‘Que sera, sera, I love cup games near me’

Games against Cheltenham, Shrewsbury and Oxford have all been welcomed for our West Midlands man

I feel that I’m not a selfish person but when it comes to cup ties and West Ham, I must admit that I am very selfish.

You see, I always hope that the Hammers are drawn away from home but also that they are drawn away to a team close to where I live.

Any opportunity to reduce my normal 320-mile round trip is always a benefit. So you can imagine the scene driving away from our third round tie against Leeds last month.

As I listened to the draw and Kidderminster Harriers were announced as a home team I almost prayed for the Hammers to be announced next.

I’ve had a good run at this fixture praying act. A while ago I prayed for an away tie at Cheltenham and we were rewarded with a trip just 16 miles from my home.

I also prayed for an away tie at Oxford, we also got that one but we all know how that game ended. 

So maybe I was being selfish regarding Kidderminster but with the ground being just 31 miles from my home who could blame me?

And as the Hammers were announced, I jumped with glee or I would have if it wasn’t for my seatbelt holding me in place whilst driving on the M25.

The problem is though that if we had drawn Manchester United away, we would have all thought we could win but Kidderminster away, well that’s uncharted territory and West Ham have a history of struggling against lower opposition. 

But could that just be a myth? Well, let’s have a look.

Those of us of a certain age will remember our last trip to Aggborough. That was a game where we seemed to be on the back foot for most of the game but thanks to a solitary Lee Chapman goal we came away with a sneaky win.

Oddly Kidderminster had progressed after knocking out Preston in the previous round, a Preston team which had a certain David Moyes in defence, so there is a clear history here. 

In recent times the cup draw has been favourable to yours truly. We, of course, had that earlier mentioned defeat against Oxford United, a game which still sends shivers down my spine and a game which I didn’t even stay until the final whistle so fortunately missed Oxford’s fourth goal.

Cheltenham was an interesting one. The Gloucestershire club made it tough for us Hammers but it’s a game that I will remember not for what happened on the field but off it.

Getting to the ground, we made a slight mistake and ended up being allowed into the home end.

It was only after buying a few beers and walking out to the stand that we realised that we had been allowed into the wrong area.

It seemed that the people who had checked our tickets on entry needed to go to Specsavers.

After security got called we were escorted into the away end and as in that area no alcohol was served, we were the only ones with a beer.

Mind you it wasn’t our performance on the pitch that was questionable that night as our seats were right near the burger counter and we all smelt of fried onions by the time the Hammers had come away with a win.

Our most recent cup performance in my area of the country was at Shrewsbury where having parked at the Percy Thrower garden centre, we were treated with an abject performance which allowed the Shropshire team to earn a draw, and then to subject us all to more tedium at the London Stadium where we finally sneaked an extra time winner.

But at least from those three games in the West Midlands, we had escaped with two wins and a draw, I’m discounting the Oxford result here as they are in my eyes an East Midlands team.

But what of other games against lower league sides? 

Well who can forget, and trust me I’ve tried, the visit of Emley to the Boleyn back in January 1998. 

Yes we won that one too but we really struggled and if it wasn’t for a late John Hartson winner, we would have all been travelling to rural Yorkshire for the replay.

A bit further south from Yorkshire we all watched, due to covid restrictions, our trip last year to Stockport where the highlight of the game wasn’t Craig Dawson’s winner but the fireworks display outside that attempted to hijack the game.

Who cannot forget our trip to Bristol Rovers back in 2007 at the Memorial Stadium? We may have come away with a 2-1 victory and I was home by 11pm but we were missing a midfielder as Kieron Dyer had broken his leg during that game and was never the same again.

Going back further, I should mention our games against Hereford United but I was too young to attend those and so I won’t mention the fact that we went to Edgar Street in 1972 and 1974 but never came away with a win, oops think I just did.

Also notice that I have yet to mention our trip to Merseyside and in particular our tie with Tranmere Rovers, where even a team including Di Canio and Joe Cole succumbed to a 1-0 defeat. 

But that was a game in Merseyside, a clear problem area of the country for us Hammers.

And so all-in-all, it just may be a fallacy that we do not get results against lower opposition, sure the games may not be classics but we still have an above average results record.

With the Kidderminster game scheduled for a lunchtime kick off, I will be home well before my fellow Hammers even make the M6.

If the result goes against us, you know who to blame. Yes, that West Midlands local who had prayed to the gods for a ‘local fixture for local people’.

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