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