitch to me and walking away. Wait, come back Raff!

The interaction actually couldn’t have been nicer and I even managed to sweet talk Gillingham Women player (and Ex Hammer), Mollie Kmita, into taking the picture for me.

Allie 1

 

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I was just about to leave when a nice lady told me that I needed to look after my Rafferty shirt. She laughed when I told her mum wasn’t too impressed with the ex-Chelsea choice.

It wasn’t until I was walking away that I heard Raff call her mum… oops. I guess I can’t have left too bad an impression, she follows me on Instagram. (If you fancy following suit, its axlsgirl90)😂

And so I started on my merry way back to Manchester knowing I had made the right choice in shirt and team and sport. And that was the end of my first West Ham Women mission.

Or so I thought.

Twitter Notification:  Clare Rafferty has tweeted.

Thinking it was a hard-luck tweet about the match, I opened Twitter. I was greeted with this:

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Well I was half right.I’m not going to lie, I might have had a mini freak out in Marylebone station.

16 hours of travelling made totally worth it in one little Tweet.

And that is why I travel up and down week after week.

Next time we talk Arsenal in the league, how I stalked to Brianna Visalli for a wave. Finally, how the megabus let me down and I got stuck at the border of North and South

I bet you see a lot of the country with what you do” 

“Mate, all I see is motorways and non-league football grounds.”

 

This is a commonplace conversation between myself, colleagues, friends, family and my bank manager. Well maybe not the last one!

I’m sure they probably think I have a drink problem, with the amount of pubs that appear on my statement each month.

I imagine this is also a frequent conversation with any football fan who follows the women’s game. To follow the beautiful game, we do go to some far flung places.

 

I have been football mad since I was 7. I have a hazy memory of holding my father’s hand on a crowed tube going to Wembley, (Old Wembley with the two towers out front and seats you could barely get an ant between.

If I close my eyes I can still hear the chatter of the other fans.

 

This will be our year, I can feel it.” 

 

“We’ve had a good season, this will just cap it off.”

 

“If he plays two up front, we are golden.”

 

Many things still ring out as odd in this picture.

Firstly, that it was my dad taking me (he hates football, rugby is definitely his sport. Because, and I quote, ‘none of this falling over malarkey’).

More importantly there was the strange occurrence of optimistic Dagenham and Redbridge fans.

The match was the Ryman’s Premier League play off to go into the top flight. The heady heights of the Football Conference.

Woking vs Dagenham

CLASH OF THE TITANS

I had my half and half scarf and I was ready to cheer my little heart out. Surely, they were going to win. I mean the man on the train said they would

They lost.

1-0. Slowly we trudged back to Dagenham on the tube

But from that moment I was hooked. I also started to learn the heartbreak of following team that wasn’t in the top 6.

I say it was unusual for my dad to take me to a match but that was an understatement.

If you really pushed him, he would tell you he liked Bobby Moore, like a good East London boy of his generation should. But he is more likely to tell you about James Hunt, Team Lotus or the Wasps team of 1977.

Okay so I don’t actually know if he could do this. It just sounds like something he would say.

It is mum that is the provider of all that is football. Having been a season ticket holder at the club in the east from her teens till she married my dad, there was only ONE team I could support.

Now, dear reader, we come my deepest darkest secret.

 

*Pauses for dramatic effect*

 

I am a West Ham fan. A mad West Ham fan. An all-consuming, eat, sleep, breathe all things Claret and Blue fan.

Ok, so I am guessing you figured that out by the colour scheme. If anyone guessed Aston Villa or Burnley, please leave. Nice knowing you.

Don’t judge me. Blame my mother. It was she who gave me the love of a team who have broken my heart many, many, did I say many, many times over the last 21 years.

Also her (and we can add some blame to dad with this) decision to move to Manchester gave me my current reputation as the ‘away’ home fan.

Having moved up North many moons ago, following the Claret and Blue Army got increasingly hard.

Particularly the new love of my life, the newly formed women’s team.

So that is what this blog is about.

It’s not to talk about the West Ham men’s team or really the men’s game at all. They get enough column inches as it is.

I also have nothing particularly innovative to add to the conversation about the Gold-Sullivan-Brady saga, nor on how much Declan Rice should be paid, nor whether Anderson is a waste of money or what the hell we were thinking with Payet!

No, this will be about my travels as a West Ham Women fan who has to get up at 5am for any home game. Rush Green is a bitch to get to and I have seen far more of the M6 than anyone should reasonably be able to claim to have seen.

I guess I am fairly unique in that I am an ‘away’ home fan and I hope my blog will give you an insight into the anecdotes, conversations and of course football matches that make that 5am alarm and frequent coach journeys worthwhile.

And whilst perhaps not innovative, I have lots and I mean LOTS of thoughts about the women’s game. And quite frankly I have run out of people to bore them with.

I’ll also be blogging about the upcoming summer in France for the Women’s World Cup, the history of the women’s game, where it’s going (in my humble opinion) and its superstars.

So, sit back and enjoy the ramblings of this ‘away’ home fan.