Tim Holland chats to Julian Dicks about his career and gives his views on the Olympic stadium, Harry Redknapp, Sam Allardyce and David Gold & David Sullivan. Interview Blowing Bubbles writer Bill West caught up with Paul McCarthy, former sports editor of the News of the World, to talk about his love for West Ham, his favourite memories and the future for the club.
BW: Have you supported West Ham all your life?
PM: Yes, I’ve supported the club all my life. The first game I went to was in 1972, I think it was a home game against Derby.
BW: What got you into West Ham?
PM: My parents got me into the club. My Dad and many of my uncles all support West Ham. There are also a lot of Tottenham fans in our family which doesn’t always go down well. Exclusive Interview: Paul McCarthy
BW: What is your favourite West Ham memory?
PM: It has to be the 1975 FA Cup final; I was nine years old that day. It was a little bittersweet as Bobby Moore was playing for Fulham that day. But it was more of the occasion and build-up to the final more than anything. The build-up seems bigger then than nowadays. I remember running down the stairs in the morning and we used to read the Mirror and the Sun in our house. I’d take one up to my Dad and then we’d swap and look at individual names and at the time it felt like a massive occasion for West Ham. I also enjoyed the playoff final win earlier this year against Blackpool but to watch an FA Cup final and to see your team win always sticks in the memory. It has to be the best West Ham game I’ve been to.
BW: Worst moment?
PM: There’s been quite a few. The whole season under Avram Grant was very bad. Everyone knew it was a wrong appointment and it was proved correct. But in terms of single moment it has to be when Steven Gerrard scored that goal in the FA Cup final in 2006. It was my son’s first cup final, and I was in the press room because I was working for The People at the time. When I fi led my match report after the game I rang my son, asked how he was doing, he said, “Yes I’m good,” and he just burst into tears. I then spoke to my Dad, we were both sad we lost but we both laughed, you get used to ups and downs as a West Ham supporter. We were so close and played really well, I felt we deserved to win.
BW: Who is your favourite player of all time?
PM: Alan Devonshire by a street. He was a brilliant player. He was such a humble guy. I’ve met him a few times recently and he was a player the fans loved. If England had a player like him now, cutting in from the left and scoring plenty of goals, he would definitely be a superstar in the modern era.
BW: Should West Ham move into the Olympic stadium?
PM: It’s a heart and head situation really. My head says yes in terms of a 60,000 capacity stadium, whether we’d sell it out every other week, I’m not sure but it’s great on a commercial basis. My heart says no, we’ve had great occasions and nights at Upton Park. If we move I think it will be a success in the end. If we’re in the Premier League then it’s great, any other league then you’d worry.
BW: Where will West Ham fi nish this season?
PM: I think we’ll be fine. I’ve seen enough this season to say we’ll comfortably stay up. We’ve bought well, I think the loan signing of Andy Carroll is a great piece of business. I reckon we’ll finish around mid-table. They haven’t got world beaters in the side but they have plenty of top flight experience.
BW: Why were the Hammers so poor under Avram Grant? I think there was a lack of cohesion between Grant and the dressing room. I don’t think he was up to it. When things were going wrong he couldn’t change anything, he was like a fish out of water. I don’t know him personally but seems to be a friendly, knowledgeable guy, but that doesn’t make a great manager. He was the wrong man at the wrong time. West Ham were too loyal to Grant and should have sacked him earlier.
BW: Where do you see West Ham in ten years?
PM: I think we’ll be fine. If the move to the stadium works out and the club gains a sound commercial footing and a revenue stream to bolster the first-team then that’s great. I think we’ve got some promising youngsters coming through. I predict we’ll be a solid Premier League side. There will be ups and downs, but that is life as a West Ham fan.