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
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.
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.
COME ON YOU IRONS!!!