Dublin Hammers - Manchester United - Tuesday 10th May 2016

West Ham 3 vs Manchester United 2 - The Final Game at Upton Park

And so to the last game ever to be held at Upton Park’s Boleyn Ground, a rearranged night game, and against Manchester Utd, it was a momentous fixture! Those of us with season tickets and who had been lucky enough to get a ticket in the ballot gathered on the tuesday lunchtime in the airport bar. I arrived late due to the effect the lashing rain had on the dublin traffic, not a good start, the stress levels were not helped by the fact that I had JT’s season ticket in my pocket. At one stage a little old lady took so long to get on the bus I wanted to go and get her by the scruff of the neck and feck her onto the bus! As I say stressed! Thankfully I made it with 20 minutes to spare, just time for a swift pint with the other lads, but I could have done without it. Flight over was uneventful and we arrived in Stanstead to be greeted by the same crappy weather we had left in Dublin. Once at Stratford we split up, with one group heading to the hotel and the other jumping into a cab to Upton Park.

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By now it was 4pm and the atmosphere was warming up nicely, plenty of people had arrived early. Music being pumped out of a van added to the party feeling. I left the others at the ticket office, hit the shop and then headed to Nathan’s Pie & Mash shop… the queue to get in was the longest I’d ever seen it, sod that, so I jumped onto a bus down to the IBIS hotel at the end of the Barking Road where I was staying. For some reason when I booked I had thought everyone was staying in Barking… wrong, so be it. After checking in I dumped my bag and headed back down the Barking Road.

I stopped off at a pub half way down for a couple of swiftys, even though it was still a good mile from the ground it was busy and got busier as the time went by. Got chatting to some lads who had a spare ticket and tried to get them to part with it as Boston Jerry had travelled over without one. We agreed €150 and he said he would call me later?

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Called into The Central but by that stage they were 10 deep at the bar, so along with many others I headed into Tesco for some cans! Lads were coming out of there laden down. So with can in hand I snaked my way through the crowd to the World Cup Statue. To say the place was busy is an understatement, never seen the like, a sea of people! The atmosphere was great, good natured, everyone joining in the singing and generally celebrating everything West Ham. Traffic was at a standstill, nothing was getting through there!

And then of course Manchester United decided to drive the team coach right through our party? The police had to use horses to try and force an avenue through the crowd, people were pushed, from a joyous celebration the atmosphere turned angry and when the coach finally made its way through a small minority let their anger spill over, I saw… tins of beer, water bottles, a mobile phone, a packet a cigarettes, and last but not least a packet of pringles all hurled at the passing mancs!

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It was 7 o’clock by this stage and I attempted to make my way through the crowd to the ground, it wasn’t easy due to the thousands of people packed into green street, matters were not helped by the old bill parking vans down the middle of the road. Those coming down Green Street were stuck, those going up Green Street were stuck… total gridlock. There were a few angry shouts but thankfully everyone kept there heads, didn’t push and we just stood still.

It was at this moment that the guy I had met in the pub called me about the ticket, “I’m round by the Trevor Brooking stand, the ticket is yours”, but it had gone up £50, I didn’t have enough money, so standing in the middle of that crowd I tried calling Jerry, no reply, then I tried calling the guy back, he didn’t answer? Oh well, I tried.

I inched my way over towards the wall and slowly the crowd there started to move, I made the main gates where there was more room and headed towards where I thought I had to go in, turnstile 23 Betway Stand, I looked around but the numbers finished at 22. “No mate, for 23 you have to go out of the main gate and around to the Bobby Moore stand”. So I asked another steward who informed me I could go through 22… phew! I really did not want to go out into that crowd again.

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So I was in! My seat was way up the back and while making my way I bumped into Dublin Hammer Dessie. I found my seat and sat down with a sigh of relief. On every seat the club had laid out claret (or blue) commemorative tee-shirts, and I heard wrist bands too, but by the time I got to my seat some twat had come along and nicked it, still I love the shirt and along with everyone around me put it on.

Due to the late arrival of Manchester United, not to mention the crowds outside still trying to get in, the kick-off was delayed. I got chatting to the guy next to me… his name was Robbie, he had travelled over from Ireland and he used to be with the Dublin Hammers when they met in the Clarendon Hotel. Small world or what! Have to say it was nice to have someone to talk to and enjoy the evening with, as per Saturday we were all spread around the ground.

