"It's your cup final"
"No it's yours"
"I'm not bothered"
"Neither am I"
It's the last ever derby hosted at Upton Park between West Ham and Tottenham. Possibly the last truly naughty encounter, from Green Street to the green turf of the Boleyn. They've even boarded up the statues of their World Cup winning glory, just in case someone seeks to vandalise. I'm hoping all the damage is done on the field of play <insert AMIRITE here>.
It's the biggest game of the season. For them. Probably Third or fourth for us depending on your preference. Only joking, right? No one likes to lose these types of games and everyone loves to win them.
They hate us, we hate them but we don't hate them as much as we hate the other lot. I think that's all detailed in the small print. I'm more fearful about the weekend than I am about Wednesday. Everyone in London, from East to West, wants us to be the main focus for their disdain but they're an after-thought in comparison to the pseudo-North and Arsenal. Chelsea and the Hammers demand our attention and they'll get plenty of it for sure. Just not as much as we reserve for the South London squatters.
These games are always thunderous off and on the pitch. If you've gone to a derby game you'll know the taste in the atmosphere can be positively volatile. Gives you a bit of buzz. You can cut chunks out of the air, the hate is so thick. Just mind where you throw them. Police everywhere. You feel guilty and you've not even done anything wrong.
No need to be stupid and get involved with the fisticuffs. Some will though. Not just with the knuckles but with verbal violence, with words that are better kept in the depths of the mind rather than spat and showcased to incite. It's one final dance in the dark before the sanitised Olympic Stadium reintroduces this fixture for tourists and Orient day-trippers, accompanied by a cheeky pre-match Nandos in Westfields. Tasty.
Enjoy it if you've got a ticket. I think I'll be fine on the sofa, obscenities bouncing off the wall.
I've lied to myself in the past saying this fixture isn't one that irritates me. It does. Not so much because of their history, style, players or even the games in which they've managed to dick us. One of my earliest football memories is celebrating Trevor Brooking's headed cup final goal. This is simply about their fans. Unlike say the gooners where their stands replicate the arrogance of the players and their coach, West Ham on the pitch have generally produced some fine players and football that has entertained occasionally as much as their relegation.
Their fans, much like Chelsea's, have such an aberrant, irrational disgust for us I naturally gravitate towards giving some of the love back. It's mainly because I've grown up with so many of them around me, in East London and Essex. From one season to the next I have no care for what they do as a football club. But if a dog keeps humping your leg, you're going to grow accustomed to kicking it away.
Ah, ffs. I'm being all superior aren't I? That's the crux of the disgust I think. A sense of entitlement. It isn't though. We don't expect anything. We just like to have good things so we keep hoping we get more. It's honourable to claim you don't care and you're happy with your lot but if you believe that, I'm going to say the likelihood is you're a liar. We aspire for more and that apparently is a target for them to aim at.
Maybe they're right, maybe we do think we're better than them. Some have argued with me that I have no right to dislike or perceive Arsenal as our main rivals above them. That example might be extreme or common place, either way it illustrates the obsessiveness and fandom for identifying your allegiance to a tribe by the enemies they keep. As cute as that is, I don't see why I should give special dispensation to any other club though when I can't stop thinking about the NLD even though we have a game before it.
We don't choose to hate Arsenal, we hate them because that's the reason for their existence. We do, however, choose to hate West Ham.
I still want the bragging rights as it helps keep the peace (meaning I don't need to think about them or talk to any of them during the days that follow post-match). The focus has to be on the three points and the momentum that will lead us into the North London clash. Breakage of home hearts on Wednesday night would be a nice little bonus.
Was that a good job of convincing myself this game isn't as important to us than it is to them? Nah? Well allow me to edit all of the above and condense it:
We can not lose this game. I want them crying by the end of it. I want us to drive through them like a combine harvester slicing up mice and rabbits that froze with fright as its menacing metal approached. West Ham, Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool...I don't care for names or colours. F**k 'em all.
Shallow punditry to follow.
The Hammers have had a decent season with some superb away wins early on. Their current form has been described as mid-table. However, they do love an occasion (2006) and their fans will demand electricity. We need to cut their power. This isn't old Tottenham and getting bullied isn't something we've accepted for a fair while now. Get stuck in, contain them and pick them off.
For the memories of the Chicken Run singing 'Arsenal, Arsenal' in 2006, for the t-shirts in their treble season and everything that comes out of the gob of Karen Brady - I want us to win for the peace and quiet and as a parting gift - from us to them - shutting down Upton Park before West Ham move to Stratford as they lose one of the most iconic away day hellmouths in football.
Let's hope the team excel with their professionalism, allowing us - the fans - to suffer the burden of potential failure, whilst Pochettino's men get the job done.
I like how reluctant our players are with openly admitting they're in a title challenge. Although that does vary from one player to another. Danny Rose isn't considering it. Erik Lamela can't believe that Danny Rose isn't considering it.
"My friend, we can win the league".
Quote of the season.
No alarms and no surprises please Tottenham, will do me just fine. I've had a life time of ridiculous derby games, stood there with heart in mouth. I'll be content with a 1-0 deflected own goal. Because it would be just another important step towards you know what.
Onwards. Don't choke on the appetiser because the main course is going to be juicy.