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Proud of you

Filed: Sunday, 14th May 2006
By: Peter Hamersley

It’s over. The waiting, the adrenalin flow, the buzz, the feeling of knowing you are in the Cup Final – and, the game. But what a game. Pat yourselves on the back West Ham. From everyone who was involved in this one event. From the club, the players and the supporters. Pat yourselves on the back for we showed the watching world what West Ham are all about.

We have lost the cup – but we didn’t lose the game. Far from it, in actual fact. The reality is that we have been denied a trophy that we thoroughly deserved to win. The only thing Liverpool won yesterday was the penalty shoot out. Other than Gerrard’s two superb strikes, Liverpool would be hard pressed to name any positives from the game. West Ham on the other hand, played above themselves and were superior in most areas and wanted it more.

We can feel so rightly proud of how we performed in the 2006 Cup Final. Our crowd were fantastic. There was a non-stop hub of noise bellowing out from the Millennium Stadium for the whole game. Those of us unfortunate enough not to have tickets to be there were treated to a level of noise that mostly drowned out the tv commentators. Our players responded to this, and for the most part out fought and outplayed a Liverpool side that were strong favourites in the eyes of the media and sporting world. It was a performance from an underdog whose whole team raised their game and took it to their supposedly superior opponents.

Looking through the whole team, no one had a bad game. Some had outstanding moments:

Benayoun – superb second half absolutely bossed the midfield and showed outstanding class at times.

Gabbidon – cool and controlled at the centre of the defence and strongly supported by Ferdinand.

Ashton – showed his class at this level and was on hand where a striker should be to follow up on a keeper’s error.

Reo-Coker – non-stop running and winner of many mid field challenges, and often emerging from tackles to take the ball out of danger areas.

Supporting these roles of excellence and having magical moments themselves, were Scaloni - probably his best game, capped by a brilliant overlapping run and low drive into the box that resulted in the first goal.

Etherington – constant threat out wide left culminating in the run, dribble and shot which led to the second goal.

Konchesky – hardly put a foot wrong and the only poor cross he did sailed into the top corner of the net for the third goal!

Personally I thought Fletcher and Ferdinand had good solid games, the same for Harewood, a quiet game for his reputation but one in which he did a lot of running and tracking back and found himself exhausted and injured in extra time. He certainly fancied his chances early on and was instrumental in pulling the normally sound Liverpool defence apart on several occasions.

Although Shaka Hislop conceded three goals with which he had little chance, he didn’t have many saves to make.

Liverpool, Gerrard apart, would struggle to pick a player who played well or had a positive influence on the game. Goalkeeper Reina had an absolute nightmare, redeeming himself only in the lottery of the penalty shoot out. Liverpool’s normally solid, miserly defence was pulled apart by the pace of Harewood, Benayoun and Ashton. They were largely outfought across midfield and as the game progressed became less and less of a threat up front.

From a West Ham point of view, this was an enjoyable game in which we led and played well for the most part. It was eventually levelled through a combination of sportsmanship and gamesmanship in two successive incidents immediately prior to the late equalising goal. Scaloni, sportingly (though a bit naive) kicked into touch. Liverpool, unsporting but perhaps understandable, pressured the resultant throw in giving Scaloni possession. Instead of allowing the ball to pass for the safety of a goal kick, Scaloni’s clearance was promptly knocked back in and fell invitingly to Gerrard. Galling, the 90 minutes were up, but four more remained of injury time. This was not to be the last time in the game that the Cup was within our reach.

Late into extra time, with just 90 seconds remaining and certainly no time for a recovery, Yossi’s free kick was nodded on by NRC and floated towards the top corner. It looked a certain goal, but somehow Reina got his fingertips to it and the ball rebounded from the inside of the post across the face of the goal, falling at an awkward height to the injured and hobbling Harwood, whose off balance effort did not trouble the gaping Liverpool goal. A cruel twist of fate as luck finally ran out on us. Had that ball gone in off the post, there would have been barely enough time to kick off let alone for a tired and beaten Liverpool side to stage yet another comeback.

As we know, the lottery that is the penalty shoot out, gave the trophy to the team that least deserved it, and West Ham’s day of glory was over. Or was it? What remains of the memory of this game is entirely up to the individual. History, so they say, is written by the winners – but those of us fortunate enough to have experienced this extraordinary game and moment in time for West Ham, know the true story. The record books will show a Liverpool win – in a game in which we were never behind. Listening to an after match interview with Gerrard, he gave West Ham full credit and literally stated that they thought if they could hold on they fancied their chances in a penalty shoot out. An incredible statement from the captain of the reigning European champions. A statement that says it all about how far this West Ham team have come.

Writing from my heart, I truly have never been more proud to be West Ham as I am now. Watching in a club with my family and two hundred other Hammers here in Perth enabled us to get as close as we possibly could to experience the atmosphere. Even though we have lost this game, and are obviously saddened to do so, we were fortunate to be able to witness such a great advert for football. The FA Cup Final is watched all over the world. Anyone seeing this game would be full of respect for the team, supporters and management of West Ham United. In the short space of one year, we have put ourselves back on the world football map. This one game will be recalled time and time again as the one of the greatest Cup Finals of modern times. No one can ever take away from us the fact that we were not only a part of it – but that by playing to our West Ham traditions, we made it what was.

We will remember this game forever. We should not feel down about losing. We are bigger than that. It has been a great season for West Ham. We are fortunate to be a part of West Ham at this point in time of football history. We can stand proud and say that we were a part of it.

We have arrived. We are West Ham. We are Europe bound.

Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.

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