West Ham come up as Sunderland’s opponents quite often in important games. After our great victory at Villa Park, we have set ourselves up for another vital encounter. If we don’t blow it with this one, our survival prospects should soar. Gordon Thrower*, a lifelong Hammers fan and co-editor of the Knees Up Mother Brown fans’ website, has other ideas. Two-one to them, he predicts. At least that’s not as bad for us as the time he saw us play when he was all of seven years old
“Can you write a few lines for us – something linking West Ham and Sunderland will do?”
I get a few e-mails like this every season. Sometimes they’re quite easy to write. If there’s a classic match from the past to recall you can write a few memories of that. Piece of cake.
However, I guess that if I mention October 1968 too many times you will rightly conclude that I am an old git who likes to live in the past. So I promise not to mention that day when, as a seven year-old, I saw West Ham United beat Sunderland 8-0.
So this leaves me scrabbling round trying to think of other classic encounters. I have very vague memories of a match played in my late teens at Roker Park where we let in six. I didn’t go to the match, I just remember seeing the goals on The Big Match on Sunday.
Actually, being of advanced years, I don’t even remember the goals. I do remember one bit of commentary though. After one particular bit of cultured genius from Brooking (in those days it was illegal to mention the word “Brooking” without either using the adjective “cultured” or mentioning the fact that he had A levels) the commentator (Hugh Johns maybe?) said something like: “I wonder what he’d be like in a really good side.”
Of course I already knew, since I’d seen him score for us about nine years earlier in a match in which we’d scored eight against someone (Hurst 6, Brooking and a rare goal from Bobby Moore in case you’re interested).
So in the interests of not depressing anyone I’ll steer clear of such catastrophes. Which leaves me the issue of how to fill up the rest of the page.
Your editor suggests to prospective contributors that they provide a brief blog as I believe you young people call these things (biog as it happens! – editor) dealing with how they first started supporting their team.
That’s easy. Anyone brought up in 1960s Plaistow (that’s pronounced Plar-stow by the way) was always going to support West Ham. Any kid sad enough to announce that they wanted to support someone else usually disappeared never to be seen again. “He’s gone to live on a farm with that puppy you used to have,” we’d be told. And they’d never be mentioned again. Wild playground rumours used to abound about such kids being sent to laboratories to have parts of their brains removed and, whilst nobody ever had any evidence that such experiments ever took place, when you think about it, it would go a long way to explaining Millwall’s support.
Which brings me finally to the one real connection I have with Sunderland. That is the fact that Roy Keane and I share a former club. Sort of. Whilst I hail from E13, as did my dad and paternal granddad, my mum’s origins are altogether more exotic. My mum hails from a town in Co Cork called Cobh (that’s pronounced “Cove” by the way).
Cobh has a number of claims to fame. It was the Titanic’s last port of call, having popped in to stock up on ice on its way to New York. It is the home town of the Olympic runner Sonia O’Sullivan. And it is home to the Ramblers. Cobh Ramblers are the local football team and are currently back in the top flight of the Eircom League for what may be one season only.
As everyone knows Roy Keane used to play for them. And so did I. Well sort of. I used to spend all my summers out in Cobh and one of my uncles used to play left wing. Thus it was that your correspondent turned out as a 15-year-old in a pre-season friendly that had been arranged when half the normal side were on holiday. I’d like to say that I played alongside your manager that day but to be honest it was probably a good 13 years later by the time he made his debut – and by that time I was out earning a living sufficient enough to enable me to take my holidays somewhere infinitely warmer and drier than Ireland’s Atlantic coast.
However, I’d like to think that, should our paths cross when I visit the North East on the March 29, Mr Keane and I would be able to share a knowing look about our times at St Coleman’s Park – after all, the Ramblers’ colours to this day are still Claret and Blue!
Ah….. some questions:
What did you think of our respective clubs’ prospects before season started?
Well after the trials and tribulations of last season I was hopeful that we’d gain a mid table slot. Sunderland have a history of popping in to the Premiership for a season before disappearing for a year but my thought was there were probably enough teams worse than you to keep you up.
When did you last see a SAFC v West Ham game home or away, and what happened?
