Someone said to me the other day that “At West Ham you hate any player who leaves you and always give them a hard time when they come back”. I attempted to argue this but he was having none of it and it got me thinking was this the general perception of West Ham supporters?
I don’t think any club enjoys seeing a player leave especially one that was perhaps popular and it is still seen a bit of a betrayal when they join another club, Any Old Iron Words: Vinny Ryan especially one that we dislike anyway. The most ferocious reception of any ex-player was of course Paul Ince. An exciting player and one who had come through the youth system, he was always destined for bigger things and when Manchester United came in for him you could have perhaps forgiven him for leaving. But what he couldn’t be forgiven for was posing for a photograph in a Manchester United shirt before he had even signed for them.
Excuses about the incident have surfaced over the years and he was clearly poorly advised but to do something like this was unprecedented and we have seen nothing like it to this day so whilst time should probably douse the fire of anger the supporters had towards Ince, at the time and the years shortly after I think the reception he received was largely justified. In recent times it is Frank Lampard Junior who has seen much abuse thrown his way. His situation is quite different to that of Ince and any other player because most of his problems have been caused since his departure.
Lampard Jnr was a little harshly treated by a very small section of the West Ham support when he was at the club due to his father being the assistant manager and his uncle being the manager. He was very rarely taken off despite going through a dip in form and also had a little more weight than a player playing in the top division perhaps should have. When his father and uncle were dismissed, he also saw this as a time to move on and I can’t say I really blame him. He had played 170 times for the club, scored 38 goals and had just broken into the England side. He left to join Chelsea in 2001 but his trips back to Upton Park have seen him berated and booed throughout.
This is due to many comments he made before the games against Chelsea and he went through a stage of struggle when he came to not talking about West Ham. My theory is that Lampard Junior felt terribly hurt that his own had turned on him. He was a West Ham boy, his father a West Ham legend and for him to receive such abuse saw him lash out and he was always in the press slagging the club. He gloated that he was now at a ‘big club’ and painted himself as a victim of abuse when at West Ham. This was not the case and certainly not to the degree that he made out.
Lampard Jnr rose to the bait every time we played Chelsea and could not help but getting caught up when other players would have just let it go. So yes, we have a pop at Lampard but in true schoolyard speak ‘he started it first’ and it still to this day gets underneath his skin. Next we have Jermaine Defoe who put in a transfer request the day after we were relegated. He stayed at the club during the summer and played in the Championship where he was sent off three times in three months and refused to pass to other players. Are we not to feel a little aggrieved at this disrespect of our football club? Nigel Reo Coker is one where things may have been a little over the top. He was minutes away from being the first West Ham captain to lift a trophy since Billy Bonds yet a year later he was out of the club and hated. Our poor season saw Alan Pardew sacked and Reo Coker’s form dip. Rumours of off the field arrogance didn’t help and he was seen as the face of our struggle and possibly wrongly blamed for this.
But again, he didn’t help himself. We all remember that game against Manchester United in the first under Alan Curbishley. He scored the goal to win us the game but his celebration was one of man who had a massive chip on his shoulder. He couldn’t wait to leave the club and his career has nosedived ever since.
When it comes to Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick, Marlon Harewood and Bobby Zamora they are shown nothing but respect from the West Ham supporters. This is because they haven’t behaved disrespectful and discourteous towards the supporters. It has always been the case that if you wear the West Ham shirt and put effort in you will be accepted by the West Ham support and we have a good relationship with many of our former players. So when someone decides to comment that we are a harsh, unfriendly bunch of fans make sure you correct them and let them know that there is some excellent justification to our dislike of some of our former players who have taken away much bitterness.