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The Rev's Christmas message

Filed: Friday, 24th December 2010
By: Staff Writer

West Ham United's club chaplain Elwin Cockett brings us his annual Christmas message...

Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, as they say, but we West Ham fans could do with all the heart-warming memories we can get during this cold winter.

One old-timer who is sadly no longer with us told me that his happiest Christmas was spent driving around East Anglia in 1944 with a car full of turkeys meant for the club’s players who were stationed in army units around the US air bases.

Fans from the post-war years will tell tales of long trips by train to far-away clubs on Boxing Day to witness improbable results. For me, Tony Cottee’s goal on his debut, against Spurs one New Year’s Day, is up there with the best.

Nevertheless, it’s not events but the characters at the club who have made it the place that it has been for me over the years. When I was invited to be the club chaplain in the early 90s, that legend of many a hard-fought game, Billy Bonds, was in charge.

Bill, along with the likes of kit man Eddie Gilliam, club secretary Tom Finn, and players like Alvin Martin, Tony Cottee and John Moncur, were all great people who it was my privilege to get to know.

And – though it is never popular to say so – so were the directors, some of whom were deeply committed to the club and the area, having been involved all their lives.

And if those characters were special, so have been the fans – often more so in defeat that in success. Who will ever forget the singing when we were 4-0 down in ‘that’ cup game after Tony Gale’s sending off?

Or the response to the chant of ‘Going down, going down, going down’ with ‘So are we, so are we, so are we’. People like that deserve to have something to cheer.

If Christmas means anything to me, it is about remembering what really matters. We love football, and we love our club, but whether or not we get relegated is nothing like as important as people.

People matter. In the end, football doesn’t. If we get that right, we can treat both victory and defeat as the impostors that Kipling famous described them as. It’s the people who matter.

So, wherever you’re spending the festivities this year, may you know something of the love, peace and hope that the Christmas story is all about. And may God bless you and the people around you richly – whatever the football results.

Elwin Cockett
Archdeacon of West Ham

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