Starting any article with a dictionary definition is a cliché, so I’m not going to do it. But if there is one word we’re pondering the true meaning of recently, it’s ‘massive’.
Because, by all means, West Ham are just that. Or at least they were up to around mid-November. The chants of ‘West Ham are massive…’ on the home and away terraces, the social media posts, the water-cooler conversations – Hammers fans just can’t get enough of proclaiming the vastness of the club.
It seems to have gotten under the skin of other fans. The likes of Spurs, Chelsea and Arsenal supporters are irritated by our new found confidence, and they want us to pipe down. I get that, I really do. When any rival fans get over-excited over something that seems trivial, it’s annoying. Especially if things aren’t going well in our own quarters.
A person has to have some kind of personal preference to a team or player to be able to stomach positivity surrounding them. Even if it’s not your team. It’s possible to enjoy the hype around Jack Grealish if you like Jack Grealish. It’s possible to want Arsenal to win the Champions League if you like Arsenal.
So, it’s totally understandable that anyone with a dislike for West Ham in general may be irritated by the over-enthusiastic vocalisation of the Hammers being a massive club, when in reality there are “bigger” clubs both in the country and the world. As a West Ham fan, my message to those people is: ‘Please let us enjoy it while it lasts.’
Of course, any form of gloating can come back to bite. But isn’t that the beauty of football? Arsenal are not ‘by far the greatest team the world has ever seen’, Emile Heskey has never been ‘alright’ and Christian Dailly was never the ‘love of my life’.
If we took all the chanting, excitement and banter too literally, there wouldn’t be any fun. The same chant or gesture can have two meanings; when sung by Manchester United fans, Ole being at the wheel was joyous.
To opposition fans in the last couple of weeks of his tenure, the song took on a completely different meaning. Similarly, Jose Mourinho used his ‘chin up’ gesture as an encouraging sign to his Chelsea fans, only to see it used to mock him by rival fans later on.
Yes OK, West Ham fans have been a little giddy lately. We jest that we’re massive, but actually it does mean something to us as fans. This moment, this season, this atmosphere at the club is, by many definitions, massive. There have been murmurs of our monumental status for a while, before Moyes got us into the Europa League, really. But the momentum really gathered in November, when it just seemed that very little was going wrong.
The most goosebump rousing rendition of the chant for me was away at Genk. It’s one thing reading ‘#massive’ or ‘massiveeeeee’ on Twitter (the more e’s the better), but it’s another to hear fans singing it on a Thursday night in Europe.
Yes, we probably did start ironically using the term when West Ham finished five points above the relegation zone in 19/20. But isn’t that what we do best? A bit of self-deprecation goes a long way in east-end humour.
Similar to England fans pressing repeat on ‘It’s Coming Home’, West Ham fans used their mantra to build belief, rouse a community and remind everyone that we could actually be better than the opposition predicted. I know I avoided a cliché at the start of this piece, so in the interest of balance, I’ll finish off with one.
Over the course of nearly two years, we’ve learnt to appreciate football, embrace the small things that bring us joy and maybe take certain things less seriously. With this in mind, let’s keep up the chants and be proud of how far ‘massive’ West Ham have come. Don’t worry about the potential backlash – until next year.