We All Follow The West Ham

New Yorkers' David Hautzig and Jonathan Ross paid an emotional last visit to the Boleyn

For American Hammers and long-time friends David Hautzig and Jonathan Ross, Angelo Ogbonna’s last minute headed winner over Liverpool was the perfect send off to the Boleyn Ground.

Few will ever forget the moment the Italian defender seemed to hover, timeless, higher than the Liverpool defence, to expertly head Dimitri Payet’s exquisite free-kick past Simon Mignolet. Cue mass euphoria.

But to truly understand and appreciate the significance that moment held for the two born and bred New Yorkers, you have to go way back. Back to where the claret and blue love affair started…

Some 20 odd years ago it’s fair to say West Ham were not the most fashionable team to support, and perhaps in spite of that, therein lies the charm, the allure of what it means to be a Hammer.

As Dave explains: “My parents are European. My father made it very clear to me that there is only one version of football. Even though I used to follow the NFL, I always understood what real football was.

“In my early twenties I moved into a little apartment in Manhattan, and my neighbour Michelle, started dating a guy called Derek. Derek was a West Ham Season Ticket Holder along with his dad and brothers.

“Whenever he came over to visit Michelle he would ask me if he could watch the Premier League highlights show on cable TV because she didn’t have a TV. That’s where it all began.

“Next thing I know, I’m in my local pub called McCormacks, long since closed on Third Avenue and Manhattan, watching games on satellite.

“It’s like a virus; once you catch it, you can’t get rid of it. There’s no cure, there’s no treatment and it eventually takes over your entire body. Jon got infected in the early 2000s.”

Those pre-millennial years were a struggle. Not only for the team on the field, but also to actually find a place to watch the game in the first place.

However, where there is a will, there is a way. As Jon recounts: “It was a bit of struggle at first because the internet wasn’t what it is now; you couldn’t really follow West Ham, maybe once every ten games West Ham would be on TV.

“And then, a few years into Dave following West Ham, it turns out you can get relegated! Bonds leads them up in 1991, but back down they go in 1992.  Then, you can say goodbye to following West Ham, that’s it!  I thought Dave was nuts, so I resisted the bug for a decade.  ”

Thankfully relegation did not turn away the pair. In fact, it seemed to strengthen the bond. You could say Dave sealed two very different relationships with one journey.

“My first home game was on the same trip to London where I asked my wife to marry me, a 1-1 draw with Chelsea. It was the game where we signed Joe Cole to his first professional contract.”

Fast forward to now, and Jon and his family are living in Texas. A burning questions remains – do their children follow the same faith?

Dave: “God damn right they do! My daughter once asked me: ‘Daddy why don’t you support a team that wins?!’ And I said: Don’t ever ask me that again young lady. You can never, ever change your colours.

Jon: "My three boys certainly do, but my daughter has a disturbing preference for light blue. We have had some not so friendly discussions about her future and financial security."

As time passed by, Dave became more and more engrossed in the weird and wonderful world of the online West Ham United community.

And on that glorious yet bitterly cold Tuesday evening, hearts were warmed as friendships were sealed when Dave and Jon met some of their online buddies.

Jon: “Such is the online community that, Dave walked into a room full of people that he knew, but had never met. So that made the game even more special for the both of us. It was an example of what football offers, that no other sport, and arguably no other team does either.”

As Dave explained his entrance into the online West Ham world: “I wrote an open letter to Andy Carroll and sent it to Iain Dale, and within twenty minutes, he replied and said it’s up on the site.

“At the end of the day it had hundreds of comments. I eventually got invited to write for both KUMB and Claret & Hugh. Then, at the start of last season, Sean Whetstone asked me to write match reports for West Ham Till I Die. I had to remind him and Iain of where I live but Iain said that was fine because he liked my style of writing.

“It’s great to have a presence within the online West Ham community and blogging world and have since become friends with them.”

And what did the pair make of their final game at the historic, the beloved, Boleyn Ground?

Jon: “We had to figure a way of coming to a game at the final season, we just had to. The more we talked about it the more we liked the idea of getting a box. As soon as we drew at Liverpool we jumped on it, as we knew there would be boxes left.

Dave: “I didn’t think it would mean such a lot to me, but it did. I didn’t realise it until I was there. I could feel the electricity. As we left, I purposely didn’t want to look back because I was feeling a little twitchy”

Jon: “To have that match be our last game, we just lucked out in a tremendous way.” 

One thing this season that certainly has not been lucky is manager Slaven Bilic’s meticulous planning and strategizing. The results are plain for all to see.

On course for a record points total and a realistic chance of silverware, in his first season back at his beloved West Ham.

Jon: “He’s a lawyer, and so am I so I think I’ve got even more admiration for him!

“I am so thrilled that the club is in the hands of Slaven Bilic. I hope he continues for many years.”

Dave: “I have to admit, the first guy on my list was not Slaven Bilic. But now I am first to admit that this was the best guy for the job.

“I look at people in sport, not just football, and I am beginning to think that there is correlation between intellect and success within the game. He’s clearly a very clever guy. He’s also a musician, and he speaks four languages.

“I don’t think his intellect has been properly understood or appreciated yet. He is an absolute fantastic manager and a great guy to have.”

So with the history and the present all sorted, what about the future?

Jon: “We’ve got a Champions Place stone which reads Red, White, Claret and Blue in the USA. We’re gonna try and make it over some point next season but we’re not sure when yet.”

In that case, we’ll see you at Stratford! Until then, COYI!