When cattle creep, When I’m asleep, To lands of hope I stray. Then at daybreak, When I awake, My bluebird flutters away. Happiness new seemed so near me, Happiness come forth and heal me
The oft forgotten second verse of Bubbles
One of the most frustrating aspects of supporting a Premier League team is the simple lack of ambition 75% of clubs now have these days. Unfortunately, the league is so awash with money that real ambition has disappeared. Gone are the days when clubs would take domestic cups really seriously (there are a few exceptions such as Swansea City’s glorious season this year), deciding nowadays that the Premier League cash is more important. This leads to clubs simply being satisfied at reaching the “magical” 40 point mark, knowing that they will be on the gravy train for another season. The rich will continue to get richer, especially with the new TV deal kicking in next season. And what do we have to look forward to? A lame cup exit versus a lower division team, whilst the manager talks about “concentrating on the league”, when in reality all they care about is finishing in 17th place.
To demonstrate the massive gulf that exists within the same league, Manchester United came into this game with some fans suggesting this season hadn’t been as successful as it could have been. I’m sure the home defeat to Real Madrid in the Champions League hurt, as too did the FA Cup defeat to Chelsea, but surely winning the Premier League at a canter from their nearest rivals was the number one objective of the season? Whilst West Ham’s fans would boo and jeer every touch United would have, who wouldn’t want even a small slice of the success they have had.
I’m sure many will have believed the rhetoric in the past few weeks from the owners of West Ham regarding what will happen when we move to the Olympic Stadium in terms of being able to compete with the best, but is it going to be a couple of years too late? There are simply already too many clubs with richer owners with deeper pockets in the Premier League today. There are at most 7 European spots up for grabs, including the two cups and its fair to say that five of those are now all but sewn up on a yearly basis. Add in a Liverpool team who have the cash but just keep spending it poorly and there isn’t a lot of room for anyone else. Continue reading →
Does anyone really dislike Fulham? I’m sure I can see some hands at the back of the room belonging to some QPR fans, but gents you should really worry about what ‘Appy ‘Arry is doing rather than your rivals down the Fulham Palace Road. No, I didn’t think so. In a city where Premier League rivalries are so intense, it is always amazing that Fulham sit in the middle, completely unaffected by the missiles flying over their head. A bit like Switzerland really. Neutral, steady but with less chocolate. Even with a money bags chairman who essentially bought his way into the Premier League over a decade ago they still rarely offend anyone.
Back in the mid 1990′s the club were on the brink of losing their existence. They had fallen almost as far as they could have gone, finishing in the lower reaches of the fourth tier of English football in 1996. Around this time I adopted them as my second team. I was living in North Kensington (a posh way of saying Olympia) and with the Cottagers playing at home on alternate weekends to West Ham and the then FMF (Future Mrs. Fuller) working on a Saturday, I would wander down North End Road, with a few stops enroute at the The Clarence, Old Oak, Seven Stars and the Elm with my flat mate Marc. We would pay our £6 to get in and could stand on a crumbling terrace, watching some terrible football. We were actually two of the attendees in the game versus Scunthorpe United that attracted just over 2,000 spectators, the lowest attendances for a league match in the club’s history.
Thanks to Flick to Kick for this picture
The club around this time launched its Fulham 2000 appeal. It was a last throw of the dice to try to secure a future for the club, with the Royal Bank of Scotland refusing to discuss the future of the club and the ground. I signed up, in what was a prototype for the current Community Ownership schemes such as Lewes’s, and even became an “agent” for the club, selling the £10 membership packages (a letter from Jimmy Hill I remember was my highlight). The club soon pulled in a few football luminaries such as George Best and Johnny Haynes to become members and within a remarkably short period of time, the bank had come back to the negotiating table. The immediate future of the club was safe. Continue reading →
Just after their home defeat against Liverpool at the end of December, QPR manager Harry Redknapp made the bold prediction to the watching Sky Sports audience that Rangers could “get out of this”. Since then they have shown signs of life, including the coupon-busting win at Stamford Bridge versus Chelsea. But it was the trip across London to play West Ham that I’ve had my eye on this week. Despite his “loveable” image as a true Eastender, ‘Appy ‘Arry isn’t the most popular ex-Hammer in E13. Perhaps it was his “interesting” transfer dealings whilst at West Ham, brilliantly recounted by Tom Bower’s in his book Broken Dreams, or the fact he managed arch rivals Spurs, but Redknapp will not get a heroes reception on Saturday that he perhaps, like his nephew Frank Lampard, feels he deserves from the Upton Park faithful.
