The Boleyn: A Hammer Reminisces

 

And so it approaches, the very last ‘London Derby’ at The Boleyn Ground.  Gooners everywhere know exactly the emotions we Hammers are supposed to be experiencing.  But here’s the thing, a bit like when we sold our family home of 22 years recently, it’s only bricks and mortar – nothing more nothing less.  Well NO actually.  This is nothing like the sale of our 4 bedroom semi nestled in the suburbs of St Albans.  This is my bloody ancestral home they’re getting rid of and I’m going to miss it big time.

I should have been a Gooner, all my family supported them, Dad had been a season ticket holder in the 50’s and 60’s.  Used to take me along in the mid-sixties, lifted me over the turn style gates and sat me on his knee watching the likes of Jim Furnell, Georgie Armstrong, George Eastham, John Radford et al.  But then he stopped going due to Saturday work commitments and my next door neighbour seized the day.

The day in question was Saturday 21st September 1974.  My first visit to Upton Park.  I will never forget queuing for over an hour to buy my seat in the Upper West Stand as it used to be known.  Leicester City were the opponents and walking up the steps from the concourse just felt so different to visiting other grounds.  Various family friends had dragged me to all manor of stadia in the hope of a new recruit- Shite Hart Lane, Underhill, Brisbane Road, Vicarage Road, Stamford Bridge (what a shit hole that used to be!).  But that day at The Boleyn was just meant to be – I knew I was home.  We beat Leicester 6 -2, including a couple from Billy Jennings and 2 from ex-gooner Bobby Gould.  How could I be anything but hooked.

So as we move closer to our last ever game at Upton Park, I thought I would recount three special games at the place I call home.

The 70’s were symptomatic of being a West Ham fan.  Cup Final win in 75, Cup Winners Cup Finalists in 76 and relegation in 78.  But then we began to build a new team as we enjoyed three cracking seasons in the old division 2 and managed to reach another FA Cup final – some of you may remember it (The Cup Final that is, not the new team).  Brooking was now in his prime, Devonshire marauding down the wing, the industry of Geoff Pike, the steel and work rate of Billy Bonds and a hard as nails centre forward in David Cross.

Winning the FA Cup once again meant a run out in Europe and after an eventful 2nd round tie against Real Madrid’s second team, Casillas, played at home in front of just 262 spectators in what was known as the Ghost Match, we progressed to the last eight.  I was at Upton Park that night for the quarter final tie in March vs Dynamo Tiblisi. A night that for me said everything that needed to be said about true Hammers.  We were played off the park.  Tiblisi ran rings around a very good West Ham team.  35,000 packed into ground and when the final whistle blew, all 35,000 stood and applauded the Tblisi players for a good 5 minutes as they took a ‘lap of honour’.  Of course we were gutted, but this, Big Fat Sam, was truly ‘The West Ham Way’.

Obscene I Tell You, Obscene

By the early 90’s we were becoming a true yoyo club and the 91-92 season was one that ended in relegation.  The penultimate game was against Man Utd with the Mancs favourites to pip Leeds United to the First Division Championship.  We were already down.  We beat them courtesy of a Kenny Brown toe poke and Taggart described our effort as obscene, rightly pointing out that a similar work rate would have seen us comfortably mid table.  But that’s who we are – starved of success, denying others had become our reason for being.

And so we arrived at the last game of the 1994-95 season.  We were back in the big time (now known as The Premier League) and Jack Walkers millions had set up a superb end to the season as Blackburn and Man Utd slugged it out for the winners trophy.  We were comfortably mid table, but Ferguson spent the week recounting the 1992 season ending story and warning his players what they were in for.  Public Enemy No.1 Paul Ince was coming back and a season high attendance of 24,700 awaited the clash.

Michael Hughes’s opener mid-way through the first half was greeted with wild celebration.  United needed to score twice to have any chance of taking the prize.  Roared on by 20,000 manical cockneys (I’d forgotten how crowds had dipped in football in the late 80’s early 90’s), the team made the 1992 performance look like a training ground workout.  Ludek Miklosko (he comes from near Moscow) produced one of the finest performances ever seen by a goalkeeper at Upton Park (think Robert Green in our first visit to The Emirates and multiply by two).  He was eventually beaten by a Brian McClair header but wave after wave of subsequent attacks were repelled.

