Sydney Hammers decorate the Royal Exhibition

Five things we learnt from the Play-Off Final

There are some football sites that like to analyse results and performances, offering ideas about what it means for the club, where it puts us, and peruse over possible permutations ahead of the next game.

So in a similar vein, here is a shortlist of observations from play off final day. But as always, we want to put a Sydney Hammers’ spin our articles. This is the top five things we may have learnt as a result of bringing around 300 West Ham United fans together, in a pub on the other side of the World, to witness a historic match in the clubs history.

1) The best fans:

The first, probably most obvious observation, was that we have the best fans. We probably already realised this. But just quite how good and strong the support was made a reality by the turnout in the Royal Exhibition. The atmosphere, attitude and banter inside and outside the pub was sensational.

Despite the ticket fiasco back home, it was clear to see just how great our support is. And as at Wembley, we almost had too many for the venue to cope with.

2) Amazing venue:

It was further emphasised just how good a home venue the The Royal Exhibition really is for the Sydney Hammers. It’s simply a fantastic place to watch football. The staff are really hospitable, the bouncers are always sensible, and the management are great hosts. They allowed us to put up flags, balloons, scarves, and really ensure the bar had a bubble blowing Boleyn Ground feel.

Thanks to everyone at the Royal Exhibition who helped in getting the event put on, and we really hope we treat the place right. We look forward to many more celebrations there in future.

 3) We’re gaining momentum:

Everything around the club seems to have momentum right now, not least the Sydney Hammers Supporters group. Just as West Ham are preparing for their return to the big time, we’re taking our group to a new level. We picked up well over 100 fans in the build up to the final, and numbers continue to grow. It not only means watching live matches will come with even more of a buzz, but our presence at events such as five-a-side tournaments and pub quizzes can be even stronger.

4) Chelsea fans are muppets:

Now, I’m not usually one to bag out opposition fans, but something that was stand out on play off final day was the attitude of Chelski fans. Their supporters club had arranged to meet at the Royal Exhibition to watch their Champions League final. But sadly, they came with terrible banter, were obnoxious, and the fact they only got 30 for the Champions League again emphasises how strong our supporters network is.

We were prepared to stick around and back Chelsea through the final, what with the possible repercussions for Spurs, but they just made for an unpleasant atmosphere. We’d always hope we can have more fun and be more gracious when following West Ham Down Under.

5) Always true Claret and Blue:

But finally, what was most clear from the final, was that it will always be worth following West Ham. The day was amazing, the result was incredible, and the celebrations raucous.

In the first game of the NPower Championship season, we lost in the last minute toCardiff. “Typical West Ham” we all declared. But none of us truly walked away from it, despite the idle threats.

We stuck with the team. We went through the highs and lows of the season. There were tragically early starts, questionable tactics and shocking results. But having got through all that, it culminated in a fantastic day and a perfect result that I for one wouldn’t swap for anything.

We all know when we sign up to support West Ham, we’re never in for an easy ride, but it just makes those successes even sweeter.

Sydney Hammers supporters ahead of the Play Off Final against Blackpool (Mick Goddard)

Play-Off Final Day – How it unfolded Down Under

It’s barely possible to quite put into words the emotions we all went through during the play-off final.

Everyone who was part of the day in Sydney and witnessed the match as part of the Sydney Hammers will have their own memories of how it unfolded.

Chances are though, every recollection revolves around excitement, pride, delight, despair, frustration, desperation, sheer joy, unbridled ecstasy. Nothing at all like most West Ham games or overall seasons then…!?

So following those feelings and fitting them to points throughout the day, I’ll try to document how the day developed.

Cup final days are all about the anticipation building before heading out for the match. And a fantastic growing support group around the Sydney Hammers meant plans were well in place for a bubble bursting event.

I’d say the excitement for most of us started as soon as we woke up. From early on there were some great comments on the Facebook page coupled with photos of all things Claret and Blue being laid out.

The week had dragged on long enough with the build-up and all the talk, and match day hardly flew by.

But crowds started gathering at Cheers Bar from 5pm, well ahead of the midnight kick-off, more for mutual support and counselling than anything else.

Numbers slowly grew as the afternoon turned into evening, with around 40 bubble blowing boys and girls in full voice by around 9pm.

