Filed: Saturday, 29th August 2015
By: Brian Williams
Is this the year the Liverpool hoodoo finally ends? The bookies clearly don’t think so and, based on what we’ve seen at Upton Park so far this season, it’s hard to argue with them. But, be honest, who really thought West Ham would win at the Emirates?
The date of our last victory at Anfield should be engraved on every Hammer’s heart. It was September 14, 1963. Martin Luther King had told the world he had a dream barely two weeks before; Harold Macmillan was in his final days as Prime Minister and petrol cost less than five shillings a gallon (not that I needed to buy a lot of petrol back then, because I was seven years old).
The Beatles topped the charts with She Loves You. And on its way down from a high of No 4 at 17 was Twist and Shout … not the version by the luvable mop-tops, but by Brian Poole and the Tremeloes. Oooooh!
The history books show that we won 2-1, with goals from Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst before Jim Standen saved a penalty. Since then our record has been woeful in the red half of Liverpool (it hasn’t been all that flash in the blue half either, but we’ll draw a veil over that for the time being). It reads: P42 W0 D11 L31. Goals for: 16. Goals against: 87. In effect, for every two we score they notch up 11. Statistics may tell fibs sometimes, but they never lie quite so brazenly to suggest those figures are anything but deeply humiliating.
The last West Ham player to score at Anfield was Bobby Zamora in the 2006/7 season. Other than Hurst and Peters, only nine Hammers have scored there in the past 50 years – although you could make that 10 if you include Paul Allen’s effort in a 2-1 League Cup defeat in the early 80s. Our worst defeat was a 6-0 hammering, although we’ve conceded five more than once. It really does make depressing reading.
I try to lift my personal gloom about all this by reminding myself from time to time that I am fortunate enough to be included in that rare breed who have seen West Ham a goal to the good against Liverpool at their place. Not that we were in the lead for very long. And, to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t too upset when they equalised – it’s why I was able to get out of there in one piece.
It was the mid-70s, and I had gone north with my mate Big Mick. Rather than take one of the football specials, we beat the Intercity Firm to the idea of travelling in comfort and took a regular train. By the time we pulled into Lime Street the Liverpool supporters were there in large numbers waiting to “welcome” the trains that were due in a few minutes after us. The police were there, too, but we didn’t stop to ask directions to the ground. We kept very, very silent and walked past the lot of them looking for all the world like a couple of merry Merseysiders who knew precisely where we were headed.
We didn’t, of course, but after a quiet pint in a quiet pub, the quiet landlord pointed us in the right direction and we got to the not-so quiet ground with our lives intact. The only trouble was, we came at it from the wrong side, and the police wouldn’t let us through their cordon to join the other West Ham supporters in the Anfield Road end. We were left with a choice of the Kop, or the Main Stand. After deliberating for all of three pico-seconds, we opted for the latter. Much as I love the Liverpudlian sense of fun, I felt the Kop might not be quite as hospitable as some pundits would have you believe.
Obviously we weren’t wearing colours. By saying less than a Trappist monk on Strepsils while pretending to be engrossed in our programmes we managed to escape any unwanted attention before kickoff. And I knew the drill once the match started. As with any away supporter who has smuggled themselves into the home crowd, I was quite prepared to cheer a Liverpool goal in the name of self-preservation. More importantly, I told myself that in the unlikely event of us scoring I would remain unmoved – allowing myself no more than a secret smile and a quick nod in Mick’s direction once I had wiped the smirk from my face.
I most certainly was not going to punch the air with both fists, throw back my head (complete with Rod Stewart haircut) and tell my beloved Irons that I truly worshipped them in the most raucous tones imaginable. So when, after eleven minutes, Keith Robson converted a Billy Jennings cross-cum-shot it was hard to say who was most surprised when I did just that – me, Mick, or the thousands of sulky Scousers who surrounded us.
You know what it’s like when West Ham scores – for a brief moment you enter a private world of ecstasy, oblivious to all around you. That’s fine when you’re with your own kind, who are celebrating in a similar fashion. It is not so good when the people around you have got the ache because you have scored against their team. And it’s even worse when your mate has vanished while you have been enjoying a brief taste of heaven here on earth. I was now alone in a sea of red.
As the game re-started, I could almost touch the hostility. I knew I was being stared at by the people behind me. The hair on the back of my neck was bristling with alarm. This could turn very ugly indeed, especially if West Ham scored again. I needn’t have worried. A minute later Liverpool’s Tommy Smith picked up the ball on the edge of the area after we had failed to clear a corner and slammed it past a helpless Mervyn Day to make it 1–1 and restore a sense of normality to proceedings. I even applauded politely, happy to no longer be the centre of attention.
The reason I was so disappointed by Mick’s disappearance was that I sort of looked on him as my personal bodyguard. He was a workmate at the factory where I drove a forklift truck and my minder in our five-a-side team. In one game against the local police force he took such exception to the punishment being dished out to me by the constabulary he took the law into his own hands and lamped the worst offender. So I really didn’t expect him to do one in the midst of a bunch of Mickey Mousers.
I finally found my absentee bodyguard at half time and, not unreasonably in my opinion, asked him precisely where he had got to after we’d scored. He assured me we got separated when the crowd surged forward in response to the goal, and he’d tried to work his way back but couldn’t pinpoint my exact location.
Okay Mick, you’ve cleared that up then. Of course there are no hard feelings. Was it not the mighty Shakespeare himself who wrote about the ability to forgive in circumstances such as these? I think he called it the Quality of Mersey.
Brian Williams is the author of Nearly Reach the Sky – A Farewell to Upton Park.
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.
12:14PM 28th Jul 2009
''Nice to read a bit of positivity instead of all the doom and gloom merchants, well done!
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