This season is West Ham’s last at the famous Boleyn Ground before the Hammers head off to pastures new in the Olympic Stadium. We head east to make our first and last trip to Upton Park before London loses another iconic football ground.
The District Line train seems to limp to Upton Park, home of West Ham United. From the moment you emerge from the tube you enter that special football ritual; the bustle through suburban housing, the mingle of burgers and cigarettes on the wind, the gentle flutter of flags from stalls.
It’s a Monday night in mid-September, the seasons are on the turn, the sun has set and – to cite Game of Thrones – winter is coming. The opponents are Newcastle United in their famous black and white stripes.
This experience will soon be lost to visitors to West Ham. A speedy arrival and exit at Stratford will be a welcome change when the club decamps to the Olympic Stadium next season, but that special ritual will be lost.
With both Brentford and Queens Park Rangers muting moves away from their respective grounds, the classic old school football ground experience looks set to disappear from London forever. [Continues]
The history of the Boleyn Ground
Every ground has a special narrative. West Ham’s story at the Boleyn Ground at Upton Park started in 1904 and includes a direct hit from a flying bomb in 1944.
Most famously, West Ham provided the crux of England’s 1966 World Cup winning side: Moore, Peters, Hurst. Wilson – all immortalised in statue form on Barking Road.
While England’s sole international success exists in black and white, West Ham’s continued into the colour era with FA Cup wins in 1975 and 1980.
It is hoped that a move to the Olympic Stadium will propel the Hammers to the next level, but something will need to be done to encourage an atmosphere – even in a tight 35,000-seat ground there was scant singing from either set of fans.
West Ham run out 2-0 winners, chiefly orchestrated by the exciting Frenchman Dimitri Payet. Newcastle huffed and puffed but fans look set for yet more disappointment.
The facilities will be better at the Olympic Stadium, but the experience will be sanitised, so go to the Boleyn while you can. These grounds are a dying breed.
How to get to West Ham United
The Boleyn Ground is a five minute walk east from Upton Park Underground station, which is on the District Line. Allow 40 minutes’ travelling time at least if heading from the centre of London. Heavy queues build up post-match, so we walked 20 minutes to Plaistow station – the next stop west on the District Line and Hammersmith & City Line.