Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Blowing Bubbles The Cockney Way

Another slow news day so I thought I'd post a piece I found a few weeks ago. It is an interview with Ray Tuck, manager of the official pub of the West Ham supporters club.

Blowing Bubbles The Cockney Way
By Simon Mastnak

West Ham supporters club is one of the best organized supporters clubs in England. The club is located just around the corner from West Ham's football ground and from the windows of their pub you can even see the Icelandic West Ham boss eating cookies in his office. Ray Tuck is the manager of their pub and a life-long West Ham supporter.

How did the supporters club get started?
Well it's all down to Tom Jenkinson really (his picture still hangs on the club's walls to this day). They (West Ham supporters) met in school during the war, and then carried on meeting after the war in a pub that was near the ground. West Ham United borrowed them some money to build the club, and then after they bought Phil Parkes and Tony Cottee they asked for the money back (laugh).

What is the relationship between the football club and supporters club nowadays?
It's broken now. We always had two trustees on the board of the football club and because of the new regime over there, the two trustees resigned in the last year. And anyway, virtually no member of the supporters club really lives in Cockney area anymore. The population changed in East London and the new inhabitants are not football fans really and our older members are dying or moving on to Essex.

How do you feel about your new owners?
Well, in this game the rich are always getting richer. Man United have always done it and have no right to moan about the Chelsea, cause they always had the money and they bought better players. But we were never part of that and it looks like that now we’re gonna be in future. And this is the part I hate. It’s not fair to smaller local clubs but it’s going to ensure the clubs future. Even if we go down to the Championship in the next season, they have the money to bring us back up. But you know these men are hard business men. If this geezer who owns Chelsea got fed up with footie, he could just sell the team, and buy a basketball club or whatever, and then what’s gonna happen to Chelsea? How are they gonna pay all those high players’ wages?

If we move to your story, how did you start supporting West Ham?
When I was young we lived in an area close to the ground, and in those days you would support your local team. You wouldn’t even think about supporting any other team. And one other thing - Ted Fenton went to school with me dad, and he ended up a West Ham manager (and by the way his brother was a Millwall manager). So, this made us even more West Ham. My father even remembers going to the games on the same bus as all the players. He used to take me to the games in the late 50’s. In those days the supporters used to pass us youngsters down the terraces on their hands so that you could see better.

What are your first memories of watching a footie match?
Well, I was about sixteen. We moved a bit further away from the ground and I went to Wembley to see the Cup Winner’s Cup. I mean we grew up watching Bobby Moore play. It was a pure pleasure. And you hear so many great things about the man but he just didn’t have a bad game. So it was good memories in 60s.

What did footie mean to you and what does it mean now?
It’s in you blood. Being a proper Cockney, West Ham’s in your blood. No matter how bad they were doing, you would go to the game. We didn’t even expect them to win; and they didn’t (laugh). Going to games was quite a journey. We lived 10-12 miles away from the ground. And of course we had little dough, and many times we had to walk back to home, and you would come home only at nine o’clock at night. So that’s what made you a West Ham fan in those days. And today, being a supporters club manager, it’s basically a dream come true, though I came here because I needed a job, not just because it was West Ham.

What was the best game you remember?
The game I didn’t go to, because I was at a wedding. It was the semi-final against Manchester United in 1964, and we were in the church with a transistor, and everyone was just listening to the good news from the pitch. And of course in the middle of all this the wedding was going on! But it was a good game, because we beat the likes of George Best and Denis Law. All good players. Also the final in the last year, though once we were in the extra rime you just knew. You just knew, we were never gonna win it. But we went to the bars afterwards with all them Scousers, because they are similar to us West Ham supporters and had just a great day together.

So the cup games stay in the memory longer?
Yes, you do tend to remember the cup games more because everyone has got to win. You can’t put five men in the middle just playing for a draw; and not just the final, but also the games leading up to the final.

How did the Bubbles start?
Well, it’s an American song. It was just after the First World War. The reserves used to play over at the Recreation ground, and there was this picture on the wall of this young fella blowing bubbles. And basically one of the reserve players looked just like him. The Bubbles song was out then and the fans just started singing the Bubbles to him, and that’s how it got started. So, we have the oldest football song in the world; and a well known one around the world as well. Once I was in Barcelona and we was singing the Bubbles and these fellas, not one who spoke English, but they all knew the words to the Bubbles. Of course if you’re a West Ham supporter, you’re gonna have Bubbles played at your funeral…

Your fans are also known for hooliganism, especially after the release of the film Green Street Hooligans. What is your experience in that area?
Well, even recently, I went to Palermo in the season and we were treated like shit. We were mob-marched for about three miles. There was a lot of trouble in the square and a lot of unprovoked police brutality. And at the end of this match, they took us past this camp and then the police just disappeared, they just didn’t wanna know about it; and the fighting just kicked-off then. Then, when we got to the ground, we were put in this cage. It was a lot like coming back to those days of the 60s, and how you were treated on away travels on cattle trains.

I had nothing to do with hooliganism. But in those days, even just going to away games…it was like...I remember one time at the Stoke game, and someone spat in my mate's face and we moved from the West Ham supporters so it was a real danger. My mate stopped me from going at him because he knew we would get hurt; and we would've been. But even in those days, if you weren’t involved in violence, you didn’t really know much about it.

How do you see the future of West Ham?
The only problem is they want to move it to the Olympic stadium at Stratford in East London. And they’re not gonna even build a pub there. I mean, how can you have a football ground and no pubs around? But they’ll survive. These people, though hard-hearted business people, I believe they are gonna make us a top six club. But it doesn’t excite me. Not doing it that way, I mean.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.


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