I have always thought West Ham do better when I am not watching. I’m sure many of you feel the same and I’m sure you believe in crucial matches this seems to be particularly true.
This all started for me when I first moved to Dubai and we were involved in the play offs in 2004. I saw the first match which we lost 1-0 and I remember deliberately not watching the second leg of the game against Ipswich, which we went on to win 2-0 and then, of course, the crushing disappointment of watching the play-off final in a pub in Dubai city centre run by a Crystal Palace fan just to rub salt further in to the wounds. So in a country where up to recently every single league match was shown live, this has caused issues season after season with the overwhelming desire to watch West Ham on the box conflicting with my belief that I doom them to defeat as soon as I flick that button on the remote control to the correct channel.
Actually, as an aside, now that I’m writing this, wasn’t there a recent statistic that showed West Ham generally performed appallingly in matches that were selected to be screened in the UK? In fact, I think they didn’t win any of their UK televised matches in the entirety of last year. Thank goodness that feat was not based on the Hammers TV appearances in the UAE otherwise we’d be in a far more calamitous position than where we are now!
Perhaps, then, my belief had some vague merit to it thus I think I was right to be wary when a friend of mine, who’s a Newcastle fan, invited me to the local hostelry to take in the two live early kick offs on February 1. However, in the spirit of friendship and the desire to sink a few pints on a Saturday afternoon, I agreed to head down and meet him there. Now, the set up in my local means that we’d be able to sit on one table, he’d watch the Newcastle game on one screen and I’d watch the West Ham game on the other
This had worked well the previous Wednesday night where most of the bar watched the Tottenham v Man City match and I kept an eye on the Chelsea v West Ham game. On that night I had no worries about watching fully assuming that we’d get blown off the park so the curse was not ‘in-play’ that night. Anyway back to Saturday afternoon and it was with some relief where, after the pints had been ordered, the bar staff informed us they had a problem with one of the receivers and were only able to show one of the matches that afternoon and as BeIn Sports were focusing on Newcastle v Sunderland that was the match they were going to show.
Secretly delighted, I made some suitable protestations, but overall the situation suited all. My friend was happy as he could watch what he thought would be a Newcastle home win and I could drink my pint(s) in relative calm knowing that my curse was not going to be an issue for West Ham. Also BeIn Sports run an ‘instant goal’ service, showing goals from other matches 30 seconds after they’ve gone in so I wasn’t going to miss out on any news. As the half progressed you can imagine how things panned out – my friend getting more and more agitated and me getting more and more relaxed as the events from Upton Park were relayed to me in snippet form from friends on Whatsapp and from the instant goal service
However, concern grew at half time when my friend suggested he’d had enough of Newcastle’s ‘awful’ performance and suggested we switch channels to watch West Ham for the second half. “Don’t be so hasty,” I said, offering that we stick with the St James’s Park coverage because “if Newcastle grab an early goal, it’ll be game on!” Luckily he agreed and the channel remained on but as the second half started progressed it became clear there was not going to be a quick Newcastle comeback. After a while with my friend getting more and more angry, venting his frustrations at the screen and not being able to hold any kind of conversation, it was agreed we’d switch over.
So to Upton Park we went pretty much ten or so minutes in to the second half just in time for the curse to take effect and for us to witness some kind of altercation between Andy Carroll and Chico Flores near the touchline. As we’d been chatting about something or other I didn’t really notice the incident as it occurred but became very aware of the issue when I saw Carroll walking off the pitch and it was clearly not a substitution! Needless to say that convinced me the curse was back and in full force.
Pleading and begging to turn the channels back fell on deaf ears but fortunately for me fate was to play its final hand. Seconds later, the TV feed fell apart and we were forced to concede that switching back to the Newcastle match was the only option.
So, a series of events transpired to ensure that I was unable to watch West Ham versus Swansea at the start of the month and THAT is why we won that match. Oh, and I suppose I can also add it was because of a great West Ham performance too. A repeat performance Tuesday night please and I promise not to watch!