There was a time when I was adamant no child of mine, niece or nephew would support West Ham. Don’t get me wrong, I’m West Ham through and through. Cut me open and I bleed claret and blue but at that time I’d probably have encouraged any new member of the family to support a different team. Why this desire to avoid raising another Hammer? I can just remember when we started taking my brother Billy to Upton Park and we were relegated. Regularly.
He used to cry his eyes out – the kind of kid you see bawling on Sky Sports at the end of every season – and it was absolutely heartbreaking for him. It was heartbreaking for us too and I just thought then and there that there was no way I wanted my kids to endure this horror.
Sure you can’t protect your children from everything and it’s said that some exposure to sadness and tragedy is a good thing – but what Billy went through in the Boleyn stands was nothing short of torture! But, you’ll be pleased to read, I’m starting to feel a bit differently now that I’ve got a nephew. The way we’ve been playing this season – apart from our horrendous performance at Spurs – has given me hope that now is a good time to become a West Ham fan.
With Slaven coming in, the players we’ve signed this season and the new stadium on the horizon, it all looks very exciting. As I write, my nephew still doesn’t have a name. I have been championing Frankie and Paolo, and I would’ve suggested Billy (Bonzo) too but that’s my brother’s name. Baby Bobby has a certain ring to it as well.
I just feel like the first 15 years of my nephew’s life will be the most exciting in the club’s history. We appear to have moved on from being a yo-yo club – something my brother knows all too well – and we’ve stepped up to a new level with the calibre of our squad, manager, the way we’ve been playing, and I feel we are developing a winning mentality.
I spoke to James Tomkins about this recently and he agreed with me that West Ham have been seen over the years as relegation fodder but how the club is trying to change this perception now. We both felt like West Ham are heading in a new and improved direction.
As for my nephew, he is going to be a West Ham fan, there’s now no doubt in my mind. I also think his Dad (my other West Ham-through and through brother Miller) would have rather died than see his son support someone else – even if it might see him go through all the hurt we went through in the 1990s and 2000s. My thoughts are now turning to the debate about when you should take children to their first football game. For me, it should be as soon as possible.
Admittedly, it’s not up to me on this occasion but if it was, he would be at the Olympic Stadium for our first Premier League game there. He will then always be able to say he was there – even if he doesn’t remember it! Yes, I’m still cross with them after their performance at the weekend but I just get the feeling that times are changing and we are moving forward in the right way. Hopefully being a West Ham fan in the next five, 10 or 15 years will be full of highs and not something to worry or fret about.