Brian Lynch was always loyal to West Ham

Our generation was brought up to be patriotic, stiff upper lipped and, above all, loyal. The war of course, and melodies like There ll always be an England or with sentiments about Hanging out washing on the Siegfried Line which were designed to mak

Our generation was brought up to be patriotic, stiff upper lipped and, above all, loyal.

The war of course, and melodies like 'There'll always be an England' or with sentiments about 'Hanging out washing on the Siegfried Line' which were designed to make sure we were determined we would never have to learn German, helped all those attributes.

Apart from the mad rush at the end of the cinema programme to get out before the National Anthem was played the whole nation was on a 'we will fight them on the beaches' Churchillian footing.

Then there was loyalty - which, encouraged by the Hotspur, Wizard and Champion comics, saw its first fights in the playground.

Even before we realised that the 'boat race' wasn't just our cockney dad talking about someone's face, we knew it involved some people called Oxford and Cambridge who wore different shades of blue.

Once we'd decided which of them we supported, that was it for life and to this day I have a soft spot for Oxford, though God knows why.

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I mean, most of us raking the streets then had about as much chance of going to any university as we had of flying to the moon, but that never stopped the playground grappling when the subject came up every year.

Fists would fly, boots would thud and naked knees would get grazed in the name of one or the other.

We all had to support the Essex cricket team (from a distance) of course, but football was the other big loyalty provoker.

Back in the days when the only foreign names on the first division team sheets were those preceded by Mc/Mac or surnames like 'O Connor', we all had our favourite teams and our special players who sometimes did not play for our team.

Street soccer between half a dozen ragamuffins always featured names like Arsenal, Charlton or, of course as in my case, West Ham.

There were even occasional punch-ups over who would be what team because even though we were wearing street urchin gear none of us wanted to pretend we were wearing the colours of the rubbish teams you didn't support.

Now this did sometimes cause divided loyalties because sometimes your soccer idol did not play for your favourite team.

In my case that was the legendary Stanley Matthews who, in his heyday only ever played for Stoke and Blackpool - certainly not West Ham.

In any case Blackpool was in the first division and the 'Ammers were second division stalwarts, so the two teams were never even likely to meet.

Well, not until January 3, 1952 when they were drawn against each other in the FA Cup and there was no way I was going to miss that.

I got through the turnstiles onto the 'Chicken Run' early, complete with my claret and blue hat and scarf, waiting for my hero to emerge from the tunnel so I could actually see him in the flesh for the first time.

Suddenly, there he was - the unmistakeable figure of the wizard of dribble, in person and within a yard or so of me.

I shouted and cheered like everyone and, wonder of wonders, he actually looked over at this cockney kid in claret and blue shouting 'good ole Stan' and he grinned.

He grinned at me! My perfect day was complete.

Perfect, because we beat them 2-1. Well, come on - you can only take loyalty so far.