If you try to buy tickets for a Tottenham Hotspur Premier League match at White Hart Lane, you’ll notice that each game is priced into one of three categories based on the level of the opponent. The category with the highest ticket prices contains many of the top teams in the league — notably Chelsea, Arsenal, Manchester United, Manchester City and Liverpool. However, the last team in that grouping would surprise some Tottenham fans from overseas. That team is West Ham United.
What makes West Ham United such an enticing opponent worthy of charging top dollar? They are also from London, but so are Queens Park Rangers (Category B) and Crystal Palace (Category C), so that does not really explain the draw. Seemingly unbeknownst to most supporters that do not grow up in the London area, Tottenham vs. West Ham is a very heated London derby that has intensified in recent years (especially from West Ham’s perspective) because West Ham rarely play their traditional rival, Millwall.
This rivalry has received notable media attention both on and off the pitch in the last three seasons. On the pitch, two seasons ago, Tottenham scored a winner deep into stoppage time at Upton Park through Gareth Bale to win 3-2.
Last season West Ham defeated Tottenham three times in all competitions, including a 3-0 victory at White Hart Lane that started the demise of Tottenham manager Andre Villas Boas.
The first match this year between the sides at Upton Park was also won with a late, late winner by Eric Dier on his debut for Tottenham.
However, this fixture has also come under close scrutiny for alleged racist chanting by supporters.
In November, 2012, West Ham chanted about a Spurs supporter who was stabbed while watching Tottenham play in Rome in addition to chants mocking the mass genocide of Jews in World War II.
In the days leading up to the match between the two sides last week at White Hart Lane, media headlines in the UK were dominated by an incident of racism involving another London club, Chelsea, whose fans were filmed preventing a black man from entering a train in Paris.
Despite being a Tottenham supporter, I made a trip to Upton Park with my older brother earlier this season to see West Ham play Newcastle and I came away with the sense that West Ham have the most passionate fans out of all the London Premier Clubs and as a result have the best atmosphere at their home matches. The experience of seeing 35,000 sing “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” as the teams walk out onto the pitch is bone chilling. West Ham, in comparison to the bigger London clubs (Arsenal, Chelsea, Tottenham), have a fanbase that is from more modest means, primarily composed of blue collar workers from London’s East End, which is one of the most economically deprived areas in all of the United Kingdom. As a result, this leads to very passionate support but does introduce some lunatic fringes. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, one of the most feared hooligan firm was West Ham’s Inter City Firm, abbreviated ICF. West Ham’s derby with Millwall is considered by many to be the fiercest in all of England and when the two teams met in 2009 a Millwall supporter was stabbed.