Claret and blue jerseys dotted the streets of Raleigh — and packed the confines of London Bridge Pub downtown – on Tuesday afternoon as fans of West Ham United prepared for the club’s much-anticipated friendly against the Carolina Railhawks.
Supporters originating from Tallahassee, Florida, to Denver, Colo., to the team’s home in East London, England, migrated to the event to enjoy beverages and talk to fellow fans before the 8 p.m. match at Cary’s WakeMed Soccer Park. The team’s iconic kit became the most popular apparel along Hargett Street and the dominant color scheme inside the pub, where flags of organized supporters groups from New York, Atlanta and Charlotte adorned the walls.
Billy Jordan of Richmond, Va., became a West Ham fan 10 years ago when his favorite player, Argentinean international Carlos Tevez, signed with the club. Tevez is long gone, but Jordan remains a diehard fan, and will see the so-called “Hammers” play in-person for the first time Tuesday.
Before the match, Jordan found his way to the pub, where he joined well-traveled fans such Robert Underwood of Philadelphia, who grew up as a fan in England and attended a match at the club’s Boleyn Grounds stadium in April. Underwood traveled down the East Coast this week to bring his stepson to see the team.
Fans inside the pub said they were enjoying the rare company of other West Ham fans and expected to join even larger crowds at the sold-out game itself, which many said they had had circled on their calendar for weeks – and, for some, had traveled great distances to see.