Then came the period of pride. The group marched in full voice down George Street and towards the Royal Exhibition Hotel. Flags were flying, chants were being recited with gusto and arms were raised aloft in praise.

We were representing West Ham Down Under, and doing it the way it should be done. Joking with passers by, receiving hoots from passing motorists, and drawing nothing but baffled smirks from any police officers we walked by. No damage, no aggression, no carnage.

And then we made it to the REx, fully kitted out with flags, banners, balloons and scarves. We had created a true supporters pub and a caldron of East End excitement.

When the kick off finally came around, the pub was a heaving with Hammers. Estimates are that around 300 fans crowded together to watch the match, and delight followed when Carlton Cole’s goal meant West Ham went in one nil up at half time.

But true to usual form, it was followed by the feelings of despair, frustration and desperation, as Blackpool equalised. Statistics of them having more than 70 per cent of the possession did little to settle nerves, and some clear chances were thankfully wasted.

The game, so much of a lottery in itself, was ebbing towards extra time and the prospect of penalties when Vaz Te smashed home.

Cue the feeling of sheer joy. The weight was lifted, the apprehension eclipsed by relief and scenes you’re unlikely to see at a live football match in Sydney.

Beer flew everywhere and women were sheltered as the celebrations in the pub mirrored those of the thousands gathered back at Wembley.

And after battling through the four minutes injury time, the final whistle was greeted with unbridled ecstasy. It was the culmination of a long season, and had culminated in the ultimate prize. If even somewhat belated, promotion to the premiership was the main aim, and it had been achieved.

The delight was immeasurable as the hundreds of fans burst into deafening renditions of Bubbles.

It was the perfect end to a great day in the history of West Ham, and the Sydney Hammers.

The supporters group stuck together, and in fact flourished, following relegation, and the support, passion and fun of the event suggests there’s far more to come now we are back in the big time.

Here’s to enjoying many more days of West Ham success in Sydney.

C’mon you Irons!

Samassi Abou getting sent off is the only reason I've left a game early.

Unless in danger, please remain in your seats

I never walk out of a game early.

Whether I’m at the ground or watching a match on TV, I’m always determined to stick it out until the end.

Don’t get me wrong, following West Ham often makes every moment of viewing torturous, and the prospect of leaving after five minutes extremely tempting. But by remaining steadfast it either means I can applaud the team in, or exert some degree of satisfaction from booing and heckling as loud as I can after stumping up the best part of 50 quid for the dissatisfaction of being there.

The only time I have bailed early is when I was watching West Ham away at Tottenham in 1998, when Hammers fans kicked off after Samassi Abou was shown a red card. There were chairs and drinks flying everywhere, and my uncle thought it best we left five minutes before the 90 with the safety of a thirteen-year-old in mind.

But some of the performances this season have made it far too appealing to cut the experience short. However the past two results have summed up the reasons why we stick it out.

A frustrating game against Leeds was made worse at about 3.40am our time when they opened the scoring. The prospect of getting to bed ten minutes earlier was an extremely appealing one.

We were in the end rewarded with the equaliser, which sent the Hammers contingent at the Royal Exhibition into ecstasy, and we surprisingly headed home in decent spirits.

So in the hopes that was to be a springboard, we arrived at Cheers Bar at 6am for the Middlesbrough game.

Sadly, as so often at home in midweek, we under performed and were frustrating throughout. Sure, leaving early would have meant we didn’t have to witness the equaliser or the two chances they had to win it, but I’ll tell you why I again stay.

One, in the delusionary hope we nab something in the last minute. Two, because the support of the Sydney Hammers and the post-match debrief amongst us keeps me somewhat sane. I for one have no idea how I would behave in the office later in the day if I hadn’t got the moans, questions and frustrations out of my system. So thanks for that lad.

Back home, the result was greeted with the increasingly familiar sounds of discontent around the ground.

There has been a lot about booing fans, and I believe it has its place at the end of the game, if justified. We as fans expect results, performances, and passion, and too often we haven’t seen it this season.

But we as the Sydney Hammers have remained committed to the cause, turning out in great numbers whatever the time of kick-off, and blowing bubbles until the very last minute, whether celebrating, or counselling.

074

Happy Hammers @ Leeds

St Patrick’s Day made for many a Happy Hammers at the game vs Leeds!  Keep smiling lads!