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Showing respect when West Ham visit
This weekend`s visit by West Ham should be an emotional one. Chelsea should show an example often not demonstrated by our guests.
In the League this weekend, Chelsea welcome West Ham to Stamford Bridge. The fixture has, in recent years, been a volatile one. Not because of the results (ever since Mussolini apologist Paulo di Canio ran roughshod over Chelsea home and away in 2003 it`s been one way traffic for Chelsea), but because of ill feeling from our neighbours.
The rivalry between Chelsea and West Ham hasn`t been particularly significant. It can`t compare, say, to the dislike that all the other London teams show to Tottenham Hotspur. But ever since Frank Lampard crossed London, West Ham have hated Chelsea. The animosity was due to some unfortunate comments that Frank made whereby he indicated that his loyalty was now to Chelsea rather than the club that nurtured him. A remark whereby he wouldn`t feel any particular emotion scoring the goal that sent West Ham into relegation particularly incensed West Ham, who have screamed abuse at their former idol.
It matters little to West Ham that Frank also did his utmost to pay homage to the club that pushed him to be the player he is, the fans (who found 'amusing` ways also to suggest that Frank Lampard suffered from weight issues) never stopped screaming at him, with venom levels similar to those reserved for Sol Campbell by Spurs pondlife.
And when West Ham were unfortunately relegated, Chelsea did business. It was the summer of Roman Abramovich`s takeover, and Glen Johnson, f***, was the first signing of a new era, for £6 million from West Ham. Later that summer, Joe Cole followed from East London to SW6 for some £6,6 million, in a bizarre day that also saw Chelsea sign Juan Sebastian Veron. West Ham had been relegated, they clearly needed to offload some players and raise cash. However, the Hammers fans saw this as Chelsea scavenging over the carcass of a still-twitching club. Despite Chelsea`s money staving off the Hammer`s bankruptcy, they were not happy at all.
West Ham`s indignation continued, even though Glen Johnson didn`t last very long. Joe Cole, possibly having learnt from the vitriol aimed at Lampard, has always been more cautious when talking about his former club. Nevertheless, the bi-annual fixture always saw abuse screamed by the fans and a flurry of poisonous articles penned on West Ham fansites.
Last season, however, the death of Frank Lampard`s mother (who was, after all, the wife of Frank Lampard senior, a West Ham legend) saw great respect shown by West Ham. We could put that down to the stereotype of the Eastender who loves his Mum, it was genuine and touching emotion shown by both fans and club. We appreciate that.
And now, West Ham should examine their ranks. Carlton Cole, who rose through the Chelsea youth system and just broke into the first team, is West Ham`s top scorer this season. Meanwhile Scott Parker, in the West Ham midfield, also had a stint at Chelsea. Albeit not a very successful one.
Meanwhile, the management team at West Ham consists of two Chelsea legends. Gianfranco Zola was appointed earlier this season. He was voted Chelsea`s greatest ever player, and many Chelsea fans look forward to the day he takes the Chelsea hotseat. His assistant, Steve Clarke, also made it into Chelsea`s greatest ever XI; as well as a legendary playing career, he gave years of service to management under José Mourinho and last season also under Avram Grant. Both are amongst of our best Chelsea players, currently plying their trade at West Ham.
West Ham can`t complain about having become Chelsea`s feeder club (as we taunted them). If anything, the direction of personnel has been reversed. We would like to think that having so many Chelsea players on their staff now, West Ham could stop throwing abuse at ours, even scale down the hatred of Chelsea.
On our side, we hope to show an exemplary welcome to Zola and Clarke as they make their debuts outside of Chelsea management. Of course (and it`s nothing personal) we hope that they get soundly beaten on Saturday, but otherwise we wish them the best of luck for the rest of the season. We also would like that Chelsea supporters extend to those previously associated with our club a warmth that West Ham consider they can`t demonstrate to their previous players.