Man United v West Ham preview

‘Twas The Night Before Old Trafford


Before last week’s visit to White Hart Lane, I wrote a poem based on the famous ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas. It almost, although not quite, brought us a famous victory, so this week I am inspired to try once again.

I included similar poems in my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford, which incidentally is available in paperback or Kindle on Amazon. So if you are looking for a Christmas present for a West Ham fan, and don’t want to spend big money for a piece of the Upton Park turf in a glass case, or a plastic seat from the stands, then look no further. I have been a regular at Upton Park for almost sixty years, and the book chronicles the last famous season there.

‘Twas the night before Old Trafford when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring not even a mouse;

In our last game, we went to the Lane;
It was going so well, damn Harry Kane;
Still seventeenth place, we visit Man U;
In need of three points, though one might just do;

We need to improve, be faster and bolder;
Another defeat, we’ll look over our shoulder;
‘Cos Hull are at home, with West Brom in town,
If they win their game, we’ll fall further down;

But remember last May, our last Boleyn game;
They turned up late, by coach they came;
They let us in late to take up our seating;
Man U lost the game, a hell of a beating;

We drew up there twice, Van Gaal was in charge;
And now it’s Mourinho, giving it large;
They’re not really that good, they’re run of the mill;
I reckon today we’ll beat them to nil;

Our season to date, there’s no valid reason;
To think we can win to kick start our season;
Optimistic as ever, we’ll get out of the jam;
‘Cos we are the mighty, the mighty West Ham.

One of my first memories in life was the day after my fourth birthday when the Manchester United plane crashed during take-off in Munich, and so many of their players were killed. Quite rightly there was a lot of sympathy for the club at this time, and they were a popular club throughout the country. In the years that followed, players like Charlton, Law and Best were revered as great footballers, and admired by many.

But the world has changed since those days. Fans no longer have any appreciation for the opposition, and with many it is a dislike or even hatred. United seem to be one of the teams that are most hated in English football. Perhaps it is their success which breeds jealousy, or is it those glory fans which latch themselves on to the club because of that success which so riles opposition supporters?

Are they a lucky team? Have more refereeing decisions gone their way than you would have expected? Have they attracted players that opposition fans just seem to hate so much? Keane, Cantona, Rooney, are just three examples. And for all his success over many years, and managerial achievements second to none, there was little warmth for Ferguson, among other clubs’ fans. And I suspect the same is true for Mourinho today.

But despite all the hatred they have been the most successful club in English football, and they have won more considerably more trophies, especially in the last twenty-five years, than any other team. We have been on the end of some heavy defeats by them in my lifetime, but we have also had many famous victories. The FA Cup semi-final in 1964 at Hillsborough, the FA Cup victory at Old Trafford when Di Canio was not put off by Barthez, the Tevez goal in the final game that staved off relegation, a 4-2 victory in 1977 which also kept us up, the great performance from Miklosko which denied them a league title, and of course, perhaps the greatest of all, and certainly the most emotional, the last game at Upton Park, are all examples of superb memories of matches against them.

We could really do with something from this game. The optimist in me is hoping for a victory. I’m certainly hoping that if we are leading in the 89th minute then we can hang on this week!

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