On Wednesday night, Manchester City will welcome West Ham United to the Etihad as they look to sustain their pursuit of the 2018/19 Premier League title. Yet at the beginning of the month, the Irons’ draw at home to City’s title challengers, Liverpool, once again opened up the race for the Premier League and further strengthen the bond between the fans of the two clubs.
When the fans of Manchester City and West Ham United come to face off in mid-week, there is unlikely to be a great deal of animosity. For nearly thirty years, a strange bond has grown between the two fanbases, developing into a little-known alliance that few are privy to. With similar sized core fanbases that have been spearheaded by local working-class fans, City and West Ham have common ground. Both sets of fans have had to see their team deeply suffer in times of success from both side’s cross-city rivals.
The first connection between the fan’s routes dates back to 1987, whereby on the May 9, West Ham relegated City to the second division of English football at the Boleyn Ground. Many home fans are said to have entered the pitch and headed towards the City faithful positioned in the South Bank. Given the rife culture of football hooliganism at that time, the Police would have been forgiven for being alarmed.
But there was no fighting. The Hammers chanted “you’ll be back, you’ll be back, you’ll be back” to the travelling City fans, which has remained potent in the minds of City and West Ham fans alike to this day. There was also said to be a moment shared between the sets of supporters whereby City fans gave their rendition of ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, to which the Hammers’ fans replied with their version of ‘Blue Moon’.
More modern times have seen the fortunes of both clubs improve from that season (one more so than the other currently), but West Ham certainly look on their way up under ex-City manager Manuel Pellegrini. In the Chilean’s first season in charge, City famously beat Liverpool to the 2013/14 Premier League crown on the final day following a 2-0 win at home to West Ham. Following the game, City fans poured onto the Etihad pitch to celebrate their second League title.
As told by renown West Ham fan and co-owner of The West Ham Way pre-match event, ExWHUemployee, the home fans made their feelings clear towards the away section.
“I was at the game in 2013/2014 where City fans won the League and invaded the pitch and the majority clapped us there! So, the mutual respect is quite evident.”
Funnily enough, the opening scorer on City’s title-winning day against West Ham was Samir Nasri, who is now relishing a new challenge at the London Stadium. Nasri joined City legend Pablo Zabaleta in the capital and becomes one of many players to have a significant impact for both sides.
ExWHUemployee has fond memories of the numerous players to play for both City and the Hammers.
“Throughout the years many players have played for both clubs and I think this has strengthened the ties too. I will start with Mark Ward, who hosts our pre-match events – he had successful seasons at both clubs. When he joined Man City, it saw Ian Bishop and Trevor Morley move in the opposite direction and those two ended up having great careers with us as well.”
In fact, some of football’s most famous names have worn both sky blue and the claret and blue strips in their careers, with the likes of Carlos Tevez, Frank Lampard, Joe Hart, Trevor Sinclair and the late Marc-Vivien Foe all ingrained in the history of both clubs. Yet the connection doesn’t end there; Eyal Berkovic, Steve Lomas, Paulo Wanchope, Stuart Pearce, David James, Craig Bellamy, Tal Ben-Haim, Wayne Bridge and Joe Hart have all proudly worn both crests and contributed to the successes of both sides in the past. The relationship clearly extends beyond just the fans.
Indeed, match results have only intensified the goodwill, with West Ham’s recent heroics against Liverpool far from the only favour to come of this unlikely alliance.
In the penultimate game of the 2015/16 Premier League season, West Ham found themselves 2-1 down to Manchester United as the clock ticked past the 70-minute mark. Should they beat West Ham, United would only need to win their final game at Old Trafford if they were to secure Champions League qualification for the next season. However, in what was the last match to be played at the historic Boleyn Ground, the Irons would not go down without a fight. With dramatic goals in the final 15 minutes from Michail Antonio and Winston Reid, West Ham not only left their iconic ground victorious, but left City needing just a point on the final day to reach fourth spot. And so they did, pipping United to the position on goal difference.
City now host West Ham at the Etihad Stadium tomorrow in a game which could prove to be pivotal in this title race. ExWHUemployee feels that City have the backing of West Ham fans, but rightfully so, wants the Hammers to return to East London with a result that can be held in high esteem.
“It is very clear that the majority of the West Ham fan base want Manchester City to win the League,” he said. “but hopefully after we have picked up three points this Wednesday.”
Both sides will continue to evolve and write their history in different, unknown ways beyond this game, but the past is never forgotten.