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Dullest ever game? Try being a Hammer!

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Watching England matches is a breeze if you have served an apprenticeship watching turgid Hammers matches with a teenager who absolutely refuses, whatever the occasion, to ever leave early no matter how bad the score or how awful the football. Yesterday, I even felt a secret guilty pleasure in switching off the England game five minutes early and was reminded of other occasions when I’d dearly wished I could have been put out of my misery with a swift exit before the final whistle.

I should have known, really, from the very start. The first game I ever attended with my son, then about 11, was an away fixture in the Championship in 2003-2004. The rain came down and, of course, we were seated in a sparsely populated, uncovered area behind the goal. We were subjected to about an hour’s random waterfall on the seats all around, making us stand up, move along, and sit down again like demented chess pieces—at least it kept us warm.

I’d been worried that as ‘away’ fans in the Watford end, we’d be the subject of abuse if we inadvertently leapt up when West Ham scored—a groundless concern, as apart from David Connelly somehow managing to skew one over from about one meter away, the Watford goal was as safe and untouched as the salad bowl at Sam Allardyce’s dinner table many years later.

The home game against Walsall later that season was a similar, stunning zero-zero ‘borefest’. The best thing about those Championship games was that it was easy to use the gents, grab a tea, and be back in the seat in under five minutes, such was the moderate crowd size. I think it was that week we witnessed the weird spectacle (when looked at through 2020’s lens of wokery) of halftime ‘entertainment’ of dancing teenage girls with pom-poms—being soaked by some joker on the ground maintenance crew who turned on the irrigation system midway through their routine. And I apologise now for cheering as the poor girls got drenched, but at least the ‘Hammerettes’, as they were called, carried on with a determination sadly missing from England’s spiritless performance last night.

Freezing night at The London Stadium

Fast forward nearly 20 years, and the closest I have come to begging my son to leave early was a home game at the relatively new London Stadium in 2018, a January FA Cup replay against Shrewsbury (why did we expect this to be worth the four-hour round trip?). Predictably, the game went to extra time at 0-0, and this is pretty much the coldest I have ever been at a game, with only the static electricity generated from rubbing two replica ‘waterproof’ nylon jackets together as we shivered in our seats keeping us from freezing like two claret and blue clad ice pops.

I lost count of the number of times I glanced up in envy as the lucky leavers trudged past us, leaving the die-hards and the frozen-hard rooted in their seats. Reece Burke’s 112th-minute goal, which finally relieved the onset of hibernation, felt the same as having the aged and ill family dog finally put to sleep—and produced the same sighs of equal relief and regret for us having to witness the spectacle.

And unlike those lucky enough to escape early last night from the dreary draw, back in the depths of time, I was again forced to stay when I wanted to depart at halftime, such was the grim entertainment when we were two-nil down against Sunderland one match day back in the early 2000s. Seated that week in the Trevor Brooking lower stand, for some reason opposite our normal seats, we found ourselves underneath the away fans and enduring all their triumphant chanting and goading. Again, the begging on my part to leave early was rebutted. However—unlike England last night, the second half fightback was immediate and immense—Ian Pearce’s free kick and a Jermain Defoe double caused endless ‘I told you so’ comments in my direction and, I suspect, created that day, 13th December, more than 20 years ago, the unwritten rule between us which still bonds father and son together that we never, ever, ever, ever, ever leave early.

Damn you, Jermain Defoe, for your double that day and for the ritual it created that ensures we can never escape even the most turgid performances one minute before the whistle. Fortunately, I still have ownership of my own remote control in my house and can safely hit the ‘off’ button early with no guilt when England fails to entertain. The hardened realist created from over forty years as a Hammer means I’m well used to fortune (and fun) hiding—but, of course, I will be back at the same screen this weekend for the last 16 knockout game, optimistically believing with everyone else that Southgate will finally find the correct combination numbers to unlock the door and unleash the magic.

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Like everyone else, lifelong WHU fan and season ticket holder in old BMU stand at Upton Park from 2003. Billy Bonds these days with my adult son and impatiently waiting for my Grandson to be old enough to initiate him before his mum grabs him for Man U. All opinions are my own very biased ones.

0 comments

  • Matt says:

    “Be careful what you wish for” Jog on Joe Cole and Rio Ferdinand you two faced double standard idiots. Southgate is the new Moyes. Clueless, no vision, pragmatic and play the dullest brand of football. Oh and I forgot stubborn

  • Carthorse says:

    That was a pleasure to read.

  • Eddy Trivett says:

    Yes England seem to play Moyesball but let’s be positive and hope things will change for WHU next season, it won’t change for England until Southgate goes.

  • mibatch says:

    How I loved your headline, Martin. Unforunately i have spent 7 decades following COYH and there have been a few ups but MANY downs. How about 5 big guys leaving London in a Ford Pop one early Saturday am to hit fog on the M1 and arrive at Burnley for a cup game just as it started. After 15 minutes we are 4 down and lost 6.1. Later in the week we were told Moro and 5 others were ‘heavily’ fined for spending Friday night in the pub and were locked out of the hotel until the coach arrived and took them to the ground. Looking back that was a high, but not at the time. I feel now we must just leave the new playing regime to do whatever and hopefully have a better new season than the last one.

  • D says:

    I have found it quite amusing that the pundits have been rightly critical of England performances yet fail to see the irony that the bilge they have been serving up is what we have had to endure for the last couple of years. Yet we get criticised for complaining.
    It’s even worse when the beeb invite David Moyes on and he advises Steve Clark not to go for a win and stick with the draw against the Swiss and then in the Scots last match he criticised them for not playing on the front foot. When did he ever do that.

  • Jeeps says:

    Moyes and Southgate two peas in a pod.
    Can’t believe suggestion that England needed Maguire or Phillips to give it backbone.
    Is it time for Southgate to follow Moyes?

  • Stubborn jock says:

    Love it how Moyes gets the hate for what Southgate is doing. 😀

    The man is gone, just move on.

  • Bonzo says:

    Just incase it’s the greatest comeback of all time, with many goals in a few minutes and I could never forgive myself if I’d left early and missed such an incredible feat, I will never leave early. Never have. So I fully sympathise.

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