Tottenham v West Ham 1999 programme [Photo: Alan Hill]

Let's Return To Friendly Rivalry Between Tottenham and West Ham United

Tottenham Hotspur have issued a statement ahead of the Premier League match against West Ham United at Upton Park on Monday evening calling for supporters to behave and show respect. Alan Hill calls for a return to the friendly relationship that once existed between the two London clubs.

I wish we had a better relationship with West Ham fans.  We used to when I was a lad.

Here’s a pic of the cover of the centenary match between the two clubs that I attended in December 1999. The West Ham team was managed by Harry Redknapp and included Stuart Pearce, Neil Ruddock, Trevor Sinclair, Paulo Di Canio, Rio Ferdinand, Frank Lampard, Michael Carrick and Joe Cole. Can you believe that list of some the greatest talent to bless the Premier League over the next 10 years? The Spurs team were no slouches either. Managed by George Graham (that still doesn’t feel right somehow), we had Ian Walker, Steffen Freund, Sol Campbell, Darren Anderton, Tim Sherwood, Les Ferdinand and David Ginola. Surprisingly, the match ended 0-0. Perhaps that’s why I don’t remember anything from it!

Over the past 15 years or so, relationships between the fans sadly seemed sour. I felt that the unpleasantness and aggression seemed to come from a minority of West Ham supporters and started to build when West Ham spent some years in the second tier, whilst Spurs remained in the 1st Division/Premier League. They seemed to bear a grudge. I think there were a couple of Cup clashes where they were out to prove a point and they seemed to take delight in our stomach upset misfortune which cost us another Champions League place in the final match of the season a few years ago – and all of a sudden we seem to be the worst of enemies, which I wish was not the case. Of course the recent arguments about use of the Olympic Stadium  have not helped because that soured relationships between the respective boards, let alone the fans.

I am glad we have not pursued that option for Spurs. Whatever business sense it may have made, it would have not have been Spurs anymore if we moved to the East End, whatever it would have said on any papers registered at companies house. Just like Wimbledon isn’t Wimbledon if it is in Milton Keynes. Tottenham Hotspur is not a cockney club, whatever the press might sometimes say. Just like I’m not a cockney either. Mine’s a Hounslow accent. George Bernard Shaw had Professor Higgins say in Pygmalion that it was the worst accent of the lot. My Granddad was a real cockney. He came from the East End and supported Leyton Orient and according to my Dad was one of the policemen at the White Horse Cup Final. I don’t like to look any further back, it’s a bit too close to Jack the Ripper territory for comfort. I would love to have been a Cockney but I was born in Mary Abbot’s hospital in Kensington. Even with a gale force wind from the East, I don’t think I could claim that you could hear the sound of Bow Bells from there. Just like Spurs, close but no cigar.

I wish we could get back to a friendly rivalry with West Ham like the old days, without any grudges or vindictiveness. I believe the two clubs have more in common than what keeps us apart. We both have a tradition of flowing, attacking football. We have both been through periods when we have fallen below those standards and been unsuccessful to boot. We also have recovered from falls from grace, even if we have not reached the heights we once occupied.

Sun newspaper headline [Photo: Alan Hill]

In the late ‘90s, Julian Dicks was a talisman for West Ham supporters and the club seemed to rely on him for a while to keep them up. Just how important he was to them is shown in the concern shown for his injury by the Sun newspaper in 1997.

I think both clubs still feel like real London clubs, despite, in common with other clubs, having a cosmopolitan squad. The owners have some London roots, especially David Gold since he took over West Ham with his partner.

So come on everyone, fans at both clubs. Start showing each other proper respect again. I think a public statement from the owners of both teams would help get the ball rolling. Karen Brady writes an entertaining football and gossip column for the Sun. How about a putting a friendly message in there Mrs.B?

Tags: Olympic Stadium Rivalry Soccer Tottenham Hotspur West Ham United

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