Have West Ham gone soft on the glorious Gunners?

A trip to West Ham with the Arsenal in the Eighties was one which was filled with dread. Those mischievous Hammers under the guise of the ICF and the Under-5s would take great joy in terrorising away fans who thought it a good idea to turn up at Upton Park and have the temerity to cheer on their side.
Sure, the Arsenal boys had their own response to the West Ham mobs (Danny Miller and a few of his lot infamously ‘took liberties’ in the Boleyn seats one year) but even scarfers and ordinary fans such as myself were subject to the hostilities. The first hurdle after the tube was the Queens, a drinking den inhabited by West Ham’s nastiest nutters and it was a case of eyes down, march on and try at least to avoid a beating before you got near the ground and queued to get in.
That done (and there was never any guarantee that the East End loons wouldn’t sup up and pick out visiting supporters before returning to their drinks) the next step was to avoid being battered as you lined up to get in the South Bank. I once saw one lad ‘taxed’ of his trainers just before he got through the turnstile. But even when you were in, the fear never left you. The toilet below the away section was shared with West Ham and I saw many an altercation down there. too. On the way out of the game it was a similar situation. The place was a Helmand Province of a football destination. And we must remember that an Arsenal fan was stabbed to death near Arsenal tube after a game against West Ham at Highbury in the Eighties.
Of course, we all have tales of witnessing football violence and the modern day equivalent for Arsenal is a trip to T********, not that it wasn’t case back in the day too. Now to my point. I am off to West Ham tomorrow and know I will enjoy a reasonably friendly affair in the pubs neat the ground with very little chance of being hunted down by a baying mob of head cases. That is still the case at Shite Hart Lane to some degree, so why should West Ham’s notorious psychos pay Arsenal fans little heed these days?
It may have something to do with how these people rate the other hooligan firms. It is probably to do with the fact that West Ham fans hate Tottenham, Chelsea and Millwall so much that they don’t have time to hate Arsenal as well. I can’t think of any historical links or bonds, save for Stewart Robson, Liam Brady and Freddie Ljungberg playing for them. Yet I honestly think a kind of kinship has developed between the two clubs.
So why should that be? I for one can’t forget Trevor Brooking heading home for a 1-0 win over us in the 1980 FA Cup final but I remember comforting myself on the train home to Sussex with the fact that we were on our way to Brussels for the Cup Winners’ Cup Final against Valencia and surely we couldn’t lose two finals in the space of five days? We did!
Perhaps the ‘appy Hammers recognise that we too hate Chelsea and Tottenham and there is no need for us to swap nasty comments or right-hooks. It’s odd, because in the ground at Upton Park there is tangible venom from both sets of fans if we are losing or if they are getting a walloping from Arsene Wenger’s side.
But before and after the match, I don’t see any proper rivalry. Perhaps the quantity of Strongbow I imbibe before and after the game has given me a bubble and maybe I am missing the bitterness. Any road up, if you fancy buying me a pint tomorrow, I’ll be in the Queens…

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