The New and the Old


I went back to the Boleyn Ground for one last time today, to collect my seat – the seat that I’d sat in for every home game since August 2002 (bar a couple of missed matches).

On the way, I stopped off at Stratford to make my first excursion into the Olympic Park. At a moderately brisk walking pace, it took me 15 minutes to get from Stratford station to the stadium. I would think it will take considerably longer to do the return journey on match days, with 60K fans all leaving at the same time. Unfortunately, you can’t get right up to the stadium at the moment, although you can get quite close.

West Ham’s new stadium store is open, so I popped in for a look round. It’s definitely an improvement on the old portakabin of years gone by! The Lyall Gates, moved from the main entrance of the Boleyn Ground, are now installed inside the store, and I have to say they do look good in there.

There were a few items I was tempted by, mostly the retro gear, but managed to restrain myself and kept my credit card firmly in my pocket. All the new stuff now has the new crest design on it, which looks better in “real life” than it does in the on-line images I’ve seen, but I still don’t like the word “London” being used in it.

Upton Park Station - West Ham United Woz 'Ere

Upton Park Station – West Ham United Woz ‘Ere

So then it was off to the Boleyn Ground to collect my seat. That was a straightforward operation (unusual for West Ham!). It was  a bit sad to see the old girl starting to look a bit run-down, with various bits having been removed. Amongst other things, the crests on the West Stand towers have gone. I also saw a double mattress being removed, which made me wonder what the Daves and Karren had been up to, but I guess it must have come from the hotel.

Then off home, going home from Upton Park station – the first time (and now the last time) that I’ve used that station for the homeward journey for many, many years, as I always used to walk to either Plaistow or East Ham after games.

Presentation Box

Presentation Box

Lower West Stand, Seat H124

Lower West Stand, Seat H124

A frivolous purchase, I suppose, I’m not even sure what I’m going to do with it, but hey! I’d paid a few thousand pounds to sit it in for fourteen seasons, so another pony on top doesn’t seem to be too much 🙂 The back is rather faded, but the seat is still a nice shade of claret.

Advertisements

Farewell Boleyn


An emotional final game at the Boleyn Ground. A great win over the Mancs.

Some photos and videos from before and after the game

From the Ridiculous to the Sublime


It’s been a strange start to the season for the mighty ‘ammers. First off, we managed to lose the first game, at home to the Spuds, when we should really have won it. Having been awarded a penalty and seeing a Spurs defender sent off for the offence, Noble then pulled the spot kick wide of the post. We played well in the rest of the game, and it was notable that we were playing a more expansive game and the “hoofs” were much limited compared to recent seasons. Unfortunately we didn’t take advantage of the apparent superiority and also went down to 10 men when Ginge was sent off. Then we got caught by an added-time sucker punch to lose a game we should have won. New boy Kouyate had a fine start, as did Aaron Cresswell.

Next up was Palace away. With Nolan injured, it meant we saw Zarate for the first time in claret & blue, and his opening strike – a volley demonstrating excellent technique – was perhaps the highlight of a fine team performance, although Downing’s goal capped a good move from out of defence. Apart from a nervy few minutes after Palace pulled a goal back, we played well throughout, and Cole’s strike for our third goal saw us out comfortably for the win.

The League Cup tie against Shitfilled United was a strange affair, where once again missed chances cost us the match. After taking the lead through new boy Sakho (making his first start for us), and playing reasonably well, we then conceded a Reid own goal. The game remained deadlocked so it came down to penalties. Yet another of the new boys, Enner Valencia missed our 5th kick, and we were out. The positives were that Valencia & Sakho both had decent games, short of taking a few more opportunities

Now for the ridiculous – Southampton at home. As poor a performance from us as you’d never wish to see. We looked lacklustre (to say the least) all over the park and couldn’t seem to do anything right. We lost 1-3 and deservedly so.

Thanks to Sky, we had a Monday night trip to Hull (don’t bother to worry about the traveling fans, Murdoch!). After the Southampton debacle, some changes were required, but even so, I don’t think many Irons expected the team selection and formation that BFS came up with. Out went Cole and Vaz Te, to be replaced by Sakho and Valencia, both making their first league starts for us. The shape of the team was changed from a 4-5-1 or 4-3-3 depending on your point of view, to a midfield diamond, with Downing as the attacking point. Although we managed to concede the first goal, we played well in the first half, with the new boys up front causing all sorts of problems for the Hull defence. Soon after the break, we pulled ourselves level through a stunning 25 yard strike from Valencia. Then the inevitable happened when former Hammer Mo Diame managed to find the net in his first game for Hull. Fortunately we equalised within a few minutes, with a Sakho shot that went in off a defender. We continued to look the better side and very nearly won it at the death when a Valencia header was cleared off the line.

