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Trust Your Instincts


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I've always enjoyed travelling down to Upton Park in East London for the football.

Somehow it makes me feel close to my Dad when I'm in East Ham. He lived there the first half

of his life, took a teaching job in the school right next to the ground so he could watch games

from the roof, met my Mum there and took myself and brother to many games.

Because of my profession I rarely get a chance to see my team play at weekends.

Historically, games between 'us' and Millwall have always been a major headache for the

authorities. I knew, even when I was ordering the ticket online, that it would be wiser not to go.

Have to admit my instinct was telling me to turn the car around several times on the drive down.

Probably would've been a good idea.

From past experience (I've been going off and on for 43 years now) I knew avoiding the Upton Park

tube would be wise so I parked up off East Ham High St and walked up from there.

That turned out to be a smart move as all the trouble outside the ground was up at the tube station.

I wonder what the inhabitants of East Ham make of it all now. I don't know whether they are Pakistani,

Indian, Sri Lankan... but I did enjoy watching all the games of cricket going on in the park as I headed

over to the ground.

Every 2 weeks or so football fans descend on the area for a relatively brief period of time then leave

the locals to ther own devices. Only this particular occasion, predictably, events were far from routine.

I queued up for 20 minutes at the box office to collect my ticket and can honestly say I saw absolutely

nothing untoward happen. Not surprising really, it was all going off further up the road.

The atmosphere in the ground was 'poisonous' the whole game, several pitch 'invasions', almost

continuous battling between police/stewards and supporters down at the corner flags.

I was a reasonable distance from all the trouble in the Upper West Stand. Even so, it was

disappointing (though not surprising) to see the anger etched in faces around me. I guess people get

caught up in it all. A sort of mass hysteria ?

The response to pitch invasions was acceptable. Most people were booing and chanting "off, off, off"...

but the reaction to fans battling with police and stewards by the corner flags seemed different.

At times people were more interested in watching them than the actual game ?

The introduction of Hines and his link up play with Stanislas turned things our way in the second half.

It's great to see players coming through from the Academy making an impact and I'm glad we went on to win,

but, for the first time in many many years, getting home in one piece seemed more important.

Past experience taught me to stick to the main Barking Road and the street lights after the game.

Once I reached East Ham High Street, I felt I was OK..

So... no more West Ham:Millwall games for me. I'll still catch the occasional midweek night game 'under the lights'

but, next time, I'll pay more attention to my 'instinct'...

Mark

Edited by Mark Haley
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Thank you for posting this vivid account of the events. What do you think West Ham's punishment will be? One of my football friends says that the FA will hit them hard as part of their World Cup bid.

I've always enjoyed travelling down to Upton Park in East London for the football.

Somehow it makes me feel close to my Dad when I'm in East Ham. He lived there the first half

of his life, took a teaching job in the school right next to the ground so he could watch games

from the roof, met my Mum there and took myself and brother to many games.

Some of my most powerful memories is of my Dad taking me to football games. He was killed when I was 11 and so I had to go on my own after that. However, I took my younger brother along. We still go to games together and comes over to my house to watch them when they are live on Sky.

I took my nine-year old grandson to see his first West Ham home match in the pre-season friendly. Afterwards, we went for a curry outside the ground. All part of his education.

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For many, many years, I was a soccer coach here at my school in Madrid. I used to take 10-12 year-old kids in groups of 5-6 along to watch Atletico Madrid games -- I couldn't afford the prices at Real Madrid!. The last time I went, we were walking out of the stadium quietly, minding our own business, when a couple of Atletico fans walked up to us and punched one of the 12-year-olds in the mouth. No provocation, no fan-based clothing, nothing. That was the last time I took kids to a game. It just wasn't worth the risk... So, it's not just an English problem...

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I took my nine-year old grandson to see his first West Ham home match in the pre-season friendly. Afterwards, we went for a curry outside the ground. All part of his education.

Cor, you've gone and done it now John :) Let's hope your Grand-son has one or 2 trophies to celebrate along the journey.

To answer your question I think the FA will stop short of throwing us out of the competition. There's bound to be some kind of fine and maybe a 'Castilla' game behind closed doors (if we get a home tie in the next round).

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For many, many years, I was a soccer coach here at my school in Madrid. I used to take 10-12 year-old kids in groups of 5-6 along to watch Atletico Madrid games -- I couldn't afford the prices at Real Madrid!. The last time I went, we were walking out of the stadium quietly, minding our own business, when a couple of Atletico fans walked up to us and punched one of the 12-year-olds in the mouth. No provocation, no fan-based clothing, nothing. That was the last time I took kids to a game. It just wasn't worth the risk... So, it's not just an English problem...

Isn't it a shame Mike that part of the match day experience requires figuring out how to get into the stadium safely and getting home unscathed. Wherever you are in the world.

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I took my nine-year old grandson to see his first West Ham home match in the pre-season friendly. Afterwards, we went for a curry outside the ground. All part of his education.

Cor, you've gone and done it now John :) Let's hope your Grand-son has one or 2 trophies to celebrate along the journey.

To answer your question I think the FA will stop short of throwing us out of the competition. There's bound to be some kind of fine and maybe a 'Castilla' game behind closed doors (if we get a home tie in the next round).

I was at the game between Castilla (Real Madrid's B team at the time which had won the Spanish Cup) and West Ham many, many years ago. I must admit that the behavior of the West Ham fans was terrible. At one point, they were peeing over the balcony onto the Spanish supporters below. The Spanish police responded in the way they knew best, lashing out viciously with their long batons... but there was very little outcry here about "police brutality" since most of the Spanish public I spoke to thought the fans got no more than they deserved...

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