July 02, 2009

Something New to the Table

Something New to the Table

(Terry Roper and Tony McDonald West Ham in My Day Football World 2008)

It is not that hard to read a book that offers nothing more than pieces of paper with words on either side. These books are a trial to get from cover to cover, and the book will probably become abandoned on the coffee table, conveniently left on the commuter train, or discarded by the toilet for ‘loo reading.’ Some books will make you want to give up reading forever. Many football books are brought with excitement for Christmas and find themselves in the jumble sale or the bargain book bucket by mid March.  

You sense that some of these dreadful books have been designed to tick as many boxes as possible. One page will have a few grainy black and white photos to appease the over-60s fans, the central spine will be crammed with colour snaps of today’s heroes for the under fives, and some club shop adverts will be splattered onto the book covers. You wonder why someone thought that these books would sell when they are about as exciting as watching back episodes of Last of the Summer Wine. There are plenty of those books polluting the shelves of your local bookshops.

You will be pleased to note that West Ham in My Day is not one of those dreary books. This collection of interviews with former hammers communicates the passion of one of England’s most iconic football club, and this book does not read like a celebrity magazine. We do not have glossy colour pictures of ex hammers by their swimming pools in their second homes within Miami or Portugal. We get a very human ‘warts and all’ portrait of life at the club, and within the East End of London over nearly sixty years.

It is obvious that the stories within this book will reawaken a lot of memories for many Hammers fans, as well as the wider football community. It is a history of football book too. When you are reading this kind of book, it is easy to only read the profiles of the players that are familiar to you. In my case with this book, I would have read Mervyn Day’s interview as well as every chapter from Frank McAvennie onwards, but I would have failed to have got the point of this book, or understood the rich history of West Ham United Football Club.

The early tales from players that include Bill Lansdowne, Lawrie Leslie and Peter Brabrook talk about a game that seems to be totally different to the football of today. For the fan that believes that satellite television invented football and that all footballers are millionaires within their mansion pads in Surrey, the accounts make for revealing, and sometimes sobering, reading.

All of these accounts have an ‘honest’ dimension about them. For instance, many ex players talk about their frustration after being left out of the first team squad. The story of Mark Robson is one of particular heartbreak. This long standing hammers fan though that he had reached football’s version of seventh heave to play on the Upton Park pitch, but his dream lasted for only one season.

Despite the arguments, dressing room show downs, and training ground fights these interviewees always show an undying respect for the fans and the institution of West Ham United Football Club. Many of these players look fondly upon their time at West Ham, and it is not surprising that many of these legends are still living in the local area. Each story ends with an interesting insight into what the players did after leaving Upton Park and the various tales disprove the theory that all players end up either within the manager’s dugout, the pundits studio, or pictured outside a city night club for the front of the tabloids.

It is no surprise that I know more about more recent players who wore the Hammers shirt. Most of my Hammers friends had a mixture of awe, pride and slight nervousness about Julian Dicks. Dicks was a cult hero for them and you sometimes wondered if they were trying out some of his uncompromising moves during some school matches. The book talks about Dicks doing an unconventional pre-match warm up routine and opting for Coca-Cola rather than energy drinks in the final minutes before leaving the dressing room. Would that be allowed in today’s game?

The commentary about Tim Breaker covers the yo-yo years of the early nineties as well as the initially controversial changes in the management set up involving Billy Bonds and Harry Redknapp. Local lad, Mark Robson talks about his one full season at Upton Park. The book finishes with an interview with John Moncur. Like Dicks, Moncur was another cult hero amongst by Hammers friends and you wonder whether he ever got the recognition that he deserved. After opting for West Ham over Chelsea and withstanding the managerial turbulence involving Bonds and Redknapp, he became regular fixture in the centre of midfield.

The Moncur years also covered the Redknapp’s random foreign signings, the emergence of a batch of exciting young footballers including Joe Cole and Michael Carrick. The Glenn Roeder years are also mentioned when Moncur argues that “I was basically told that my age was against me and that he didn’t think I could do a job for the team.” He describes the 2003 side as the “most talented brunch of players in West Ham’s history. But they were lacking the commitment and desire you need to go with it.”

John Moncur believes that the fans “love players who would give 100% every week and also be able to put their foot on the ball and show a bit of skills,” but all of these accounts, in their different ways, seem to recognise this philosophy. Despite various on and off the field issues, the next generation of players seems to breaking into the first team and I hope that they recognise these sentiments of the fans. Without question, the stories of the next generation of players should be told in a similar book in the future.

