West Ham United football Club, in an effort to recreate and evoke “resplendent” memories of the distant past, drew on the hunting community to raise spirits before a major play-off last night.
Ken Hand, huntsman of the Essex Farmers and Union Hunt was asked by the club manager, Alan Pardew, if he would lead out the footballers onto the pitch at the beginning of their high-profile match against Ipswich last night.
In the ‘60s and ‘70s, when bands were all the rage, the Leyton Silver Band played at West Ham matches, and it was always the tradition that the club should come out headed by a horn-blower blowing the post-horn gallop. Ken had been keen to blow the ‘gone-away’ call, but settled eventually for doubling the horn as sounding more appropriate on a fully miked-up hunting horn in a football stadium.
“I was in my full hunting kit,” says Ken. “I walked out in front of the football team blowing my horn. The reception was really amazing, and as soon as I walked off the pitch, the manager came over and shook my hand and thanked me. It was absolutely brilliant.
“It did propel the team to win, and footballers are a superstitious lot, so who knows, maybe it will become a regular thing . . .” he added.
A spokesman for West Ham football club was delighted by the rapturous reception Ken received, and admitted that it had been a truly stirring experience:
“I don’t know whether it will continue. It was very well received and we did win, and if we were to get back into the Premier League, then it could definitely become a regular feature. We’ll be giving it some serious consideration,” he said.