I was at the game at our place earlier this season. We won 3-1 which was a flattering score in the end. We had a combination of Robert Green at his best and the woodwork to thank for maintaining our lead – Linda (McCartney) was an unlikely goalscorer (no he wasn’t…see footnote** – Editor) and our third came (if I recall correctly) off the back of Gordon in goal.
Have you been to the Stadium of Light. If so what did you make of it? Of Sunderland itself?
I was up there during our first season back – a 1-1 draw with Benayoun salvaging a point from an uninspiring performance from our point of view. The Stadium’s OK for a modern construction. As a place I think it’s fair to say Sunderland had seen better days last time I was there – we were taken round some fairly horrible pubs by our chums up there and the whole place seemed to be crying out for a few bob to be spent on it. It’ll be interesting to see if the place has improved any over the past two-and-ha-half years.
What about the signings each club made in the transfer window?
Well we were famously frugal during the window – I’d have liked to have seen us looking for more creativity in midfield and, possibly another striker but I think they mislaid the cheque book or something. I’m afraid I must have been off school the day they did “Sunderland transfer window signings” so I can’t really say much. I’d have paid more attention back in January if I’d known you were going to ask – sorry!
Your predictions for both clubs for rest of season?
It looks like we’re destined to stay in 10th spot for the rest of our lives. I think you have a bit more about you than Bolton or Fulham but Fulham in particular have perked up a bit lately. I think you’ll stay up but you need to start picking up points – preferably starting in April if you don’t mind.
Who are your Newcastle? Millwall? Charlton? Every rival London Premier club? Or are you more grown-up about such things?
Well historically there is a fierce rivalry with the lobotomy cases from the New Den – there are those who suggest that this rivalry started as a result of the M*llwall dockworkers breaking a strike back in the 1900’s. I wouldn’t know – even I’m not that old. Otherwise it’s Sp*rs – mainly because of their continued belief held by their shell suit wearing supporters that they are a “Big” club for some reason. No, don’t laugh, really they do. Charlton? No. It’s hard to get worked up about a bunch of trainspotters and anyway they’re only to glad to have stirred up some ill-feeling with Crystal Palace so they can have a proper rivalry of their own like proper clubs do after all these years of indifference.
Any memories of players and/or management linked to both clubs? Pop Robson springs to mind. George McCartney, but you’ll think of others.
Pop was a great and intelligent striker and was damned unlucky not to have got full international recognition. Linda has had a fine season, especially when you consider that he was most people’s choice to be second choice for the left back slot. Actually I’m struggling to remember too many who played for both sides. Don Hutchison had the potential to be so much better but injuries blighted his time at the Boleyn.
What about 8-0 in 1968. Do you know anyone who was there?
Funny you should mention that – I think I may have alluded to my presence at that particular match earlier on. Did you know that our programme for the match at the Boleyn this season did a 4 page article regarding that match? Did you also know that an amusing misprint in that article gave the result as West Ham 8 ARSENAL 0! Our programme is like that.
Club vs country. Who wins for you?
This question always amuses me. In the unlikely event that West Ham ever have to play an England side I expect I’ll stick with club but until that day I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t support both. Especially since when club WAS country in 1966 we won the World Cup!
Who will win? Score? I take it you’ll be there.
I’ll be there. I’ll go for 2-1 to us. I always go for 2-1 to us. I’m not often right.
* Gordon Thrower on Gordon Thrower:
It’s pretty much all there in his entertaining article and answers to the questions. Just a reminder that he helps to run the West Ham supporters’ site Knees Up Mother Brown, which can he seen by clicking on these words. The picture? “Me last year next to the Porsche owned by the woman I sit next to at home matches. When I got injured (ruptured my Achilles tendon playing for the Hammers supporters’ team) she drove me to matches in style!
** Anguished plea from Gordon: “It’s been pointed out to me that McCartney scored for us against Bolton, not Sunderland. I blame my advancing years and the fact that both games were played at the same time of the year for this inexcusable error. Funny how I can remember 1968 though! (and he also got the Craig Gordon mishap out of sequence; that was West Ham’s second goal – Editor)