Is this your fondest West Ham moment?


Soccer - npower Football League Championship - Play Off - Final - Blackpool v West Ham United - Wembley StadiumMost moments that stick fondly in the memory when it comes to West Ham are those successes that are shared with all supporters in the same place.

Sure there are those memories of your first game, seeing your idol score the winner in front of the Bobby Moore stand, or having Paolo Di Canio ruffle your hair as a kid.

But the enduring event for us as the Sydney Hammers supporters group was the 2011-12 Play-Off final.

It’s barely possible to quite put into words the emotions we all went through, and living nine hours in the future meant we had to get through a whole day before the game even kicked-off.

Fans, whether at home, at the ground, or on the other side of the world will have their own memories of how it unfolded, but chances are, every recollection revolves around excitement, pride, delight, despair, frustration, desperation, sheer joy, unbridled ecstasy. Nothing at all like most West Ham games then.

Cup final days are all about the anticipation building before heading out for the match. And a fantastic growing support group around the Sydney Hammers meant plans were well in place for a bubble bursting event.

I’d say the excitement for most of us started as soon as we woke up. From early on there were some great comments on the Facebook page coupled with photos of all things claret and blue being laid out.

The week had dragged on long enough with the build-up and all the talk, and match day hardly flew by.

But crowds started gathering at the first designated bar in the city from 5pm, well ahead of the midnight kick-off, more for mutual support and counselling than anything else.

Numbers slowly grew as the afternoon turned into evening, with dozens of bubble blowing boys and girls in full voice by around 9pm.

Then came the period of pride. The group marched in full voice down Sydney’s famous George Street and towards our ‘home’ pub, the Royal Exhibition Hotel. Flags were flying, chants were being recited with gusto, and arms were raised aloft in praise.

We were representing West Ham Down Under, and doing it the way it should be done. Joking with passers-by, receiving hoots from passing motorists, and drawing nothing but baffled smirks from any police officers we walked by. No damage, no aggression, no carnage.

And then we made it to the pub, fully kitted out with flags, banners, balloons and scarves. We had created a true supporters pub and a cauldron of East End excitement.

When the kick-off finally came around, the pub was a heaving with Hammers. Estimates are that around 300 fans crowded together to watch the match, and delight followed when Carlton Cole’s goal meant West Ham went in one nil up at half time.

But true to usual form, it was followed by the feelings of despair, frustration and desperation, as Blackpool equalised. Statistics of them having more than 70 per cent of the possession did little to settle nerves, and some clear chances were thankfully wasted.

The game, so much of a lottery in itself, was ebbing towards extra time and the prospect of penalties when Ricardo Vaz Te smashed home.

Cue the feeling of sheer joy. The weight was lifted; the apprehension eclipsed by relief and the moment sparked scenes you’re unlikely to see at a live football match in Sydney.

Beer flew everywhere as the celebrations in the pub mirrored those of the thousands gathered back at Wembley.

And after battling through the four minutes injury time, the final whistle was greeted with unbridled ecstasy. It was the culmination of a long season, and had resulted in the ultimate prize. If even somewhat belated, promotion to the premiership was the main aim, and it had been achieved.

The delight was immeasurable as the hundreds of fans burst into deafening renditions of Bubbles.

It was the perfect end to a great day in the history of West Ham, and the Sydney Hammers.

The supporters group stuck together, and in fact flourished, following relegation, and the support, passion and fun of the event proved there would always be a way to enjoy being a Hammer, even if we can’t get to the Boleyn as often as we’d like.<

Share this article

The Sydney Hammers supporters club is the officially endorsed supporters club for West Ham United fans living in and around Sydney, Australia.

We are the fastest growing and most passionate football fans group in the city, and are committed to following the Hammers through highs and lows from Down Under.