Do You Remember the First Time.
Do you remember the first time?
I can't remember a worse time.
But you know that we've changed so much since then,
Now I don't care what you're doing,
No, I don't care if you screw him.
Just as long as you save a piece for me,
The above is the chorus to Brit-pop band Pulp’s first song to hit the top 40, as song not about his first sexual experience, but about the current partner not leaving him and going back to the man she once dated.
What has that to do with West Ham and football I hear you say,
Well, we all have our first time, that moment that we first see a game, possibly on TV for most in the USA, or even the first time you see the club live. It’s a memory that will live on and stay with you forever.
For me, my first time is not one that I remember at all. My mum tells me that she took me as a baby in her arms. She stood on the Lower West Terrace in the corner to watch West Ham play Man United. For me, I feel a bit cheated that I don’t have that first-time memory that many of you have. Lucky I may have been to have lived so near to the ground that when returning from Holiday, I used to look out for the floodlights that sat above the South Bank Roof as confirmation we were home.
One of my earliest memories was of West Ham winning the FA cup final in 1975, I was just 5 years old at the time, and we had not long moved into a new home from one side of Canning Town to the other. The week before the final we had a knock on the door, two ladies from the road were organising a street party for the children on Cup Final day to celebrate West Ham being at Wembley. Winning was not conditional, just being there was good enough for a good old-fashioned knee's up.
Cup Final day itself I can still remember vividly, We only had a small living room or lounge you may call it, in the flat we lived in but me, my brother and my mum sat and watched as West Ham defeated a spirited by lacklustre Fulham. The street party itself was started not long after the final whistle. All the mums in the street, putting out the tables as best they could, lining them up down the middle of the road. No worries about cars coming down the road as almost everyone around us were West Ham fans as well, so would have been wanting to celebrate.
All the kids sat in a line, and someone had produced a record player for the music. Pass the parcel was probably played and the party would go on till dark.
Aged just 5 I can't say I had a hero of the team. Big Clyde Best was favourite as he stood out in the team photo that used to hang on My grandad's market stall, my first Hammers hero never even played first-team football for West Ham.
I came from a close family, quite a lot were market traders in the local street market that were no longer on a street but was still known as Rathbone street market, just across the road from the building West Ham was formed in. My mum's cousin, my second cousin, was a youth player in the mid-70s for us. I can't even say I saw him play, but I used to see his kit hanging up after being washed in my Aunts house sometimes and wonder what it would be like to pull it on. He took me to a game once, Swansea City 1979, we stood on the Lower West Terrace. I've never forgotten that as I used to go with my uncle, we had season tickets in the West upper seating, but for this game, I had been round my Aunts house and he was going to the game so offered to take me. A treat for me, possible punishment for him.
Having to drag his 9-year-old cousin to football was probably not what he hoped to do that day.
He sadly never progressed past reserve team football and didn’t even pursue a career in football after leaving West Ham, I was too young to know why. Back then West Ham had only 1 youth team, most were local boys as well. In 1975 he was part of the youth team squad that made it to the Youth Cup Final, a great achievement. I don’t think he played in the final, but he's in the squad picture from that time. Alongside 3 players who would win the FA cup in 5 years, Alvin Martin, Geoff Pike and the sub in 1980, Paul Brush. Also, a player who would eventually return and manage us, Alan Curbishley was part of the team. Millwall legend Terry Hurlock was also in that team that lost to Ipswich Town over the two-legged final.
My cousin was Lou Murphy, not a name any of you will know, but 5-6-year-old Nigel was in awe of him and the fact he wore the shirt.
I'm sure most reading this will though remember there first time seeing West Ham, and their first heroes. So many games and players go by over the years but the first time never leaves us, whoever or wherever they were.
Why not tell the boys or even myself on twitter, and we will save the worst for another time @WestHamPodUSA @mywhufc