Not-so-pleasant memory Lane

Posted by Vinny Ryan

West Ham take on Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday at White Hart Lane as they attempt to kick-start a season which has failed to get going thus far.

While most of the talk leading up to this game has been to do with the ‘Y’ word, I am still trying to work out just how West Ham expect to get a result against as side that despite losing their best player still look very strong.

Growing up in the 1990s, Tottenham were the team to beat for West Ham. With encounters with Millwall being almost nonexistent and West Ham in the top flight between 1993-2003, it was Spurs who you would look for first when the fixture list came out.

West Ham had a decent enough record against Spurs, and between 1997-2002 West Ham finished above the North London side three out of four seasons.

I recall Joe Cole saying in an interview after the 2001-02 season (when Glenn Roeder led the club to seventh place) that he thought West Ham were much better than Spurs. Just a year later, West Ham were being relegated with a side that featured David James, Michael Carrick, Trevor Sinclair, Paolo Di Canio and Freddie Kanoute.

During the 1998-99 season, West Ham did the double over Spurs with two goals from Trevor Sinclair providing three points in 2-1 win at Upton Park, and then away at White Hart Lane a goal from Ian Wright and then a calm finish from French winger Marc Keller saw West Ham continue their good form and end the season in fifth place.

The away game that season is West Ham’s last victory on Tottenham soil.

While the sides may have been on a similar level around that time, the next 10 years have seen the clubs grow far apart, with West Ham finding themselves more often than not in a relegation battle and Spurs pushing for a top-four place.

The dislike West Ham fans may have for Spurs now is different to that when I was going to games as a teenager, as I believe we as fans thought we were quite similar in stature, amount of support and success since the Premiership had been formed in 1992.

Now the dislike for Spurs is sadly tinged with envy. They have invested in players heavily over the last decade, and while they still cannot break into the top four on a regular basis, they have not had to rely on a billionaire like Chelsea to build the club.

The mistakes made at West Ham over the last 10 years are hard to take especially when you review where the Hammers were in 2001-02 and how quickly it all went so very wrong.

I am not trying to simply praise Tottenham but am trying to establish where the rivalry West Ham have with Spurs actually stands. Have the Hammers just become a club jealous of the progress Spurs are making, just as Millwall with their struggling crowds of 8-10 thousand are toward West Ham?

While I do not want to go into the debate of anti-semitic. chanting I would suggest that the intensity of these warbles have increased due to some West Ham fans perhaps conceding that on the pitch there is little contest, so they will make up for it with as many chants about Spurs supporters as possible, no matter how intolerant or insensitive.

To what will happen on the pitch during Sunday’s game can never be completely predictable. But what is certain is that if West Ham approach the game like they have done when playing away from home over the last 14 months then there is no doubt to what outcome will develop.

Sam Allardyce has stated that he will not be making any radical changes, as apart from the goal-scoring department he is happy with every other aspect. When managers make comments such as this it worries me greatly, because if they cannot see the issues throughout the team when the side is losing, then what progress are we likely to see?

A result on Sunday would give everyone at West Ham a lift as since the defeat at home to Stoke there has been nothing but doom and gloom. It is going to take something special to lift the mood.

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