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.