Tottenham vs West Ham: Why does this keep happening?

December 05, 2016 00:36

Once or twice in a season a game comes along which reminds you why football captures the imagination like no other sport.

The sheer emotion, the rip-roaring atmosphere, the extreme thrill of the comeback win. Sadly once or twice every couple of years there is also a game where you get a glimpse into all that’s rotten in football and society.

And so it was on Saturday, for the tea-time London Derby against West Ham United.

Arriving early to meet a distinguished Israeli lawyer and author attending his first game at White Hart Lane, two things were starkly noticeable against the grey and damp north London skyline.

Firstly the frankly insane progress on the new stadium, at least two levels added since the last home game, and as additional rakers are slotted into place you can begin to really see what a monster of a ground it will be.

Secondly, and ominously, the police presence was huge. Considerably more officers than (for example) the Arsenal game, including the presence of several rooftop spotters with long lens cameras and videos. Almost every officer on duty was in full body armour/riot gear.

The decision to arrive 90 minutes before the game felt vindicated and with the Spurs shop starting to roll down its metal shutters to protect it from what was coming, it felt sensible to usher my guest inside the stadium nice and early whilst I nipped back to the car for some extra padding against the cold.

Not a smart move Jonny.

Whilst I like football banter as much as anyone I try (as much as is possible when you are a real supporter) to stay vaguely rational about opposition clubs if not their team or players of the day!

When you boil it down, most clubs have what you might describe as "redeeming features". You may not like them; you may love to beat them, but there is a grudging acknowledgment of some aspect of their club.

I'll always say it, there will never be a side I enjoy beating (or seeing them lose to anyone) more than Arsenal, but a proper football club they are.

Manchester United have their glory-hunting fans (with some notable exceptions - you know who you are!) and there was some questionable on-field gamesmanship in the Fergie era. But that aside it's a club that demands respect for its achievements and its stoicism in the face of the awful Munich disaster.

Liverpool, for all the sycophants in the press and self-entitled delusion of its modern fan base, has a rich tradition of real football and I will personally never forget the applause of the Kop towards our fans and players after the FA Cup Quarter-Final in ‘95.

Granted it's tough to think of redeeming features for Chelsea, and when it comes to West Ham, I have nothing for them but contempt. This runs from the ownership through to the claret-and-blue racists who turn up each year at the Lane.

And so it was that, as I walked back to the car, I almost literally bumped into the away fan police escort - several hundred of them, surrounded by a thin cordon of riot police, officers horse and dogs - and a cameraman. As the feral hoard moved down the High Road toward the now fully shuttered shop those inside the cordon sung loud and proud about Spurs being on their way to Auschwitz, while practising Nazi salutes and bellowing "Viva Lazio."

I didn't bother going back to the car and instead tried to find a steward or officer to speak to. I was just told that the police had been filming.

And? And? So the police have a nice video - will they actually do something?

And more to the point, when will West Ham's owners actually do something concrete? For years we've seen Gold, Sullivan and Brady issue Corbynesque statements about antisemitism and all other forms of anti-social behaviour - but like Corbyn they allow this festering boil to thrive by their refusal to actually deal with it. Perhaps they are concerned that if they truly addressed the anti-social elements amongst their support they may not have many people left?

How many times does this have to happen before someone actually makes a genuine stand. Since their move to the taxpayer stadium in Stratford, what increasingly appears to be the true face of West Ham is being more widely exposed.

For now I will comfort myself with the knowledge that karma feels good. Whilst it's not necessarily good for your health, there are few better feelings than winning a derby from behind with late goals.

To do it under the lights at the Lane and against that lot was hugely satisfying. In the context of the old lady's last season, it was a fitting way for her to wave those West Ham fans back off to east London with the message that, once again, on the pitch, it also happened again.

Jonathan Adelman is a season-ticket holder at Spurs, and also co-manages North London Raiders B in the MGBSFL

December 05, 2016 00:36

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