This is my attempt at creating and sharing a bit of my life, how it's changed but none the less how we all tune in every week for our life long addiction to everything football. God Bless - Gary
I will be adding each week, to what I hope will give an insight to my presence, sometimes noticed (for the right and wrong reasons), at turning up weekly to give support for my team. Whatever your chosen team, none will argue we all had a reason and motive for that invested time as supporters . Enjoy and cheers!
I was never a spiteful kid. I had a great dad, the best mates and I had nothing but an easy plan to get me ahead in life. So to wake up one day, with a life changing paralysis that would affect me in everything I do, well if life isn’t cruel I don’t know what is and it’s something I’d never wish upon anyone.
A lot of people can remember their first birthday. Their first football game. For me, it was May 2016, we’d just played Manchester United, our final home game at Upton Park, and to say it’s a day I’ll never forget, well to translate my thoughts on that day would to say it was a day I was punished for a crime I’d never committed. One minute I was on a frame which helped me walk, then I fell over. I had an operation in 2017. From then, I was forced to live in a dark and unforgiving place.
I’ve taken all the advice and followed all their directions. The Dr’s have said it’s brain related, they don’t know what it is. I’ve had endless tests and there seems to be some guesswork going on. The one consistent result show is my brain simply swells up, and they don’t know why. It Affects me in everything I do. It doesn’t help a I’m very independent, and somewhat stubborn, so it’s difficult to accomplish anything at any stage of my day.
My left side hardly works, so I’m left sitting in a chair with nothing but my thoughts and memories. Most days, I suffer in silence. It’s fucking painful most days if I’m honest. I have a few pals around me, people from my early days, you know, football mates. There’s nothing I’d be willing to give to get my independence and mobility back, nothing can compensate for being able to simply get up and simply walk in the next room, let alone get to a game. Like I said, a fucking painful existence.
Football has always been an important part of my life. I think that’s why those I’ve been going to football with for the best part of 45 years and their support has meant more than any text or phone call. Don’t get me wrong, any human company is appreciated. But, it’s a bittersweet experience when thinking back on the great memories, experiences and my mates from football. Many people reading this will understand what I mean when I say your football mates are a breed amongst themselves, mates to the end.
When I think back to how it all started with football, it was the 1966 World Cup, this induction by my dad, along with my sister watching it in colour on the big screen at the pictures, is something I value more than a lot of what remains in my life. Back then, Geoff Hurst was more than any superhero. Fuck Superman, we’ve got Hurst!
Very few people in life have impressed me, and there’s none that have ever come close to my late dad. He was a football player at Norwich, then a coach and a scout. Funny enough, he never wanted me going to West Ham, he said it was, “too rough”. You see, my families roots are in South Wales, I was raised and grew up with Norwich players around me. But like most kids in the 1970’s and ‘80s, football was your life, and for me, the bigger and more exciting times seemed to echo from London.
Before the social dependency of iPads, iPhones and the false pretend worlds of social media you had football and your mates at the same venue and believe me, you’ve not lived unless you’ve experienced getting up early, with the same excitement and feeling like a kid on Christmas morning, grabbing a pasty or a sausage roll and a shit cup of coffee first thing in the morning, the ‘on and off’ the rattler, away games, mates, the competing on every level, the laughs and shit we’d talk - all priceless, and if you’ve been there you can’t prove me wrong! You see, I may come across a bit hostile, a tad angry and critical, but ask yourself, when you’ve had the same laughs and mates for 40+ years, and they still turn up when your life has been taken literally from under your feet, would you say your online friends would be as strong and supportive for over 40 years from now? That’s the difference between us and you!
