From the District Line to the Lexington Avenue Express: A West Ham fan’s Summer tale from across the pond

As I made my journey to Yankee Stadium in the Bronx last night to watch Real Madrid play AC Milan, I was taken back to my younger days, when I would journey from Basildon to Upton Park. I stepped onto the Lexington Avenue line at Bowling Green took my seat and remembered.

Saturday home games always started with me getting my scarves sorted and placing them on my body and clothes accordingly – I think it was either five or six scarves. Then around 11am, my Dad (a lifelong Arsenal fan) would take me to the station.

I think that my return fare back in 1973 was about £3 and being honest, I’m not sure I paid for my ticket every week, as the ticket checking was rather lax, back in the day! My train pulled in around 11.30am and took 30-45 minutes to reach Barking. I got off at Barking; looked for the District Line and waited – funnily enough both lines are Green.

The number 4 subway train was full as it rolled into Grand Central, an almost equal amount of people got on as got off. All of a sudden there were football jerseys everywhere! Red Bulls, Chelsea, Arsenal, Liverpool, Man City and United jerseys. How very different to when I used to get on the tube at Barking, I saw nothing but claret and blue.

Although the subway car was quiet as we pulled into 161st Street in the Bronx, exiting was very different. Forty eight thousand people milling outside the Cathedral of Baseball, but tonight football was king and the atmosphere outside was electric. The game itself was for the AC Milan and Real Madrid fans, for the rest of us it was about going to a “big” game and having a good time.

The walk from the tube station to the Boleyn Ground always gave me butterflies; I loved the build-up to the game. Waiting for the gates to the North Bank to open and lining up to pay my money — now I cannot remember exactly how much I paid back in 73, but I’m thinking around 2.50, plus .25 for a program. That wait was always an event, as jokes and stories were shared between friends and whoever was in earshot — my vocabulary was definitely
expanded during those waits!

My excitement built as I waited for the gates to open, so I could rush and find my spot on the North Bank! Getting “that” barrier was just so important. Then came the wait. Going to the bathroom was not an option, nor was trying to get a drink or food. I was planted in my spot and would do my best not be moved, whatever the circumstances, and this was always a challenge.

Getting into Yankee Stadium was smooth, easy and there was no rush. Every seat had a good view of the pitch, and that night I had a seat where someone would be serving me food and drink throughout the game. Oh yes there was still tonight’s game.

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