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Why I support my football club.


John Simkin
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I thought it might be a good idea to have a thread where we explain why we support a particular football club.

I was first taken to football games by my father when I was 8 years old. Unfortunately, he was a passionate Spurs fan and we were regular visitors to White Hart Lane. My father was killed in a road accident when I was 11. A neighbour, who took his son, Roy Huke, to Spurs, offered to take me along to home games. As he happens, Roy was eventually signed by Spurs when he left school but never made much of an impact at the club and drifted out of the game.

In 1958 my mother moved the family to Dagenham. The school that I went to (Campbell Road) was an old fashioned secondary school. The teachers were so poor that you had to transfer to Park Modern to take ‘O’ levels. However, the school did have a great sports department. I remember, one boy, Johnny O’Rooke, playing for England Schoolboys. He was paraded around the school in his full England kit, including his international cap. He was also put on the stage during school assemblies. It made a change from the public floggings that usually took place on the stage. What as known as the carrot and stick policy. O’Rooke later went onto play for Arsenal and Chelsea. Most of the kids in the school supported their local club, West Ham, and several of the most talented players ended up at the club.

Although I was only 13 years old, I started taking myself off to see West Ham. I soon realized that this was the club for me. One of my first games was Bobby Moore’s debut against Manchester United. He only played five games that year but it was clear that he was a potential England player.

The main stars of the 1958-59 season were Johnny Dick and Vic Keeble. Dick was born in the Govern district of Glasgow (just around the corner from Alex Ferguson). He did his national service in the Army. While based in Colchester he played football for Braintree. He was spotted by a West Ham scout and signed for the club in 1953. By 1958 he was at the peak of his career and won his only international cap that year.

Keeble was the same age but despite being born in Colchester made his reputation at Newcastle United and played for the club in the 1955 FA Cup Final. He joined the Hammers for £10,000 in October 1957. At that time, West Ham was in the Second Division, and it was the goals of Dick (21) and Keeble (19) that helped us win the championship and promotion in the 1957-58 season.

The 1958-59 team was one of the best I have seen at Upton Park. As well as Dick and Keeble we had two flying wingers: Malcolm Musgrove and Mike Grice. The defence was also very good with Jim Gregory, Noel Cantwell, John Bond, Andy Malcolm, Ken Brown and John Smith. It was a season with very few injuries with Bond, Brown, Cantwell, Grice and Malcom playing in all 42 league games. Dick missed only one game and Musgrave two.

My favourite game was against Blackpool on 16th February, 1959. It gave me the opportunity to see the great Stanley Matthews. He was in the 1950s what Ronaldo is today. Although he was 44 years old at the time, he was still an amazing player and gave Noel Cantwell a nightmare match. The Hammers won the game 1-0 with Dick scoring the only goal. Other highlights that year was a 7-2 thrashing of Aston Villa and a 6-0 win over Portsmouth. We also did the double over Spurs: 2-1 at home and 4-1 at White Hart Lane. The Hammers also won 2-1 at Highbury with Dick scoring both the goals.

Attendances at Upton Park were poor compared to today. 28,500 turned up to watch Matthews but Spurs only attracted 26,000 (43,800 turned out for the game at White Hart Lane). Only 23,500 saw West Ham’s last game at the season against Manchester City. The Hammers won 5-1 and clinched 6th place behind Wolves, Manchester United, Arsenal, Bolton and WBA. The club had been highly dependent on the goals of Dick (27) and Keeble (20) that season.

The following season both Dick and Keeble spent most of the time in the treatment room and Musgrave ended up as top scorer and West Ham finished in 14th place. Keeble was forced into retirement and it was not until the arrival of Geoff Hurst and Johnny Byrne in the mid-sixties that West Ham was able to score the goals that enabled them to challenge for top honours.

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I'm a Manchester city supporter, but I could not really put my finger on my reasons ofr starting to support them. I started to support them when they were in the second division (the premiership was in existence), I have always been drawn to the underdog. For a time when I was very young I supported Manchester United, but I soon realised that I did so only because all of the other children in my neighbourhood were supporters. I suppose I was drawn to City because of their temporary minow status, despite being a big club.

I would regard myself as a passive supporter of Manchester City, as I have neve been to a game and I'm not English. I would like to see them do well, I watch the games, but I would find it hard to take pride in them.

One other club that I hold affection for is A.S. Livorno, an Italian club that are still in Serie A. I first discovered the club through an article in a left wing publication about their striker, Cristiano Lucarelli. Lucarelli was a Livorno native who excelled at football and played at the highest levels of Serie A, being top scorer in the league on a number of occasions. Lucarelli was a socialist/communist and Livorno is known as the left wing club in Italy, the communist party having been founded there. Such was Lucarelli's dedication to his ideals and his home club, he took a huge reduction in wages and joined them. I had great respect for Lucarelli for doing so in what is an exceptionally profit driven sport. Lucarelli has since left the club to join Shaktar Donetsk and Parma following a falling out with the manager. They currently lie one point above the drop zone in Serie A. I hope to make a visit to a home game at some point next season.

John

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One other club that I hold affection for is A.S. Livorno, an Italian club that are still in Serie A. I first discovered the club through an article in a left wing publication about their striker, Cristiano Lucarelli. Lucarelli was a Livorno native who excelled at football and played at the highest levels of Serie A, being top scorer in the league on a number of occasions. Lucarelli was a socialist/communist and Livorno is known as the left wing club in Italy, the communist party having been founded there. Such was Lucarelli's dedication to his ideals and his home club, he took a huge reduction in wages and joined them. I had great respect for Lucarelli for doing so in what is an exceptionally profit driven sport. Lucarelli has since left the club to join Shaktar Donetsk and Parma following a falling out with the manager. They currently lie one point above the drop zone in Serie A. I hope to make a visit to a home game at some point next season.

Interesting story. This is from Wikipedia:

Lucarelli's passion for his home club often resulted in many questionable incidents. The May 2005 issue of Calcio Italia magazine reported that he had paid for a bus that brought a cadre of traveling Livorno fans back to the city after they had been arrested for rioting. He has the A.S. Livorno logo tattooed on his left forearm, and his jersey number, 99, was an homage to left-wing ultras group Brigate Autonome Livornesi, which was founded in 1999.

He was also of an increasingly rare breed of Italian footballer who openly brought his politics onto the pitch; his goal celebration consisted of a dual clenched-fist salute, a gesture made famous by the Communist party. He has openly admitted that he, like most of Livorno's fanbase, is a supporter of communism. One of his cell phone ringtones was The Red Flag, and he once gregariously declared, “We [Livorno] get no favors from the referees because we are Communists!” but later retracted this statement.

He is a staunch admirer of Che Guevara, whose face is frequently displayed on Livorno fans' banners and T-shirts during matches. This first came to the fore in 1997, when, after scoring for Italy's Under-21 side, he celebrated by pulling his jersey over his face to reveal a shirt bearing the revolutionary's image. Despite his insisting that it was not a political gesture, he was consequently blackballed from the national team for several years until Marcello Lippi called him up as a starter for a friendly in 2005.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cristiano_Lucarelli

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