On Cup Final Day 2019, I sent an email to David Cross to discuss a new project that would become my animated documentary, Everybody's Second Team...
Dear Mr Cross,
Firstly, Happy Cup Final day.
If I was to tell you that you featured on my first ever football sticker, which I stuck to my felt tip pen box, then that may go some way to explain why I’m reaching out to you today.
Not too long before I peeled that sticker from the backing, my dad took me to my first West Ham game. It was the last game of the 1978 season, against (soon to be) European Champions, Liverpool.
You know the rest. You know what happened. But for me it was the start of something new. Something I couldn’t quite understand. Why had I fallen head over heals for a club that had baptised me with disappointment?
My dad used to work Saturday’s, so we didn’t return to Upton Park for a while. I feel like I missed out on so many episodes and stories.
This isn’t about me though, it’s about the heroes I would get glimpses of, on the occasional Sunday lunchtimes on The Big Match.
These days, people can’t wait to jump to the sunny cup final day in 1975 to the sunny cup final day in 1980. Of course I understand that, but there was so much that happened between that Liverpool match in 1978 to the open top bus parade in 1980 - that has gone untold.
I want to redress that, and I think, from reports, that you are the man to tell us the stories.
My name is ******, but you may know me better as Canning Town Len. I’ve made portraits and storyboard animations of yourself and Parksey and shared them with you on Twitter.
So now you have made the connection between doodler and felt tip pens, then you may be interested to know that I am slowly becoming experienced at making docu-films like the ones you see on Netflix and BT sport.
I take care of the anecdotal episodes with storyboard animation. It’s very effective, and I enjoy the involvement.
I now want to produce my own, with some people who have helped me with previous projects.
Enough of the telling, I would like to show you my mood clip, as my personal pitch to you for this project.
I’ve been doing my job long enough to know I’m not appealing to the masses - I never have. I’ve already spent 108 hours on an animated musical about West Ham, so I’m not shy of commitment.
I am probably running headlong into a financial loss with this drafted project, and I have no plans for distribution yet.
I also know though, that this is an important period that needs documenting. The people involved should be recognised. Each cup final day that passes makes our achievement that bit richer.
The last second tier team to win the cup - and an anniversary suddenly approaching.
It’s not just about the glorious day though, I want the stories of (what is these days considered) moments in the second division wilderness.
I would personally like you to be the main protagonist of the story. With some other’s putting some meat on the bones. I know you’re the man with the humour and tales.
I know Billy Bonds will politely refuse. That’s ok. But I’m interested in the stories of the players that today’s football world have little time to listen to.
Phil Parkes, Stuart Pearson, Paul Allen, Geoff Pike, Alan Devonshire, Ray Stewart etc - the players who made the journey. I don’t want these players to fade away without recognition. I know the club will flirt with you all to sell some merchandise this year, but this is something forever, for the fans.
If you can help tell this story, please let me know, as I would love to put some plans together to take the first step. I’ve already made characters of yourself and Phil to tell the tale. All I need is a couple of hours of your time, so we can film your stories. If you can help us find some of your team mates to do the same, then we’re golden.
I promise you, it will be the best West Ham film ever made.
Yours in anticipation,
I got far more than a couple of hours. I got the chance to really get to know my first ever Footballing Hero, and I will be forever grateful for that.
The demo film of David Cross' perspective, I named 'A Mancunian Footballer in London' can be seen in the link below. This was the precursor to Everybody's Second Team. It may give you an idea of how it all came together.