Kevin Mears becomes the latest Hammers supporter to blog for our Fanzone series, charting the story of why he follows the Club.
It's 1993. I'm seven years old and it's a Sunday afternoon with a difference. I'm about to sit down and watch a game of football with my dad to see what all the fuss is about. I'm eager to see why it's such a hotbed of discussion in our house and why Julian Dicks is seen as some kind of deity. Television's on, someone called Brian Moore is commentating and West Ham are away to Swindon.
It turns out this is the penultimate game of the season - West Ham need a win to stand a chance of automatic promotion to the Premier League. And that's a big deal I'm told. The players look nervous; my dad is on edge; my mum's ironing but I'm pretty sure she's anxious as well. Just before half time, Trevor Morley is put through on goal and blasts it into the top of the net. He does that a lot apparently. The fans and our living room erupt, taking me by surprise. I can't help but do the same.
West Ham go on to win 3-1, thanks to goals from Clive Allen and Kenny Brown (with his first touch of the ball). The game takes over Fireman Sam in my video library. I learn the starting line-up off by heart, something I remember to this day, squad numbers as well. I start referring to the club as 'we'.
We get promoted thanks to an edgy victory over Cambridge the following week. We're in the Premier League. I get my first replica shirt - shorts and socks as well. I'm a child so I get away with it. I wear it proudly amongst the glut of Manchester United endorsing schoolmates in our sleepy Essex village. I start getting up at 6am on a Sunday to watch us on the previous night's Match of the Day. I become a Junior Hammer and go to the West Ham Christmas party. I meet Steve Potts. And Herbie the Hammer. I start reading Hammers News. My dad decides he'd best take me to a game.
Watford at home in the FA Cup. I walk along Green Street for the first time, awash with claret and blue shirts and scarves. My mouth melts on pie, double mash and green liquor. Mike Marsh pops up with the winner to send us into the fourth round. I learn some new words that apparently aren't for repeating. I buy the West Ham cassette and blast I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles on repeat instead.
Matchday programmes become educational reading. Many come courtesy of Stan Burke, the Academy's kit man, coach driver, and my grandad's neighbour. A family man, a family club. Just ask the Ferdinands, the Lampards, the Potts, the Moncurs and the Lees.
It's twenty years later, but the memory of beating Swindon away is as vivid as Di Canio slotting past a taxi-hailing Barthez; Zamora sending us back to the big time and Diame conducting a second half comeback against Chelsea. Here's to the next twenty.
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