When West Ham fan Smudgy met Paolo Di Canio


West Ham striker Back in December, myself and my best mate, Pressbox, were discussing which games he could make going into the second half of the season. Now, living in Dorset we’d already established that going to Sunderland away was unrealistic. It would be cold, I didn’t have enough holiday left from work to make it easy and straight after Christmas, with home games as well I was going to would put too much of a strain on my already creaking bank account.




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Therefore I had a Saturday to fill. Granted if I normally can’t make it to a match then Soccer Saturday and/or pub is the favourite option. However, on skimming through the football papers a few weeks back, a completely different idea came along. I was going to meet Paolo di Canio!



As anybody who has ever listened to me talk about football knows, Paolo di Canio is my all-time hero. Be it his passion, his incomparable skills, his outstanding goals or his unique personality, Paolo has always been the West Ham apple of my eye. With Swindon away at Bournemouth, a mere 40 minutes from home, it would be foolish not to treat myself.




And so to Bournemouth we set off. Near freezing temperatures and torrential rain fails to dampen our spirits. To say my excitable behaviour was intolerable would be an understatement. Pressbox was getting annoyed, I was getting giddy. Our seats were booked opposite the dugouts, and in a drab 1-1 game I spent more time watching Paolo gesticulate feverishly at whichever official was nearest him at the time. With the full-time whistle gone and the irony of an ex West Ham goalkeeper making a mistake that lead to a goal not lost on me, it was time to meet Paolo.




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I stood in the icy cold Bournemouth night, rain beating down on me for almost twenty minutes beside the Swindon team bus. As he appeared I grew nervous. He came outside to a rapturous response, one he must be used to everywhere he goes. The first three fans claiming autographs before me all had West Ham shirts to be signed. I turned to him. Speechless.


‘Paolo’ I eeked out ‘Can I get a photo?’


‘Of course’ he replied ‘Man! You’re soaking wet!’

‘I know, I’ve been waiting to meet you, you’re my all-time hero and I’m a massive West Ham fan’


He looked me up and down again. A smirk appearing on his face, ‘Really? Well how long have you been waiting?’


‘About thirteen years…’



And that was the best reply I could do. Meeting my hero for the first time and I ruined it with the world’s worst response. Paolo gave me a wry smile, even a slight chuckle, shook my hand and had our photo taken. On his departure to the bus I thanked him, the happiest man on earth!



He again smiled to all the fans and chirped ‘See you soon’ Perhaps a clue to us Hammers’ fans as to where his future lies? I can dream!



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And so back to work Monday and the majority of my office now know my story off by heart. With meeting Paolo scrubbed off the bucket list I can move on to bigger targets.


Time to track down the elusive Marco Boogers.





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