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’
’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.