Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Dagnam 'till I die!

There’s something in the Essex psyche that embraces the imperfection of life. Why else would a fan at Dagenham and Redbridge, bottom of league one, be banging a huge drum as if it’s the Noucamp or the San Siro?

Dagenham might only get crowds of around 2,000 (or 4000 when it was 99p admission earlier this season) but it’s friendly, stewards stop to chat, and the fans at the side in the North Stand create an atmosphere that would shame the Arsenal Library.

What’s striking compared to a Premiership game is that the crowd is much younger — the drummer looks about 19 — and there’s more laughter and camaraderie.

The match against Yeovil begins with rhythmic drumbeat of tribal Essex Man, including a fat bloke in Dagenham shorts and a Vincelot replica shirt and another youth with gold and black bling headphones.

The chants are either a staccato “DAGNAM!” or an elongated “Dagg-er-nam! Dagg-er-nam! Dagg-er-nam!”

“Come on the ”Nam!’ shouts one fan, evoking an unlikely image of grizzled war veterans on the Heathway.

Yeovil’s Williams slices a one-on-one dismally wide and is greeted with chortling mirth and a double chant of: “You’re not very good! You’re not very good! You’re not very good! IN FACT YOU’RE SHIT! And you know you are… You’re shit and you know you are…”

Only veteran keeper Tony Roberts keeps the Daggers in the game. Against the run of play, the home side score through Vincelot.

“ZIGGER DAGGER ZIGGER DAGGER OI! OI! OI!” chants a bearded man with gutteral gusto, in a variation of the old 1970s chant.

Only Yeovil equalise almost immediately through the tricky Oli Johnson, who's on loan from Norwich.

A cry of “Sort it out!” comes from the terraces — Essex vernacular for retrieving the situation by any means necessary.

There’s a big cheer from the Dagenham fans when the half-time score reads "WBA 3 West Ham 0". As Richard Keys/Alan Partridge knows, relative success breeds envy.

There’s more enjoyment when a Yeovil striker heads hopelessly wide of an empty goal. “How wide d’you want the goal?” is the chant.

Then things go mental as Jonny Nurse turns his man to fire into the bottom corner. He runs to the side of the ground and embraces the Dagenham fans, earning a yellow card.

The crowd senses a home win and there’s a sense of delirium. The appearance of sub Bas Savage sparks a quirky chorus of:

“There’s only one Bas Savage!
He used to be shite but now he’s all right!
Walking in a Savage wonderland!”

Yeovil go close and the fans sing, to the tune of Go West, “Hands up if you thought they’d scored”

The Daggers’ Femi Ilesanmi earns a Vieira-style chant of “He lives in Becontree!”

BOOM BOOM BOOM! The drum beats on. “DAGNAM!“

The tension is too much for the fans: “Let’s pretend we’ve got Tourettes!” comes a chant followed by a torrent of industrial language.

And then a rousing chorus of “DAGNAM TILL I DIE! I’M DAGNAM TILL I DIE!”

Rarely can good old Dagenham have evoked such cries of undying devotion. The evening sun casts an effulgent light on the Victoria Road pitch. It's all rather enjoyable. The Big Society is right here on these terraces. And it's chanting, "Who the f**k are Barnet?"

The whistle blows and the fans surge towards the Bury Road end, banging their drum and stopping to turn to the sparse gathering of Yeovil fans and sing to the tune of I Wanna Go Home, with yet more self-deprecating humour:

“We’ve won at home! We’ve won at home! How shit must you be? We’ve won at home!”


  1. Are you absolutely sure the chant was "shy" and not, well, you know....

    Last (in fact only) time I went there the PA announcer taunted West Ham, who were in the middle of an especially poor run, but there were a number of blokes wearing claret and blue shirts in the crowd, so maybe it's a love-hate realtionship.

  2. Yes, just thought it could be shite... although maybe he is a very sensitive footballer!