Was in the pub Saturday evening. Sat next to a table that had four blokes who had obviously been in there all day, all drunk and cursing and laughing. They clocked me and Mrs Spooky and two of them started to discuss how long we would survive sitting next to them. I laughed, and they got chatting with us (if you can call it that). Plenty of boisterous bollocks spewing from their mouths. One of them bet one of his mates we wouldn't last 15 minutes. They were insufferably loud and every other word out of their mouths was 'c*nt'.
We didn't move regardless. And about 15 minutes later they once more shared a joke about us being the first people to 'survive' their onslaught. They tragically bestowed us some demented form of recognition and they moved onto the next bet, as they spoke amongst themselves. I was eavesdropping a little because I heard them discuss who we probably supported football wise so I pre-warned Mrs Spooky to expect more 'banter' from them shortly.
I already knew two of them were West Ham fans (the two loudest ones). The other two were Spurs. Early in the evening the West Ham fan wanted to bet one of the Spurs fans they would do the double over us and win 4-0 home and away. So I knew that the fun and games were about to begin when he found out who my team was. Eventually, they turned round to face us again and asked the question:
Who do you support?
I didn't answer, and asked them to guess.
One of the West Ham fans pointed at me and said:
"I reckon you're a fucking gooner?"
I didn't say anything, and he then accused me of being a Chelsea fan. Shudder. I replied:
"If it’s one thing I'm not, it's a fucking gooner"
"So you must be a fucking yid then"
I nodded. However, no point in clarifying semantics concerning my family bloodline and origins.
They asked where I thought Spurs would finish, and it was obvious they expected me to say 'Top 4' because that's the fallacy they like to perpetuate about us. I said, tongue-in-cheek, hopefully we'll do well but no doubt we'll finish mid-table. That actually shocked them. Everyone's a stereotype in football, because that's what we have to go on because generalisations make it easy for all. So as I cracked a few self-deprecating jokes about Tottenham being a mid-table side, I could tell I had them a little on the ropes. Almost like I was pinching their best gags.
More over the top tongue-in-cheek banter followed, and the other West Ham fan asked me why I supported Spurs. I told him, it's in the blood going back to the 1930 - 40's. They started talking amongst themselves, and from what I could gather from their drunken slurs they made the strange assumption that my family was from Israel or war torn Europe and had fled from the Nazis and emigrated from to London. You know, cause all Spurs fans are practising Jews, innit? One of them brilliantly explained to his mate that ‘Who else were they meant to support?'.
I decided not to sidetrack the discussion and confuse them with an explanation of my Orthodox upbringing and the fact that my family were based in the UK.
"Why would anyone want to support Spurs?" one of them asked.
"Why would anyone want to support West Ham?" I replied.
This led onto one of the Hammers saying that when we play them it's our most important game of the season. He was deadly serious about it. It was a statement of fact as far as he was concerned. And hearing it from a West Ham fan (isn't it usually the other way round?) suddenly had me pushed up against the ropes.
The bell sounds and it's Round 2.
"It's your Cup final, not ours". I said, because I knew that would be the exact thing to rile the both of them. Which it did. Which is funny because a moment earlier they had said the same thing to me.
The other Hammer questioned this, and asked me to explain. He wasn't happy.
"Nothing to explain. We just aren’t as bothered with you as you are with us. Sure, it's a London derby and it matters but it's not as important as Arsenal for obvious reasons and Chelsea because they're such insufferable c*nts"
My response incited them further. One of them becoming a little more venomous with his bite.
"You're not a real Spurs fan then are you, if you think that. A real Spurs fan would never say that. What have Chelsea and Arsenal got to do with Spurs? We are your biggest rivals and your most important game of the season is us. It's the one you look forward to the most. You're talking bollocks. Arsenal and Chelsea don't care about you lot, so why should you care about them?"
Jesus wept. I only wanted a quiet drink with Mrs Spooky.
I didn't bother pointing out that if he applied his logic about one team (Spurs) not caring about the other (West Ham) he'd have his answer. But I guess saying that would see me suggesting we are 'bigger' than them, and it's a tiresome statement we get accused of making quite often. Especially as I wanted to get in another round of drinks for myself and Mrs Spooky. That and the fact we are bigger than them. Right?
I tried to explain that it's not relevant that Arsenal and Chelsea (who ironically also hate us more than we hate them – I guess Chelsea and WH both share the need to have another club in the same league admit they see them as their undeniable undisputed rival) have bigger fish to fry and that regardless of current predicaments in stature, the hatred shared between us and those two dwarfed what we share with West Ham. I wasn't trying to wind up or patronise. I stated fact.
"Go to a Spurs v Arsenal game and then come back to me and tell me that us playing you lot is a bigger game"
But they just laughed that off. Proper Calvin Klein stuff. Their measurement of rivalry seemed muddled and fragmented.