Half the ground had radio’s pressed to their ears listening out for the Blackburn result at Liverpool.  And to cap off a perfect day, Liverpool scored a last minute winner meaning Blackburn still won The Premier League, but we’d gone and stopped The Mancs.

The joyous scenes reminded me of days when we had won promotion.  Ferguson moaned and bitched, Ince cried and we celebrated long into the night.

It’s Happening Again

Which now brings me to the third game and one which all Arsenal fans will likely remember.

7th May 2006.  The day when The Scum were convinced they were going to make the top four at the expense of their best friends at the other end of the Seven Sisters Road.

Once again, we had finished in a respectable mid-table position.  We had a Cup Final to look forward to the following week and Spurs had assumed we would rest a bunch of players and roll over in case of injury before our trip to The Millennium Stadium.

I can safely say I’ve probably never been so excited before a match at Upton Park.  I know Arsenal fans believe they hold the exclusive license for despising Tottenham and their supporters, but believe me, we in the claret and blue area of London run a very close second.

As we were getting ready to go to the game, the news started to filter through that a dodgy pasta was working it’s way through much of the Spurs squad, literally.  Doubts started to be aired as to whether the game would go ahead.  But due to a combination of the games importance and our impending Cup Final, the match was given the go-ahead.

The atmosphere inside the ground was nothing short of surreal.  Grown men’s faces were contorted, saliva foaming from their mouths and abuse was flying in the direction of the blue and white half of London like I can’t remember.  Once again, Upton Park resembled Radio City as trannies were held to ears all over the stadium.  Thierry Henry put The Arse one up vs Wigan.  One Nil to The Arsenal sang 7/8ths of the ground.  Wigan equalised and there was an audiable groan throughout the ground, closely followed by mass celebrations from 3,000 pieces of Scum.  But then Carl Fletcher put us 1 up from 25 yards.  Paul Robinson tried to keep it out, but it’s not easy diving whilst you’re trying to keep your bum cheeks firmly shut.

Somehow Spurs managed to stay in the game, and Defoe drew them level before half time.  More goals followed at The Library and at half time, Spurs were clinging on to 4th place and a very short sojourn into Champions League Qualifying.

The second half continued at a furious pace, with Tottscum players visibly wilting.  At least two threw up on the pitch.  Every Aaron Lennon corner was greeted by a toilet roll being lobbed onto the pitch from the Chicken run.  Arsenal went 4-2 up.  “It’s happening again” sang three quarters of the ground.  Spurs had to match Arsenal’s result.  But West Ham looked the more likely to score.  And then it happened – The 80th minute and Yossi Benayoun hit a pearler from 10 yards.

Now I’ve witnessed some fantastic moments at Upton Park.  Ray Stewart’s 90 minute penalty vs Villa in a Cup Quarter Final, at least 3 Play Off wins, Di Canio’s volley versus Wimbledon, A Clive Allen tap-in securing promotion back to the old division 1.  But I can remember no goal being celebrated at wildly as Yossi’s.

And of course, as we approach the end of our era, it is worth remembering that the result that day made for a far better celebration as Arsenal spent the rest of the afternoon saying goodbye to Highbury.  I am told that at one point that afternoon, the sound of bubbles echoed around the old ground.

Our last ever game at The Boleyn was supposed to be against Swansea City, but due to our Cup run and a delayed Quarter Final replay coming up next week, we now have the delicious prospect of the last ever Cup and League games being against our old mates from Manchester and both evening games.  Somehow I think the supporters have at least one more magical night to look forward to.

And so to Saturday.

We are on a great run, but Bilic is clear that the Cup is our priority.  You boys are doing what you seem to do every year – fall away in February and then come back with a rattle in the final few games.  I’m a little pessimistic about this one, but I’m going to hold out for an entertaining 2-2 draw with both teams reduced to 10 men (Gabriel and Carroll).

