Parting is Such Sweet Sorrow.
As I write this post, I’m waiting for West Ham United’s final kick-off at the Boleyn ground at Upton Park, and I’ll admit I’m feeling a little emotional. Growing up in East Ham, the ground had huge presence in my childhood – the buzz of Queen’s Market, the colourful West Ham merchandise stalls with scarfs and pennants in claret and blue; the steady flow of fans streaming into the ground, and the heaving local pubs steadying the nerves of the faithful with a pint or two. I remember well the frustration of my parents on the rare occasions that our car came to a prolonged standstill on Green Street, as a human river of fans flowed around the vehicles all going nowhere fast.
Formed in 1895, the football club was originally called Thames Ironworks FC, made up as it was of employees of the shipyard of the same name. Renamed West Ham United in 1900, the club’s origins are still referenced in the crossed hammers on the badge, and the nickname ‘the Irons’, and the club has been playing at the Boleyn ground since 1904. Most people will associate West Ham with the ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ song, which has associated with the club since the mid 1920s. I think most fans feel sorry to leave Upton Park for the Olympic stadium, but it seems like a necessary step for the club to grow and set its sights on higher ambitions.
At the start of this season, many people had written off West Ham as relegation material after the owners took the risk of swapping manager Sam Allardyce for Slaven Bilic, but apart from a few moments (getting knocked out of the FA cup by Man Utd at home, and last week’s defeat by Swansea) the season has exceeded all expectations, not least in the style of football being played by the team. In fact, it comes only second to West Ham’s best season ever – 85-86, the highs and lows of which are outlined in exciting detail in Boys of ’86 : The Untold Story of West Ham United’s Greatest Season by Tony McDonald and Danny Francis.
As the news is breaking of the bottles thrown at the Manchester United bus, I’m sure I share the disappointment of the majority of fans that it only takes a few idiots to sully the reputation of not only West Ham, but the beautiful game, and I fear that the headlines in the morning will focus on this one negative incident instead of the historic farewell to the beloved Boleyn ground. Still, while it is a night of sad goodbyes, if this season is anything to go by, it looks like West Ham United are on the cusp of a very exciting future. COYI!
Full-time score: West Ham 3 – 2 Man Utd. Get in!