Rob and Dylan @ Upton Park

Dylan doing well

Rob and Dylan @ Upton Park

As a part of Rob’s tour of Upton Park, Rob was lucky enough to meet both David Gold and Dylan Tombides. Now well on the road to recovery, the following article was posted on the www.whufc.com website:

Last July, Dylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer after a random drug test while representing Australia at the FIFA Under-17 World Cup.

After undergoing chemotherapy and major surgery, the 18-year-old striker is back in training at Chadwell Heath and looking forward to pulling on his boots again next Monday.

Speaking to the matchday programme, the rising star discusses the biggest fight of his life and thanks everyone connected with West Ham United for helping him through it.

read the full story

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.

I got my West Ham passion from my Dad, as he displays here, joining the mass celebrations following Kevin Nolan's goal against Cardiff (far right)

The ignorance of youth

I’ve got a confession, and I feel I need to admit it now I’m amongst friends – West Ham United weren’t always my first team.

My parents visiting Sydney has been the cue for stories about my youth, which I had long forgotten, being told to anyone who wants to listen.

So on the way to Cheers Bar for the Cardiff game, and my Dad’s Sydney Hammers debut, he retold the story of my initial shunning of the Claret and Blue.

Not an early lover of football, I had a limited understanding of the game and the relevance results on people’s emotional wellbeing.

So the day West Ham lost out on the old First Division Championship to Oldham, my Dad struggled to maintain language and actions appropriate of a father in front of a child well under the age of ten.

I simply saw it as an excuse to wind him up and, in my naivety, ignorance and sheer bloody-mindedness, I there and then declared my allegiance to Oldham.

He tells the story of how that prompted him to hide away in a bedroom and play The Blues on his guitar for hours afterwards.

It was a terrible decision on my part, has become an awful admission, and remains a shameful period in my life.

Needless to say, it didn’t last long. Soon enough the West Ham stuff started coming into my life from Dad, and I was drip fed merchandise, memorabilia and information.

My first live league game soon followed, a 2-2 draw against my cousin’s Norwich team. We came from two down in the last ten minutes thanks to a Tony Cottee brace. I was hooked.

But I learnt a number of things from my brief flirt with absolute stupidity.

One, my son will have little to no chance of being raised from birth other than a West Ham fan.

Two, It is easier and far more fun to share the highs and lows of football with family. Seeing West Ham win in Sydney with my Dad was a fantastic experience, and certainly outdid the numerous tragic performances and results we’ve witnessed before trudging back to East Ham.

And lastly, I need to learn to properly play an instrument to escape the frustrations of West Ham.

But despite the pains of following The Irons, I can’t thank my Dad enough for hammering the West Ham passion into me.

Nights like Sunday, the result, the company, the atmosphere, make me proud to be following West Ham, and to be a part of the Sydney Hammers.

Cheers to everyone for making my Dad feel welcome. COYSH.

Simon and his dad Chas fulfilling their dream of going to a cup final together.

My old man, said follow West Ham.

I was born into a West Ham family. My dad was a big hammers fan, his dad was too and so is my dad’s brother, my sister, my nephew’s and most of my cousin’s, second cousin’s etc.

My dad wanted to call me Robert after Bobby Moore but my mum wasn’t having it. I was born on Jan 4th, 1972, and the following day West Ham played a League Cup semi final game at Hillsborough against Stoke. My mum didn’t get her way this time and my dad went to the game.

My dad passed away in 2010 but the majority of my memories with him revolve around West Ham. In 1977 he took me to my first game at Upton Park, a 2-2 draw against Derby, with goals coming from Pop Robson and Billy Jennings. In 1980 we went to Upton Park to hold the FA Cup the week after winning it. My heroes were Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds but off the pitch my true hero was my dad…and he always will be.

As I got older we went to home and away games more and more often. My dad owned a butchers shop so Saturday’s were out of the question so he’d drive home from work, pick me up after school and we’d go off to West Ham from our Essex home for midweek games. In the mid 80’s we were forced to move to Norfolk for financial reasons but our love for West Ham didn’t fade. Our circumstances changed and when I started driving we were at West Ham all the time. We drove all over the country to see our heroes and we saw home games as much as we could.