See You at The Olympic Stadium!

written by West Ham Bob

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83 Responses to The Boleyn: A Hammer Reminisces

  1. Big Raddy says:

    Thank you Bob.

    A really enjoyable read. Leaving Highbury was a wrench and I expect WHU to find the same difficulties as AFC with their new stadium. Creating an atmosphere and some history is very difficult.

    But money rules

  2. GoonerB says:

    Wonderful post Bob. I haven’t had my nostalgic heartstrings pulled that well since a couple of weeks back when flicking through the movie channels 5 minutes before I was due to turn in and found fever pitch was just starting. Cue GoonerB staying up way beyond his bed time. Just me and my box of Kleenex to see me through the last 10 minutes; Colin Firth has always done that to me 🙂

    Bob, I like this bit :

    I should have been a Gooner, all my family supported them, Dad had been a season ticket holder in the 50’s and 60’s. Used to take me along in the mid-sixties, lifted me over the turn style gates and sat me on his knee watching the likes of Jim Furnell, Georgie Armstrong, George Eastham, John Radford et al. But then he stopped going due to Saturday work commitments and my next door neighbour seized the day.

    Well that and as Raddy points out your penchant for leaving on the 83rd minute to avoid the rush 🙂

    West Ham are one of the proper clubs with great tradition and I hope the Arsenal away fans do their bit to make the final London derby at the Boleyn a good occasion.

    I always felt we owed you for 7th May 2006. We had the ECL final with Barca on the horizon as well and I remember Spurs fans wandering around arrogantly a week in advance in Barcelona tops thinking they had 4th place in the bag and all they had to worry about was supporting Barcelona.

    I was at the final highbury game and remember your goal coincided with Dennis coming on for his final 10 minutes in an Arsenal shirt and the massive cheer going up. I think Dennis thought it was all for him, and I am sure a lot of it was, but I think most of it was because the news was filtering through to Highbury that you had scored. One of my best days that and I remember Thierry kneeling and kissing the hallowed turf after scoring his 3rd from the penalty spot.

    Anyway Bob. We need the 3 points so I can’t wish you well for this one but I am happy to root for you guys in the cup.

  3. RA says:

    Superb stuff, WH Bob. 🙂

  4. BSB says:

    Was at all those games you refer to in your post Bob , great stuff mate , all the best to the Gooners after tomorrow of course , Proper football club .big respect

    BSB

  5. mickydidit89 says:

    Great article Bob, thanks.

    We Gunners still have the old East and West stands to wander past on the way to the new ground. Will anything remain of your old stomping ground, or will it be a round blue memorial disc cemented into some nasty building?

  6. Teddybard says:

    Nice one Bob my dad was Gooner too but I had an Uncle Syd who took me to Upton Park a few times and that was It . Still hooked on WHU 63 years later and looking forward to the game tomorrow although this time no ticket. We’ve seen some great games before but this 2-1 home win will be a great preparation for our cup game.
    Teddy

  7. chas says:

    Cheers, Bob, absolutely superb.
    I particularly liked the ‘obscene’ work rate to welcome back the charming Paul Ince.
    Lasagne day was very very special for us – I never realised how special it was for you Hammers, too. 🙂

    Thanks again, great stuff.

  8. LB says:

    Great read, really enjoyed it.

    Moral of the story — never take your eyes off of your kids until they are nagging you to take them to THOF.

  9. mickydidit89 says:

    Any Hammers still reading:

    Is there any connection between West Ham and either Villa or Burnley ie same shirt?

    Arsenal chose red because of a connection with three ex Notts Forest players who joined Dial Square, who in turn became The Arsenal.

  10. mickydidit89 says:

    Great Yossi vid, Chas.

