Graeme Howlett* edits Knees Up Mother Brown, and is not the first representative of that esteemed West Ham fan site to grace the hallowed turf of Salut! Sunderland. He rated Big Sam even before it became OK to do so, worships Trevor Brooking and thinks a 6-0 drubbing at Roker Park (1977) made up for our deep sense of injustice over the first Geoff Hurst goal nine years earlier in one of the 8-0 defeats against us that wasn’t at St Mary’s. Oddly enough, we went down in 1977 but not in 1968. Graeme expects fewer goals on Saturday, a draw or a single goal win either way, so plumps for Hammers 2-1
Blimey: I am not sure we’ve seen you this high in the table in all the time we’ve been doing “Who are You?” interviews. What’s gone right?
Graeme: More money = better players = better results, basically. It helps that most of the summer signings have hit the ground running too; Diafra Sakho, Enner Valencia, Alex Song, Cheik Kouyate and Aaron Cresswell – to name but five – have proved excellent acquisitions.
And is Big Sam now a beloved figure among Irons fans or are there still doubters? Is he getting the team playing “the Hammers way”?
Believe or not but one or two of us always maintained he’d do okay given time, a bit of cash and an injury-free squad. Lots of others have happily admitted they called it wrong whilst others stick their heads in the sand and refuse to accept Allardyce has anything to do with the upturn in form. As for the West Ham way, between you and me, I’m still not sure what it actually is…
Andy Carroll and Kevin Nolan are naturally bete noires for us. How do you rate them? And which other players are making such a difference for you this season?
Kevin Nolan is the best captain we’ve had down here since Lucas Neill, and for some years before that. He’s responsible for some great work off the field too in his capacity as club captain. Andy, on the other hand, needs to have a good season else I suspect he’ll be on his toes next summer. All the new signings have played their part – it really has been an enormously successful summer in terms of recruitment.
Stewart Downing, Don Hutchison, Pop Robson, Mary McC, Calum Davenport, Big Sam as player for us/manager for you, and, of course, Paolo di Canio (the other way round) spring instantly to mind when thinking of links between our clubs. What thoughts on them or others I missed out?
I grew up watching “Pop Pop Pop Robson, score a little goal for me” and was hugely disappointed when he left us to return to Roker Park. I recall Don Hutchison being your reigning Player of the Year when we signed him for £5m, and he flopped. Paolo is Paolo, I’m just glad we had him as a player, not manager.
Stewart Downing is having a marvellous season, our most effective player so far this term. I had a lot of time for George – and still can’t believe you paid us £8m to take him back – and Calum was alright until the stabbing caper. I believe there’s one or two others we’ve shared, such as Anton Ferdinand, Clive Clarke, Gary Breen (aaarrggh) and back in the Pop era, Mick McGiven and Dave Swindlehurst.
From an impossibly long list that includes Bobby Moore, Trevor Brooking, Frank Lampard, Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, PDC, Billy Bonds and Julian Dicks, who are the best you’ve seen – or wish you’d seen – in claret and blue?
The best player I’ve ever seen at West Ham is Trevor Brooking, without a doubt. Such grace, balance and style – and an eye for goal, to boot. I saw Martin Peters play a reserve game at Norwich back in 1980(ish) but would have loved to see him in his prime. Bobby Moore goes without saying, but there’s a fella called Vic Watson who remains our club record goalscorer with 326 goals from 505 games who would have been a joy to watch.
And who should have been allowed nowhere near the Boleyn?
We could be here all night! My first memory of one of ours being criticised by the fans was poor Johnny Ayris. He stuck it out for seven years before being offed to Cape Town City on loan. More recently Radoslav Kovac infuriated in equal measure and left one pondering “why?”, whilst practically anyone we’ve signed on loan could probably qualify. Our of interest, last season the KUMB readers voted Alou Diarra as worst player, marginally ahead of Mladen Petric and Razvan Rat. None will be missed, that’s for sure.
But isn’t it time to hand us the points for the 8-0 match, given Hurst’s self-confessed use of his fist for the opener?
In my mind that was cancelled out by the 6-0 drubbing in 1977 that led me to spend the entire duration of Anne Smith’s eighth birthday party under the table sobbing…
Why not Guess the SAFC v West Ham Score: go to https://safc.blog/2014/12/safc-v-west-ham-guess-the-score-can-we-burst-their-bubble/
Highs and lows as a Hammers supporter?
They’re mostly all so distant now… reaching four Cup Finals in six years between 1975 and 1981 is unlikely to be repeated in my lifetime and an achievement I think most Irons are very proud of. More recently it’s about individual performances rather than campaigns – but we’ll see what this season throws up.
Can’t you wait for the Olympic stadium move or will leaving the Boleyn be too much or a wrench?
I love the Boleyn, it’s where I was first introduced to football by my father and both his and my mother’s family stood on the same terraces before them. But as three of the four stands are 20 years old or less, the old ground has pretty much already gone. I’m not averse to the move to Stratford (bar the fact that it’ll take me longer to get there), but it’ll be a move for my kids and the generations after them rather than those of us who have been kicking around for a year or two.
Now tell me your thoughts on Sunderland – the club, the fans, the city, the region, Poyet
I have a bit of an affectionate spot for the North East, Mackems and Mags alike! Good, working-class stock like the (old) East End of London and all passionate about their football. I think Sunderland were always a good barometer for West Ham; if we were higher in the league things were mostly ok, below them and most definitely not! Poyet I’ve never warmed to and I thoroughly enjoyed watching us putting six past his Brighton team three years ago after he’d made some derogatory comments about West Ham following the previous meeting. His boy can play a bit though!
Where will each of our clubs finish and what will be the top four and bottom three?
I suspect West Ham will end up around eighth or ninth; any lower would be fairly disastrous after our fantastic start to the season. I think Sunderland are destined for the bottom half of the Premier League for as long as Poyet remains in place, sadly. The top four will probably consist of the usual suspects (Chelsea, Man City, Arsenal and Man Utd) with the three promoted clubs probably heading straight back down, though Redknapp may surprise us once more. It’s all so utterly predictable these days…
Diving: now so commonplace that we may as well write it and other forms of cheating into the coaching manuals – or should we tackle it head on?
We have to do our best to stop it. James Tomkins was castigated by West Ham fans for feigning injury at Everton and forced to apologise as a result. However for as long as you have people like Roberto Martinez claiming Ross Barkley ‘lost his balance’, and his team mates supporting that view, what hope is there?
State one step the football authorities or WHU itself should take to improve the lot of the ordinary fan?
It has to be financial. What football has done in the last 20 years with regards to pricing almost equates to ethnic cleansing. Nobody should be priced out of watching football in this country, at any level.
Will you be at our match and what will be the score?
I won’t and haven’t been up there for several years now. From memory all recent meetings at the SoL have been fairly close, so I suspect it’ll be a draw or with one side winning by the odd goal. We’re playing very well right now, so I’d have to plump for a 2-1 West Ham win.
* Graeme Howlett on himself:
I’ve been supporting West Ham since watching us beat Fulham in the 1975 FA Cup Final on the telly (basically, I’m a terrible glory hunter). My first live game came in the 1976/77 season (we lost 2-1 at home to Derby, thanks to Kevin Hector and Charlie George) and I’ve been running KUMB, which is one of the longest-running independent football websites, since 1997.
Interview: Colin Randall
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