The Iron (Twelfth) Man

So the club has found the child who was crying during the Nottingham Forest FA Cup game and have offered him a free VIP ticket to any upcoming game at the Boleyn Ground along with two boxes of tissues for when it all goes wrong.

So the club has found the child who was crying during the Nottingham Forest FA Cup game and have offered him a free VIP ticket to any upcoming game at the Boleyn Ground along with two boxes of tissues for when it all goes wrong. That’s gallows humour. If you’ve been a West Ham fan over the last couple of months you’ve probably been more exposed to it than a Chernobyl food vendor to poor tourism.

As flattering as it is to be given the opportunity to write for my club, on any level, I have to admit I was a little intimidated at the feat of creating “something positive and inspirational” given our recent track record: 11 goals conceded in two games and losing a comfortable London derby to Fulham. Oh dear. Boos ringing out across the Boleyn ground as we battle the Baggies and relegation looms like, well, a massive list of mediocre football teams.

But West Ham shouldn’t be considered a mediocre football team. We certainly don’t look like it on paper. Far from it! And yet here we are, in typical West Ham fashion; ever expecting but not delivering. There is, however, one place where the club is doing just that, in the legions of its loyal fans – the claret and blue army. It is West Ham 101, the first sentence in the book to being an Iron: “If you want to be a West Ham supporter you’ve got to have a sense of humour.” It’s essential.

It’s our evolutionary coping mechanism that helps us deal with the heartache of frequent relegation and the ever hiding fortune of promotion to renewing ourselves as a Premiership side. It’s what makes us such a remarkable football club and separates us from local rivals who’d rather resort to throwing coins at players whenever the chips are down.

I was floored by the superb performance of our fans at both Nottingham Forest and Manchester City. Despite the crushing results they stood up, ever sure of their allegiance and with a song and a smile showed these sides what it meant to be a hammer, dancing and celebrating despite the odds – this is what we need, come win, lose or draw; the fanatical, cockney charm that makes us a unique club. It must always be present. We shouldn’t be regarded as a club that boos our side when we’re not on form or whose vocal delivery and fan spirit flatlines whenever we are behind.

Take one look at the Brit or Selhurst park. This is the quality of the twelfth man that Upton park was once famed for. Everyone has got their opinion on how West Ham can dig ourselves out of this rut but what can any of us really do to help? I’m aware of the counter argument. Yes, we should expect more from our players and board members and yes it is easy to write up the typical fan base call to arms whenever a club is facing relegation.

But here’s the truth of it: there’s no clear answers and there’s no easy way out of this predicament. There’s no certainty to a revival of the club if Big Sam gets the sack or if he stays (an argument to which I will remain happily seated on the fence). We’ve got a lot of drama heading our way, plenty of ups and downs and we really do not want to be a Championship side when we move into the Olympic Stadium. We need our fan base to cut out the self-pity, to stand and be counted.

We need to treat the occasion of a Premier League game like we were playing at Wembley, if not for the morale and intimidating force of our club than for the celebration of the twilight of our reign at the Boleyn Ground, one of the most important football grounds in English history. We are the fan base that holds Barack Obama, Queen Elizabeth II, Alfred Hitchcock, Lennox Lewis, Dave Grohl, Ray Winstone, Matt Damon and, of course, that handsome revolutionary comedian — Nick Frost in our numbers.

These oncoming years, regardless of place in any cup or league or result against any team, should be a celebration of who we are; a team that is the academy of football, that stands against the odds as a giantslayer, which stood at the centre of an international team that brought home the World Cup in the golden age of our football history. Have the claret and blue face paint on standby, the tubes of soapy water and bubble machines by the front door. Get ready to make a big noise. If we are truly Moore than a Club and we can stand up and prove it, the future of London is ours.

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