In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we speak to Raymond, 56 and a lifelong Hammers’ Season Ticket Holder as he recounts the painful move from Upton Park to The London Stadium.
“Growing up in the crammed streets that surrounded my spiritual home of The Boleyn Ground was the most amazing experience and of course, I was a Hammer. However, little did I know that the privilege of meandering down the famous Barking Road and into Green Street on a Match Day would one day be ripped from me and forgotten in a whirlwind of “Modern Football”.
The game was far more traditional back in the period of my childhood and early adulthood, it was played by tough Working-Class men, who were putting gritty performances in each week just to put Bread on the table. Top-Flight players had low salaries that would scarcely amount to what a high level Non-League Footballer would earn nowadays. However, this meant that my idols were real people’s heroes, who were honest, humble and brutish, and that is what made Football in the 60’s,70’s and 80’s so brilliant.
I remember cramming into the infamous Chicken Run ever fortnight, filled with that same feeling of hope, excitement and anticipation that greets me every time I step into a Football Ground even to this day. Having to arrive in Green Street four or five hours before kick-off, in the days of no match tickets, to secure my place in my favourite section. Long gone are the days of queuing and paying at a turnstile, having been replaced by the scanned card.
Despite the incredible zeal and atmosphere of a Saturday-afternoon, nights under the lights at Upton Park were the best. The noise just seemed to be amplified in some way under the stars and we were just unstoppable during that period.
I have been present in my spot for some of the most iconic movements in West Ham United history, including our famous Cup Winner’s Cup run and F.A Cup runs, and who could forget the greatest night of all at our former home the final ever one.
I was accompanied to that game by my two Hammers crazy sons, who share my love for tradition Football Stadia like Upton Park. I can honestly say that I had the night of my life in East-London on that occasion, the atmosphere inside and out of the Stadium that night was purely special. The result also did us justice that evening, but it was achieved in true West Ham fashion, keeping the spirits of the Claret & Blue Army high and low for the full 90-minutes.
However, as I look back on the evening of May 10, 2017, a great sadness and emptiness fills me. I think it is fair to say that, The London Stadium has not fulfilled the expectations of many fans, with the poor stewarding, the broken promises and generally awful Football on the pitch. I recently visited the place that held some of my happiest memories, the site is now a blank canvas of doom and gloom, far from the place that we all knew and loved.
Today, it always upsets me to have to pay £9 for Burger, Chips and a bottle of Water in Stratford, rather than my usual Pie N Mash for under a fiver. However, I will always follow my beloved West Ham United wherever we go and although The London Stadium will never be Upton Park, I am confident that we can one day turn it into a fortress and once again boast a home Ground that we can be proud of”.