Arguably, you could say Spurs v Arsenal is our ONLY true rivalry. But I won't argue against the fact that London derby games do hold obvious importance. Bragging rights, because no doubt you know West Ham fans. But no Spurs fan would swap a win over Arsenal for one over lickle United.
He continued his rant and started talking about how years back he was in the Northumberland Arms and blah blah blah…
“It’s not the 1980’s anymore mate”, I pointed out. He ignored me and continued ranting about old ICF war stories and 'doing Spurs over'. The Spurs fans (one was in his 30's the other in his 50's) were laughing at their West Ham counterparts and asking them to calm down. Although to be fair, neither were really saying too much, probably because they hear it all the time from their two passionate friends. The older Spurs fan did start telling a story about how he once had a drink with Greavise. It was all beginning to get messy with various anecdotes which were meant to prove that I had no perspective on the argument at hand.
I sighed again. Mrs Spooky (who doesn't really like football) was getting involved regardless (bless her) and digging at one of the West Ham fans who was trying to wind her up. Sub-plot here was that I told them early that her family had Claret and Blue ties, which incited them to ask why she was going out with me. I conjectured that it was because of my winning personality and dashing looks.
The other Hammer started talking about how they smashed up our pubs.
“Yes, at 6am in the morning mate. Good one”
One of the Spurs fans started to dig at the two West Ham fans, telling them to drink up, and I did my best to smile and try to talk home fittings with the bird.
You won't be surprised that the 'ammers mentioned 1966 (you know that year, when Alf Ramsey - ex-Spurs - won the World Cup for England captained by that bloke who twice tried to sign for us in '66 and '70 but the West Ham board blocked the move) and also ranted about how we thought we were the bollocks because we beat their kids in Asia and won the trophy. All the usual insecurities rearing their ugly heads where they tell us how arrogant we are when nothing of the sort has been gloated about. So what, we beat them in a friendly. We also lost 2-0 to South China. Both games, equal in their status as non-events.
It ended all a-ok though. One of them shaking my hand and saying 'Always a pleasure yid' whilst I gave him a wink and informed him 'Same time next week?' which had us both laughing out loud. The other Hammer didn't say goodbye as he was still aggravated by my casual dismissiveness for his club.
So my quest to find a West Ham fan that doesn’t spend his time trying to justify a rivalry continues. I honestly, hand on heart, only ever seem to meet and speak to stereotype Hammers who never seem to talk about WH, just Spurs. And they always force the issue too. It's always with a touch of a 'You Spurs fans think you're better than us' type of inferiority complex before we even open our mouths. We don't. Well, I don't.
Do you know what my earliest football memory is? Let me tell you. It's me watching the 1980 FA Cup final between Arsenal and West Ham and running out into the back garden to replicate Brookings goal, diving around on the lawn. You, you chaps in the Claret and Blue gave me a joyful moment that I lapped up as a wee kid, because even at such a young and innocent age I disliked the red and white of them lot from South London and enoyed their defeat.
I get the irony (iron-y) by the way, banging on about this. But it's just a factual account of what happened at the pub.
Usually when this is discussed on-line West Ham fans counter-argument is that we are the ones who perpetuate the fact that they are obsessed by us and that we are the ones with the delusions and that by accusing them we aid to falsely substantiate the fact we are the bigger club. It's a brilliant defence that, don't you think? And I'm sure if WH fans read this they're say, 'Oh look, another Spurs article about how they don't care, yet he cares enough to blog about it'.
Ah, you got me there. I don't really believe in the generalisation of supporters, as we at Spurs have plenty of absolute melters who knee-jerk and fret. We have idiot fans and we have wind-up merchants. But we have far more realists and people with their feet firmly on the ground. Same thing can be applied for West Ham and every other club out there. Apart from Geordies. All nutters IMO.
So I guess, this account of what happened at the pub, is aimed at the people who perpetuate the stereotype. Just so happens I meet two of them on Saturday and it was not a refreshing encounter.
I'm not going to deny I hate losing to West Ham (I also utterly detest losing to Everton and especially Newcastle) but other games have far more of an edge and atmosphere than playing the Green Street lot. Back in the 70's and 80's it was probably a lot different, but then football was a completely different animal back then. It was more raw. On and off the pitch.
Us and Arsenal, no matter the decade, the hatred remains strong. I guess if you grow up supporting Spurs in a West Ham dominated part of the world, your hatred might be strong for them. But never stronger than the love we share for the scum.
Oh look, I'm trying to justify there’s no true rivalry with the Irons. Let me swallow my pride. I guess if that's what they want to hear then sure, it's a rivalry. There I said it. Geographically, you can’t argue against it. We are geographical rivals.
It's just that you're 3rd in our list.
Possibly 4th, because I fucking hate Manchester United. Leeds too for that pissing over the stands incident. Let's call it 5th in-line and be done with it.