22. West Ham bubbles – football relegation and running

Dear Andy
“I’m not interested in football, I just support West Ham”.

That’s the saying of my lifetime.

Fortunately, I was away for the Bolton game at the Reebok, where the season’s final die was most likely cast. At least it saved me the torture by teletext. It was good to beat ‘Boro, but it wasn’t the classic six-pointer of the week before.

Leeds’ win at Fulham makes it look even more dire. Glenn Roeder has been struck down by the stress of it all and even with Saint Trevor Brooking confirmed as caretaker manager, it’s looking like other results will have to go our way, whatever happens against Man City on Sunday.

A marathon looks almost easy in comparison. Let’s see – the race starts at 1 pm, and kickoff is at 2 pm. I run past my sister’s house at 13 miles, hopefully at around 3 pm. Should I ask the half-time score ? Game over (perhaps literally) by 4 pm, just as I hit the wall running up Rumer Hill for the second time at around 18 miles.

What if somehow I hear the final score as I toil the last long miles into Stratford ? Or what if I don’t ? It’ll certainly add a different edge to the usual late April relegation stress – passing the time clutching at mental straws, and enjoying the final shreds of hope.

I’m forever blowing bubbles
Pretty bubbles in the air
They fly so high
Nearly reach the sky
Then like my dreams
They fade and die

Fortune’s always hiding
I’ve looked everywhere
I’m forever blowing bubbles
Pretty bubbles in the air

I was there ! FA Cup Final against Fulham in 1975, with a Bobby Moore now past his best but still turning out a memorable performance, for once not in a West Ham shirt. I was 14.

Back again in 1980 to see Saint Trevor score a rare header to lift an unlikely FA Cup win against Arsenal. This time it wasn’t ‘Bubbles’ but the poetic Cockney echoes of ‘There’s only one team in L-arn-den’ which I remember so well.

But the following year was my most memorable Wembley visit, this time for a League Cup Final against Arsenal. The Hammers were outplayed for much of the game, but were awarded a penalty in the dying seconds which Ray Stewart calmly put away to earn a replay. Although ultimately to no avail, Stewart’s coolness under the most intense pressure provided one of the finest sporting moments I can remember. It was 22 years ago and I can still feel my neck muscles craning to catch a view of the penalty spot at the other end.

Happy days.

Related articles:
117. Come on you Irons ! FA Cup Final, Millennium Stadium
89. You’ll never walk alone – Liverpool in Istanbul
77. The most miserable day of the year
23. The uncertain glory of an April day: Shakespeare Marathon 2003

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