So this is it then. The night we have all been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure is almost upon us.
It’s finally hit me that this is the month I’ll watch West Ham United play their last ever game at the Boleyn Ground. I don’t know how I’m going to hold it together when I co-host the final game at the Boleyn against Manchester United with Ben Shephard – it’s going to be super emotional.
I’ve been going to Upton Park since I was seven or eight years old. I was too young to remember the specific game when I first made the pilgrimage to E13 but I can vividly remember the 1985/86 season. The match that really excited me was when we beat Newcastle 8-1 and Alvin Martin scored a hat-trick against three different goalkeepers including Peter Beardsley
I remember paying £1 to get in and standing in the North Bank and I was stunned and ecstatic to see us score so many goals. We were buzzing on the journey home! I’ve still got the following day’s newspaper. In my mind’s eye I can see Alan Devonshire on the wing, mullet blowing in the breeze, Ray Stewart, Georgie Parris, Billy Bonds, Phil Parkes, TC! I’ll never forget running onto the pitch that season – with other supporters of course – to tell Frank McAvennie how much I loved him.
Memories that will never leave me. I was at Upton Park when we had to beat Cambridge by two goals to be promoted to the Premier League for the first time. Clive Allen scored the second goal in the dying moments, and everyone was going mental, celebrating like mad and running onto the pitch. The atmosphere that day typified what the Boleyn Ground was like at that time – that was another great season. It was also the final season I stood on the South Bank.
I’ve been reminded of all these memories in recent weeks as I’ve been filming a Farewell Boleyn piece for Soccer Saturday. It has given me the chance to interview lots of different people about their own experiences and their fondest memories and has been a great way for me to say goodbye to it all. There is so much good stuff to get in and I want it to be perfect.
I’ve got 30 years of memories. I know I will be able to make more memories at the new place but saying goodbye is going to be tough. Paolo Di Canio’s goal against Wimbledon is the best goal I’ve seen live at the ground. I was in the Chicken Run, and I can still see the ball being floated over and then him smashing it in like it was yesterday.
This season, my favourite Boleyn memory was when we beat Liverpool in the FA Cup, and that last minute goal from Angelo Ogbonna. It’s all these moments that makes being a West Ham fan so exhilarating and unbelievable at times. We don’t have many triumphant moments but when we do, we really go all out to appreciate them.
It’s scary to think it’s getting so close to the final game now. It makes you realise how important a place can be to you. We’ve grown up there, we’ve been there all our lives. It’s going to be a huge wrench. I’ve had the worst days of my life there, and some of my best days. I’ve been there with my family and I’ve been there with friends. The thought of knowing I won’t be going again is difficult to take.
I’m all for the move but I am realistic enough to know how poignant that moment is going to be. I’m so emotional already – goodness knows what I will be like against Manchester United. But all my family will be there and it’s going to be the perfect way for me to say goodbye.