Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Waving Goodbye To The Boleyn

There has been, and will be over the coming weeks, a number of articles and blogs written about the last game at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park, and the majority of them will be written by people much more experienced than I, and written in a much more professional style too. But I wanted to get my words down on paper, or at least the internet, as I know when that final whistle blows and the curtain comes down on that historic stadium, a part of me and every other West Ham fan will be gone forever.

Many people will write about their first visit to the stadium, about how they remember exactly who they saw and who they were with. Some will write about the legacy of the club, about the academy and the seemingly endless line of young England internationals that have walked through that tunnel to the pitch. Whilst others will simply bemoan the fact that we as a club are moving to a new stadium and leaving our home of 112 years behind. Me, well I do have plenty of memories of Upton Park, many that will live with me forever, and far too many to fit in one blog, but I wanted to share a couple of things that mean a lot to me.

My first visit to Upton Park wasn’t actually for a match surprisingly enough; I was late in the attendance stakes, no my first trip was with my dad, who drove me to the ground just so I could look at the place from the outside for the first time in person. I had my picture taken outside the East & West stands, and loved every moment of it. I still have those photos, and I’m wearing a dodgy old basketball jersey as the visit was a bit of a surprise as we were originally visiting my Nan who lived down the road, I’ll have to scan one or two so I can share them online.

I do still remember the first game I went to, I had been given a ticket one Christmas for the game a few days later (28th December 1998) and I went on my own (as generally became the norm for me over the years). West Ham at home to Coventry City, I remember it well as I was in the lower part of the Centenary Stand (now the Trevor Brooking stand) and saw Ian Wright and John Hartson score to give us a 2-0 win.

That was the first of many, and the following season I actually had a season ticket which was awesome. That year we went through the whole Manny Omoyinmi issue (cheers Harry), the emergence of Di Canio & his wonder goal (scored in front of the centenary stand where I was at the time) against Wimbledon. I’ve seen incredible victories and heartbreaking losses, shed tears and cheered so loud I got a bit light headed, and sung I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles countless times. I’ve met some superb people thanks to that club, some of which will remain a part of my life for a long time to come, I’ve met an idol (Julian Dicks) and shared in some special moments for people in my life at Upton Park.

I won’t be there for the last game, my final visit was a stadium tour just last week which sent chills down my spine, especially when walking out the tunnel to the pitch. I am glad I had the chance to say goodbye to the place, somewhere that holds countless memories for me and so many others. Some may think this is an overreaction, but any football fan who has seen their club move home will know the feelings West Ham fans have right now.

Thank you Upton Park, thank you Boleyn Ground, thank you West Ham United. It is the end of an era, but the beginning of a new and exciting chapter down the road at Stratford. It’s certainly been emotional, and watching that final game tonight won’t be easy, but I’ll belt out bubbles at home in honour of the Boleyn Ground tonight for sure. Come On You Irons!

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