The marching band departed and as kick off approached the noise levels grew and as the teams came out emotions ran high and we all belted out bubbles like never before! West Ham started well and took the game to the Mancs, we had a couple of close attempts and then after a neat bit of football Sakho opened the scoring! A perfect start, the ground erupted! We kept at them… Carroll was put clean through… he should have scored… Payet, Noble, both went close but at half-time it was 1-0. Where did that half go? They announced that the bars had run out of beer so were closed… only at West Ham!

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The second half began, talk about a rollercoaster ride, Martial scored and then scored again, it was the turn of the away end to erupt and for the first time you could hear them singing… DeGea gave a clenched fist salute to the BML, which didn’t go down too well. Then “Come on you Irons” grew and it grew to a deafening volume. And come on they did… Payet crossed and Antonio leapt to head past DeGea… the ground erupted again! Then with 10 minutes to go we won a free-kick… Payet whipped it into the area and Winston Ried headed the winning goal. The place fucking exploded dementedly… Robbie and I sang our hearts out, as did everyone around us. In the closing minutes someone ran on and stood in front of DeGea emulating the clenched fist salute he had given the BML earlier, boy did he look pissed off.

The final whistle blew and we celebrated. I have to say in all my 39 years going to Upton Park, I’ve been in some rocking atmospheres, but I’ve never experienced anything like that night! I was up 5 rows from the back of the Betway Stand, I’ve been up there before and usually it’s quiet, standing only occurs when a goal is scored and singing rarely breaks out. Not for this game, we were on our feet for the entire game… singing for the entire game… but it was like that around the whole ground, wherever you looked people were singing and partying, one end singing one song, the other singing another, then everyone would get in sync creating a magical wall of noise… truly something else and never to be forgotten! In fact while sitting here writing about it the emotions are playing havoc! I fucking love West Ham!

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The payers came out to do a well deserved lap of honour, what a season it has been! On the pitch a podium was set up and crossed hammers laid out and before long the lights dimmed and the closing ceremony began with fireworks and a light show, it was like being in a night club! They then played old footage up on the screens, did interviews with past players, have to say the PA was shit and I found it hard to hear what was being said, but I got the gist of it. Then a parade of london taxis ferried more ex-players in, my heart nearly burst to see Trevor Brooking on that pitch again. The Cockney Rejects player their version of bubbles which is imprinted on the brain of anyone around for that 1980 FA Cup win!

The final act came as they projected an imaginary film of Bobby Moore walking down the tunnel and then focussing on his hand as it turned out the lights.

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I sat there for quite a while, as did many others, to say a final farewell before heading out of the ground for the last time. Thankfully the crowds had gone and it was an easy stroll down the Barking Road back to my hotel. Meanwhile, a few miles away in Stratford the other lads were embarking on a serious piss-up which ended at 4.30 in the morning after the night-porter had refused to serve them anymore drink. Josh, who had an early flight back to Germany didn’t even go to bed, he went straight to the airport! I heard all the stories on the coach back to Stanstead the following morning… The Bruce Forsyth sound-alike… some guy doing magic tricks?… it sounded like a good few hours.

So it was a weary band of Dublin Hammers who sat in the airport bar… still drinking it has to be said. The flight was called and before you knew it we were back in Dublin and heading our own ways. Well, if you had written a script for the final game at Upton Park it would have gone like it did, a fitting final game at one of footballs most passionate arenas. What an experience and one that will stay with all of us until our dying day, that’s for sure!

Footnote: The next day the papers were full of the can throwing incident with the coach. Such was the coverage that when I arrived home the first thing my boy said to me was “did you enjoy throwing cans at the Manchester Utd coach?”. A few days after a few more details have emerged, and you have to ask… the police had advised the mancs to arrive at the ground 2 hours before they did, why did they ignore it? Who at Manchester Utd made that decision? and secondly, why did they approach the ground from that direction? Right through the area where Hammers fans had been gathering since lunchtime. The other end of Green Street was relatively open, they could have driven straight down it and into the ground that way? I find it hard to understand that a club of Manchester Utds stature did not look into details like this? You have to wonder if they knew exactly what they were doing by arriving late and driving right through our party. In which case it could be viewed as an act of provocation. No excuses for those that threw stuff last them, but for me they need to be taking 50% of the blame. Did it spoil the occasion? Did it fuck!

Report by Paul Smith

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