Recent form suggests that this game could be a lot closer than current league positions suggest. Both have come off the back of tricky midweek FA Cup replays, with the Super Hoops recording a great win at West Bromwich Albion whilst The Hammers succumb to a predictable defeat at Old Trafford. Bookies bwin suggest the smart money is with a low scoring game, with under 1.5 goals at 1.83. West Ham’s home form this season has seen them taken points when they have gone a goal behind, as they did against Chelsea back in December. But scoring goals has been a major problem for the Hammers this season, with Kevin Nolan top scorer with just five goals. In fact Carlton Cole’s two league efforts are the best the forwards at West Ham can manage so far this season but he is still 6.5 to score first with bwin.
The two clubs have shared more players than most over the modern history (aka The Premier League years) than most. Whilst Keiron Dyer is a current player who has graced both sides, (in the loosest sense of the world) Martin Allen and his cousin Clive, Tim Breaker and Steve Lomas have made the move in the Premier League Years.. Of course going back a bit further there was the legendary 1980/81 side of West Ham that featured Phil Parkes and Paul Goddard who played for both teams. Parkes was a legendary stop shopper as well as being fond of a bet himself and would have snapped up the odds of 3.30 on keeping a clean sheet on Saturday (odds thanks to https://sports.bwin.com/en/sports/4/betting/football).
Hopefully the normally excellent pitch at Upton Park will survive the attack of freezing temperatures and that the only thing Redknapp takes away from Upton Park is a Sullivan and Gold bobblehead, reduced in the post Christmas sales.
For all the commercialisation of our beautiful game, there is still something magical about the FA Cup Third Round weekend. Whilst the FA have done all they can to milk the competition dry with selling off the competition naming rights, auctioning off the TV rights and moving the semi-finals to Wembley, it is one weekend in the footballing calendar that still belongs to the fans. Every lower league club starts the season with the hope that this will be their year when they make the Third Round and draw one of the big boys, setting themselves financially up for years to come. Never has the feeling of disappointment hit so hard when you get knocked out of the cup “too early”. In my official role at Lewes I felt that pain only too sharply when fellow Ryman Premier League Hendon knocked us out this year, then went on a run to the First Round. They managed to knock out two Blue Square Bet teams before losing away at Aldershot Town, playing three divisions higher, earning some decent money along the way.
Unfortunately, giant killings have been diluted over the last few years as even mediocre nPower Championship sides have put weakened teams out in the FA Cup, preferring to concentrating on finishing in tenth place in the second tier of English football, than risking anything on the FA Cup. Consequently, when they lose, the manager will trot out a line about “wanting to concentrate on the league anyway” as mitigation to the embarrassed fans. But there is still some magic drifting in the air this year. Continue reading →
Football clubs are the best in the world at taking any item, sticking a badge on it and selling it at a premium, because they know that like lemmings jumping over a cliff, fans will buy anything. Back in the day some of the big clubs dipped a toe into true commercialisation by producing curtains, wallpaper and duvet covers. I even had a West Ham throw on my bed that potentially stopped some “action” when a young girl managed to be persuaded upstairs whilst my parents were at work one summer holiday and as a Spurs fan she said “for God yes; for my country, yes; for my Queen, yes but not bloody likely for Billy Bonds”.
So in the past year we have had our feelers out for this new category of award. We have seen some belters that didn’t make the final cut. The rule here was then we had to see the items for ourselves. So without further ado I give you the top three items of football tat in 2012:-
3rd best football tat – VfL Bochum net curtains Imagine the scene. You are in a bar close to your favourite team’s ground. but you cannot look out of the window because you will not be seen as a fanatical follower of your team. So what do you do? What about buying some small net curtains emblazoned with your club badge that both protects your privacy and shows your allegiance. Well look no further than these beauties being modelled by none other than Kenny “Adventures in Tinpot” Legg on our recent beano to the Ruhr Valley. Available in home “white” or away “whitish”.
2nd best football tat – The Sullivan and Gold bobbleheads We all know that David Sullivan and David Gold have a “bit of an ego” but even by their standards the appearance of these beauties in the West Ham United Christmas catalogue takes some beating. Why would anyone, outside of the SuGo families want these monstrosities on their desk? What value do they add to anyone’s life? Unless you want to take a sledgehammer to them, of course. And the real impressive part, they cost a “mere” £12.99.
Best football tat 2012 – The Lille signing toaster The club toaster has been around for a few years now for those fans who cannot live without their cooked bread emblazoned with your club badge on. These are really old hat but imagine my surprise when browsing the Megastore in Lille when I came across this beauty. Not only a toaster that burns Lille LOSC on your breakfast but plays a little ditty when it’s ready..”Allez, Allez Lille OSC” goes the toaster until you flick the switch or smashed to smithereens by your partner.