By Allen Cummings
It was Easter Saturday, but it felt like Christmas Day when all we had wished for came gift wrapped in an amazing 45 minute spell of football. Our hopes and prayers were finally answered on a day some of us were, if the truth be known, secretly dreading.
My first big decision of the day was what retro shirt to wear. I finally decided on the ‘Sbobet’ light blue away shirt with two claret hoops. A ‘retro’ in itself of my favourite ever West Ham shirt, the light blue with claret hoops, worn with distinction by the great man himself, Bobby Moore.
Then it was off for a traditional ‘double double’ pie mash and liquor at Debden before catching the central line to Stratford. A ‘soulless’ walk to the stadium (I jest), before coming face to face with a group of protesters walking around the ground.
In all honesty, when I saw them there looked to be almost as many police escorts as there were protesters themselves. Disappointing there was any protest at all after the unanimous plea from all sides for unity for this vital game. I’m beginning to think some groups are wallowing in their own misplaced self-importance.
Once inside it was time for discussion on the team selection. No Lanzini or Collins as expected. But where was Hernandes? Not in the team or on the bench. A bit of a mystery. I was encouraged by the volume of ‘Bubbles’ when the teams appeared. Sounded as if those supporters inside were determined to give it their best shot.
We just needed the team to respond. After the first few minutes it was clear that Nobes had got the boys truly fired up for this one. Tackles were flying in. Closing down was quick and determined. There was no doubt they were up for it.
The vital break through came on 13 minutes. Unlucky for Saints but not for us. A superb finish by Mario. The goal was excellent but better than that was the significance of the goal. Coming so early it was massive. We’d scored first. What we all desperately wanted. That provided the platform for the rest of the game.
Arnie managed to miss, what was for him, a bit of a sitter before grabbing the second. Then with most of us screaming for the referee to blow for half time and a 2-0 lead, Arthur produced that cross and Arnie that finish to send us all into dreamland.
The second half was more about game management. We’d already won it. No point going looking for more. The most important factor in the second half, for me anyway, was to preserve that clean sheet, something we haven’t always done in the past. Managers and players alike will tell you a clean sheet is a huge confidence booster. We eventually managed that with some ease.
Game over and the journey home was a pleasure. Pleased to say the ‘protesters’ had vanished. Silenced and banished by a fantastic team performance and the efforts of the vast majority of supporters who were there with just one aim in mind, to support the team.
One win doesn’t mean we can all relax. There’s still a job to be done but that was a fantastic start. Playing like that, the task on the pitch will be a whole lot easier. Off the pitch there is still much to be achieved. But three points don’t half make things look better. Football supporters are fickle. Three points and the anger is tempered. Opinions become less negative and more realistic. Maybe the end of our world isn’t actually nigh after all. Maybe. Just maybe, there is some light at the end of the West Ham tunnel.