On Sunday 18 May 2007, I was not inside Old Trafford to watch Tevez slot past van der Sar and seal a win in Manchester. I was, however, just down the road. My Dad lived in Manchester and I lived in Chester, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to soak up the atmosphere around the stadium.
My Manchester-United-supporting boyfriend was going to the game too, so it was a family day out, just with opposing interests. Upon arriving in the vicinity of Old Trafford, we quickly realised the pubs were either full or wouldn’t let us in. But as it ticked past three o’clock we were desperate to just see the game.
The occasion felt huge. If we could pull off this result, it would be one of the best days of supporting West Ham. We kept walking to find somewhere we could just see the game that had already kicked off. We found a social club from which we could hear football on TV.
It looked very much like it was for local people and fans in red. So we covered our t-shirts (we were luckily quite discreet and just had a logo tee on under a jacket), and ordered from the bar with our least London-y accents. Despite being aware that we shouldn’t draw attention to ourselves, there were a few involuntary arm movements and flinches.
The best part of the day was, of course, the goal. Me and my Dad just looked at each other and said: ‘Oh!’. Keeping the celebrations in our eyes was tough, but funny to look back on now. When we left the club, we got it all out of our system, finally. Even though we had no ticket, what a day to be yards away from the action. It was an amazing feeling.
I walked back towards Old Trafford to meet my boyfriend – trying not to be smug – and proudly opened my jacket to reveal a sparkly ‘West Ham’ logo on my top. What was brilliant was having so many Man United fans stopping to pat me on the shoulder or say ‘well done’. It was one of my most memorable moments of being a Hammers fan.
Watching the League Cup win at Old Trafford last month brought the memories all back, but also reminded me of how far we’ve come as a club. That day in 2007 was a totally different vibe – we were full of nerves but clinging on to the hope of staying up.
Watching the victory in the Cup from the comfort of home – although my Dad managed to get a ticket this time – the result wasn’t as much of a surprise as back then, which is a really satisfying position to be in.