bursting the bubbles

Marc Keown looks at the West Hams fans obsession with Spurs and what really constitutes a derby match.


In London (because it's the capital city and therefore special) there are two types of derby game. There are big D Derby matches, fought between fierce and local rivals, and small d derby matches, played between other, less local London teams. Small d derbies can also be fierce; however they do not embody the same kind of passion and competitiveness of a big D Derby.

As any sane person will tell you, Spurs' main Derby matches have always been played against Arsenal. So I've always been puzzled as to why Spurs matches against West Ham United are often also billed as a big 'D' Derby. Sure, we are both located in the same city, so yes, matches between our two clubs is a London derby. But itís not a big D derby by normal standards. Or is it?

West Ham's fiercest club rival is Millwall; therefore Millwall should be West Ham's Derby club. Yet West Ham dismiss ĎThe Derby Ruleí, as much as they dismiss the health warnings against eating excessive amounts of jellied eels and mash. Nobody tells West Ham fans what to do or who to hate, they can pick and choose.

Yet why Spurs over Arsenal, Charlton, Fulham or Chelsea ? West Ham fans argue that they and Millwall play in different leagues and have done so for many years. Therefore they need a substitute London team who they play on a regular basis. The only requirement is that the team in question has to be the closest in ability and success as West Ham, so they chose Tottenham. And they call our fans delusional?
Now I don't know whether Spurs should be fans flattered or annoyed with their choice. Fortunately most of us treat their crazy comparisons in the correct manner- indifference. But before I dismiss the views of the West Ham loons, let us put their comparison under the microscope.
The easiest way to compare success is in terms of winning major honours. During a glorious 125 year history Spurs have won 17 major honours compared to West Ham's 4. Spurs have also won the top English division twice, whereas West Ham haven't won it at all. Spurs have captured 3 major European trophies, West Ham only 1. Not much of a comparison is it? Itís like trying to compare the E-type jaguar with the Sinclair C5.

West Ham fans would retort that Spurs' glory days were in the 60s and 70s and that in recent years the two clubs have been much closer in terms of success (Obviously they have forgotten the great Burkinshaw Spurs side of the early 80s).

Spurs have certainly been underachieving during the last 20 years. So to be fairer to West Ham (they need all the help they can get), Iíll compare the achievements of both clubs since 1988. Now in that timeframe, Spurs have won 3 major trophies from 4 cup final appearances. West Ham have made just 1 cup final appearance, winning absolutely nothing (The Intertoto cup will never count). They've also been relegated from the top flight 3 times in that same period. Spurs have not. Now thatís a pretty poor record, even if you include the 'distinction' of being the only Premiership team relegated after breaching the 40 point boundary. Even during one of Tottenham's most barren periods, West Ham United are no closer in terms of achievement. In fact they are probably further away.

West Ham fans would counter that two of the three trophies won by Spurs over the last 20 years were Ďonlyí the League Cup. That may be so, but you can bet that those same West Ham fans were claret and blue with envy when Ledley King and Robbie Keane held the aforementioned trophy aloft at Wembley just over a week ago. Not only is it a lack of silverware, but a lack of European football that must rankle West Ham fans. Compared to Spurs securing 7 European campaigns since 1988, West Ham have enjoyed just 2 brief forays beyond the white cliffs of Dover.
Another interesting observation is that many of Tottenham's duff players (Bobby Zamora, Calum Davenport) and great-but-over-the-hill ones (Greaves, Sheringham) end up plying their trade at West Ham, and the Ironís better ones (Peters, Paul Allen, Defoe, Kanoute) end up at Spurs. Strange that.

Although West Ham fails to compare on the obvious fronts, their fans can claim one crumb of comfort Ė that their 1960s players were influential in Englandís World Cup winning team of Ď66. Or can they? Itís indisputable that West Hamís Bobby Moore was a fantastic England captain, and the goals from his fellow club players Martin (later Spurs captain) Peters and Geoff Hurst, secured Englandís famous victory. But can West Ham fans seriously say that we wouldn't have won had Tottenhamís Jimmy Greaves played instead of Hurst? Of course not. Jimmy Greaves was better than Geoff Hurst and England would have secured victory without the need for extra time. Hurst is credited with scoring the world cup finalís only ever hat-trick.  Greavsie would have scored two.

It is plain to see that the intense rivalry between West Ham and Tottenham is West Ham's rivalry alone, and it is bourn out of jealousy. The clubs are incomparable in terms of achievement and also in potential. Whilst Spurs are competing with the best and winning trophies under the stewardship of Senor Ramos, West Ham, despite investments, are stale and predictably mediocre. Whereas a Spurs season starts with the minimum objective to reach Europe, West Hamís objective is to avoid relegation. West Ham is a stepping stone team for many players, whilst Tottenham is the team many aspire to play for. West Ham should stick to their worthier neighbours like Millwall if they want a fairer rivalry. Spurs are bigger, better and much more glamorous.

If you don't believe me, just ask Darren Bent ...


Back to homepage