Saturday, May 3, 2014

And Now For Something Completely Different …

I was pretty excited earlier this week with the announcement that West Ham United FC will be visiting my home city of Wellington this coming (northern hemisphere) summer, our NZ winter. The “Hammers” will play in a “tournament” involving fellow English Premiership team Newcastle United, two-time A-League champions Sydney FC, and host club Wellington Phoenix.

You see, aside from having an incurable obsession with pop culture, you could say I’m also something of a football nut.

In fact, way back in the day, between 2001 and 2010, long before everythingsgonegreen was even conceived as an alternative outlet to “document shit”, your humble blogger used to write a fair bit about football for a webzine called Etims, an independent site celebrating all things Celtic FC. It was a labour of love – a small team of about six of us contributing up to a dozen or so posts per week and it soon became (and remains) a hugely popular fan site … clocking up something like one million page hits inside its first five years. While humour was its most obvious draw, my angle was frequently the more serious view of the long distance fan.

One day I just stopped writing for Etims, for no real reason really, I guess I lost a bit of the requisite passion, but as a football supporter I’ll always be a Celtic fan. Family history and the fact that I was employed at Celtic Park for a period in the early Nineties makes that one of the few locked-in non-negotiables in my world. My Celtic “mojo” has faded a little in recent years (distance is an obvious problem) but I made it to Celtic Park as recently as 2011, the love is always there, and I know I’ll never lose it.
More than just a football club ...
When it came to watching football (on television) growing up, by dint of its wider accessibility and a weekly highlights show, English football was an ever-present, and given that Celtic (and Scottish football) received virtually no coverage in New Zealand, it became almost obligatory for me to adopt “another” team. So I did, and that “other team” is West Ham United.

It’s West Ham, I guess, because one night in May 1975, as an 11-year-old, I was allowed to sit “up late” with Dad to watch live (early morning) coverage of West Ham winning the FA Cup Final against Fulham. It seemed like a really big deal at the time, and I can still recall the buzz of that occasion. The West Ham team of that era played an irresistible brand of football and those precious Sunday lunch hours watching London Weekend Television’s ‘The Big Match’ suddenly took on an extra significance for me. It also helped that my Monrad Intermediate school uniform colours replicated those of West Ham.

Nightclub superstar Macca
That means I’ve followed the fortunes of West Ham for the best part of 40 years now, as the club bounces its way around the top two tiers of English football (best finish, third in 1986); occasionally brilliant, so often way more stylish than any other club, yet frequently a major disappointment as serial under-achievers.
I also have a life-long friend, Scott, who for his sins is also a firm and committed West Ham fan (as opposed to my rather more “casual” status). He’s just an hour down the road, so I hope to hook up with him for the occasion of West Ham’s visit, if only to tick that one off any mutual bucket list.
Scott and I share many passions – not only football, but a love of industrial strength dub and On-U Sound reggae. We shared a roof for a year or so 25 years ago, and his influence on my early record collection was immense. It was Scott who introduced me to the delights of dub guru Adrian Sherwood and I recall it was quite the thing when we learned of Sherwood’s own shared passion for West Ham – albeit a far more consummated relationship with the club than either Scott or I could ever have hoped to have. But it felt like an alignment of the tribes, an affirmation of sorts, something meant to be, West Ham, Adrian, Scotty and me …

We saw Sherwood together in Wellington back in 2011, indeed, Scott was granted a post-gig audience with the man himself. Another bucket list event we shared was The Specials in Auckland in 2009, so I’m thinking West Ham in NZ would make it something akin to a very sweet hat-trick … it's been a while since we caught up, so I’ll give him a call.

Right. Back to the music, here’s some appropriate content to finish – On-U Sound’s Barmy Army, on the Adrian Sherwood-produced West Ham-celebrating ‘Devo’ … (a track dedicated to West Ham cult hero Alan Devonshire):


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