There have been so many great games in the last 58 years and I’ve covered many of them throughout my book, Goodbye Upton Park, Hello Stratford. So many of them are remembered because of the importance of the game, the goals scored, and the spine-tingling atmosphere generated by our fans. Hopefully my memories of these great games will evoke fond memories of fans, (especially older ones like me!), and the music in the charts at the time.
No series on favourite matches could exclude this one. The final game at the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park was a memorable one for so many reasons. I’ll gloss over the shenanigans that delayed the kick off, and instead write about the marvellous entertainment served up by the players on this emotional night. We dominated the first half and came out of the blocks faster than in many games in the final season. Sakho’s well taken goal took a slight deflection in the tenth minute and another was disallowed for the ball going out of play. Both Carroll and Payet should have added first half goals when clean through but fluffed the chances. At the break we should have been three or four up and then the second half could have been a party. Would we come to rue those missed chances? This is West Ham. Of course we would.
Manchester United looked rattled throughout the first half and I couldn’t remember Randolph facing a shot. But half time seemed to have calmed them and two goals from Martial meant that we were behind with around 20 minutes left. How could this be? We had murdered them and yet here we were facing defeat in this final game. Surely they weren’t going to ruin the party? Hadn’t they read the script?
Within ten minutes we were back in front. A header from Antonio levelled the scores and Winston Reid, of all people headed the winner. Both goals were created by crosses from Payet, who else? Every one of us lucky to be there on that special night will remember the game for ever. We were so dominant that we had 20 shots on goal to the visitors 3. It would have been a travesty if we had not won the game. Fifty years before in 1966 we won our last home game at the end of the season, which happened to be against Manchester United, by three goals to two. An amazing co-incidence.
In the aftermath of the game, and much later than expected because of the delayed start, we were treated to additional entertainment in the form of a kind of closing ceremony, hosted by Ben Shephard and Bianca Westwood of Sky Sports who are both also supporters. Apart from the game itself the two additional highlights of the evening for me were the roll call of our players and managers who are no longer with us displayed on the screens as a backdrop to the band playing Abide With Me amid rapturous applause from the fans, and the ending with the lights being turned off on the big screen by the player in the number 6 West Ham shirt.
I have to admit that my musical tastes, despite being quite varied, are buried mainly in the 1960s and 1970s, and as time moves towards the present day, I know less and less about the charts, and my research for 10 May 2016 revealed that I knew none of the songs in the top ten that week. Number one was One Dance, by Drake featuring Wizkid & Kyla, which apparently held the top spot for 15 weeks, making it the second longest to hold the number one spot in chart history (which goes back to the 1950s). Other notable entries in that week’s chart, which younger readers will no doubt recall, include This Is What You Came For by Calvin Harris featuring Rihanna, Cheap Thrills by SIA, I Took A Pill In Ibiza by Mike Posner, and Work From Home by Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla Sign. I’m none the wiser.