'We all follow the West Ham'




Spare a thought for Australian Hammer Donald Sutherland.


The Melbourne-based West Ham United fan travelled halfway around the world to watch his heroes in action for the first time in eight years on Saturday, only for train delays to mean he missed the first half.

Luckily for the 21-year-old, he was inside the Boleyn Ground in time to see Aaron Cresswell score to secure a 1-0 Barclays Premier League victory over Newcastle United.

For Sutherland, who works as the media manager for National Premier League side Melbourne Knights, the long, arduous and frustrating journey was worthwhile.

The third-generation West Ham supporter is hoping to catch the full 90 minutes at West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday evening before returning to east London for Sunday's clash with Swansea City.

"I had no choice in the matter of which club I supported," Sutherland confirmed. "My grandfather of the same name was involved in an Australian lower-league club called Sandringham City SC, who played in claret and blue and had the nickname of 'The Hammers'.

"When my Grandfather and my Dad returned to the UK to live, West Ham was the club they supported and, as is usual in football, the father-to-son support of the club was passed on!

"I was lucky enough to attend quite a few matches when I was really young, around 2-4 years of age. I was also lucky enough to travel over to Cardiff for the 2006 FA Cup final against Liverpool, which was the last time I'd seen the Hammers live before Saturday. It was an unbelievable experience despite the result!"

Donald (third from left) with father Don at the 2006 FA Cup final

Sutherland's work commitments with the Knights, who compete at the second level of Australian professional football and produced former Leeds United and Australia striker Mark Viduka, meant he could not attend the Hammers' Football United Tour of New Zealand in July.

However, the family was represented by father Don, as well as thousands of other Australia-based fans.

Sutherland says support for West Ham continues to grow on the other side of the world, despite the long distance and time difference involved.

"There are good supporters' groups in the major cities of Australia that meet regularly to watch games," he confirmed, alluding to the Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Sydney and Perth Hammers supporters' clubs.

"Also, quite often you'll attend a football match in Australia and see fans wearing West Ham kits, so I guess that's an indication of popularity."

Donald's father Don at Eden Park in Auckland in July this year

Naming Paolo Di Canio his favourite all-time Hammer, Sutherland has enjoyed riding the rollercoaster that is being a member of the Claret and Blue Army over the last two decades.

"I've got plenty of good memories waking up with Dad at the early hours of the morning to watch games on the TV, but my favourite memory was the 2005 Championship Play-Off final when Bobby Zamora netted the winner against Preston North End to return to the Premier League," recalled Sutherland, who also co-founded and edits the Melbourne soccer website MFootball.com.au

"I was gutted when we went down - it was the first time I'd ever experienced relegation - and it was euphoric to be back. We watched the game at a pub in central Melbourne in the middle of the night and I remember being hugged by crying grown men!"

*You can follow Donald Sutherland on Twitter @DonSutherlandMF