How many celebs are genuine Hammers or jumping on the bandwagon?

The cult of the celebrity fan lurks in every club, and the genuine ones are easy to spot

West Ham have always invoked a sense of benevolence and affection. They are often quoted as fans’ second favourite team; whether it’s an historical nod to the 1966 World Cup or our attractive style of football.

The club has a fan base stretching across the globe. But what about the celebrity supporters; how many are genuine or simply jumping onto the nearest bandwagon? Noel Edmonds was the first ‘face’ I recognised as a fan growing up. Edmonds presented the Radio 1 Breakfast show, and went onto TV super stardom with Swapshop, Noel’s House Party and Deal or no Deal.

He would mention West Ham during his radio shows and I frequently spotted him in the director’s box at Upton Park. His dedication knew no bounds, and flew by helicopter to watch West Ham play in the 2006 FA Cup Final (well wouldn’t you if you had one?).

Undoubtedly a Hammer with Iron in his blood. The other notable TV presenter among our ranks is GMB frontman Ben Shephard. He has regularly hosted the End of Season Player Awards, and MC’d the presentation made to Mark Noble in his final game at the London Stadium. The music scene has a smattering of West Ham supporters, some real and some exaggerated by scraps of gossip.
Born as David Cook in Plaistow, David Essex was formerly on the club’s books as a youngster. But the smell of greasepaint and roar of the crowd proved irresistible.

Restyled with a new moniker he became one of the biggest pop stars of the 1970s and scored two number 1 singles. Also an actor and stage performer, Essex appeared in Godspell and Evita. A genuine Iron who was regularly seen at the Boleyn signing autographs. Steve Harris, bass player with heavy metal gods Iron Maiden has been a Hammers fan since he was nine years old.

Leytonstone-born Harris briefly trained with the club as a kid, and has the claret and blue emblazoned on his Precision bass. If only to emphasise his devotion, the band also collaborated on a cross-themed range of casual wear.

However, the theory he was once behind a consortium to buy the club never got past the rumour mill.
Online sources have suggested that Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters is a West Ham fan. Much as I’d like to claim him as one of our own, there’s no real substance to this rumour. Grohl was once asked what teams he enjoyed watching when he was touring and mentioned West Ham; which doesn’t necessarily make him a fan.

The acting profession is well represented by Hammers supporters. Half the cast of Eastenders are fans if the publicity blurb is any indication; but few are genuine Irons. Former cast member Danny Dyer is one notable exception. Canning Town born and bred, he really couldn’t have supported any other team. His daughter Dani is the partner of Jarrod Bowen and expecting twins; there’s true dedication to the cause.

Hard man actor Ray Winstone is a dedicated Hammers fan, and has frequently spoken of his love for the club. Winstone also narrated the BBC documentary ‘Bobby’ which charted the life of our World Cup winning captain. Terence Stamp was at the vanguard of working class actors’ rise to prominence in the 1960s. Born in Stepney, the apple was never going to fall far from the tree.

Keira Knightly is happily a confirmed Iron and once had a season ticket in the East Stand at Upton Park.
Our Keira’s schedule takes her all over the world, but will be up in the small hours watching her beloved Irons. James Corden made his name as an actor and writer on the hugely successful Gavin & Stacey sitcom. He staged part of his stag weekend at Upton Park, and was a season ticket holder until he relocated to America.

Actor and comedian Russell Brand is one of the most high profile West Ham supporters in the media.
He once gatecrashed a TV interview to plant a kiss on Sam Allardyce after a win. Frequently interviewed for club themed documentaries, Brand has also appeared on Match of the Day and Football Focus.
Fans may also claim former wife Katy Perry as a Hammer, but it was more by association than true affiliation. As great as she looked in that claret and blue basque I’m calling it now; Ms Perry is not a fan.
A similarly doubtful allegiance is that of Matt Damon. When filming in the UK, he was eager to attend a football match.

When he mentioned Manchester United to English friends, they warned it was tantamount to watching the New York Yankees play; sacrilege to a Boston Red Sox fan like him. So he watched West Ham play instead. Whilst he did attend a game, this does not automatically make him a supporter.

Now if he did a Ryan Reynolds and invested in the club I might be convinced? Other chin scratchers in the acting profession include Monty Python legend John Cleese. There are numerous references to him being a lifelong fan, but no proper interviews or quotes exist regarding his fandom. Although he did create Basil Fawlty; I sometimes think only a Hammers fan could have invented a character quite so pessimistic, sarcastic and agitated as Basil?

Support among sports stars is difficult to gauge, particularly in football where players often hide their loyalty out of necessity. Recently retired England striker Ellen White comes from a family of West Ham supporters and regularly attends matches.

Teddy Sherringham toured nine clubs in a distinguished 24-year career and enjoyed a sojourn helping the Hammers to promotion in 2005. He was born in Highams Park and grew up as a West Ham fan standing proudly on the North Bank.

Mark Noble has made the smooth transition from player to celebrity supporter, and can say without doubt he is a ‘lifelong supporter’. We should be thrilled to have former cricketer Graham Gooch among our number. One of the greatest ever opening batsmen, he has followed the Hammers since early childhood.
Gooch recalled fond memories of watching West Ham as a seven-year old. His Dad took him to Upton Park in 1960 and had to stand on a box to see properly.

In contrast, former World Heavyweight Champion Lennox Lewis has a tenuous grip on the claret and blue. Although born in West Ham, Lewis moved to Canada at the age of 12 and won an Olympic gold medal representing his adopted nation. He became ‘British’ and a Hammers ‘fan’ to promote his boxing career. Oh so cynical I hear you say, but football is the new rock ’n’ roll and to call yourself a fan attracts populist appeal.

Football may be political to some, but I doubt there are many genuine fans in Parliament.
To them it’s no more than a convenient soundbite to please the electorate and prove they’re one of the people. Former Prime Minister David Cameron got into a terrible mess during the 2015 Election campaign.
In full wax lyrical mode, the PM outlined his vision for ethnic minorities. Expanding on the concept of multiple identities he said: ‘You can be Welsh and Hindu and British, Northern Irish and Jewish and British, you can wear a kilt and a turban, you can wear a hijab covered in poppies.

‘You can support Man Utd, the Windies and Team GB all at the same time. Of course, I’d rather you supported West Ham.’ Cameron had previously stated he was an Aston Villa supporter. It was the most grotesque example of fakery and false sincerity.

A posh boy who thought he could mingle with the great unwashed but got found out. He wasn’t even a football fan let alone a West Ham fan. One politician I would gladly welcome is former US President Barak Obama. But like many other alleged supporters it feels like a massive stretch.

The fact that Obama’s sister once lived in Ilford hardly makes him a season ticket holder. He might just as well be a Dagenham and Redbridge fan. Similarly fanciful is the mad notion that Mahatma Ghandi was an Irons fan. Although he established three football teams in South Africa, it seems yet another leap in the imagination.

Whilst studying to become a lawyer Ghandi was reputed to have been friends with West Ham’s founder Arnold Hills. The thought of Ghandi having a sing song in the Boleyn Tavern after a game is too good to be true. The cult of the celebrity fan lurks in every club and the genuine ones are easy to spot. The fakes are just looking for credibility and acceptance to a wider audience.

Rumours spread in the genuine desire for celebrity endorsement but most are at best half-truths.
The late Queen was rumoured to be a fan; and did enjoy a warm relationship with former manager Ron Greenwood; maybe he was trying to find out how she got hold of Cup Final tickets?

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