Former Primeworks Studios group general manager Azhar Borhan has been following West Ham for 48 years.
The Hammers may not have much to show for in that time, but he has never wavered in his support.
A skilled guitarist, Azhar is looking forward to Sunday’s match (10pm) against Manchester City and tells Twentytwo13 he believes David Moyes’ team has what it takes to rock the champions.
Big match this weekend. What is your prediction?
Azhar: Of course, we will win! But I will be happy if we can hold them to a draw.
It is not impossible to get a good result against Manchester City, although I did notice fatigue creeping in last weekend (in the 1-0 defeat to Wolves).
We have played quite well against City recently. Last season, we lost narrowly at the Etihad, and drew at London Stadium, so we have a chance.
But, even if we do not win, that is fine. I have gone through 48 years of not expecting to win! That is the life of a West Ham fan.
When you are up against so-called bigger teams, it is always pleasing to psych their fans and say, you really ought to win. Anything other than a win would be considered a failure for them!
What were your expectations going into the season?
Azhar: I expected them to continue where they left off last season, that is, to fight for the top four. But to be this high up the table (fifth) this early in the season, scares me!
When you are so high up, the only way is down! There would, inevitably, be a point in the season when their form starts to fall off – either a short blip, or even longer.
The upside is, if the form falls off, we may drop, but only a few places. If we are lower in the table when that happens, we could be in a relegation fight!
If we are among the top six by Christmas, I will be happy.
With a third of the season gone and West Ham still in three cup competitions (Europa League group stage, last 16 of League Cup, and FA Cup third round in January), what would constitute success?
Azhar: I want them to be among the top four as we were sixth last season.
Some fans are going gaga as we are doing well in Europe (West Ham is top of Group H and through to the knockout rounds). We also face a rejuvenated Tottenham in the League Cup, and that is going to be tough. Anything else is a bonus.
For me, top four is more important as it shows we have improved.
How, and why did you start following West Ham?
Azhar: I started following them in 1973 when I was in Form 1. I only became aware of English football the year before. I noticed West Ham because of the epic League Cup semifinal defeat to Stoke in 1972 (the two-legged tie needed two replays before Stoke won 3-2).
Then, when I went to boarding school, everybody supported the usual suspects, including Leeds, who were big at that time. I used to read Shoot! magazine, and it had features about West Ham. The club had Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters, England’s 1966 World Cup heroes.
I thought, why not back them, to be different. Somehow, it stuck. I have been supporting West Ham for 48 years and only have two FA Cup wins to celebrate!
It has been frustrating with fleeting moments of joy, but we are used to it.
West Ham fans know how to laugh at themselves. One season we got relegated, and the fans danced the conga in the stadium, instead of crying about their situation.
I guess we take inspiration from the song I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles:
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.
Have you watched West Ham play ‘live’?
Azhar: Yes, twice, but never in their home stadium. Once, against Liverpool in the 1980 Charity Shield at Wembley. I still have the match ticket and other memorabilia from that match (main image).
The second time was at Old Trafford against Manchester United. Unfortunately, we lost both games 1-0.
What are your best memories of the club?
Azhar: That would be the 1980 FA Cup final where we beat Arsenal 1-0. I was in London at the time and watched the game on television. West Ham was in the second division, and no one expected us to beat the Gunners.
I wanted to go to the parade but could not make it. I did go to Upton Park a couple of days later, but it was not the same.
FIXTURES (Malaysian time)
Arsenal vs Newcastle (8.30pm)
Liverpool vs Southampton (11pm)
Norwich vs Wolves (11pm)
Crystal Palace vs Aston Villa (11pm)
Brighton vs Leeds (1.30am
Brentford vs Everton (10pm)
Manchester City vs West Ham (10pm)
Leicester vs Watford (10pm
Burnley vs Tottenham (10pm)
Chelsea vs Manchester United (12.30am)