My dad took me to Nathan’s Pie and mash shop, for the first time in 1977 and we couldn’t walk past the place when we went to a game. We often joked that it could be the best part of the day. Infact it probably sometimes was! I’d always ask my dad, sarcastically, if he fancied a kebab, he would say “that’d be nice”, and we’d walk into Nathan’s for our double, double with heaps of vinegar on the delicious liquor.

Matchday walks from the car to the stadium one always ones of political incorrectness, but we kept our comments between ourselves and pissed ourselves laughing. We used to watch the players going into the ground after our pie and mash. We’d grab an autograph or two and when my nephew started to join us we’d battle to get him autographs too. One day me and my dad went to a game and Ian Pearce and David Unsworth were playing. Pearce got out of his car in the car park and a chap kept telling his mate that it was Unsworth. He kept on about it and it seemed to infuriate my dad. My dad said to me “are you gonna tell him, or should I?” I said “you tell him dad”. I thought he was going to tell the bloke (a 6 footer) that it was Pearce. My dad went up to this bloke (my dad was 5ft 6″ and in his 50’s at that time) and said to this bloke “You %&#@”!! That was my dad, if he had something to say, he said it.

When we lived in Norfolk we’d often go straight from work to games. One that stands out was Everton in the cup. The famous 2-1 win. I picked up my dad and we had a great night under the lights. The final treat on our trips to Upton park was a stop off at the Red Lodge 24hour cafe on the A11. We’d usually have a bacon sarnie or a roast beef for about 3 quid!!

My dad was distraught when Bobby Moore died. Everytime he came on TV my dad would burst into tears. Infact not long after this we played Kidderminster in the cup. I could only get one ticket but I would rather go with my dad so went to Upton park and watched it on the big screen. Before the game they showed an old DVD and it had some Bobby Moore clips on it. People are just getting to the stadium for our big FA Cup clash and my dad was in floods of tears because the late great Bobby Moore was on the screen.

Our finest hour came in 2006. We’d wished for years that we would be able to go to a cup final together and it happened. I was guaranteed a ticket as I am a bondholder and due to my links with a club I played for and managed, I could apply for seats that way too. My dad didn’t know I had tried to get more seats. One Saturday morning I checked my emails whilst I was away for a few days. I rang him to tell him the good news and when he realised I wasn’t joking he cried and cried so much that my mum had to take the phone off him.

I rang him back 10 minutes later and my mum answered. She told me that he’d calmed down and was ready to talk again……………….”oh no he’s off again”. So I didn’t get to discuss it further until the next day. From 2008 onwards we took my nephew Ashley to games with us, and him and now his brother Nathan, are flying the Claret and blue family flag for us. With Ashley we saw plenty of games and he was a mascot away to Wigan in a game we lost 1-0. We taught him all the songs he should know, and some of the one’s we shouldn’t have taught him and the 3 of us formed a pact. What happens at football, stays at football!!

Our last game together turned out to be Middlesbrough at home. A 1-1 draw in the cup. I wouldn’t have believed it would be our last game in a million years at the time. A while later in 2009, a week short of 3 years ago, I emigrated to Sydney. I spoke to my dad nearly every week and we always disected the games. He went once or twice more but, for him, the main reason for going was no longer there. His last game was a friendly at Ipswich last season, exactly 3 months before he passed away.

I am sad that I can’t tell him the things we’ve done out here for the Sydney Hammers. He would have been proud and he’d have loved to come and meet the Sydney Hammers family out here. His funeral was a huge West Ham occasion. Most people wore West Ham scarves, shirts and ties, even 2 Spurs fans dressed in claret and blue to farewell a great Hammers fan. Under his coffin was one of the West Ham licence plates and we finished the service with a rousing chorus of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles. Next time I go to a game I know my dad will be there with me in a way but I am not sure it’ll ever be quite the same for me now he’s gone. He’s up there with his hero now, probably eating a double, double and drinking a strong tea wishing the Hammers were back where they belong. To my dad, Chas Mann. I love you….COYI

Written by Simon Mann

Sydney Hammers fans in caught on TV at the Sydney FC Vs Gold Coast United match

Bringing a bit of the Boleyn Down Under

There’s nothing like a live game of football.

