West Ham fan takes readers on a 50-year literary journey

The life of a football fan can be a painful one. Years of expense, toil and travel, and not that much to show for it.

But it can also be the most rewarding, with unrivalled highs and lows.

Now, one of West Ham United’s most dedicated fans has put all of his memories inside his first book.

Graham Martin Johnson took five years to write Any Old Iron after the idea was suggested to him by friends impressed by his encyclopaedic knowledge of the club.

Graham believes the fact it covers 50 years means people of any age will be able to identify with the changing face of the beautiful game.

He said: “It’s true to say that I went through every emotion possible when I was writing this book. The tears and the joy and the frustration and the elation.

“All my family were West Ham fans, they grew up in the East End. My mother came from Canning Town and my great-grandfather used to walk to Upton Park down Barking Road before the First World War.

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“His son did the same.”

His first game as a West Ham was a 7-2 victory over Fulham in 1968, in a game featuring England’s World Cup 1966 winning players Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst, and Bobby Moore.

Among Graham’s high points as a fan was seeing his team beat Ipswich in the 1975 FA Cup semi-final at Stamford Bridge and overcome Eintract Frankfurt in the semi-final of the 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup.

Graham has managed to meet most of his heroes - the foreword to the book is written by former striker Tony Cottee.

He added: “I think my biggest low point as a fan was my first ever relegation, when we lost at home to Liverpool in 1978.

“They beat us 2-0 with the goals coming from David Fairclough.

“The worst ever season I had was the one after the FA Cup final, with the signings of Tevez and Mascherano.”

Graham, who now lives in Blackheath, does not want his book to be seen as one for only West Ham fans, and believes it also depicts changes in society.

He gave up his season ticket at Upton Park in 2008, instead choosing to watch his local non-league teams Dartford and Welling United.

“I don’t believe it’s the game that I grew up with,” he went on. “The game and the ways the players act has changed. I think many people would agree with me.”

Any Old Iron is available at the Newham Bookshop and from www.amazon.co.uk.