I won’t lie, after the embarrassing 6-0 defeat at the Etihad in the League Cup, I was distraught and I felt like the whole footballing world was collapsing around me. The main reason? I’d already bought my ticket for the second leg the Monday before.
Unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, my Dad and I can’t make any more games this season. We always make at least one trip to Upton Park every season, me travelling from near Dublin, him from Manchester. Knowing that from February we will be out of action, we were excited that there was a home leg of a semi-final we could go to.
So being eager and passionate fans, we purchased our tickets as soon as we could. We wanted to pick the exact seats we wished to sit in regardless of cost, so I bought two tickets in the East Stand Upper, right beside the away fans. I think if I hadn’t already have purchased these tickets, I would have shrugged off the defeat as kind of funny and typical.
But watching the game, I was so full of child-like hope, I forgot it was West Ham I was watching. I would have taken a 2-0 defeat – even if we wouldn’t have turned that around, it would have been a bit more interesting to watch.
At the first goal, I was ok. Second goal, I held my nerve. Third goal, I poured more wine. By the time the fifth went in, I lost control of my emotions and felt the bottom lip beginning to wobble. I just felt like I’d put so much time, money and energy into looking forward to my only visit to the Boleyn Ground this season, I felt like I’d been personally let down.
After the game, I needed to calm down, needed to reason with what had just happened. I questioned whether I should still go, but realistically there’s no way I was going to not go to the second leg.
I’m never one of those people who complains about spending the money only to watch “that rubbish”, because that’s my choice. I don’t expect footballers to be concerned about how much money we spend on tickets, because that’s not their problem. It’s our choice as fans to part with that cash, and we know to expect the unexpected.
Thinking about it, the second leg is going to possibly be one of the oddest games in the world. 6-0 down at what is effectively half time, maybe only a few thousand West Ham fans, maybe hardly any Man City fans. I can’t even predict what the atmosphere will be like. After about half an hour, I had turned this around. We have to do that, we have to take the positives out of a really awful footballing situation.
As disappointed as I was, I thought about what my Dad always says to me: “It’ll be a memory”. That is exactly what I started to think; as weird as this experience may be, I don’t think I’ll ever forget the time I went to a League Cup semi-final when we were 6-0 down on a cold Tuesday night. I really hope that it’ll be a game like Sunderland at home, last day of the season in 2011.
We were already relegated and lost 3-0 on the day, but the atmosphere was the best. You knew that the only people who had bought tickets to this fixture were the fans who just wanted to get behind the team, no matter what. The circumstances going into that game were pretty grim, but sitting in the Trevor Brooking lower, we had an absolute whale of a time. I’m not suggesting that the Man City game will be as fun as that, but I hope it’s a similar attitude and those attending are the fans that stick with the team through the good and really bad.
I am expecting good humour and some top banter with the away fans. I suggest we have seven rounds of “let’s pretend we scored a goal”. I could be really let down on the night after flying from Dublin to Manchester, then taking a four-plus hour drive to East London. It might be freezing cold, and we might be the only two people at it. But it doesn’t matter, I’m a West Ham fan, I’ve bought the ticket, of course I’ll be there. I’d also like to take this opportunity to wish my Dad a speedy recovery from leg surgery after the League Cup fixture.