The passion, emotion and banter in the stands is what keeps most of us in anticipation during the working week, and many partners lonely when Saturday comes.

Everyone has their routine when they head to the Boleyn. I’d always grab a bag of chips from just outside the station, a pig or few in The Queens, and then a full lap of the ground, before taking my seat well in time for kick-off.

Missing match days at Upton Park is definitely one of the most frustrating things about being away from home. The Sydney Hammers have created an amazing forum to embrace so many things West Ham, but that match day vibe is difficult to full replicate.

So in an attempt quench our thirst for some live action, and to associate ourselves closer with our home city team, a group of us Sydney Hammers recently headed to the Sydney Football Stadium to catch a game.

There was certainly a bit of a buzz when I saw a group of claret and blue shirts headed into the pub near the ground prior to kick-off.

Getting inside the ground, we headed for The Cove, which epitomises Australian football fans’ efforts to eradicate perceptions there is a lack of passion at A-League fixtures.

A pumping atmosphere, orchestrated by a man on a loud hailer, ensures the Sky Blue’s supporters are in full voice.

The catchy tunes and raucous performances of adapted classics makes for an enjoyable addition to the spectacle of Sydney FC Vs Gold Coast United.

Second half we head to the front of the crowd and show our willingness to join the atmosphere.

It’s a great effort from Sydney to record a last minute win, and our participation is noted by the megaphone man, who encourages a cheer for the congregated group of a dozen or so West Ham fans. That’s a cue for the highlight of the day. We begin a rendition of Bubbles, only to be joined by a couple of hundred Sydney FC fans, to create a fantastic celebratory mood.

So it may not exactly encapsulate the Upton Park experience, but a chance to take some West Ham culture to The Cove, and get behind a team who are going to bring plenty of ups and downs over a season, is sure to remain another way we continue to represent our team from abroad.

Feel free to post your memories and match-day routines from Upton Park below.

And don’t forget the meet-up for the Sydney FC Vs Wellington Phoenix FC. Pre-match drinks in the Captain Cook Hotel from 4pm.

Royal Exhibition Hotel on Chalmers Street, Sydney

A home from home

We’ve all got our pubs we visit around East London ahead of a home game. And most have a local to settle in for evening away games on Sky.

I even made sure I had a pub at University in Bournemouth where I would go to for a match. The Brasshouse was where I saw West Ham promoted, survive relegation, and get to a cup final, as well as some classic league wins.

On my way to Upton Park, personally I’d stop off at The Queens for a swift half.

But in the Royal Exhibition Hotel, most of us will agree, we really have found our home in Sydney.

Already we’ve had our ups and downs watching matches there, but as typical fans, we can’t help but keep going back.

And to the credit of the management, we’re always made to feel welcome at the REH.

True to form, the West Ham flag was flying from the wall as we geared up for the Millwall derby recently.

A more reasonable kick-off time than some fixtures, and the obvious draw of the opposition, meant for a stunning turnout from the Sydney Hammers. Estimates are that up to 70 of us were there for the game.

The pub was absolutely pumping ahead of kick-off as the numbers kept growing. There was a great mix of locals and fans, with some new faces that have joined the fast expanding Facebook group.

The beer was flowing, the signing was loud and the match was tense. But spirits remained high throughout the encounter, and the final result clearly did nothing to stem the consumption of alcohol or turn down the out of tune vocals.

It’s fantastic to have a base to get together, to support West Ham, and not have to compete with other football fans for positioning on the screens. I for one am really looking forward to doing it all again this Saturday for the Crystal Place match.

We will always be determined to have a contingent of Sydney Hammers fans together for every live fixture, whatever the time of day. And whenever possible, we know the Royal Exhibition Hotel will put on a great show, for which we are hugely appreciative.

How can we make the experience more like East London? Let us know where you used to go before kick-off, and what made it the perfect match day watering hole…

And don’t forget the Palace game, Saturday, February 26, from 10pm at the Royal Exhibition Hotel, on Chalmers Street.