Now for the sublime – following the encouraging performance at Hull, we faced Diverpool at home. Despite the Scouser’s dodgy start to the season, this was likely to be a tough fixture, particularly given we’d lost all 3 of our home games so far this season. We certainly couldn’t have imagined the sort of start we got. Starting with the same line-up as at Hull, with Song replacing Zarate for his first start for us. From the off, not only were we were right in Liverpool’s faces, chasing down every ball, but our movement and pace up front was causing their defence all sorts of problems. In seven minutes, we found ourselves 2 up through Reid converting a well worked free kick move, and then Sakho lobbing the keeper for the second. We had further opportunities to score again, but it was Liverpool who scored next through Sterling. The second half was always likely to be tougher, and we didn’t impose ourselves on the game as much, particularly after the excellent but tiring Song was replaced and Kouyate was carrying a knock. But we largely defended well, limiting them to a few half chances. Even so, I felt we were always likely to create more opportunities on the break, and so it proved as yet another new boy, Amalfitano nipped home a late third to clinch the win.

We started that game with 5 of our summer signings (Cresswell, Kouyate, Song, Valencia & Sakho), and 2 more came on as subs (Amalfitano & Jenkinson). Song looks class, but is not yet fully match-fit. Hopefully that will come soon, as we will be a much better team with him in it. The strikers, Valencia & Sakho, look to be very useful acquisitions, both pacy and with good movement and Sakho seems to know where the net is, having scored on each of his 3 starts for us. Kouyate has the potential to be a beast of a player for us, with bundles of energy and no little skill. Cresswell has looked useful, but needs to build up experience at this level. His poor throw-in at Hull cost us a goal. Amalfitano and Jenkinson have only had a couple of subs appearances each so far, so can’t really judge what impact they’ll have for us. As well as the 7 who played the last game, we’ve also seen an eighth newby in Zarate. He had a fine game at Palace, but since then has been a bit hit and miss. Assuming the others maintain form and fitness, I can see him being only a bit part player. If we can maintain the level of performance seen in the Hull and Liverpool games, one wonders where club captain Nolan and record signing Andy Carroll will fit in once they’re fit again. It’ll be an interesting dilemma for BFS – I hope he doesn’t bring them straight back in at the expense of in-form players, but I have a horrible feeling that’s what he’ll do.

Overall, Southampton apart, it’s been an encouraging start to the season, but where results mostly haven’t matched the performances. It’s been good to see us play a more attacking style on the deck. Hopefully the results will pick up as the team gels both with the new players and the new style.

Countdown


6 league games

5 good results

4 wins

3 goals conceded

2 goals scored in each win

1 draw

Title-winning form 🙂

 

My first visit to the Boleyn Ground


I  recently managed to obtain a copy of the match programme from my very first visit to the Boleyn Ground, way back in 1966 (the year West Ham won the World Cup 🙂 )Ist Match Programme Cover
Not many pages in it, but there’s some history there. The teams, with some famous names on both sides…Ist Match Programme Team 1

Death of Frank Cearns…Ist Match Programme Frank Cearns RIP 1

Appointment of Rob Jenkins and the early days of Remfry’s Records…Ist Match Programme Rob Jenkins 2

Naughty boys!…Ist Match Programme Terrace Trouble 1

Reviving Memories


Been going through my old football programmes recently. Having amassed nearly 40 seasons of them from getting on for 1000 games, and having stopped buying them every game as I used to (I now get them delivered to my phone), I’ve decided that I need to clear out a lot of them, as part of a de-cluttering of the house.

So I’m slowly working my way through them, making a spreadsheet record of all the games (geek moment!), keeping some that have special memories and getting rid of the rest.

Some of the games bring back some great memories, and others bring back some nasty memories – great victories, cup triumphs, horrible defeats, promotions, relegations, first visits to away grounds, great crowd moments and the occasional riot. It’s funny that all I need to see is the score and scorers from a game, and the memories can come flooding back.

Not from every game, certainly – 1000 games is a lot to remember, and these days I sometimes struggle to remember what happened last week, never mind 35 years ago.  🙂 , but there are many that I can recall at least in part – for example, see the scorers from a game, and remember how a particular goal was scored. And many of these were before the days of every goal being on tv, so these memories are really precious as there’s no chance of ever reliving them on-screen.

Here’s the front cover from a game in October 1982. Not a memorable game itself, but the cover pic is a bit special for me – I’m in it! Top centre of the photo.

Programme with me on Cover

Spuds Get Roasted


Spuds – Out-thought, out-fought and ultimately out-played on the pitch. Out-sung off it.

They simply didn’t have answers to our tactics and work-rate. How many times did they find themselves going sideways about 20 yards or so from our goal trying to either pick a pass or get a shot away, but couldn’t because there were always 2-3 or more players blocking the routes to goal?

Yet this wasn’t just a park-the-bus operation. Once possession had been regained, we moved the ball very well. Sometimes knocking it around at the back, sometimes moving it quickly forward. Always giving them problems going forward, as the movement and positional interchanging of the midfield players caused them problems all game that they never figured out how to counter.

