‘It was four decades in the making but when will there be a sequel?’

Pete May hopes his latest book will bring back some memories of an epic down and up season

Massive: The Miracle of Prague took me 43 years to write. The book begins with the 1980 FA Cup Final between West Ham and Arsenal. I was a student at Lancaster University, but arrived at Wembley three days before my final exams hoping to buy a ticket from a tout. 

Miraculously, a dad with a small boy suggested that if he could sneak his son under the turnstile I could have his ticket for a fiver. Trevor Brooking stooped to score a rare header and as Billy Bonds lifted the FA Cup, I was convinced that West Ham would go on to dominate English and European football. Strangely it didn’t quite turn out that way.

Certain words will still cause palpitations in the heart of any West Ham fan. The Valentine’s Day Massacre, a 6-0 away defeat at Oldham on a plastic pitch in the League Cup semi-final of 1990. 

That 6-0 defeat at Man City in another League Cup semi-final first leg in 2014. The Glenn Roeder relegation season of 2002-03. That plane at Wigan trailing the banner “Avram Grant: Millwall legend” as we went down in 2011. 

Manny-gate under Harry Redknapp, when the club forgot that Manny Omoyinmi was cup-tied. Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano being owned by a third party. Eggert the bald Icelandic biscuit baron and Mr Gudmundsson the Icelandic multi-millionaire who proved to be skint after the credit crunch. 

That pitch invasion against Burnley. Allen McKnight, Titi Camara, Savio, Roberto, Jack Wilshere. The list of iffy signings is never-ending. Nurse, the screens. Mind you, I did almost get to write a trophy-winning book about our glorious FA Cup win in 2006, that was until Steven Gerrard unleashed a hypersonic missile in added time and along with my dreams, he also sunk any proposed publishing deal.

Then a bit like in the film Withnail and I, where Withnail and Marwood went on holiday by mistake, we reached a cup final by mistake. And somehow we won it, thanks to Jarrod Bowen being on fire. Massive is my diary of the 2022-23 season, and what a strange season it was. A lot of the new signings misfired and three times David Moyes faced ‘El Sackico’ matches, against Everton, Nottingham Forest and Fulham away. 

The fact we beat Nottingham Forest 4-0 one week and the next week lost 4-0 at Brighton said it all. Yet progress in the Europa Conference League was always solid and Moyes never really got the credit he deserved for mastering the Thursday/Sunday grind with a small squad.

Massive is written from a fan’s perspective and features the foibles of my group of fellow season-rocket holders, Matt, Lisa, Nigel, Fraser and Michael. You can join our search for a pre-match café (the Best Meze) and post-match pub (we settled on the Eagle at Leyton). 

There’s plenty of discussion of trivia such as bands beginning with Z and Premier League players with palindromic names (Palace’s Eze is one), plus a strange over-reliance on the powers of Nigel’s half-time lucky banana. I never thought I’d get a ticket for the Europa Conference League Final, until my pal Denis managed to secure a pair from a contact at Uefa and we found ourselves among the prawn-sandwich eaters. 

My main memory is a feeling of abject terror for the eight minutes of added time after Bowen scored. The ghost of Gerrard loomed large. Watching it again I’m still worried we might not hold on. Obviously, West Ham getting silverware can’t rank with the Moon landings or the discovery of DNA – in terms of a triumph of the human spirit it’s more important than that. 

It’s the little moments that linger from the celebrations. Coufal wearing a Czech flag and celebrating with his kids, Antonio sitting alone in the victory arch just trying to take it all in, Lucas Paqueta clutching his medal and raising a triumphant fist amid a carpet of ticker tape as he disappears down the tunnel after 40 minutes of celebrating. 

To top it all Denis spotted a tall bloke in the crowd and asked: ‘Oi, big boy, what’s your name?’. It turned out his name really was Ludek Miklosko and he comes from near Moscow and he used to play in goal for West Ham. 

As we hit the bars of Prague’s Old Town, I was convinced that West Ham really would now dominate European football and never lose 6-0 to anyone ever again. Hopefully Massive will bring back some memories of an epic down and up season. And do look out for the sequel, which is due in 43 years’ time in 2066.

Massive: The Miracle of Prague is published by Biteback, price £12.99.

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