Fan’s Diary – West Ham away

In this piece I will be writing a first-hand account of my experiences I encountered on my travels as an away supporter. On the 6th of October I set off to London from Dublin for my first Arsenal game of the season. It was a London derby with West Ham which made the tie all the more intriguing and it was something that I had never experienced, until now. Prior to the game, the situation for Arsenal was a must win one. They fell defeated to other London rivals and league leaders, Chelsea, at home the previous week so anything less than a win would leave them way off the early set pace. Newly promoted West Ham on the other hand had made a great start to their campaign and found themselves in 7th place at this early stage of the season as they looked to continue their impressive form.

Upton Park on the night.

I arrived in to Heathrow airport as keen as mustard on the morning of the game at 10:20 which gave me plenty of time to get my bags in and head off to the pub for some pre-beer soakage and then on to the lagers. The plan was to rendezvous with a friend at Liverpool Street at 1pm and then get straight down to away day business (heavy drinking and loud singing). After filling ourselves full of your usual pub grub of chips, beans, bacon and two sausages we made tracks on the tube to the Stratford area where we planned to meet up with some other Arsenal compatriots and to get our first beers of the day.

As I’m not a native Londoner, and this was my first London derby, I was apprehensive about the relations between the two sets of fans as I didn’t grow up with London football demographics around me. I have always known West Ham to be a strongly supported club and they are reputed for this. Walking past pubs in the Stratford area, I, draped with an Arsenal scarf proudly hanging around my neck, and my pal wearing his favourite  ’16 Welsh Messi’ Aaron Ramsey jersey/shrine (And yes, of course he’s Welsh), we noticed that most were filled with West Ham fans and we began to contemplate how welcome we’d be within them.  Much to my relief, upon arrival in to a quiet Stratford pub with a good ratio of Hammers and Gooners, there was a healthy atmosphere with everybody happily keeping to their own. It was a nice place to get the day started as we anticipated and cast our predictions the game to come, consequences of victory and defeat and further Arsenal away days to come in the near future with each other.

When the lager was flowing at a quickening rate we moved on to a Whetherspoons closer to the ground for some cheap pints and a singing atmosphere. Again, there was a good mix of both sets of supporters and the friendly atmosphere was highlighted when a chorus of ‘Stand up if you hate Tottenham’ broke out, to which both sets of fans arose.  By this time the number of Gooners had swelled and as songs of ‘We won the league at White Hart Lane’ began to ring out the minority Hammers gradually departed, maybe of envy, or their inability to interact.

Alas the time came to head to Upton Park via a dysfunctional tube line on the day, however I did still manage to get to my seat just in time for kick-off. The game got off to a good start. Typical derby game with both teams probing, eager to take an early lead. Much to my grief, it was West Ham who ended up doing so with a great finish on the inside of the foot in to the side-netting from Diame after getting around Ramsey too easily. It knocked the wind out of us but it did not deter us from singing in good voice and willing our team forward knowing that we had most of the game to come back, and just before the half-time whistle, Giroud did just that. After a driven cross in from Podolski, Giroud nipped in at the front post toeing the ball above Jaaskelainen. The Arsenal fans’ rendition of Hey Jude ensued; ‘Na, na na na, na na na na, na na na na, Gir-oud.’ 1-1.

Arsenal started the second half the way they ended the first. On top and playing some really nice stuff in the West Ham half and always looking dangerous on the counter attack. West Ham weren’t push-overs by any means at the same time. Their dead-ball opportunities were never wasted with Noble’s delivery and presences such as Carroll and Nolan in the box, Arsenal couldn’t afford to switch off, and only for a solid performance from the colossus Mertesacker, they didn’t get the breakthrough they were pushing for.

As the game hung in the balance, the next goal came from a quick Arsenal break. Cazorla to Giroud. Giroud to Walcott. Walcott into the back of the net. Classic Arsenal goal and ecstasy amongst us packed in to the lower tier of the Trevor Brooking stand. West Ham weren’t about to lay down though, and they responded by getting another big striker on in the form of Carlton Cole. It was clear that Arsenal would need another goal from somewhere to put the derby beyond doubt.

Upton Park on the night.

It would be the little Spanish magician Cazorla who’d answer Arsenal prayers who drove a left-footed effort from 20 yards in to the top corner of the West Ham net in front of the Arsenal fans. Game, set and match. The game became an exhibition from then on and streams of Hammers made way for the exits. A much needed and deserved victory for Arsenal as the full-time whistle blew.

After the game I left the away end and headed for the players’ and officials’ bar. I managed to obtain admission luckily enough due to my cousin being a custodian of West Ham, but the best was still to come. As we left the bar for the car park I noticed that the Arsenal team coach was also parked there. I insisted to my cousin that we hung around to see who we could meet, and below is the reward. All in all, a memorable away day and will be a tough one to beat!

Cazorla and I post-match in team carpark


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