Wednesday, 13 May 2009

The fickle world of Football

I’m relatively new to the world of football fandom. I started really paying attention to West Ham about 10 years ago. I’d always known of a loose family tradition (loose in terms of my dad going when he was a kid and local, and when going to the football (and no doubt having a fish supper and paying for the bus home) would give you change from half a crown.

When growing up in Gloucester (where the locals seemed more interested in getting muddy, losing teeth, and allowing their friends to use their thighs to change the shape of their ears) I encouraged my dad to take me to a match. Not a West Ham match necessarily, but any match. Hereford wouldn’t have been that expensive, but it never happened. Moving to Dorset didn’t help either – nearest team – Salisbury. Indeed.

It went to the next level when I was living in Cardiff. The Welsh don’t do football. They seem to do egg chasing quite a lot, and although they have a national football team – Wales, but no-one goes to see them. They have a mighty stadium (which they borrow off the chunky blokes) and even when they play against countries the rest of the world has heard of, like Germany, only about 19 people go, as they think that 19 people paying £30 a ticket is better than 70,000 people paying a fiver. When I was there – they had better ideas, and would at least half fill the stadium by charging a tenner.

My first match was Wales vs. Norway (I think Wales lost one nil – it can’t have been very memorable. OK I’ve just gone and checked – it was one all – so I saw a goal. Nathan Blake scored. Un-memorably. It was in 2000. It’s unusual for me to check facts, but I’m probably going to put this on a football forum. I think this completely vindicates my dad in not taking me to a match earlier in my life. If I can barely remember my first football match, at the age of 23, what hope was I ever going to have at 9. None.

I won’t bore you with a lot of inbetweens, but this season I shared a West Ham season ticket to West Ham with a guy I met on the internet. I’d been to a few games, and decided to extend my investment. We split the big games, (although neither of us could do arsenal, so I took Spurs instead) and my last big one was Liverpool last weekend.

I’d noticed a strange phenomenon with West Ham, and other teams who don’t always sell out their games.

1 – West Ham charge more to get in when it is a game against a big team. ManU, Liverpool, Chelsea, Arsenal, Spurs and I think they reserve the right to add another to the list – often the last game of the season.

2 – These games almost always sell out.

3 – West Ham are far more likely to lose these games.


4 – More people end up paying more money see the team lose.

It made me wonder what the motivation of going to these games is. Of course, last season, we beat Man U and Liverpool. Last season, these were heroic victories, and if I’d known then what I know now, I would have spoiled the end of the result for myself (knowing the result before you get to the game would be very odd. It would make football like WWE wrestling. Of course, going to see man U at home is pretty much like that – but it doesn’t stop about 400,000 people doing it every couple of weeks...

That is the motivation. Not seeing your team lose, but potentially seeing your team win, and win big time.

My dad once told me he’d rather see us lose, than see a boring nil nil draw. I laughed at him. Surely it is better to get a point than to get no points.

I took him to the West Brom game in March. Thinking this was a good opportunity to see us win, and it was cheap (£35 a go seemed cheap enough) and it was his birthday.
Worst. Game. Ever.

I think that match will go down in premier league history as the most boring game played. Neither side could be bothered. West Brom were resigned to go down, but defended a lot, West Ham had reached the safety zone, but didn’t realise European football was an option, we’d lost our star striker, and didn’t really have a clue. There were two highlights for me – I got to spend some proper time with my dad, which we hadn’t done for years, and Carlton Cole was sitting in front of the executive boxes above our heads, and someone in the crowd shouted “wake up Carlton” and he did. For about a minute. Dreadful.

Last week it was the Liverpool game. A sell out. Cheapest seat was £45, and much singing of “sign on sign on with a pen in your hand ‘cos you’ll never get a job” and “the referee’s a scouser” and other songs I wouldn’t repeat on the internet (my mum reads the internet!) and a scuffle in the stand above us where a Liverpool fan seemed to be doing a bad job of blending in with the crowd when Gerrard scores their first, we didn’t really turn up, but it didn’t really matter. Yes it was a demonstration of “men against boys” and yes it was obvious why they are second in the league and we (by then) were 9th, but one of the great things about being a West Ham fan for me, is that no-one expects you to do any better.

When we lose three nil to Liverpool, or draw nil nil to the whipping boys of West Brom, the response is the same. “what do you expect – its West Ham”. I’ll be doing a whole season ticket to myself next time. I’m hoping of course, that I’ll get the opportunity to see us turn over some of the big boys, but I’m also expecting a hatful against Birmingham and Wolves too.


Anonymous said...

some deep thinking there Dave,like it

Anonymous said...

I don't think it's fair to say that the Welsh are that apathetic about the round-balled sport...I remember there were some very loud cheers at that match. It was when they announced that Germany scored against England. They might not like football that much, but they support anyone who beats the English.