I’m sure I’m not alone in seeing the trek to Upton Park for the last game of the season a bit of a tradition.
In fact, 2007 was the last time we were away from home on the final day of the Premier League or Championship season, and that was at Old Trafford when we survived by the skin of our teeth beating Man Utd 1-0.
I was not actually at the match that day but me and my Dad watched it in a very dodgy-looking bar around the corner from the ground and resisted the temptation to show our true feelings as Tevez sealed our fate. We made a swift exit, uncovered a few claret and blue motifs on our t-shirts and headed to Old Trafford to soak up some atmosphere. It was great! Man Utd fans were congratulating us as they also celebrated lifting the Premier League trophy.
There’s something special about the last day of the season. For us, a few matches have had nothing much resting on them but even those that did carry the nervous excitement that you’d expect from an important fixture.
There’s always a buzz around Upton Park with fans hoping to see a good performance to round off the season, the sun is normally shining and the post-match lap of honour lets us forget any negatives to applaud our weekly heroes. For the final game of the 09/10 season, my Dad had been bought a membership and a ticket to the Man City match for his birthday, so of course it was only fair that I went too!
I got to experience the Bobby Moore Lower for the first time in a match that saw us draw 1-1 with City and finish 17th. In the weeks running up to the match we weren’t safe from relegation, so it could have been a nail biter, but by the time the day arrived Burnley had filled 18th position. Phew!
Again, the 10/11 season saw nothing rest on the last day of the season at home to Sunderland because we were already looking forward to Championship football the following season. Strangely though, it was one of the more fun final games for the fans. We knew our fate, and it was as if a weight was lifted and we decided to just enjoy the day with the help of inflatables and congas.
I remember saying at the time that it could have been our last Premier League match in that stadium should Olympic Stadium plans go ahead and we struggle to return to the top flight. Thankfully that wasn’t the case. Last year’s final day was a different affair. It was against Championship opposition and there actually was a mathematical possibility that we could gain automatic promotion against Hull at Upton Park.
Again, I was there with my phone and terrible Internet signal below the roof in the Trevor Brooking Lower. If I remember rightly, Southampton were playing already relegated Coventry, and if the Saints lost and we won, we would be promoted. Travelling down to the game from Manchester we spent ages discussing how momentous this could be.
Coventry had nothing to play for, they could relax and let themselves play football without the stresses and strains of having to score for survival. But no, that wasn’t the way it went. After 19 minutes, the news began to filter through the stands that Southampton were 2-0 up. That was that then! We kept our side of the bargain by winning 2-1 but Coventry slumped to a 4-0 defeat. So that leads us to this year’s last day of the season, again at the Boleyn Ground. We face Reading in another tie that doesn’t really mean much to either side.
Reading are long gone and although it would be nice to get a top half finish and end the season on a winning note, we are in the fluffy safety of mid-table. In which case, this should be a nice relaxed fixture. Whilst we’d all like to see solid defensive performances to reflect most of our season, I personally wouldn’t mind a few errors to see a 6-5 thriller. Too much to ask? I thought so.
This will also be the first time either myself or my Dad has sat in the East Stand, so another new and exciting experience. I think things like that are really important now more than ever. We’ve not got long left to enjoy last days of the season at Upton Park, so it’s great to try different seats, different views and meet new people.
As I previously said, the last day is always special and it has become traditional for me, and I can’t be the only one. Each year it provides me with another memory to keep for years to come, even post Upton Park. If I may also give a quick review of this season as I whole, I can sum it up in one word – “success”. As always, I’ve enjoyed every minute and I can’t wait for August. Have a great summer everyone.