Sunday 18th January 2015 – West Ham United 3 – 0 Hull City AFC
Premier League @ Boleyn Ground, London
“…You’re nothing special, we lose every week..”
When the gallows humour comes out you know it is getting bad. Another weekend. Another defeat. Another unfortunate injury (or injuries…)
The Sky Cameras dictated that this one was to kick off at 1.30pm on a Sunday; an annoying time, not enough time for much of a pre-game pint, and limited capacity afterwards due to work the next day. I am struggling to remember the last time I visited West Ham at 3pm; memories are relatively short though. My first visit was during that first season in 08-09, a 2-0 defeat infamous not only because Matt Duke stood between the sticks, but because it was Bullard’s debut also. Last season was a mid-week job; West Ham won 2-1 but were booed off the pitch, the residents of E13 seemingly preferring ‘tika taka’ to the famous Allardyce ‘hoof and hope’. It was famous also for McGregor rupturing a kidney (ouch!) and being sent off in the same incident!
City have not won here in 5 visits, and it wasn’t lost on the author that their perilous perch at the wrong end of the table, coupled with West Ham’s impending move to the Olympic Stadium in 2016, meant that this could be the last visit to the famous Boleyn Ground.
West Ham are in a bit of a rum old area. Boleyn Ground, or Upton Park as it was known in the PL sticker book days, is about 15 minutes on the District Line from Central London out East. Past experience dictated that a pre-match pint was best avoided near the ground, away fans in the vicinity is not something the ICA wannabees are particularly welcoming about, so we headed to Bethnal Green, one stop away from Mile End on the Central Line, from there a short ride to the ground.
There are plenty of places to sup and munch in Bethnal Green, but our choice that day was the very good Star of Bethnal Green. They had just finished tidying up from the night before when we arrived at 11.30am, and had to unlock the doors especially, we probably looked a bit too keen. Very cool place and full of character – we didn’t have the food, but the beer went down very well, and the staff good fun. ‘Worth a sup…‘? You bet it is. Easy to get to the ground from here, and a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours pre-game.
TfL almost caused us to miss the start of the match, with no District Line train for about 10 minutes – but we made it. It’s a funny old walk from the station to the ground; the strangest sight being the “Don’t kill your wife, let us do it” at the top of a drycleaners….very different!
After five minutes walking you will find yourself in front of the famous West Stand with its turrets. Running late, I didn’t get chance for a gander this time. The away end is found down a side street behind some houses – blink and you’ll miss it.
Once in the concourse is the typical crowded affair you find at the older grounds. Not much by way of food and drink – the usual pies and £4.20 Carlsberg. Away fans are housed in the corner of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand. View is pretty decent. Stewards chilled out – we stood all match – a nice place to watch football. Shame they had to charge £43 for a game that is both on TV and on a Sunday! Then again I did pay it, so who is the dumb one…!!
The rather tacky ‘Blowing Bubbles’ number at the start aside (with real bubbles!), the West Ham fans were always pretty good vocally on previous visits. Not this time, but then our lot were quite quiet too. The time and TV won’t have helped; most people probably nursing hangovers, or worrying about whether they had put the chicken in on the correct setting.
The fans to the left hand side were also noticeable by their silence. I was always impressed by their wit and humour before, and their rendition of ‘Twist and Shout’ – not this time though…..
So to the match….
City started decently, spurning a number of chances. Far from the entertaining side that drew 2-2 at The Circle in September, West Ham seemed to have reverted back to hoof ball. You could almost say that Andy Carroll coming back from injury was bad for them.
But Allardyce must have said something almost spiritual at half time, for it was West Ham who came out and took the initiative. City lost Chester and Bruce to injury at the break, with Maguire and Fig Roll replacing them, but it was a mistake from stalwarts Davies and McGregor that undid us – allowing The Hammers to go a goal ahead.
That perked the home fans up….!
What happened next bordered unreal. Despite having a striker on the bench – Sagbo – Bruce resorted to Sunday League tactics and threw central defender Maguire, formerly of League 1, upfront against seasoned PL defenders. To be fair, if he had scored, he’d have been an instant legend. But he didn’t. He did however make a great clearance from a corner. A City corner.
But this wasn’t Maguire’s fault. If you are an accountant by trade and your boss asks to you to cook a Michellin star quality, then there can be no complaints when you get beans on toast.
West Ham went two up not long after. Then three. Dreadful. Another defeat, and the abyss of Championship football edging closer.
That is perhaps slightly melodramatic; there are a fair few games left, and a couple of wins will see us climb up to mid-table. But the players need to start trying. Fine, we have been very unlucky with injuries, but on current form, if the likes of Davies, Aluko and Huddlestone found themselves lining up against Rotherham next season, they will not have any qualification or reason to demand a transfer back to a PL club.
The first match in a while I have felt properly enraged walking back from the ground. The sight of the queue at Upton Park Station did little to help. Though the pint at Euston Tap did, sort of.
So was that my last visit to Boleyn Ground? I hope not, as that would mean we are back in the Championship next year. It is always sad to see an old ground depart; I hope the shiny Olympic Stadium works for them. I doubt it will have the same character though…..
*** Apologies for lack of photos ***