West Ham Away Days

Back in the 80’s, football away days at times were a drag, the journey to the ground, the trains were always packed or delayed. If you decided to drive you couldn’t park your car without paying exorbitant fees in car parks or bunging the local 10-year-old tearaway a fiver to mind your car. “Would you like me to mind your car” of course meant, “give me a fiver and I won’t damage your car”.

Then when you arrive, you can’t go to this pub, you have to go to the flea pit over there, can’t go into the town centre. We were herded like cattle so badly at times that PETA would demonstrate to free us if we were Cows.

Yet, somehow even when you roll it all together, many of us older football fans get misty-eyed over the good old days of an away day trip.

Away Days 'Up North'

As a Londoner, any trip up North was like a journey into the unknown and following West Ham around in the mid to late 1980s was no picnic, especially if you weren’t part of a Firm and you just wanted to watch the game.

One such visit up North may have put many a fan nowadays questioning why they did it, and perhaps make sure they never did it again.

Newcastle Away Days

It was May 1988 and West Ham were finishing the old Division One season with a trip to Newcastle. Thanks to our 4-1 victory the week before against Chelsea, we were now safe from relegation so we could head up there safe in the knowledge nothing hinged on the game.

What was handy for me was the fact my brother was at University in Middlesbrough at the time. This meant I could have a few days up there with him before heading to the game together without having to leave at the usual stupid o’clock time to get to Newcastle in good time.

The journey out of Middlesbrough by train is a pleasant train ride to be honest, though some may say any journey out of Boro is pleasant and the journeys in are the ones that you dread.

We arrived early, had a couple of beers around the city centre, all friendly and welcoming, before walking up to the ground. Back in the days of terracing you got in the ground early, nabbed a good spot and enjoyed the build-up. This always included a bit of banter with the home lads near you.


Now 1988 was the year lots of new-wave comedians were going mainstream and the funniest, well for me, was Harry Enfield, particularly with his ‘loadsamoney’ character. “Loadsa dosh” and “have a look at my money” were just two of his catchphrases, The character was probably the image of what most northern fans thought of us Londoners. He then created another character, ‘Bugger all money’. This was a Geordie that smoked tabs and drank beer, unlike us soft southern shandy drinkers.

So with these characters being prominent in this era, one West Ham fan decided he was going to have a bit of fun with the Geordies. He jumped out the away fan pen and proceeded to walk along the touchline, waving this wad of cash in the air, “LOADSAMONEY” he shouted, as if to demonstrate the fact that we were indeed what the Geordies perceived us to be, arrogant cockney Bastards! This was funny but the retaliation was funnier. 

Did they try and hit him? Nope, they didn’t. They stood on their terracing with their collective mullet haircuts (it was the 80’s people), fag packets tucked in the sleeve of their T-Shirts and started shouting back, as proud as punch, “BUGGER ALL MONEY”.

Unbeknown to them there were two cockney bastards trapped with them. On this occasion, the two cockney bastards just looked at each other and gave a brother-to-brother knowingly nod. We were going to keep quiet!

Gazza's final game for Newcastle

At this time, Gazza was in his Geordie pomp. One Hammer fan had brought a bag of mini-size Mars Bars to the game. Before kick-off he proceeded to hand a few out, giving orders to pelt him with the mars bars when he came over to us to take a corner. We didn’t let the fellow down, well I say ‘we’, I actually ate mine but my brother certainly threw his! Gazza, as a cool as you like, picks up one sticks it in his gob, “Cheers Cockneys” he says then swings in the corner. Made me chuckle that’s for sure.

Typical of West Ham we blew the lead we took to lose 2-1 in the last minute where that man Gazza scored a deflected goal. That was his last contribution for Newcastle as he left for Spurs in the summer. The final whistle blew on the last game of the season and queue the pitch invasion by the Newcastle branch of the boy’s brigade.

To this day I don’t know what they were demonstrating about but they made for the main stand to protest against the board.

At one point they did come over to the few hundred Hammers fans in the corner and we were ushered and squeezed onto the concourse behind the terracing so not to continue baiting the pitch demo boys.

For whatever reason though, we couldn’t leave the ground till the police had cleared it. An hour later and the coaches were backed up to take the hardy fans back home, they never got bored of the 20-hour coach round trip from London to the North East!

Away days - smash em back to London

Ourselves and others, required the train, so with a police escort in tow, about a hundred of us were herded down to the station. Naturally, the Newcastle boy’s brigade were waiting with a few bottles and stones before lobbing them in our direction. Both us and the old bill escort had to play dodgems half of the way back to the safety of the train station. Or so my brother and I had thought…

We needed the Boro platform, the opposite side to the London bound trains As we walked onto our platform, the West Ham fans, aggravated by the walk back to the station, concluded that the blokes on the opposite platform must be Geordies and that they were gonna be getting payback.

One bottle landed on the platform, followed by another, then another, and on and on it went. The only safe place for my brother and I, with a handful of genuine Newcastle fans, was in the smoking-room on the platform.

As we took refuge from our own effing fans, the locals that were with us weren’t happy, cussing the cockney bastards, and declaring if there was more of them they’d “smash em back to London”.

Unbeknown to them there were two cockney bastards trapped with them. On this occasion, the two cockney bastards just looked at each other and gave a brother-to-brother knowingly nod. We were going to keep quiet!

Luckily the London train came and peace was restored.

Carnage in Middlesbrough

As we got to leave our train at Middlesbrough I bumped into George Parris, a Hammers utility defender. Of all places to run into a West Ham player, it was on the train heading to Boro. He got off with us and we walked through the town centre with amazement. 

While we were in Newcastle, Boro were being beaten at home to Leicester, a result that saw them drop out of the Division Two automatic promotion race and into the play-offs. The locals had taken their frustration out on their town centre it seems, I’m not saying it was bad but the local glazer seemed happy as he busied himself boarding up the broken shop windows. 

This had panicked my brother, however, as his student digs were in Ayresome Park Road, just three doors down from the Boro ground. The thought process was, if the town centre looked like a war zone, what on earth awaited us back at his house?

Luckily all was good on arriving back and once back indoors we could chuckle at the fact we had a great day at the football while being attacked, first by opposition fans, and then our own. Then upon our return from Newcastle, we found the proper battle had actually been missed!

1980's North East Away Days

I’m not saying away days out were like that all the time back then, but trips to the North East were always that eventful. Be it Boro, Sunderland, Newcastle or even Hartlepool, there was always something.

Us oldies pine back to the good ole days and while stories like above were frequent and you would think it would put people off, I wouldn’t trade those days for anything. I would swap today’s sterile grounds and atmospheres in a heartbeat for the rough and ready days of being on the terraces.


Article by Nigel Khan

Featured image attribution: “West Ham United – Mancster City Trip” flickr photo by Vincent Teeuwen https://flickr.com/photos/vincentteeuwen/24352057130 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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