Moore Than Just A Club

Throwback Thursday: 1981: A London Derby to Never Forget at Upton Park

In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from John, 44, a lifelong Hammers fan and Season Ticket holder about a very special first ever visit to the famous Boleyn Ground.

“A Plaistow lad born and bred and starting out in life in the 1970s, it was a fascinating time for a West Ham family.

Dad, uncles, cousins and distant family relatives all sported the famous Claret & Blue on Matchdays.

One match that sticks in my mind was predictably my very first experience of Upton Park at the age of eight.

It was Valentines Day 1981, I had just finished writing my homemade valentines card to my girlfriend from school when my Mum poked her head around the corner of my bedroom door and informed me of some exciting news.

She proclaimed excitedly that I would be attending that I would be attending the West Ham vs Chelsea game with the other male members of our family.

I was longing to go to a match, but up until then, I had been protected from the Football violence that was rife in those days.

There was a certain amount of irony in that statement given that the game I was going to was against bitter London rivals Chelsea.

On the day, we had to walk past the Chelsea fans who were queuing to gain entrance to the South Bank.

We were heading around to the famous Chicken Run where our family always congregated.

What an introduction to professional Football it was with fans spilling onto the pitch and fighting before the encounter had even kicked-off and the players were just exiting the tunnel.

It was a very scary experience while the Police tried to restore order, eventually, fans were stewarded back to the stands and we were able to get underway.

Focusing on the football now, I was mesmerised by the whole occasion, the noise with incessant chanting and singing of “Bubbles”, our special anthem.

Our Claret & Blue kit was even more striking in the flesh and contrasted brilliantly with the vibrant green of the playing surface.

The ground was heaving with a near capacity crowd of 35,00 supporters. This fixture was in the Football League Division Two, with Chelsea sitting in third place, but the Hammers were flying high and having a brilliant season in, topping the table.

I started to study our players and was impressed with the imposing figure of our swashbuckling Captain Billy Bonds, the elegance of midfield maestro Trevor Brooking and the mercurial skill of my favourite star, Alan Devonshire.

West Ham were completely dominant from start to finish and it was a joy to witness the demolition of a decent Chelsea side.

With this performance, Division One was beckoning for the next season as goals from David Cross, Devonshire and a Brooking brace secured the three points for our beloved Hammers.

I had to ask my dad why some fans were referring to us as “The Irons” and was fascinated by the answer that we were formed from a Ship Building Company, the Thames Ironworks.