Today is a special day. Today, West Ham play Millwall and it is special to me because it is the first time I have not bothered to watch the Hammers play their traditional dockland rivals at Upton Park in my lifetime. I forego the opportunity to visit the New Den, which like New Labour has faded somewhat in recent years, again for the first time when West Ham have played there (which includes visiting The Den) . In years gone by, it would have been a dot on the card for both games, and essential day out and one which would fill me with excitement and trepidation. Not anymore.
I have been pretty quiet about West Ham’s fortunes for sometime. I have seen them twice in the flesh this season , both one nil games. At home to Ipswich we lost 0-1 in a dreadful game and away to Brighton we won 0-1 on a cold dark night at the brand new Brighton stadium. We are currently top and playing a brand of football which will ‘get us out of the division ‘ according to Mr Allardyce who manages the club’s players nowadays. It’s a great division to play in as everyone can beat everyone else on any given match day. Literally anyone can get promoted to the promised land of the Premier League.
But my disinterest in all things West Ham has been building for a few years. Not least last season, when our new owners Messrs Sullivan and Gold ably assisted by Karren Brady appointed Avram Grant and the rest was history. Their bungled attempt to replace the hapless Israeli after three months with Martin O’Neill failed. This was exacerbated by Ms Brady’s briefing of the press that West Ham had got O’Neill over a fateful weekend in January. Martin O’Neill probably thought to himself ‘I really don’t fancy working with this lot’ and politely declined the opportunity. Look at him go now at Sunderland.
Aside from the football judgement, I have a problem with the owners of West Ham on another level. I was lucky enough to have dinner with some friends and Sir Geoff Hurstin October 2010 and we had a long chat about the club which is so dear to both of our hearts. He was simply brilliant and was with us for 5 hours. At the time we spoke about the ownership, leadership and future of the club and he agreed with me that the jury was very much out. But the one thing that did resonate was when he asked me to ask the club where they had put his World Cup medal he had sold to the club in 2001 (when they were owned by a different set of people). Apparently the medal had been on display in the West Ham museum, but rumour had it that the museum had been closed, due to the imminent move to the new stadium once the Olympics had finished.
Remember this was 2010 and the stadium move, if it actually happened, would be a full three years away so I really did not understand the closure. Sir Geoff and I wondered if the medal was safe, after all it was one of only eleven awarded and they way the current England team play, it is unlikely that there will be any new additions anytime soon.
Exactly where were these medals? I wrote to the owners of the club in October 2010 and then followed up in November. I gave them a break for Christmas, but then chased again in January 2011. I never ever got a written reply to my three letters. I am sure the owners were very busy and have bigger fish to fry, but you do wonder where is Sir Geoff’s medal and for that matter are Bobby Moore and Martin Peters’s 1966 World Cup winners medals also bought by the club some years back? They were supposed to be on display in the museum, but there is no mention of that on the official West Ham website. I wonder where they are and why they are not on show?
David Gold is a regular user of Twitter and is always re-Tweeting complimentary comments from fans, however every time I ask him about the whereabouts of Sir Geoff’s medals, he stays silent. Maybe he just gets too many mentions to deal with?
I hope The Hammers win today, I really do, and for my mates who still go. I bet there will be some real anticipation. I remember the old days fondly- when football meant something to all of us, friendship, rivalry, pride, joy and tons of disappointment. When money was not the be all and end all. It clearly means a lot to Sir Geoff Hurst and that does give me hope that our great game can be saved.
Interestingly, today sees our old ‘friends’ the Gooners organising a day of ‘protest’ by placing a black bin liner over each and every empty seat in their oil state sponsored stadium. Even Arsenal know the game is up. Loads of seats are just not taken up as the rich season ticket holders simply can’t be bothered to show up for all the games nowadays. Gone are the days when you could simply turn up and buy entrance to the ground on the day. That all went back in 1990 (the same year as the game above), post Hillsborough. Watch this space though. When the seats remain unoccupied more and more at the top level, clubs will have to act and encourage supporters to come back, by hook or by crook or lose the atmosphere that was so special up until recent times. Too much money in the hands of too few will never inspire passion I am afraid.
Good luck to all of you who still love the game, I for one will be praying that the tide turns and we get back to football being a game for the people at prices people can afford. I also look forward to West Ham putting the 1966 World Cup winners medals back on show. Then I will return to Upton Park full time.