It heralds rain in comedies, gory death in horrors, and a retort about tempting fate in other all other films. But in football, or at least in East Ham, the phrase ‘things can’t get any worse’ is merely a challenge to be overcome.
Not discontent with relegation, gambling distractions, damaging cliques, awol players, poor form, and FA charges over dodgy transfers, a small but significant minority of Hammers wanted worse.
And so they filmed Nazi style chants as their side suffered an incredible 4-3 defeat to Spurs, and stuck the footage on the internet. Police pulled the film and launched a public order investigation in double quick time.
English readers may be more shocked than foreign ones, believing with good cause that our game is free from such racism. It is after all years since the National Front recruited members on match days.
West Hams fans will be disgusted too. They don’t want their club spoiled by such filth. They live in streets once bombed by the Luftwaffe. But after the ‘shoe shoe shoe bomber’ chants towards Egyptian and Spurs striker Mido last season, we could forgive Tottenham fans for judging West Ham harshly.
The club meanwhile stress that they work hard to tackle racism. Indeed their claim to be a leading campaigner to ‘kick racism out’ is not just rhetoric. This was a club that fought a very real battle in years gone by to eradicate far right influence on their fans.
It is hard to imagine chairman Eggert Magnusson, or Terry Brown before him, taking the Ken Bates line on this matter. The aggressive Bates, while chairman of Chelsea, defended his club’s anti-Semitic chanting and blamed the North London club for their historic solidarity with Jewish fans.
Magnusson won’t say a word. His club will investigate. Video footage will be viewed. Bans will be dished out. That may go unreported, but that is what football does now.
But for now the incident will make headlines. The FA will condemn it. The police will take action. And West Ham will hold their collective head even lower for a while. Still, at least things can’t get any worse.