When I first started going to watch West Ham, one of the first things I noticed was a tremendous sense of community.
Whether it was those conversing in pubs, people chatting to stall and fanzine sellers or even people standing side-by-side on train platforms, I thought it was brilliant.
Then there was the feeling of being in the stadium. Having slightly recovered from the awe inspired by seeing the pitch for the first time, I took in all of the claret and blue, listened to the general chatter around me and revelled
in the fact so many people were in one place hoping for the exact same thing.
Having immediately felt a part of the West Ham community as I sat in a seat at the Boleyn Ground for the first time, I only became more integrated as my 11 years as a season ticket holder went on.
People said how impressed they were when they saw my name in print, they’d chuckle whenever I lost my head a bit because we were playing terribly, and we’d develop inside jokes.
I’d wind one fan up with the Carlton Cole song, I’d ask the person next to me whether they’d bet on us winning 2-1 (the answer was always yes) and analyse the game when walking past the bloke at the end of the aisle. It was great.
When we left the Boleyn Ground, and I gave up my season ticket due to University commitments, I worried that I would become distanced from the West Ham community I adored so much.
Being a West Ham supporter was such a massive part of how I identified myself and I loved speaking to people who felt similarly. Having gone to at least half of our home games for a couple of years at London Stadium, my attendance dwindled a little bit more due to work.
Not being at the stadium definitely impacts my sense of being part of the community, so when Coronavirus hit and we were constantly stuck at home, I did wonder how I’d find that – especially as I’m not an avid user of social media.
Well, it turns out working on The Boleyn’s Farewell: West Ham United’s Upton Park Swansong was an unexpectedly perfect tonic.
Writing the book involved plenty of late nights staring at my laptop screen and working out how best to fit everything in, which was anything but social, as I purposely placed myself firmly in the past. There was another completely different side to the experience, though.
This started with the announcement of the book itself, as hordes of fellow Hammers came to congratulate me and say how much they were looking forward to seeing it.
I knew how much the Boleyn’s swansong means to the fanbase, so it’s something I half-expected, but not to the extent that occurred.
The sense of community appeared most when it came to the interviews. I spoke to big West Ham names, such as Roberta Moore and Phil Parkes, as well as lesser-known Hammers fans and employees.
No matter who I was speaking to, we were able to laugh about different moments, shared emotions and spoke honestly about that night and our connections with the club.
I joked about so many things, from the toilet in the Bobby Moore Upper that never stopped running, the ‘Mr Moon has now left the stadium announcements’ and someone pulling their hamstring on Sky Sports before our final game (there’s more on that in the book).
It was also enjoyable to have chats with fellow Hammers about this season and how well we’ve been doing.
Then, whenever the interviews were announced on social media, there would be a lot of pride in seeing people talking about getting involved with the book and how pleased they were about it.
Another thing I’ve really enjoyed is seeing interest in the book growing even further as time has gone on. It seems small, but seeing people tag their mates in response to tweets, showing support for any announcements or even following the TBF_book Twitter account has meant a lot to me.
The biggest thrill has been seeing people stating that they’ve pre-ordered the book, putting their trust in my ability to recall that night in a way that does it justice.
There were plenty of things that I knew made the timing perfect to write this book: I’d be able to get it published on the game’s five-year anniversary, I had plenty of time on my hands at the start after being furloughed, and it was exciting to take on the biggest challenge of my career so far at a time where it felt I could easily stagnate as a writer.
This book providing a way of staying in touch with the West Ham community – when I would be most likely to become disconnected – is a massive bonus that hadn’t crossed my mind at the start.
I like to think I’ll keep in touch with many of the people I’ve spoken to because of The Boleyn’s Farewell.
No matter what happens, I’ll always be thankful for the opportunity to write this book, as well as the way it has allowed me to maintain the feeling of being part of the West Ham community.
If you want to pre-order a copy of your own, you can visit www. pitchpublishing.co.uk/shop/boleyns-farewell and pick your favoured platform to buy it from – or email info@newhambooks. co.uk if you’d rather buy from an independent seller.