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knuckle draggers Coleraine football hoods team up with West Ham firm ahead of final with Cliftonville

'These guys were over recently for the Linfield match at Coleraine and there was a lot of trouble after the game despite the large police presence'

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West Ham hooligans

West Ham hooligans

West Ham hooligans

Coked-up Coleraine football thugs are intent on giving a ‘hammering’ to rival Cliftonville fans at the League Cup final showpiece today.

We can reveal the Coleraine Casual Army (CCA) – the infamous hooligan firm that have attached themselves to the club – have formed an alliance with a soccer mob connected to West Ham United.

Sources say the fans have struck up a partnership through far-right politics and are known to use cocaine to give them courage to fight.

Our exclusive picture shows empty-headed hooligans from both teams being photographed at Coleraine train station a few weeks ago when the young West Ham fans crossed the Irish Sea for a match at the Coleraine Showgrounds.

We can reveal members of the ‘Hammers Youth Squad’ turned up to the game against Linfield in which fans fought running battles outside the ground and near the train station.

It’s understood one fan needed more than 20 stitches to a head wound as bottles and stones were thrown and punches exchanged.

And we understand the East End thugs – who left their hooligan firm calling card stickers all over Coleraine when they visited – are due back in town for today’s historic cup final.

Cliftonville take on Coleraine in the final of the Bet McLean League Cup at the national stadium at Windsor Park which will be beamed live around the world on Sky Sports.

The match is the first cup final – and only the second senior soccer match – to be played on a Sunday after decades of opposition based on religious grounds and there are hopes more than 10,000 fans will turn up.

Yet while the vast majority of supporters will be there to enjoy the game, the glamorous showpiece is in danger of being ruined by hooligan firms hellbent on bother.

And it comes on the back of a series of incidents at Irish League games – many involving the CCA.

“Coleraine can’t shake their hooligan mob (the CCA) and they are forming alliances with a number of English soccer gangs,” a source told the Sunday World.

“A few years ago they teamed up with hooligans from Hartlepool United to attack Linfield fans in Belfast before a match and now they have formed a partnership with a bunch of thugs from London.

“These guys were over recently for the Linfield match at Coleraine and there was a lot of trouble after the game despite the large police presence.

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“The West Ham crew apparently loved it and were telling people they can’t get away with causing trouble at games in England anymore because the stadiums are so modern and the police keep the fans apart so successfully.

“They were part of the fighting against the Linfield hooligans who call themselves Blu Unity. In fact they loved it so much they are coming back for the Cliftonville cup final.

“You can guarantee there will copious amounts of booze drank but the hardcore element prefer to take cocaine to psych themselves up for battle.

“The CCA are exclusively loyalist and far right and don’t have much love for Cliftonville fans who are mostly from the nationalist community.”

West Ham have long had a hooligan element that has followed them for years.

During the week 10,000 West Ham supporters were in Seville to see their team play in the Europa League and many were involved in clashes with German supporters who also in town for another match.

Eintracht Frankfurt fans were seen to attack Hammers fans on Wednesday night with sticks and were pelted with bottles in response as police used rubber bullets.

In Northern Ireland, the CCA gang of thugs have caused bother throughout the season, most recently a couple of weeks ago when they attacked Larne supporters’ buses after their league game at The Showgrounds.

It prompted Portadown goalkeeper Jethren Barr to tweet (inset right): “I can excuse poor decisions from referees, but really shocking to have beer bottles thrown at my car and the Portadown bus as I’m leaving Coleraine showgrounds”.

In 2019 the Sunday World published images of Coleraine fans joining forces with Hartlepool thugs at a pub in east Belfast were some fans gave salutes before going to cause trouble outside Windsor Park with supporters of Linfield.

In the same year four Coleraine hooligans were convicted of causing sickening disorder at a match against Larne.

The men, all of who had previous criminal convictions, hurled shocking abuse – some of it racist and sectarian – at Larne players during a televised Irish Cup quarter-final away match in Larne.

A banner was also displayed which made a reference to “refugees” and the thugs chanted the name of former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson.

Ballymena Magistrates Court heard how they singled out Larne goalkeeper Conor Devlin for some of the worst abuse and also shouted that the former Manchester United player was a “dirty Fenian bastard”. In the summer of 2020 Coleraine fans fought street battles with fans of Motherwell before a European tie at The Showgrounds.

Organisers of today’s match will hope such scenes are not repeated.

It’s believed the match today could become the highest attended local club fixture since 10,000 attended the 1988 game between Belfast giants Linfield and Glentoran.

By Wednesday more than 9,000 tickets had been sold for the final – and hopes were high the 10,000 barrier could be breached.

That figure was boosted by organisers setting tickets prices at just £10 for adults and £5 for concessions but it’s still an impressive figure given the match will be live on TV.

The Red Army of Cliftonville have sold almost 6,000 tickets and around 4,000 more are expected from Coleraine.

But while attendances at Irish League and Irish Cup matches have been on the up since the end of lockdown, there has, sadly, been a significant rise in football-related disorder and often not just outside the stadiums.

Last month, after a number of incidents across the country, fans were warned Irish League grounds could be closed to fans as punishment.

The threat was made by an Irish League insider who spoke to the Belfast Telegraph in the aftermath of the Coleraine match which the West Ham hooligans attended. Not only was there trouble outside the ground that day but a number of Linfield fans went onto the pitch and tried to attack Coleraine fans.

Images of them being chased by stewards – along with images from another match where a Ballymena fan was seen to punch a Coleraine player on the pitch – are not exactly the image football chiefs want to project.

In the last couple of months Linfield, Glentoran, Cliftonville and Coleraine have all been charged and fined for breaches of Article 33 of the Irish FA’s Disciplinary Code after a series of unsavoury incidents where fans have also thrown objects onto the pitch.

Coleraine were recently fined £200 for supporter misconduct in December’s Irish Premiership defeat by Glentoran after items were thrown at visiting goalkeeper Aaron McCarey.

Bannsiders chairman Colin McKendry said such behaviour was unacceptable, while in October Cliftonville issued a strong statement condemning chanting “by those who chose to use the game and our club as a flag convenience” that occurred from a small section of their fans at a league game away to Linfield that month.

And Ballymena suspended a number of fans “indefinitely” after they went onto the pitch in a match against Coleraine and it’s alleged punches were thrown at some players.

The first ever Irish League fixture played on a Sunday took place in 2008 when Glentoran played Bangor in a match rearranged after a waterlogged pitch.

Around 30 people stood outside The Oval protesting that day because they felt sporting events should not take place on ‘the Lord’s Day’ – and none has taken place since.

A ruling had been brought in the previous year ending a ban to Sunday football so long as both clubs agreed. However, until now, that match has remained the only senior game to take place on a Sunday.

steven.moore@sundayworld.com

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