As the snow pounds on an already winter weary Toronto, I’m thinking about July 24th 2008. That was the day I became a fan of West Ham United. That evening under a cloudy sky, and a relatively balmy night the MLS All Stars defeated the Hammers 3-2. The score didn’t matter, the Hammers were in training mode, and I saw a real football club in person for the ﬁrst time. To be fair I had followed TFC from MLS, but this was different. Even David Beckham seemed more interested in playing in Toronto against an English squad; he had previously expressed concern about playing here due to the artiﬁcial turf. Beckham’s gone now, but my obsession with the Hammers had just begun.
There are two moments that signify what it means to be a Hammers fan for me, and they both involve Scott Parker. The ﬁrst is the tremendous relief I felt after Parker scored his goal against Wigan, and ran to the dugout to celebrate with Gianfranco Zola. The beleaguered Zola never got the chance to ﬁnish what he started, and he should never have been dismissed.
There’s a satellite radio show about football that I listen to,and one of the hosts was the late Giorgio Chinaglia, the Italian born and Cardiff raised footballer. One morning driving to work I phoned in to express my outrage at watching Avram Grant at the helm of West Ham. After a rant about Grant, and Zola’s ﬁring, I asked Giorgio if he agreed, and was pleased that he shared in my support of Zola. I had obviously hit the mark with Giorgio, as his passion for this the ﬁring was as palpable as mine. Not only was I now beginning to understand the subtleties of life as a Hammers fan, but I also had support from a World Cup footballer. Thanks Giorgio, we still miss you.
The second Scott Parker moment is from the New Year’s Day disaster against Fulham. After Kevin Nolan’s red card there’s a telling photo of Parker looking at Nolan with the red card hovering in the air. The look on Scott’s face is one of disbelief, as if for a moment he forgot what team he was on. It’s as if he’s as disappointed in Nolan as big Sam. Scott Parker, for a second in time, was a Hammer again, and my journey was just beginning.