Our final game before the World Cup at home to Leicester brought back some fond memories for me. You see it was the Foxes who were our opponents for my very first West Ham game.
As a self-proclaimed 12-year-old ‘tomboy’, it had been only a matter of time before my dad finally caved and brought me to a West Ham game with him and my cousin. He’d a season ticket at Upton Park for 40 years, a brilliant seat in row A of the East Stand, right on the halfway line.
Matchday arrived and I donned my claret and blue kit, with Nolan on the back and SBOBET on the front, and we were off to watch us play Leicester in the Championship. I remember a young Kasper Schmeichel playing for the Foxes, and despite conceding three goals, two coming from Sammy Baldock, it was clear to me he was going to be a cracking ‘keeper.
Baldock scored on the 21st minute, with Real Madrid legend Julien Faubert adding a second just a minute later. An Andy King double either side of Baldock’s second wasn’t enough to get anything from the game, and the Hammers were victorious in my first ever game at The Boleyn.
I recently looked back at the starting XI for this match. It featured Rob Green in goal, a back line of Joey O’Brien, Winston Reid, Abdoulaye Faye and George McCartney. My dad would always call the latter ‘The Beatle’. The midfield that day was made up of some West Ham legends in Kevin Nolan and Mark Noble who still to this day are massively involved with West Ham and without both, I doubt we would have returned to the Premier League when we did.
The team was finished off with Jack Collison, Julien Faubert, Sam Baldock and John Carew. And whilst that very first game has a special place in my heart, there are lots of other favourite games that come to mind from the past 10 years.
The away win in Lyon, the home victory against Sevilla and the 3-3 draw against Spurs in which Lanzini did what Lanzini does. However, the thing that all my favourite games have in common is that we had to fight to get anything from the game.
Like in the two games I want to talk about in a bit more depth, we were undoubtedly the underdogs. The first wasn’t even a victory, it was a 3-3 draw at the Boleyn in 2016 with Arsenal – our opponents when Premier League action returns next month.
We were 2-0 down after 35 minutes, thanks to Mesut Ã–zil and Alexis Sanchez and it was not looking good. Arsenal were cutting through our back line like a hot knife through butter. The atmosphere was low in the East Stand, fans were wondering; How many is it going to be?
Then, big Andy Carroll did something that had not been done since Wayne Rooney in 2011 and bagged a hat-trick against the Gunners. Not only that, he got all three goals in the space of seven minutes. Sadly, in the 70th minute Laurent Koscielny drew the game level, and that is how it finished.
I had become accustomed to watching us lose games, heads dropping after conceding, and had very little faith in a comeback. That is why this game is one of my favourites, because it was so unlike West Ham.
That big, beautiful Geordie grabbed the game by the scruff of its neck and dragged us back with three goals. Similarly, and probably my favourite game above all else, is the final game at the Boleyn Ground.
Again, we found ourselves losing and managed to clutch victory in the jaws of defeat. We won 3-2 against Manchester United, with the famous commentary of Winston Reid’s thumping header, ‘he rose so high, nearly reached the sky’.
I still get emotional thinking about that game because it would have been so West Ham to lose the last ever game at our home. However, there was just this feeling that we would not fall to defeat, and with Dimitri Payet in the team, there was always a chance.
David De Gea was cocky, dancing in front of the hammers fans in the first half, and this came back to bite him when his limp wrist could not keep out that third goal. It was the emotion, the great season we were having, knowing it would be the last time inside the stadium and the opposition.
All these factors came together, to create my favourite ever game my beloved Irons have played. The chants of ‘too good for England,’ directed towards Noble, will always stay in my mind.
It was the perfect way to say goodbye to the old girl and will forever be my favourite game. Of course, you don’t become a West Ham United fan to win trophies, to dominate leagues or for the glory.
You become a West Ham United fan because of everything else. Belting out Bubbles as loud as you possibly can, and meeting people, proper East End people, who remind you of your grandparents. The things I remember about these games isn’t the goals, it isn’t even necessarily the wins, but the feeling of coming into a community, a family.