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Mar 17, 2014

Chants of a lifetime

It sometimes seems as if whole generations have come and gone without West Ham winning anything. It's not strictly accurate, of course, but even so it's a rare week when the Hammers find themselves topping polls and winning awards. Despite the last couple of setbacks then, this should be a time for congratulations.

- Report: Stoke storm to West Ham win

The Manager of the Month Award was deservedly won by Sam Allardyce for his presiding over a four win February, a run that lifted the Hammers from relegation contenders to the "Best of the Rest" position in 10th place. Although Allardyce has had -- and will probably always continue to have -- a rough ride from certain sections of the Upton Park faithful, there should be a little bit of joy in everyone's heart -- Hammers' or not -- for a club who have stuck with their manager and actually seen him win through.

It would be nice to think that when the pressure builds next season, the immediate plan of the bottom eight clubs won't be to sack the incumbent manager and install someone who is supposed to be better but often isn't, but rather, perhaps look at what has happened at the Boleyn over the past five weeks, grit their teeth and resolve to fight on with the man they thought was good enough to start with. Now watch the relegation battle unravel again...

As if that wasn't enough though, the Boleyn is buzzing with the news that West Ham fans have topped a poll for the best "terrace" chant. Directed at former Hammers' favourite Rio Ferdinand and sung to the tune of Duran Duran's "Rio", the lines "His name is Rio and he watches from the stand" -- a reference to the Manchester United defender's ban for missing a drug test -- was elected to be the best chant among the independent fans questioned.

It should be worth noting though that the "Rio" song was used when the south-London born centre-half was a Hammers player -- "His name is Rio and he is a West Ham man" -- and the flipping of a song of celebration to one of derision is one of the more delicious things about a good stadium chant.

It is odd then that the placing of the runner-up award was at the feet of Fulham's fans for their chant directed at another ex-West Ham player, Bobby Zamora. Sung to the tune of Dean Martin's "Amore" with the line "When you're sat in Row Z and the ball hits your head, that's Zamora", the undoubted genius of the chant will nonetheless leave many Hammers fans scratching their head as to who offered up these examples for judging.

Now, for those of us who remember the Football League before the "Year Zero" exploits of the F.A.'s Premier League, the terrace chant is now something of a lost art. But when discussing recently if the quick wit of the "terraces" was still available, I cited the song about Zamora as an example of continued excellence; for Zamora is a player who still finds a place in the heart of those of us who were at the Play-off final v Preston in Alan Pardew's second season at the club. It was Zamora who scored the solitary goal in a tense match to send the Irons back to the Premier League and the glorious season that eventually ended in heartbreak at Wembley in 2006. In fact, it was Zamora's late season and Play-off form that resurrected a poor season and almost single-handedly propelled West Ham back into the top flight.

After that Play-off victory, in a delirious (but in truth wholly unnecessary) open-top bus celebration, the team were met at the gates of the Boleyn by a Dean Martin impersonator who led the assembled crowd through various renditions of "Amore" including the one that had the line, "When the ball hits the net like an Exocet jet (sic), that's Amore". The song could be heard in various forms as the team moved through the 2005-06 season to the F.A. Cup final and was definitely sung at the final itself.

However, as the team fell apart in the following season's "Tevezgate" fiasco, it was deemed -- quite incorrectly in most supporter's views -- that Zamora was surplus to requirements and he was sold to Roy Hodgson's Fulham, where he went on to have a couple of excellent seasons. However, in the next game where West Ham played Fulham, after initially being welcomed back as a popular ex-player, the "Exocet jet" lyric was immediately changed to "Row Z" in a superb and highly amusing about-face, that had many fans openly laughing at the quick wit on display.

Quite how then Fulham have ended up with the Runners-Up Award is a bit of a mystery. There is no doubt at all that West Ham fans used the chant first and there are even rumours that they borrowed it from Zamora's previous club, Tottenham. I'm wondering if the "Chant Committee" were at the West Ham v Fulham game and got confused over which end of the stadium was singing the song.

Still, perhaps it's best not to be churlish. Two awards in a week are probably enough and there's a good chance the Runner-up accolade might be the highlight of Fulham's season.

Now leave me alone, I've got a song in my head that won't go away and I'm off to find a Dean Martin CD…