At times our football was a delight, with some moments to savour. Demel’s bit of ball-juggling tight to the touchline in the first half, Diame showed some lovely touches all afternoon, culminating in the control and pass to set Rav away for his goal. Downing showed some good touches too, and what about Noble’s interception and drift away from two players followed by a pass with the outside of his foot that put Vaz Te away for the second? Trevor Brooking himself would have been proud of that – and what finer praise can you give?

In the stands, I’ve never known the home stands at WHL to be so quiet. Even while the score was still 0-0, there was little in the way of noise from the Spuds. While in the away section, we maintained a good volume of support throughout the afternoon. It was almost as if right from the start, both sets of supporters could sense that something unusual was about to unfold in front of them, causing tension in the home ends and an increasing sense of expectation in the away end. The exodus of biblical proportions from the home stands after the third goal was a joy to watch, leaving the travelling Irons to celebrate in what had unexpectedly become the promised land.

Irons celebrating (wtih thanks to the original uploader)…

I’m in there somewhere, but it’s not a close enough shot to pick me out unless you know where you’re looking.

West Ham Fans Fighting For One Of Their Own


There is a popular website for West Ham fans called Knees Up Mother Brown, better known as KUMB, which has very active discussion forums. One of the regular and most popular contributors to the forum is a guy who goes by the moniker “Cockney Hammer”. His daily news round up is avidly read by Hammers fans around the globe. He has also been running two nostalgia threads, posting hundreds of pictures of West Ham related memorabilia, much of which he has collected himself over several decades of supporting the club. Although he doesn’t get to games much these day, he is one of those who have previously “done the miles” over many seasons of following the club up and down the country.

In recent years, his personal life has been troubled by neighbours who don’t do the word “inconsiderate” justice, with loud music being played at all hours of the day and night. It has had as serious effect on his family and health. Despite pleas to the authorities who should be doing something about it, nothing has been done. Finally things came to a head a few days ago, when CH felt that life was not worth living anymore. Fortunately, the damage was not too bad, and he is now back home recovering. It is a sad world when peoples’ lives are made a living hell and the authorities are not willing to listen or act.

Once the members of KUMB found out about the latest events, they rallied round to offer support, both practical and moral. Many have sent letters or emails to both the mayor of Newham and the local MP. The mayor has responded favourably to these communications, so let us hope that something positive finally comes of a sad situation.

At times like this, I’m proud to be counted as part of the West Ham family.

The story can be read in full here…

 

 

Hitting the Ground Running & A True Legend


Back to the Boleyn yesterday for the first game of the season. I didn’t get off to a good start though as an accident (not me!) on the M11 meant that I got to the ground a few minutes after kick-off. It also meant I missed the lifetime achievement award to Billy Bonds before the match, which was frustrating, as I wanted to play my little part in paying tribute to the great man. The term “legend” is bandied about too freely these days, but in sporting terms, then Bonzo certainly would be worthy of that title. You could never, ever accuse him of showing a lack of effort throughout a club record 793 appearances. He was the epitome of “leading by example”. Hard but fair, his tough-tackling reputation often detracted from the fact that he was also a skillful footballer – not in the class of a Brooking or Devonshire for sure, but he had a good touch and could play a pass. You don’t play that many games mostly in the top division, filling roles as right-back, centre-half and midfielder without having more than a bit about you.

Billy Bonds LIfts the FA Cup in 1975 He repeated the feat in 1980.

Billy Bonds LIfts the FA Cup in 1975. He repeated the feat in 1980.

Anyway, back to the present bunch. It was a good solid start to the season yesterday, with an ultimately comfortable win over new-boys Cardiff. Well-taken goals by Cole and Nolan in each half saw us gain a 2-0 win to get us up and running. There were decent performances all over the pitch from our players, with Cole the outstanding one for me. But Stewart Downing’s substitute appearance in for the last 20 minutes nearly stole the show, as he looked threatening every time he got the ball.

In truth, Cardiff had little to offer, and I can’t recall a single on target effort from them. Jussi finger-tipped one effort, but I’m pretty sure that was going over anyway. Even Bellamy looked off the pace and was substituted. On this showing, they are in for a long and difficult season.

While this win was comfortable, we’ll have to step up our game against the better sides to get results. However, I’m looking forward to seeing Carroll’s return and the supply of crosses he’ll get from Downing, as this could be a potent partnership for us. And if Downing is not on form, then there’s Jarvis and Cole to provide the ammunition. With Morrison having had a good pre-season and now on the fringes of the first team, our attacking midfield options are looking strong. However, our strike force is looking thin. Without Carroll, we only have Maiga as a viable alternative and while he did a job yesterday, he is not suited to the lone-striker role. We desperately need to strengthen in this department. The board say we need to sell first – if so, then we need to say goodbye to Vaz Te, Taylor, Diarra and Collison. It would be a shame to move Collison out as he is one of our youth products, but his options are looking limited at the club now – he didn’t even make the bench yesterday.

Finally, it was great to catch up with old friends yesterday.

Not In My Lifetime


2 things in sport I never thought would happen in my lifetime – a Brit winning the TdF and a Brit winning Wimbledon. Now both have happened. What next? West Ham to win the League? 😀