In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from Ben, 17, and a lifelong West Ham United fan and Season Ticket holder about his first experience of the famous Boleyn Ground on a famous Cup night back in the year of 2011.
“I don’t think anyone ever forgets their first live match watching their supported team, do they? Well, I certainly won’t anyway as it was a particularly special night for any Hammer.
I was born and bred in East London like much of my family, but when I was a lot younger, the family decided to move out into the Suffolk countryside, limiting my opportunities to see my Claret & Blue heroes in the fresh.
However, by the time I had matured to the age of ten, the temptation to take me to my first game at Upton Park became too much for my Claret & Blue-blooded Dad and we made plans to journey to East London.
It just so happened that the season we decided to go was one of the worst in recent West Ham history, the ill-fated 2010/2011 campaign when the club were relegated to the Championship.
Wanting me to firstly experience E13 under the lights and secondly, not leave disappointed at the end of it all, my Father had decided to hold out for the FA Cup to take me, a risk that paid off.
I remember so clearly waiting for the Irons to be drawn at home and so we were in round three and round four, although due to work commitments, we were unable to make those fixtures.
And in the end, it would be third draw lucky with a Monday night tie with Championship Burnley, the tickets were booked instantaneously, and nothing could stop us now.
The feeling of excitement was uncanny and made even better for me by the fact that it was half-term, one of my favourite times of the year as a kid, always.
We set off in the early afternoon, many members of my family taking the day off and arrived in Barking Road to park up on a side street around four hours prior to kick-off.
The whole night flashed by me, visiting the club shop and purchasing a jersey before the match and then enjoying traditional ‘Pie ‘N Mash’ meal after, it was a truly magical experience.
Despite all of this, I just couldn’t wait for the footballing action to get started, we were situated in the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand upper tier, a magnificent view where not even a speckle of the drama could be missed.
I had made a point of learning, with the assistance of my Dad, the lyrics of “Bubbles” so that I could sing loud and proud, along with 30,000 others, as the sets of teams made their way on onto the field of play.
The atmosphere, as expected, was electric and I could barely hear myself think, I had never seen or heard anything like it in my entire life before that monumental evening.
Football wise, the Championship Clarets were being managed by Eddie Howe, then a little known up and coming manager and now a major Premier League name.
I followed his career closely, him having been the first opposing manager that I got to see plying his trade and as for the home boss that night, the less said about Avram Grant the better, I’m sure many will agree with me on that one.
Along with the merry ambience, there was a sense of tension in the air, as with most FA cup ties, everyone was dreaming of a Cup run to distract them from the woes of the League.
On 23 minutes, home debutant and legendary German midfielder Thomas Hitzlsperger announced himself in style, making everyone a bit more reassured.
The mesmerising strike occurred down my end and I can picture it now in my mind, the elegant “De Hammer” smashing the ball ruthlessly beyond Lee Grant, almost seven years ago to the day.
The only other strike right in front of me that during the 90 minutes was another now big English Top-Flight name in Jay Rodriguez for the visitors, though it was little more than a consolation.
The other four came art the Bobby Moore end, Carlton Cole grabbing two in trademark style, Kiwi defender Winston Reid getting his first in Claret & Blue, and youngster Freddie Sears putting the cherry on the cake in injury time.
I’m thankful to those four men for delivering me a first night at the Boleyn to remember, given that so many others taste defeat in their first ever outing to watch our beloved East London team.
However, also, for another reason, the performance and the occasion made my Dad realise that he missed going to regular home games too and swiftly surprise us with Season Tickets for the 2011/2012 season later that week, ones that we’ve kept to the day.”