It’s an unfair one, but I have a benchmark in relation to what I once had to what I have now. My dad died in 1978, I was 17. To say I was heartbroken is an understatement. I have his picture close to me to this day, like I said, he was a large part of my life, in some ways as much football. I’ve often thought what he would do in my situation, but I’ve then thought what’s more important is what he’d expect from me and how to deal with it. He supported and promoted football and the quality found within our sport from as far back as I can remember. I laugh when I think about my dad. As If my dad had his way, I would’ve stayed a local supporter. But there was something about East London and West Ham. The need and feeling to be part of it all started early on every week. I couldn’t get enough. The distance was never an obstacle, I met a few people and was made to feel welcome from day one. They say certain clubs and their fans promote a certain quality. I found that at West ham. There were a few of us that would travel weekly to East London. Newbury, Clive and Ash from Grimsby. The fans now are different though. You often hear how clubs have changed. I think for the worst, people have also changed. You see back in the day, football was your life, every week and when Saturday come, as a fan your support was guaranteed, we counted, we were valued - the clubs and players knew this. It really didn’t matter the weather, as if you didn’t turn up because of a bit of rain or snow, in many peoples eyes you wasn’t a fan, simple!
The conversations were basic, the same conversations were nothing complicated, no science or politics, all typically around the game in hand, to meet with certain people and our predetermined agenda for the day. The whole day was a package deal, now people go out of habit, I see their faces and attitudes and I honestly believe some don’t really enjoy the game. I think, if they were to be honest with themselves they’d tell you there’s less of a social aspect involved.
Back then, for a lot of us it was a good day out, every week, rain or shine. Now, it’s a game exploited by the same people that have shown a level of contempt for the fans who built the clubs success. What is forgotten by the same Judases, it’s the same fans who not only built the clubs but also committed a level of support to the players, no matter what was going on in the fans own personal lives or before they even set out for the game. If the same fan were having trouble with the wife, trouble with work, not that much money, it didn’t matter as being at football with your mates simply acted as a safety release valve. It’s a shame to see those same working-class fans have been replaced with soft clapping, popcorn eating, armchair critics. Fucking clowns and sell outs the lot of them. Back then, they wouldn’t have been tolerated, and they know it.
The Monday to Friday, was was just that but come Saturday morning I was on par and on time. Johny on the spot had fuck all on me. The 10 o’clock train from Norwich into Liverpool Street, straight on to Upton Park via the district line. Meet with like minded people and Straight to JR‘s to ambush whoever came in, then to the game. Fucking quality days. Couldn’t of been planned better, like they say about a few good appreciated things in life, “If Carlesberg did weekends”. A mooch about after the game, if nothing going on, then on to Liverpool Street and home. All with a West Ham program in your back pocket, a day of great memories and enough that’d gone on to carry a laugh until the following Monday. That same laugh I often think about. Nothing has ever come close since.
When I’m asked what was so great about back in the day, it wasn’t any one thing in particular. It was everything that made the weekend. To some, it doesn’t sound very glamorous, grabbing an egg roll from the hut opposite the station, jumping on the rattler, the conversations, competing with your mates about the clothes you wore against the clothes they had, how you got them, often on the take from Oxford Street or Regent Street, it was each and every journey, that may have been the same route, but it was never really the same routine. You see, it depended on who we were playing. Those same games invoked certain memories. I remember going mid-week to watch West Ham play Southampton. We won 4-2, and probably the best game I’ve ever seen. What was an added laugh was my mum was a Keegan fan. Of course, they lost. She took it well.
The getting off the train at Upton Park, the East End, to me was a proper place. The smell of pie & mash, meeting up with more mates, the walk to the ground, I was never top boy, but I was never in the back. It was never an ego, just making sure you was there. To me, It was always more than just football. It was a life before keyboard warriors and armchair supporters. It’s a life I wish I still had, I now have another chapter to add to my life. When I'm asked what was great about back in the day, it was never just one thing, but one thing I do know, I'll always have those memories.
So, how will it go for me? Well, I can’t give up, not my style but the journey won’t be an easy one.
Clothes were definitely part of the equation. For me it started, if not before, in the early 1980’s. Some went full out with getting ahead by going all out, head to toe with designer gear. A few others were a bit more cautious, I think, and as a few admitted some years later they thought it looked a bit poncy being all dressed up for football. You see the 1960’s and 70’s football crowd weren’t accustomed to dressing smart for football. Back then, your value, worth and standing we’re not seen by wearing a designer pair of jeans and a jacket that was once hanging on a rack in an upscale shop like Libertys. A lot would’ve said liberties were taken on the terraces and around the grounds, not by those not willing to pay sticker price for something from an outlet for expensive clothes.
