A Century at Upton Park Comes to an End
West Ham said goodbye to The Boleyn Ground, their home of the last 112 years, in the best way that they could, with an exciting victory over Manchester United and an after party that kept the ground full long after the final whistle had been blown.
The see-saw match had West Ham taking an early lead then falling behind, only to snatch back the victory in front of an ecstatic full house and apparently thousands more just waiting outside the gates.
This final fixture at Upton Park had been sold out well in advance, with fans taking part in a ballot to secure the prized seats for the last hurrah at the old stomping ground.
Typically for West Ham, they provided a match to suit the occasion. Manchester United needed a win for a chance to leapfrog their local rivals, City, for fourth place in the Premier League and the final Champions League spot.
There remains an outside chance of West Ham doing the same. But mainly, for the Hammers, this was about capping off one of their best seasons in the Premiership and more than a century of memories at their beloved home ground.
Diafra Sakho opened the scoring after 10 minutes, scooping in a cross from Manuel Lanzini, which took a deflection off of Daley Blind and beat De Gea into his right corner of the goal.
West Ham dominated for long sections of play and should have ended the first half with more than their one goal lead. But Man Utd had their moments too. Rooney was having one of his better games in the midfield and young guns, Martial and Rashford, always looked dangerous.
United equalised through Martial and took the lead with his second in the 72nd minute.
But West Ham were not going to let the Mancs spoil their party. Payet verified why he is likely to become as big a West Ham name as any of the ex-players paraded out after the game and Captain Noble demonstrated his undying commitment to the club and why the Hammer’s faithful adore him so much.
Michail Antonio equalised and Winston Reid put West Ham in front again. The roar, which was constant throughout the game, could now undoubtedly be heard at their new Olympic stadium and probably all over London. 3-2 to the Irons.
The final score and method of getting there, was the truly fitting result that the old ground deserved.
The Farewell Party – Who Was There and Who Was Missing.
Once the game was over and the players completed a lap of honour, a huge West Ham logo was rolled out onto the ground and preparations for the post match party commenced. The preparations took a little longer than was comfortable, before things got under way, but not a sole left the ground
Things kicked off with a pyrotechnic display and historic club highlights displayed on the big screens, including the highlights from tonight’s game.
An MC appeared on the ground and made some introductions and another appeared in the stands to conduct some awkward interviews with recently departed Hammers heroes, Carlton Cole, Anton Ferdinand and Marlon Harewood. In short, they all said “The atmosphere, the atmosphere, the fans, the fans, the fans”
Back in the centre of the field the MC introduced Hammers of the year dating back to the 1960’s, who were all paraded around the ground in London cabs.
Now, it was far from open top vehicle weather, it was intermittently pouring with rain throughout the closing party, but I doubt that many at the ground could see who was in those cabs, it was hard enough to see from the TV cameras peering into them.
Each of the former stars was introduced onto the main presentation area in the middle of the ground and this is where some notable absentees started to become apparent.
Video presentations of some of the clubs very biggest stars followed, Trevor Brooking, Billy Bonds and of course the late great Bobby Moore.
Brooking, who still remains an ambassador for West Ham, seemed to try to play down the nostalgia that was appropriate for the occasion and instead emphasised the positives of moving to the much larger Olympic stadium with its, almost 50%, increase in capacity.
What was truly shocking was that Billy Bonds never put in an appearance. Bonds played for West Ham man and boy, 21 years in all, playing his last game when he was almost 42 years old. He then went on to manage the club for four years. No explanation was offered for his absence.
Martin Peters was rolled out with the Hammers of the year, but not given his due deference, I felt. Sadly Peters now suffers from dementia and probably wasn’t up for an interview, but I believe that he deserved more emphasis on his glory days at Upton Park.
The other star of the 1966 World Cup, Geoff Hurst, was not even mentioned, unless I missed it and if he was, his contribution was massively underplayed.
Other names that were notable by their absence were Frank Lampard (junior and senior), Joe Cole, Julian Dicks and Harry Redknapp. I know Harry was sacked by West Ham for under hand dealings, but like Billy Bonds he served the club as a long term player and manager.
The party closed out with an underwhelming performance of I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, by the Cockney Rejects, which I thought was a low note, well several low notes.
Obviously the party was meant for the West Ham faithful and not the casual observer like me and it probably pleased most of them. But as an outsider, with extensive knowledge of the East London club, I thought that it could have been much better.