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A club to be proud of: Supporters’ chair hails ‘amazing’ day with West Ham legend

26 Aug | BY Betway | MIN READ TIME |
A club to be proud of: Supporters’ chair hails ‘amazing’ day with West Ham legend

Doreen Hoadley says Sir Trevor Brooking's surprise visit was 'the nicest thing that’s happened' at Hammers Social Club.

Doreen Hoadley holds open the door for a woman who has reached an age in life where such gestures count for more than just good manners.

“Take your time,” says Doreen before unburdening the visitor of her handbag and hoisting it on to her shoulder. “Come on, mate.”

The docile atmosphere at the Hammers Social Club this Tuesday lunchtime, where the weekly over-fifties bingo game is about to begin, is far removed from the frenzied scenes at the same venue two Saturdays before.

A surprise visit from the legendary Sir Trevor Brooking to the West Ham supporters’ club just hours before the first game of the Premier League season at the Boleyn Ground has that effect on those to whom the claret and blue means so much.

Despite helping Betway to organise the event that celebrated the launch of West Ham’s new commemorative home shirt, the identity of the iconic guest remained a secret even from Doreen, who has been chair of the supporters’ club for two years.

“They said they may fetch someone over, so I said: ‘Why not?'” says Doreen, who is also membership secretary and has played an active role in the club since retiring from work 10 years ago.

“These are all supporters and I thought it would be nice if some of them, socially, could sit and have a talk with a player or ex-player.

“But we didn’t know who it would be. I did go in and tell a few that was in early that we had someone coming in, but can we keep it a little bit quiet.

“They said: ‘Who we got?’

“I said: ‘Well, we don’t know yet. It’s a surprise.’

“And it was. Absolutely. It was brilliant.”

When did Doreen, a lifelong Hammers fan, realise it was Sir Trevor?

“About five minutes after he came in the door,” she says, smiling. “They never told me.

“I couldn’t believe it when I seen him. I thought: ‘Oh my God.’

“I went over to him, shook his hand and said: ‘Good afternoon, Trevor.’ We had a little chat and then he went in.”

Doreen is referring to the main area of the social club, named the ‘Chicken Run’ in honour of the iconic terraced area formerly located inside the Boleyn.

The room has claret-painted radiators and skirting boards, while West Ham memorabilia – including a signed Bobby Moore photograph – festoon the light blue and white walls.

The bar that quenches the thirst of Hammers fans on match days is, perhaps not unsurprisingly, closed for today’s bingo, but teas and coffees are being readied behind the nearby food counter that is decorated by luminous, crinkle-cut pieces of paper advertising a range of pre-game treats in scrawled black marker pen.

Chips with cheese or curry is a reasonable £2, while those with an appetite – or perhaps looking to quell their overzealous alcohol consumption in time for kick-off – can plump for the 1/2lb cheeseburger and chips for £5.

Ten days earlier, Sir Trevor’s entrance into this room was greeted with a spontaneous and poignant applause, while the man himself was completely at ease when handing out signed shirts.

“They absolutely loved it in there,” says Doreen. “It was like one of your mates coming in and sitting down and having a chat.

“He went all around the hall, spoke to everyone, gave out shirts and autographed everything.”

Tellingly, it was not just those who were young – and privileged – enough to remember Sir Trevor as a player that were impressed.

“It was everyone,” says Doreen. “I had my grandchildren in here.

“My little grandson’s only nine. He plays football and is a member of West Ham and he just stood looking at him.”

She chuckles. “They was mesmerised by it, really.”

A supporters’ club of all ages, then, but also territories.

“We’ve got Maltese fans,” says Doreen. “We have ‘em coming over from Jersey and we get a lot over from Holland.”

And what is it about the club that makes it so appealing to Hammers supporters?

“It’s got a good atmosphere,” she says. “It’s more like a family place, really.

“They all meet up here from all over the country – different families living in different places – and they come in here first, have a couple of drinks and then go and watch the game.

“And when we win, they all come back singing Bubbles.”

The supporters’ club, which has been a significant part of the East End community for more than 40 years, is naturally going to be affected when West Ham vacate their famous old stadium next year.

“We’re a little bit worried about what’s going to happen,” says Doreen.

“Obviously, the supporters keep the club open for us when they come in on match days, so the members of the community during the week – today it’s bingo – where are they going to go if we have to close?

“We’re going to try and stay open. Hopefully, a few people may still come and meet before they go off to Stratford. But we don’t know traffic-wise. It’s quite sad, really.”

But Doreen is pragmatic about the change.

“It’s progress,” she says. “You’ve got to go with it. And what a lovely stadium – I was over there for the Olympics.

“But it is still sad to see this go.”

Whatever happens in the future, it is fitting that the Hammers Social Club was visited by one of West Ham’s greatest-ever players.

“While I’ve been here, that has been the nicest thing that’s happened,” says Doreen. “It was amazing.”

Doreen played a crucial role in facilitating the event and received a signed shirt from Sir Trevor as a gesture of our gratitude.

But with Hammers-supporting children and grandchildren, what does she plan on doing with the memento?

“I’m keeping it,” she says, laughing. “I’m going to have it put in a frame.”

Considering the words of the bingo-playing visitor who received a helping hand when entering the building – “You look after me, Doreen” – a signed shirt is the least she deserves.

READ: Sir Trevor Brooking Q&A: You will be a West Ham fan through thick and thin

WATCH: A shirt to be proud of: Sir Trevor Brooking surprises Hammers supporters

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