  11. Big Raddy says:

    That Yossi goal is a thing of beauty

  12. Eddie says:

    the moral better than the story:)

  13. mickydidit89 says:

    Wowee, Spurs home to Utd on Sunday

    With us playing W ‘Ham, it could be getting pretty snug amongst top six

  14. mickydidit89 says:

    Lordy, Lord, we could end the weekend a point behind Spuds with a game in hand

    Eddie
    I’ll do my hair and nails as well if you think that’d help

  15. chas says:

    Asking a mate (who’s a Mackem) up the pub if he had any memories of the Boleyn ground, he said it was early 80s and in a local chippy and asking for cod and chips and the whole chip shop going silent.

    Reminded me of FGG’s post. 🙂

    We then got into a discussion about what everyone called the batter leftovers.
    Scrunchings, scrapings, batter bits, scraps – I said we weren’t offered them in London as they were thrown away.

  16. Goatygav says:

    Great write up Bob. I’m with you on the likely outcome for tomorrow. In fact I might have a little flutter to that effect. However it boils down I hope it’s a, fitting, classic as a last Boleyn ground derby with the Gunners.
    COYI.

  17. Goatygav says:

    GoonerB. “Spurs fans wandering around arrogantly.” You sure? 😉

  18. Eddie says:

    good idea micky, even if I has no effect on the game 🙂

  19. Eddie says:

    it was about 10-12 years ago that Hammers were our bogey team, could not beat them. I am glad we over that one and predict 3:1 to the good guys.

    Next time we play them away we’ll need telescopes to see the pitch

  20. Eddie says:

    goaty – I have just looked up your profile. It says black on white
    “Loves his Family, West Ham, His Mates, Energy Angels and Darts”. Energy Angels???? And family befor West Ham, mate…..

  21. chas says:

  22. Goatygav says:

    Wow! Very old profile Eddie – have to admit to not using WordPress in many a year. Might have to update the Energy Angels bit but won’t be changing the family bit – my wife and boys come first in everyt

  23. Goatygav says:

    “everthing.”

  24. Goatygav says:

    Think at the time I’d read a book about “Energy Angels and Energy Vampires.” Decided that I preferred the former rather than the type of person who, when you speak to them, just seem to ‘Suck the Energy’ out of you – rather those who seem to energise you. Know what I mean?

  25. Big Raddy says:

    Good performance from the reserves. Good to see JW and TR back on the pitch

  26. Big Raddy says:

    Goatygav. Arsenal are for life, wives … not in my case 🙂

  27. fatgingergooner says:

    Tough game tomorrow. Most of the time id take a point, but we need 3 if we are to keep alive any chance we have of winning the title. I reckon there could be quite a few goals. It will be interesting to see if West Ham play on the counter like they did so well at the Emirates.

  28. mickydidit89 says:

    Need help with Reincarnation

    But not with The Who 🙂

  29. Big Raddy says:

    MorningAll,

    I once queued for 36 hours to see the Who at The Lyceum – it must have been the Quadraphenia tour.

  30. Big Raddy says:

    6.49 is a little bit spooky. Wouldn’t want to be trapped in a lift with those fellows

  31. mickydidit89 says:

    36 Hours!!! Not during your busy phase then

  32. chas says:

    I thought Reincarnation might have been BR in three versions of his younger self.

  33. chas says:

    Matchday
    Cmon You Gunners

  34. mickydidit89 says:

    I guess London derby away tickets are hard to get hold of. Right?

    In other words, The Pretendy

  35. mickydidit89 says:

    Hooray
    The “what colour are we wearing” is back 🙂

  36. Big Raddy says:

    Micky. Never had a busy period.

    7.09. Sanchez thinks that new kit is not for him but the FP is very happy with it

  37. mickydidit89 says:

    Hate to shock you with unsettling news Erik, but it’s match day.
    Have you done it, and if so, how early can you stick it up, as I have things to do before early KO 🙂

  38. mickydidit89 says:

    Chas gon salon
    Erik gon full English

    EDDDDDIIIIIEEEEEE

  39. Eddie says:

    Raddy at 9:07 last night 🙂

  40. Big Raddy says:

    PM nto written yet, still on tea but when I get to the coffee stage I should be in the mood to be creative

  41. Eddie says:

    Goaty – that’s because you support WH. Were you the Arsenal fan, wife and kids would be second choice, if that

