The build-up to Saturday’s game at Upton Park – can Sunderland actually win two in a row? – continues. Our guest Hammer, Gordon Thrower*, from the admirable West Ham site, Knees Up Mother Brown, has one personality defect: he cannot get October 19 1968 out of his mind. Sunderland fans of a nervous disposition should skip his recollections of the day our players felt such a sense of injustice at an opening goal from the hand of Geoff Hurst (correction: he said it was his fist) that they thought “why not concede a whole lot more?”. Gordon – some impertinent Hammers are speculating on which of the characters in the photo he might be – predicts another, more modest Hammers victory on Saturday …
Salut! Sunderland: Which West Ham greats did you watch play, and which do you regret being too young to have seen?
I’m lucky enough to have started during the Moore, Hurst and Peters era so I’ve pretty much seen all of our greatest players. There was an incredibly unlucky player called George Foreman who played for us well before I was born. Few would have heard of him, though he scored 154 goals in 156 games. Unfortunately his tenure at the club lasted from 1939-1946 and I believe that the country was a bit preoccupied with non-football matters for most of that time.
I believe it is traditional for me to mention a certain day in October 1968 at this point. Not that I like to go on about it at every opportunity. Much. However, it’s not every week you see your team beat somebody 8-0 with goals from Hurst (6) Moore and Brooking. However, as I get older, my memory is going and I’m damned if I can remember who our opponents were that day! I believe the opposition contained a rather decent ‘keeper called Montgomery whose comment at the time was “I was praying for the final whistle to go”. Maybe your readers could refresh my memory!
How come George McCartney was a crowd favourite with you but has been such a bitter disappointment on his return to Sunderland? Is he just too injury prone?
Linda did ok for us. On its day it was a good little partnership on the left with Etherington. I haven’t really followed his form since he left, but you lot don’t know the meaning of the phrase “injury prone” – I’ll see your McCartney and raise you a Dyer!
The Eduardo question: your poor form means you have to win the last game to stay up. It’s 1-1 with seconds to go and Ilunga goes down in the box clutching his … no, let’s leave him out of this and say it was Carlton Cole. Everyone except the referee knows it was a blatant dive (with due apologies if Mr Cole has never been known to cheat) but you score and win. Take it gladly, take it guiltily or feel so ashamed you almost wish you’d only drawn?
Well it’s not something I’d have much control over so I suppose I’d be glad to stay up. I may be in a minority but I would feel a tad guilty, though the attack of conscience might be mitigated depending on exactly who went down instead. I’m sure I’d get over it if it were Wigan for example. It’s not something I really approve of and, thankfully, we’ve never had too many players who are prone to falling down unnecessarily. We’re definitely more sinned against than sinning in that department – cough- dare I mention Malbranque again?!
The World Cup looms. Can’t wait for it to begin, won’t start thinking England until West Ham’s fate is determined or too much club-before-country to care anyway?
I’ll give it more thought at the end of the season – but I am looking forward to it. Of course since I support the club that won it in 1966, I’m not one of the club before country brigade anyway.
What one thing should West Ham or the authorities do to make the lot of the football fan a bit better?
There are a few things that leap to mind. Put someone in charge of refereeing that genuinely has the improvement of standards as their no.1 priority. Replacing the incompetent Hackett with the potentially even worse Riley is just a joke too far. Giving fans a genuine say in the way the game is run would be a step forward – we are always the last people considered whenever changes are made, that’s if we are considered at all. And, whilst making it compulsory for every club to stock a good selection of real ales at ordinary pub prices might not improve our lot, at least it would make yet another defeat a slightly less unpleasant experience. Apart from the hangover of course.
Will you be at our match? What will be the score?
I’ll be there – apart from anything else it’s the closest match to my birthday so there may be a post-match session to enjoy! Score – what the hell I’ll go for 2-1 to us. I predict that every week and it has to come true one day!
* Gordon Thrower is co-editor of Knees Up Mother Brown. For more about him, read the first part of this feature, from which this delicious snippet was shaved:
“One final bizarre fact, just before completing this I popped out for a haircut – did you know that Michael Turner (who hails from the bit of London in which I currently live) and I share a hairdresser? So whilst making the usual small talk with Andreas I had the beaming autographed photo of Mr Turner staring down at me throughout the whole process. I think next time I’ll ask for gas.”
More from Gordon? Delve into the archives of his site for this brilliant account of the delights of Hartlepool as experienced on a previous football weekend involving West Ham and Sunderland.
** The 1968 team sheet is from a Daily Telegraph report by my old colleague Martin Smith who, oddly enough, supports West Ham.