In this week’s edition of our weekly throwback segment, we hear from Jake, 40 and a lifelong Hammers fan and Season Ticket holder about the night that West Ham United tasted European glory in France.
“Growing up in East London as a keen Hammer, European Football was always something that was fairly alien to me but that was all going to change in the fantastic summer of 1999.
Born in 1977, way too late to enjoy such magnificent European Cup Winners’ Cup run as in 1976/1977 where The Hammers were defeated in The Final by Anderlecht or 1965/1966 where we were knocked out in the semi-finals by Borussia Dortmund.
And, who could forget? The magical campaign of 1964/1965, where we took our first UEFA Crown at the first time of asking, overcoming 1860 Munich in front of 100,000 at Wembley.
Unfortunately, as soon as I entered the world, baaing The Cup Winners’ Cup of 1980/1981, The Irons’ participation in such Tournaments had majorly dried up.
This was partly thanks to a ban that, as well as being one of my vivid childhood memories, prevented English teams from competing in Europe after the tragic Heysel disaster, ironically the site of our Final defeat in 1977.
Thankfully, some years after the ban was overturned and European Football returned again to Upton Park, but it was a particular away day during that exciting period that makes up one of my most cherished memories.
After finishing fifth under Harry Redknapp in the 1998/1999 FA Premier league season, we Qualified for a Tournament known as The UEFA Intertoto Cup which has since been replaced by the first few Qualifying Rounds of The Europa League, then The UEFA Cup.
If we managed to win The Competition, a place in The First Round the second highest profile European Competition would await and with youngsters such as Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard and Icons such as Paulo Di Canio and the late Marc-Vivien Foe in our ranks, who would have bet against us?
Having received a Bye to the Third Round, three games, to be played in July and August 1999, stood between us and a second European Trophy.
Firstly, we were drawn against Finish outfit Jokerit, who I can remember living up to their name with a depiction of a Clown as their club crest, having slimly overcome them in the first leg, it would take a late Lampard effort in the second to see us progress.
Second up would be slightly more credible opposition in Heerenveen of Holland, who we would dispatch more easily with a one-goal win in each of the legs.
The victories set up a Final over two ties with Ligue 1’s Metz, the first being at home and the second being away, a trip that was not to be missed as well as the Upton Park clash.
Although when the Frenchmen visited east London, things wouldn’t run so smoothly with soon to be Manchester United man Louis Saha giving the away side a slim victory on a humid night in E13.
It was at this point that doubts over our glory started to creep in and the visit to France wasn’t going to be quite as comfortable as we had originally thought.
The second leg was due to be held at Metz’s Stade Saint-Symphorien, an Arena that was invaded by Hammers on the night, as over 1,000, including myself, my brother and three of my mates, what an experience that would turn out to be.
Singing our hearts out for the full 90 minutes, we witnessed a wonderful performance with goals from Scott Sinclair, Lampard, and Paulo Wanchope, seeing our name etched on The Intertoto Cup trophy.
We partied late into the night, despite the fact that we would be knocked out before The Groups of The UEFA Cup, the memories of that glorious European evening will stay with me forever and I sincerely hope that we can replicate such great times in the not so far away future”.