Step back in time for a magical tour of the Irons’ forgotten past

My lifelong passion of photography has led to a new book I hope fans will love

Born and brought up in Wanstead, it was inevitable that, as football fanatic, within a year or two of taking up photography, I would turn my camera towards my local football clubs Leyton Orient and West Ham United.

I saw my fi rst ever professional match in April 1964 as a West Ham side featuring Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, played Bolton Wanderers. The Hammers lost preparing me well for the coming years watching them and the O’s.

I spent the next few years either playing or watching football, or staring out of a classroom window dreaming of doing one or the other, though the only time I bunked off school was to attend the FA Cup replay versus Hereford United

in February 1972. The game was played on a Monday afternoon during the power strike which meant matches could not be played under floodlights, so I set off with some mates as soon as it was lunch break.

Unfortunately we got locked out long before kick-off, so I alone decided to head back to school. I might have missed the match but I got my moment of glory as the teacher had me up in front of class to say she was surprised I was in there, as she thought I was the one pupil who she was sure would dodge school to go to the match.

My earliest memories were of watching games from the area of terracing that was at right angles to and overlooking the North Bank.

The terrace was mainly inhabited by kids and afforded a much better view of the rest of the North Bank than it did of the pitch. In fact with the view from one end of that small terrace obstructed by vertical bars and being at the same level as others looking towards the far end of the pitch only the nearer goalmouth could be seen.

The decision of where to stand being made by my elder brother, who liked that terrace, meant that my earliest memories are of the frustration of a severely impeded view.

A year or two on, I would stand on either the North Bank or the South Bank, the former with its steep steps affording a much better view, and I remember the fantastic atmosphere and the peanut sellers squeezing themselves through the packed crowds. Another fond memory was of arriving early and seeing ‘Monty’, named after Field Marshal Montgomery, in full military attire square-bashing along the terrace with his dog and saluting when turning.

The floodlit matches in particular stand out in my memory. I was at the Eintracht Frankfurt Cup Winners Cup semi-final and within touching distance of Gordon Banks when he saved from Geoff Hurst in a League Cup semi-final in front of a heaving North Bank. In both games the electric atmosphere was beyond any other games I remember at the ground.

My book covers the years 1988 to 1990 at Upton Park, when all but the Chicken Run were substantially unchanged since when I first attended games, the characterful wooden stepped structure on which I only remember watching one game, a local district schoolboys match, being demolished and replaced in the late 60s.

My book captures Upton Park and the club shortly before everything would change for ever, as in the coming years the terraced North and South banks and the distinctive main West Stand were replaced with new all-seater stands.

Gone were terraced stands where the supporters were within touching distance of the pitch and Upton Park itself too, as the club moved to the Olympic Stadium taking the fans yet further away from the action. Though I photographed the club to make a historical record, I obviously had no idea of those changes and that a disaster at Hillsborough would lead to abolition of standing at stadiums.

Having stood at all but a minority of the hundreds and hundreds of football matches I had attended it’s something that saddens me still, though I appreciate a disaster could have happened anywhere, including Upton Park.

The most obvious area of potential danger at West Ham being the steps when exiting the North Bank, where as a youngster I would be carried along in the throng with my feet rarely touching the ground, loving every moment. I photographed the stadium both empty and on match days to capture the character of Upton Park, inside and outside, and the passion surrounding the club through photographing the fans, as well as going behind the scenes, including the team training at Chadwell Heath.

Publishing the book brings back lots of memories not only from the period of the photographs, but from my youth watching games at one of the most characterful grounds in the country, alongside one of the most raucous and passionate groups of supporters. The book is A4 size 124 pages, black and white, perfect bound and costs £15.99, plus £4 p&p, from www. timrederphotography. com

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