You don’t want to mess with a West Ham supporter
WEST HAM versus Millwall, the fixture every mounted policeman dreads to see on the English football calendar.
A cocktail of two sets of volatile fans, hard men from east London meeting hard men from south London. Think Vinnie Jones in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and multiply by 1,000.
Little wonder then that the midweek Carling Cup match escalated into violence. Somewhere among all the fighting by hooligans who hide behind the word “supporters”, West Ham actually progressed to the next round, though only after a couple of pitch invasions and general mayhem.
The one saving grace is that the two clubs don’t play in the same division so, barring them being paired together in the FA Cup, police can go back to their wives and kids.
Let me say though that Upton Park is an intimidating place to visit – and I have been there, as a Chelsea fan, on many occasions.
Rule number one is travel with a group of fellow fans.
Rule number two is get off the underground tube, having boarded at Fulham Broadway, at Whitechapel and go into the Blind Beggar pub for a toilet break. This is 16 stops after first getting on the District Line and heading east across the city. At Whitechapel you will know you are on the wrong side of town; it was the “local” to the infamous Kray twins.
Rule number three is board again and get off another seven stops down the line.
Rule number four is never go into the first pub you see. You will be looking for trouble, and trouble will find you. I once made this mistake and, despite the fact that my winter jacket was zipped right up to the neck, thus hiding the blue Chelsea shirt, I was spotted as an intruder. “You’d better get out of here, quickly,” my mate advised. I listened.
Rule number five is if you support a side other than West Ham, never take up the offer of a ticket in the home stand.
I did this, just the once, mind you, and it was the most surreal experience. Seated among the Upton Park faithful, the Chelsea fans were on the left of us, chanting at us. This section then started returning the chants, “Stick the blue flag up your arse” being the most tasteful. Then, the Hammers scored and the crowd erupted. My instant reaction was to put my head in my hands, until I noticed I was being watched. Up I jumped to “celebrate” the goal. Then, Chelsea equalised. I leapt up, again the odd one out. I swore, as if to chastise the Hammers defence. I sat down again, and watched the Blues fans bouncing around. It was like having a silent orgasm.
When it came time to leave, I walked down the road, past the “home” pub and into the “away” pub. When more Chelsea skinheads and hard men came into the pub I felt safe. Strength in numbers and all that. And afterwards it was the long way home.
You don’t want to mess with a West Ham supporter. Unless you happen to come from Millwall, that is.