Filed: Wednesday, 22nd November 2006
By: Bill Posters
I remember my grandfather telling me stories of his life raised in and around Stratford, West Ham and Dagenham. How when he first started dating my grandmother they would often watch West Ham United play from the terraces, and how he clambered over the wall at the famous White Horse Cup Final. As a youth such stories became part of who we were, engrained in our lives and passed on from generation to generation.
How ironic that I now tell my children stories of heady days watching West Ham at Highbury, White Hart Lane, cold winter days on the north bank with a cup of Oxo and not being able to get to the toilets in fear of losing ones place. There is sheer joy in now taking my children to watch West Ham, it's in the blood, its part of who we are.
It was with curiosity that I took my son to Stamford Bridge on Saturday. Curiosity albeit to witness how a club has had its very heart ripped from it. To anyone who has been to Chelsea of late from the outside things look mighty impressive. Hotels, brasseries, restaurants, and megastores litter the very organized and clean courtyards. There is a professionalism in the way everything is designed. The whole place is a testament to money and success, there is a style and a swagger to the whole complex that is Chelsea village. Yet there is no heart.
Familiarity often breeds contempt and success will lead to complacency. Take away the flashy exterior and one sees Chelsea FC for what it has really become. A magnet for commercialism and corporate hospitality, an expectation of winning with no thought for disappointment, a well oiled machine fueled by high prices and exploitation of its hypnotized followers.
Did I expect passion? Did I expect loyalty? Did I expect commitment? All were noticeable by their very absence. Inside the clean cut stadium there was no singing, there was no exuberance, there was no intensity of feeling, the was no soul. Designer clothes, Team shirts and flags were aplenty - but it was all far too ordered, too politically correct, too heartless.
How ironic that the real passion lay in that small corner of The Shed inhabited by its visiting supporters. I felt like I belonged, I felt part of a family, I felt so proud of something that was part of me and who I am. The score was irrelevant, what mattered was that we were West Ham United.
With news of the takeover at West Ham we must be cautious. The pathway to following in Chelsea's footsteps is a slippery one, one that is unthinkable. We all desire success but success that is earned through blood, sweat and tears. Whether that is possible in today's climate remains to be seen - but that's my dream. I still get a thrill walking down Green Street and being part of the match day atmosphere, I still feel so proud singing bubbles, I still believe we are the greatest club in the world.
My standing place on the North Bank has long been replaced by a shiny plastic seat. My cup of Oxo now substituted for designer drinks and packaged pies - yet Upton Park is still like home to me. It is still the fans club. Long may that remain.....although I fear it may not.
My grandfather has long since passed on but his legacy still remains. No one can take that away, no Russian billionaire or Icelandic business mogul can rob me of my inheritance.
Let us just not go the way of Chelsea....it will be our death.
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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