It all began at the start of the 1968-69 season, the acquisition of my first matchday programme 17th August 1968 West Ham United v. Nottingham Forest. A game which saw Geoff Hurst scoring the only goal of the match, even a 1-4 home reverse against Everton two days later didn’t dampen my enthusiasm for my new found passion West Ham United and memorabilia associated with the Claret and Blue. By then It was too late, I was hooked.
Discarded matchday tickets was a favourite ritual with me, while people were filing away from the ground, I used to go in the opposite direction making my way over from the North Bank which was my preferred vantage point in those days to the West Stand in search of those match tickets that were simply thrown away. Home defeats bore more fruitful than victories. After match tradition for me in those days was getting the London Underground East London line to Shadwell, once there waiting around another 15 minutes for the London Evening News newspaper van to arrive from Fleet Street with all the afternoons match results, although these newspaper match reports only reported on the match action from the first 45 minutes due to printing deadlines. It was a very sad day for me when the newspaper folded at the end of 1980 after losing out in the circulation war with their rivals the London Evening Standard.
A&BC Bubble Gum cards were my first collectables, with their flat pink bubble gum inside a wax outer wrapper, more often than not, they left their pink outlines on many a card. More and more Trade Card dealers are listing throughout their catalogues the wrappers that 99.9% of us throw away when we made our initial purchase, from the A&BC Bubble Gum card collections to these days the Panini and Merlin sticker Collections, including me. Today those same discarded wrappers can fetch upwards of £10 each. I was lucky enough to be in at the start of the very first Sticker collection, FKS “The Wonderful World of Soccer Stars” they were first released in the North West of England as a test, and by the time they were released nationwide, some of the Hammers players were replaced, or like the Trevor Brooking sticker in the test he wore a tracksuit which was re-touched showing him in playing shirt, on closer inspection he was simply replaced with Martin Peters' body.
The early 70's saw the introduction into the football "Give-away" market from firm such as "Mirror Group Newspapers Ltd", "Tonibell - Ice Cream" , "Nabisco - Cereal Packets, "Cadbury-Schwepps" Jam Jar lids, "Mobil Oil Co" and "Esso Petroleum" The latter two for me were a great pain, as a 17-year-old and coming from a non-driving family I had to rely on my begging skills to capture these cloth and metallic little gems, a skill that I still practice today when "Texaco Limited" introduced their England Squad 2006 Collection, although these days I do drive, the 23 players plus the additional 5 disc's would have set me back over £300 in petrol, that's of course if you were lucky enough to get a different one each time you filled-up and you could use that much petrol in the short period the promotion run. My advise, get to know your local shopkeepers and forecourt managers.
The 1980's got off to the perfect start an F.A. Cup Final victory against Arsenal at Wembley. Unfortunately for me I missed out on two pieces of memorabilia to commemorate our famous victory. Both ceramic pieces, the first by Ceramic Art Treasures, a ceramic plate in a picture frame with player signatures surrounding an image of the F.A. Cup, the second was a white ceramic F.A. Cup issued by Sheldor of Nottingham. The following year another Wembley appearance this time against Liverpool in the F.L. Cup Final. But more importantly for me we gained promotion back to the First Division. 1982 saw the last release by "FKS" with their "Spain 82" set which showed Trevor Brooking for England and Ray Stewart Scotland kit. "Panini" took over the mantle and were the mainstay publishers of football stickers throughout the 80's with their "Football" series with around 165 stickers featuring our heroes. Two unlikely World Cup sets were issued by the Boys in Blue "Kent County Constabulary" The first featured Trevor Brooking titled "England World Cup Squad 1982" and the second four years later in '86 with Alvin Martin.
The end of the 80's saw us once more slip into the Second Division with another two years exile from sticker collecting.
With the newly formed "Carling F.A. Premiership" taking shape the Hammers joining the elite a year later in season 1993-94. "Merlin Publishing International" began to be the dominate force welding their publishing might after winning the promotional rights to Premiership football, leaving Panini with the Football League left-over scrapes. To be fair "Merlin" as well as issuing a sticker collection each year brought back the Football Card not seen since the days of A&BC in the mid-70's.
The New Millennium saw a rise in "Home Made" offerings featuring our favourite heroes. Sites such as Ebay are awash with these items, in many cases they are well worth a punt or two, not least of all my own offerings to boost your collection. The Limited Edition caricature drawings by Norman Hood are also very collectable. Enamel badge collection has now found a nice niche on the auctions sites at very affordable prices. The usual big players in the sticker and card market (Merlin and Topps Europe) were joined by Magic Box Inc in 2004 with their "Shoot Out" Cards, unfortunately for Hammers collectors we were in the First Division at the time so missed out on the inaugural set.
THE GREAT ESCAPE.....
2006-07 must go down as one of the most eventful campaigns ever... The Hammers surprised the footballing world by signing not one but two World Cup Internationals from Argentina in Javier Mascherano and Carlos Tevez. In November West Ham United accepted a takeover bid from a consortium led by Icelandic businessman Eggert Magnusson for £85m. New Chairman Eggy soon parted company with Alan Pardew in favour of former Hammer Alan Curbishley. After getting off to a flying start with a win against Manchester United at the Boleyn in December. The January transfer window saw Liverpool take Mascherano to Merseyside a move which was put on hold by the F.A. and started a chain of events that nealy brought the club to it's knees. The registration and ownership of the two Argentinean players was brought into question, an outcome that cost the club a record £5.5m fine. The Boys from the Boleyn quickly lost ground in the Premiership and found themselves in free-fall and looking odds on to be relegated from the top flight. With Mascherano now competing in the Champions League with the Anfield club, the Hammers on the other hand were propping up the foot of the table. With nine games to go, the Hammers at last started to turn things around by stringing some results together. Tevez's third party contract with Kia Joorabchian was torn-up and he was re-registered to the Hammers in time to play out the last three games of the season, the first against Wigan Athletic, a 3-0 away victory was quickly followed by a 3-1 home win over Bolton Wanderers. All that stood in our way now was a club named Manchester United and a place they called "The Theatre of Dreams". We all looked towards the heavens, our fingers and anything else we could cross was crossed, and prayed that somehow we can hold onto our Premiership status and enjoy another fruitful collecting campaign. Our prayers were answered in fairy-book fashion by none other than the little man from Buenos Aires.
Our smiles were soon wiped from our faces as Sheffield United who were relegated on the last day of the season appealed to the Footballing authorities. The Blades wanted a points deduction against the Hammers for the registration fiasco and third party ownership of Carlos Tevez.
An independent hearing was set-up and they in turn upheld the original decision that the £5.5m fine imposed was punishment enough and not to deduct any points. This didn't go down to well in Yorkshire and the Bramall Lane club turned towards the High Court in a last ditch attempt to burst the Hammers bubbles and to avoid Fizzy Pop football the following season. Once again the highest court in the land ruled in West Ham's favour and the men from up north will have to live with the fact that they will be playing the other "IRONS" Scunthorpe United.
Happy collecting and remember...
Todays throw away is Tomorrow's Collectable