  42. chas says:

  43. Eddie says:

    aaaaaaah 🙂 🙂

  44. Eddie says:

    I love early kick offs
    I don’t like playing West Ham
    Slavan Billic is not an oil painting, but a bloody good manager

    No idea why it takes Raddy a tea, a coffee and half the morning to write a PM. You’d think he’s done it often enough to fly through the process

  45. LB says:

    Chas

    As someone who would have almost certainly have bought prawn sandwiches from Marks and Spencers to take to that game against West Ham, I don’t get why everyone in the chip shop went quiet when the Mackem asked for cod and chips? What am I missing?

  46. Big Raddy says:

    LB. I thought the same but was embarrassed to ask (not about the prawn sandwich). What is strange about cod and chips?

  47. chas says:

    LB
    Only that the Hammers all recognised his ‘foreign’ accent at once.

  48. Big Raddy says:

    Eddie. Try writing one – it takes time and becomes increasingly difficult to avoid being repetitive.

    I think I have done at least a dozen WHU PM’s.

  49. chas says:

    Sorry, I typed that out when I got in from the pub. It seemed to make sense to me at the time. 🙂

  50. Big Raddy says:

    Aah – now I am embarrassed that I couldn’t figure that out for myself!

  51. chas says:

  52. chas says:

  53. LB says:

    Chas

    I was looking for something deep and meaningful relating to the cod which ranged from wondering if everyone in the chip shop knew how much cod had been over fished to possibility that someone from that far north could still afford such a luxury.

    Doh, of course, the accent.

  54. chas says:

  55. chas says:

    Haha. you were both looking for some significance in the cod and chips. Just poorly written, I think.

  56. Big Raddy says:

    chas. I picked Le Reve.. Bet you a kipper it beats the horse you choose.

  57. Big Raddy says:

    Is that The Hand of God?

  58. chas says:

  59. chas says:

    BR
    I paused it twice
    Triolo Dalene
    and
    you guessed it
    Le Reve.

    There is a horse called Romford Pele and another Goonyella. 🙂

  60. chas says:

    Yep it is Diego having his barnet done..

  61. Big Raddy says:

    so …. is it a bet or don’t you eat kippers?

  62. chas says:

    I’d prefer a flipper

  63. Big Raddy says:

    Not allowed to export them – only for Viking consumption

  64. Big Raddy says:

    Is that Kelsey top left?

  65. LB says:

    Is that the hand of cod?

    Said in a Mackham accent of course……..

  66. LB says:

    I quite like this time on the blog, no snipping, no scapegoating this will all change around 3 of course if we lose; if we win, there will be about 4 comments.

    Still, what interests me today is AW’s team selection, it looks as though he thinks he has found his best eleven.

    In recent posts people have been talking about Elneny and Ramsey vying for the same position, I don’t quite agree with that idea, I think that although Iwobi should rightly start today, Ramsey could just as easily swap with him, which will almost certainly happen as AW has already stated that Rambo will play some part in today’s game.

  67. Big Raddy says:

    There is a New Post

  68. Big Raddy says:

    LB You will like the PM headline

  69. Goatygav says:

    Hahaha Eric. A bit like Roger Nouveu – thinking of giving Newcastle Athletic a try? 😉 http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2014/10/the-10-greatest-soccer-comedy-sketches.html

    Superb game today although we’ve been robbed of 2 points, by the officials, for the 4th game in a row. Despite that a fair result fellas. Thought you might run away with it but we got the goal against the run of play then started to compete with the changes after half time. Might not be any good for either club but a superb game of football.

  70. chas says:

    Goatygav
    I thought Bilic had ditched Allardyce’s tactics. 🙂

  71. Goatygav says:

    Last year’s plan A has become this season’s plan C Chas. At least he’s capable of changing the way we play – both with starting lineups and in-game. Hardly call Super Slaven a dinosaur now can I.

    Have enjoyed the banter fellas. Enjoy the rest of the season – see you at the OS.

  72. Eddie says:

    goaty – press Home button to top left corner, we have moved on mate

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