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  1. Sue

    I saw Marcus Trescothicks biography in Sainsbury’s a few months ago for £3. It was in hardback and I think it had been marked down because the cover was very slightly torn. I knew my Mum was interested in it so I bought it for her and gave it to her the next day. The day after that she returned it to me via another member of my family and never mentioned it again. I recently came across it again and started to read it only to find the f-word on the second page.

    02 Jul 2009, 22:55

  2. Sue

    I’ve recently got back into statistics in quite a big way after being given another book on the subject. Here are some of them:-

    62% of members of the House of Lords were privately educated, including 82 from eton, 11 from Winchester and 10 eac from harrow, Westminster and Stowe.

    Privately-educated labour ministers:-
    Tony Blair (Fettes), jack Straw (Brentwood), Margaret Beckett (Notre Dame High School, Norwich), Charles clark (Highgate), Ruth Kelly (Westminster), Alistair darling (Loretto School, East Lothian), Geoff hoon (Nottingham High),Tessa Jowell (St Margarets, Aberdeen), Patricia hewitt (Canberra Cof E Girls’ grammar, Australia), Peter Hain ( Pretoria Boys’ High, South Africa).

    19 of 35 MPs in David Cameron’s Shadow Cabinet were privately educated. mr Cameron went to Eton.

    The average British adult has sex either 118 or 135 times a year, depending on which survey you believe.

    A study by academics at the University of Oslo, The University of Bergen and Harvard medical school asked men in different age groups to rate their “sexual satisfaction” on a scale of 0 to 4. Their responses were as follows:-

    20-29: 2.79 30-39: 2.55 40-49: 2.72 50-59: 2.77 60-69 2.46 70-79: 2.14

    02 Jul 2009, 23:10

  3. Sue

    I’ve also been reading about electricity because I like to have two books on the go, usually about different subjects because I enjoy the contrast. Goethe defined electricity in an unusual way, he said:-
    it is nothing, a zero, a mere point, which, however, dwells in all apparent existences and at the same time is the point of origin whence, on the slightest stimulus, a double appearance presents itself, an appearance which only manifests itself to vanish. The conditions under which this manifestation is excited are infinitely varied, according to the nature of particular bodies.

    02 Jul 2009, 23:44

  4. Sue

    I should have tried his tip out earlier in the week (he told me on Tuesday).I woke up really cold at 6.30 am and put the duvet back in.

    03 Jul 2009, 06:54

  5. Sue

    My memeory was playing tricks on me, when I re-read the beginning of the Marcus Trescothick book I saw that it wasn’t the F-word he used at all. What he actually said was “A boat load of p*** taking makes me very happy.”

    03 Jul 2009, 08:16

  6. Dave

    I can see the attraction of supporting West Ham as it means you’re able to chant “Up the Hammers!”

    03 Jul 2009, 08:18

  7. Sue

    I asked my partner tonight about his score for sex enjoyment and he said 4, unreservedly. I actually knew he would but I thought I’d ask him anyway and get it from the horses mouth. I said of course the scores are only averages, aren’t they? and he said “Oh yes, nobody would give point something.”

    04 Jul 2009, 23:01

  8. Sue

    We were both surprised at the low scores actually. Latter in the book it goes on to gve more of a breakdown:-
    According to the 2005 Durex Global Sex Survey (which questioned 317,000 people from 41 countries), 44% of adults worldwide claim to be happy with their sex lives.

    The happiest countries, sexually, are Belgium (57% claim to be happy) and Poland (56%); the least happy are Japan (24%) and China (22%). In the UK, 51% said they were happy.

    05 Jul 2009, 07:31

  9. Avik

    It is really a fact that these days books are treated like nothing more than a piece of time pass .Viewers do read book not in order to gain knowledge but to bite some time.But readers are not the only one to be blamed ,its the class of the book that matters a lot,which is really missing these days.
    The above mentioned book can be treated as an exception.

    06 Jul 2009, 14:17

  10. ned

    Hi Tim,
    Love your blogs. I wondered if you could write something giving your comments about Michel Owens suprise move to United? Inspired decision or has fergie lost the plot. Would love to hear your views

    06 Jul 2009, 15:48

  11. water boy cooler

    ha ha im changing from being Everton Supporter to west ham for that very reason

    08 Jul 2009, 15:18

  12. Mrs Dobbs

    I wondered whether if I did a distance learning course that would make me eligible to have my own Warwick Blog.

    12 Jul 2009, 10:52

  13. Amarjit SIngh Kullar

    Good post, I like it , I will always be your supporter.

    Amarjit SIngh Kullar

    12 Jul 2009, 20:18

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