Slazenger was a common brand for some early on. A good few other brands too; Adidas being a front runner and a few other sports themed items made their initial mark for the new casual crowd. A lot of people will agree, how some brands have stretched across the generations. I’ve already mentioned Slazenger, but who could forget the timeless classics like Sergio Taccini, Fila and of course Diadora trainers. Ellesse was another brand, but I’d have to say Sergio and Fila definitely ruled the roost as a sports brand for the terrace lads. There’s always been the claim by the scousers with them starting the casual seen. It’s an argument that will never be one agreed upon or settled. A few of the older lot called it right when they said northerners were still coming down in donkey jackets and dirty jeans in the early ‘80s. There’s a lot of firms who will also give credit to that story and how when they came down to London they would see the ‘new look’. But whatever story you support, cockneys and Londoners were better dressed fans, as no one can argue when brands like Armani, Ferrucci, Chippie, Burberry, Lyle & Scott, Benetton, Pringle, Farrah trousers and Aquascutum were unseen on the terraces before we wore them - and that is a fact! One set up that’s also resurfaced more than once are Levi jeans, Lacoste; that really never faded away Adidas gazelles and the Kickers brand boots; a common trend was for the west London lot to have more than one set of tags on their Kickers. Each to their own I guess!
Another favorite in addition to sporting proper gear was a favourite accessory, with some and that was the umbrella. This made a great weapon. The rolled up news paper, sometimes referred to as the Millwall brick, was a regular with some, but one of the advantages was the old Bill had a hard confiscating the umbrella from you, being it wasn’t a known or accepted weapon by the authorities, it was a matter of opinion not a matter of law to what its true purpose was for by the suspecting police officer. Designer scarves and a few hats like the legendary deer stalker made an appearance, but as a few like minded casuals have said, “thankfully, not for long”.
Awaydays would sometimes promote a different accessory. The iconic Head brand sports bag and the traveling youth within any firm had this as a much needed accessory. Some have insisted it was for carrying weapons and other supplies for a journey up north, others give claim it was for a days earnings. Either way, part of casual history.
It’s funny to think, a butchers coat and scarf wrapped around your wrist would be replaced by several hundred pounds worth of clothes being worn by one person, and not any further from the truth when you consider the price people would pay for a Stone Island jacket. A friend said to me that C.P was definitely for the casual connoisseur. Whatever your opinion or desired clothing brand, none were cheap and a lot can be said about a person who was willing to spend £1000 on a jacket and then go for a tear up on the same day he’d bought it.
Thinking back on the amount of money invested in trainers, jeans and jumpers is mind blowing. What you would spend on those three items alone could be equal to a persons weekly wages back then. Of course, being West Ham and kitted out in proper clothes raised the bar for a us and a lot of firms wanted nothing less to take on the cockneys and have a go at us. But, like most things in our minds back then, we simply didn’t give a shit. We might have lost a few, but those that know, if honest will admit back in the day when West Ham were a fixture against your team, a proper well dressed, overconfident spiteful bunch of Londoners who where as game as they come, people knew we were there to simply leave a mark on the town we visited.
I remember on one occasion going down to Regent Street to get an Aquascutum jumper. It was a time of taxing (mugging/ thieving) everyone was game and anybody could be at target. I was in one shop for what seemed like ages, unaware I was being watched by a group of lads. They were looking to have my bag of gear, but I wasn’t having any of it and neither was they. When they were distracted I left by the door nearest Piccadilly Circus. Jumping on the bus and looking over my shoulder back in the direction of the shop I’d just come out of, I could see the clueless dip shits coming out looking in all directions and more confused than Scooby Doo. London was definitely a spot for me to do my clothes shopping, paid for and otherwise. You see back then Norwich wasn’t exactly cutting edge and leading the scene in designer clothes shops. So it was always a pop into town for any designer brands. Benetton shop Oxford Street, polo shirts with different colored collars was a big catch for me. I bought my first Nike international from Cobra sports on Oxford street. It was a time of Armani jumpers and Burberry rain Mack’s that cost a small fortune.
Like I said, unless you’re willing to pay out a lot of money you had to be creative if you wanted to be seen as front and center in the casual scene.
"It was nice to see a good few lads came out in front with their own clothes line and designs all these years later" - J Allday
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