From The Stands Exhibition

Canary Wharf Exhibition Poster

I grew up playing football with my friends on the small green field in front of our house.  I played from the early morning until it was too dark to even see the ball. We threw our coats down as goals, waited for someone to bring a ball, divided ourselves up into teams and played. 

The rules were harsh, flexible, biased, unfair, argued over, non-existent and often left in shreds somewhere behind the goals as we battled with our friends in games that seemed to last forever. Goals were disputed, tackles that started fights were not easily forgotten, injuries proudly worn behind blooded shirts and jeans and trainers battered and muddied until they could barely hold themselves together.

In blustering winds, torrential rain, snow storms, blistering sun, freezing cold, grey days and early nights we played our hearts out, wore ourselves ragged until we fell exhausted on the floor barely able to muster the energy to talk. But talk we did about the wonder goal, the game saving tackle, the perfect pass and the tactics that came straight from the matches we saw on the tv. 

We compared our skills with the best – we were Mervyn Day diving right to make a save, Bobby Moore completing one of his trademark tackles, sending the ball wide to Trevor Brooking, making a run down the wing to whip a cross in for Clyde Best or Geoff Hurst to take on a defender and score!!!!!!

Those were the days that filled our younger years and built a passion for a game that we play in a different way now as we watch critically from the stands. The passion, the joy, the nerves, the anger, frustration, applause, boos and singing as we make the same runs down the wing, check ourselves as we dribble past one player, another and then cross ……. 

“I’m forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air,

They fly so high, nearly reach the sky,

Then like my dreams they fade and die…”

We compare the players to ourselves – we are there on the pitch, shouting at our team mates, we are cutting up the chalk on the wing, sprawling on the grass – hey ref, com’on! What a pass!!!! Whose side are you on ref? What a goal!!!!! You don’t deserve to wear the shirt!!! I can play better any day! How did he miss that? If I was the manager I would …. I could have scored that easy! The stadium fades away and we are standing on the torn up green as a kid, standing over the ball eyeing up a free kick that could win us the FA Cup.

As an amateur photographer and West Ham season ticket holder my passion for the game has inspired me to record thehome matches from when we were based at the Boleyn Ground through to London Stadium. The exhibition focuses on the fans, those who grew up with their own memories of following and playing football as kids and now who stand together, as a family united in our support for our team. 

We all have our own unique stories and diverse reasons why we support our team, from memories of time with our father as a kid, because we were brought up to support West Ham, from a visit that brought us as if by fate to open our hearts to the Hammers, or loyalty for our local team. Our bond is not dependent on results – however much some results can hurt, not on who wears the claret and blue – players come and go, but on a sense of family and the people we meet who sit next to us, who talk to us on the journey to the ground, we recognise the passion, the knot of love and the colours worn with pride. 

This is a work in progress and the people I have met along the way have filled me with pride for their journey, respect for their commitment and shared role in a family that rises as one to sing and cheer on our team. 

Dawud Marsh

Published by dawudmarsh

Photographer based in London.

4 thoughts on “From The Stands Exhibition

  1. Yes, that speaks to me, Dawud. As a kid, I was out back playing endlessly with my brothers and our neighbour David. Being from Roehampton, I was the oddball being a West Ham fan, while the brothers chose other unmentionable London clubs nearer to our home. The games went on well past the moment Mum declared that if we didn’t stop there would be no supper…
    Your piece also resonates with me, as I used to go to a lot of matches, especially in the sixties and early seventies. I was at all four games against Stoke for instance in that memorable League Cup semi, and at the 1980 Cup Final. Since then, I have lived abroad, so visits have been few and far between. But I did take both of my Turkish children to matches, my daughter to the Boleyn, and last August, my son to see us at home to Wolves. We lost in the 93rd minutes, but he declared it the best day of his 10-year-old life. Music to my ears. Thank you for the blog.

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  2. Hi Rob,

    Thank you so much for your comment and feedback. Its wonderful to hear you have still managed to come to the games from afar and to hear that your children have been too. I felt that I was always dirty as I played so much football I was like a walking pitch with stains, grass and mud permanently all over me! I ruined many a pair of trainers when I was a kid. My mums voice could carry for miles and when she called me for dinner, I went otherwise I got a clip round the ear. Do you have any photos from those days? Sadly I don’t have a lot of photos of when I started going to see Hammers at Boleyn ground. I remember not being bale to see as everyone was taller than me and I used to get pushed around a lot as it was all standing. Lol

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    1. No photos I’m afraid. I didn’t own a camera till I was 23. I can remember it as if it was yesterday, those battles on the mud of the back garden. The only football photo I have from those days is a very grainy one from a newspaper of my Chelsea brother and me on the North Bank watching the FA Cup 4th round in 1965 when we got knocked out as holders. Yes, I well remember not seeing because I was too short. In fact, that probably was what saved me from becoming Tottenham. I was taken to see Spurs vs Wolves, a great match in those days, by neighbour David (as mentioned above) and his dad. My very first match, aged nine I expect. David’s Dad hoisted my younger brother onto his shoulders, so he could see – and he supports Spurs to this day. I skulked around at knee level, couldn’t see anything of the match, and was able to become West Ham a year or so later.

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      1. That is a wonderful memory Rob. And it is an excellent illustration of what pulls us to a team and leads us onto a particular journey – it could have so easily have been the other way round. Fate has a role to play not just in our choice of team but life as well. I would love to use some of your memories in the journey I am on with this project, if that is ok? I am putting together a sort of questionnaire – which will be my next post – that summarises my own experiences but will serve as a template for others to put together their own memories. It would be great of you could participate in that.

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