Undercover Chix - West Ham - The Visit
Usually when I go visiting the location for our next away game I have to wear some kind of disguise as not to give my southern origins away. This week however it was different, I was only going to London to get the low down on West Ham, so surely all I had to do was speak Cock-er-ney. Simple I thought! And so it was.
Straight From The Start
Narh, let's get a couple of things straight from the off:
Despite Wicksy always wearing an 'ammers scarf around Albert Square, WesTam ain't in the East End. The 'ammers or the Irons or whatever they is called this week play in Upton Park. Upton Park is in the borough of Newham - The River Lee signifies the eastern boundary of the East End which places Newham, Upton Park and therefore WesTam in East London, not the East End.
So Eastenders they ain't but Cockneys they is, or they would be if their fans was actually born around the Upton Park area which sadly don't seen to be the case anymore. Any how to make life easier and for the purposes of this article let's just say that all WesTam fans were born within earshot of the bells of St. Mary-le-Bow and are therefore, Cockneys.
Now. Everybody knows that Cockneys are famous for Rhyming Slang - Up the apples and pears, into the rub-a-dub-dub and all that, and throughout this report I hope to demonstrate that each of us knows more Cockney speak than we've probably ever realised. This will no doubt stand us in good stead on Saturday when we try to understand Zola's reason why 'is boys 'ave taken another pasting.
Right. Now I've got that off me George Best let's have a butcher's at what I found on my visit to the good old Cockney 'Knees up Mother Brown' town of WesTam.
It's said that during the course of their 'ducking and diving', the old Cockney barrow boys would occasionally fall foul of the law and so it wasn't uncommon for groups of them to be transported together to and from the local nick or courtroom in the company of the police. Legend has it that Rhyming Slang was invented so they could rabbit openly to each other without the police ever being able to understand what they were saying.
For the uninitiated, there are many ways to speak in rhyme but the most current and trendy way seems to be to take an expression which rhymes with a word and then omit the rhyming word. For example the word 'look' rhymes with 'butcher's hook' so to have a look becomes a have a butcher's. Simple innit! So here we go!
As we all know WesTam fans are famous for singing the same boring old song 'I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles' but what I didn't realise was the reason they did this. The story goes (and it's nothing to do with Michael Jackson) that Billy Murray; a young saucepan from a local school team, had an uncanny resemblance to a boy in a Pears soap commercial called 'Bubbles' and whenever Murray played well his Headmaster used to sing the tune to him. Weird or what ?
Anyway, somewhere along the way the Headmaster became a china of former Irons manager Charlie Paynter and Murray was given a trial. Now although Murray never made the grade, the Upton Park crowd apparently picked up on the story and started singing the song at home games and they have done so ever since for the past 90 years or so.. non stop!
Who are ya?
As I found out on my visit to Sunlun 'nicknames' can be tenuous things, but WesTam's seems quite obvious - except they don't know whether they are 'The Irons' or 'The 'ammers'. As it goes, most WesTam supporters will say they use both and that both have the same origin. I guess as the club was originally founded as Thames Ironworks F.C. and as you 'its iron with an 'ammer it seems quite a sound argument and one that I was happy to stick with until some geezer told me that WesTam`s real nickname is … Wait for it … this will make you Turkish… The Academy of Football !
The Academy of Football!
Yep.. there are a few, including the clubs marketing men who believe that WesTam's nickname is just that. Now, I'm the first to acknowledge that the Irons have produced such players of quality as; Brooking, Cottee, Ince, Ferdinand, J.Cole, Lampard and even our very own Glen Johnson amongst a host of others. I'd even go as far as to admit they are generally recognised as a club that bring through homegrown talent, but to plaster 'The Academy of Football' in big bold letters across your stadium entrance as WesTam have done is asking to be criticised … It's almost as crazy as to suggest , again as some do, that … and here's another one to make you Sandy Lyle … that WesTam 'ave won the World Cup!
West Ham and the World Cup
Oh yeah! It was not England who won the World Cup in 1966 it was WesTam. A load of old cobblers I reckon but some might argue, that the goalscorers (Peters & Hurst) and the Captain (Bobby Moore) were the players who contributed the most to our country's famous victory - but surely it's a team game and the three of them could not have done it without the other eight on the pitch or squad members sat on the bench - Come on you 'ammers, to claim that YOU won the World Cup is a bit rich, have you not heard of Banks, Ball, the Charlton brothers.. to name a few .. oh and why, if you won it, is Ray Wilson of Everton included in the 'Champions' statue on the Barking Road? Was it because the sculpter needed a fourth player in it and instead of selecting one of the 'bigger names' who might have stolen the limelight, chose a full back who is generally remembered for the player who most people forget.
Off with ya 'ead
Another brass tack I found on my journey around the barra' boys markets was that WesTam's stadium ain't called Upton Park at all. It's called the Boleyn Ground and always has been, and I ain't telling porkies !
The folklore goes that in 1912 the club rented a manor house and grounds from the Roman Catholic Church. The estate was called Green Street House but was known locally as Boleyn Castle because of its imposing nature and an association with Anne Boleyn, who had either stayed there or owned it and as some Adam and Eve was actually used by Henry VIII when he courted his second queen. Anyway a stadium was eventually built there and the Boleyn Ground came into being.
Are you Villa in Disgisue?
Ever wondered why WesTam wear claret and blue? Well it's because they won their kit in a bet!
The Jackanory goes that in 1899 a Thames Ironworks player called Charlie Dove got the kit from his Dad, who as well as being the club trainer was a also a professional sprinter of some repute. Apparently Dove's Dad (Bill) had been at a fair close to Villa Park, and was challenged to a race against four Villa players, who bet him some dosh that one of them would win. As it goes Dove beat them all but as they were Borassic they were unable to cough up so one of the Villa players, who was responsible for washing the team's laundry, offered Dove a dozen kits in payment and Dove accepted. The only thing that's changed since is the sponsor (or lack of them) on the front of their dickies .
Don't 'Barack' the fans
A few weeks ago I mentioned that Liverpool claimed to have a dead Pope amongst their fans. Well the Irons can now claim to have the most powerful (alledgedley) man in the world as one of theirs - Yep Barack Obama the (soon to be) new President of the U. S. of A is a WesTam fan. According to reports, the US President has been a fan of the 'ammers ever since a trip to England five years ago. He's also supposed to watch Premier League games whenever his busy schedule allows … which in all honesty is now going to be probably never ! Shame really I can just imagine Obama sitting next to Alf Garnett in the Milton End on the return fixture.
That's all Folks!
Well that's it for this week, my next visit in a couple of weeks takes me back to Birmingham and to the land of 'Dabaggies' - In the meantime I'd better Scapa so I'm off up the apples to 'ave a good old Richard then a hot Steffi. Wrap myself in a nice warm Baden give me Hampsteads a good scrub and sort me Barnet out . Then it`s on with the whistle, grab the Duchess and go and have a few Uri's and a Ruby before crashing out for a good nights Bo in me old Uncle. I just hope I don't get into too much of a two and eight because when I get Brahms, I generally feel a bit Tom in the morning
Oh, and if any of ya think I'm Three stops down from Plaistow, you're probably right!