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Week 5: So far away … from “home”

…….. a light hearted look at genetic heritage.

Both my grandmothers were Essex girls, but that is nothing to do with why I support West Ham!

The theme tune for Sports Report (right click for the appropriate background music) brings back memories of being instructed to “Sssssssssssshhhhhhh” as it was time for listening to the match reports and filling in the Pools coupons. I learned a lot about football but wasn’t especially interested. I was not encouraged to speak during the programme, never mind ask questions and we didn’t go to watch matches, we lived too far way from any top clubs.

I was sixteen when the Football World Cup was played, and won, in England, I was home for the holidays and I have a memory of missing all the England goals because I took a trip to the toilet and England scored, so after that it became a running joke as it was suggested that I need to “leave the room” in order for England to score. I don’t actually remember  much about the games in truth, but I do remember Booby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters and that was the start of my interest in football and more specifically West Ham.

On 4th January 1975, my friends who were Southampton supporters managed to get tickets to The Dell for a fourth round FA Cup match and I was invited along for my first taste of standing on the terraces. We stood right behind the goal and I had strict instructions to not cheer when West Ham scored! I do remember that Bobby Gould was injured (broke his leg?) but carried on playing until half time and we won – 1:2 (Southampton football club: record v West Ham United).

On the staff where I was teaching was another West Ham supporter and on the Monday? after we won the FA Cup that season, Derek got a group of us together and we travelled up to Upton Park after work. It was a testimonial for a groundsman I think. The victorious team from the previous Saturday paraded the cup and then played a team of legends – including Bobby Moore who had just played for the losing finalist, Fulham, on the Saturday. I remember at half time the West Ham players changed round so that Mervyn Day instead of being in goal played centre  forward. My other memory of my one trip to Upton Park was that everything was concrete, tatty and painted claret and blue, including the Ladies’ toilets. (1975 FA Cup heroes.) By the time they were playing in Europe the following season, I was actually working in Belgium but was unable to make the most of it and only got to see them play on the TV.

I later married a Spurs supporter, and we had some competitive fun over the years and now when we beat them I still have a quiet cheer and know that Kevin would have been distinctly unimpressed. Supporting West Ham was always good for a laugh as a teacher as none of the boys could quite understand why I didn’t support Manchester United, Arsenal or Liverpool depending on who was the current league leader, but I did find at least one fellow female, Joanne, supporting them, who kindly brought me a rosette back when she went to watch them one holiday.

When I returned to live in the UK, we ended up living half way between Southampton and Brighton, just a little too far to easily get to see them at Home, so I was very pleased when not only did West Ham get promoted back to the Premier League in 2012 but so did Southampton and we were able to go and watch them play at St Mary’s – but again, only cheering inside. We went to watch the athletics once so that I could see the London Stadium and of course I posed in front of Booby Moore’s statue when I went to Wembley to watch England beat Croatia. (I will never forget the roar when the winning goal went in!)

Until I started my research I had no idea of any Essex connections and was quietly amused when it turned out that my paternal grandmother was born in Walthamstow – in the West Ham registration district. Her roots weren’t there, her father was from Kidderminster and her mother from Glasgow. My other grandmother did not have her roots in Essex either but she was born in Stanford-le-Hope. Her parents were born in Buckinghamshire and Gloucestershire but had ended up in Essex when their father/guardian became the tenant at Aveley Hall following a strategic move after his marriage to his first wife’s sister.

I have found it quite funny that three times now, I have made contact with DNA matches , found them on social media and spotted that they are also West Ham fans, so maybe becoming a supporter is nothing to do with a teenage crush on Bobby Moore but it is somewhere in my genes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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