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BY FANS, FOR FANS WWW.BLOWING-BUBBLES.CO.UK MAY 2016 #59

UPTON PARK 1904-2016


WELCOME EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: David Blackmore MANAGING EDITOR: Simon Osborn SOCIAL MEDIA EDITOR: Lucy Woolford CONTRIBUTORS: David Bowden, David Boyle, Marcus Johns, Geoff Hillyer, James Jones, David Meagher, Kiran Moodley, George Parris, Chris Parsons, Stuart Plant, Emily Pulham, Chris Rann, Danny Rust, Bianca Westwood, Brian Williams. CHIEF PHOTOGRAPHER: Nicky Hayes EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES: editor@blowing- bubbles.co.uk ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES: advertising@blowingbubbles.co.uk WHERE YOU CAN READ IT: Blowing Bubbles is available to buy and is available to read on PC, Mac, Tablet or Mobile.

Blowing Bubbles is published by Fanatic Media. Blowing Bubbles is a completely independent publication. The views expressed within Blowing Bubbles are not necessarily those of the publishers. Opinions expressed by companies and individuals appearing within the magazine are not that of Blowing Bubbles or the publisher. The publisher accepts no liability from any action raised in response to any such opinions. Readers are strongly advised that although we take every care to ensure prices and content, etc, are up to date, it is the responsibility to check with the advertiser before purchasing or travelling to view products. No reproduction, either in part or whole of the magazine is allowed unless written consent is obtained from the publisher. The publisher accepts no responsibility for any actions arising from articles or features or advertisements within this magazine. Readers are advised to pay by credit card when ordering goods as these are regulated under the Consumer Act 1974. Debit and charge cards are not. (c) Blowing Bubbles

Tears will flow but memories will stay in our hearts forever S o here we are, the time is near, and we’re gearing up to say the grandest of farewells as the Boleyn faces its final curtain call. However you feel about the move to Stratford, you can’t argue that the stadium has had a good innings, and evolved with the club (to an extent) over the decades. And how pleasing has it been that in such an important season, Manchester United Cup quarter final aside, we’ve done it our way? The West Ham Way. I was sat next to someone at the Watford game

who told me as the game kicked off that this was his final home game of the season. He savoured absolutely every moment, he’d probably never sung Bubbles as loud, and at the end of the game, he looked pretty choked up. How will those lucky enough to have tickets for the United game on May 10 feel come kick off and at the full-time whistle? Who knows, but let’s not have any regrets. Let’s send off this famous old ground in the best way possible. I must admit the brilliant season we’ve had

has, at times, distracted me from the fact this is our final season at Upton Park. Our push for Europe, our excellent cup run, away victories at Man City, Arsenal, Liverpool, and Everton, and the brilliance of Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini has given our team plenty to write about since August. But we were all keen to ensure this issue was dedicated to a home we’ve all got wonderful memories of. I hope you feel we’ve done enough.

David

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Goodbye Upton Park

This final farewell feels like the funeral of an old friend

There won’t be a dry eye in the house when it’s time to say goodbye They fly so high: Upton Park looks stunning from the sky

BRIAN WILLIAMS @BrainWill26

P

lease tell me I’m having a bad dream. This can’t really be the end for my beloved Boleyn Ground? Ever since the closure was first announced I knew it would be hard to accept when the time finally came, but I didn’t think it would be this difficult. It feels like a funeral. I can picture the priest as he turns from the coffin to a mourning congregation: ‘We are gathered here today to remember a beloved friend, to give thanks for her life, to commend her to our merciful redeemer, to commit her to the bulldozers and to comfort one another in our grief.’ What, I wonder, would he take as the theme for his sermon? Perhaps he might be inspired by the words of Timothy in the Book of Job: ‘We

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brought nothing into the world, and we take nothing out. The Lord giveth, and Karren Brady has taken away.’ Actually, to be fair to Timothy, he didn’t mention Baroness Brady by name – but you don’t get quoted in the Bible by badmouthing members of the House of Lords. Maybe the clergyman would even throw in a psalm from Hymns Ancient and Modern (well, Modernised in this case). The Lord is my shepherd/ He leads me

by still waters like the River Lee and will guide me in the paths of righteousness to Stratford/ Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of Westfield/ I will now have to change at Mile End and get the Central Line/ Or take the fast train from St Pancras/ Although that costs a small fortune/ You are my rod and comfort still/ You have anointed my head with oil and my cup shall be full/ But not the FA Cup this year sadly/ Surely goodness

and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life/ And I will dwell in the Olympic Stadium for ever. If this were a funeral, it would be the final farewell to a proper lady. Some say that, at the ripe old age of 112, her time had come. But there are those of us who believe she still had plenty of life left in her, and could have gone on for many more years had she been given the love and attention she so richly deserved.


Legend: Bobby Moore leads West Ham out at the Boleyn

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I first got to know her more than 50 years ago, and it’s fair to say she’s had a few facelifts since then. She had a few “gentlemen friends” in her time as well. Bobby Moore; Sir Trevor Brooking; Sir Geoff Hurst; Martin Peters; Billy Bonds, John Lyall – she knew how to hobnob with the very best. She had to put up with a few less appealing characters, too. But a funeral is not the place to go into all that. We’ll save the gossip for the wake in the pub afterwards. Like all memorable characters, there are various sides to this particular lady. I first became acquainted with her via the North Bank ¬– complete with concrete terracing, crash barriers, the peanut man, pushing and shoving, singing, more singing, and no idea that one day it would all be gone. Then I discovered the Chicken Run and a brand of humour so dry you could have been in the Sahara Desert. Over the years I have explored all parts of the Boleyn Ground. Each section has a distinctive feel about it. It’s like any family: we may not all be the same, but we have a common cause. We are the West Ham family – and she was a mother to us all. It’s not uncommon at a funeral for the mourners to be asked to spend a moment or two in quiet reflection,

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Striking: Upton Park’s West Stand has changed a lot over the years

How it all began: The Boleyn Ground pictured in 1904 recalling the cherished moments they shared with the loved one they have just lost. We will all have our own memories of this wonderful old lady: goals, glory, disaster, disappointment, triumph – she’s given us all of those. And a whole lot more besides. When I close my eyes I see the imperious Bobby Moore leading out his

team, ball under arm, the personification of self-belief; I see the main gates draped in all things claret and blue to mark his untimely death; I see Hurst and Peters in the centre circle leading the official tribute to our greatest ever fallen hero before a bitterly sombre game against Wolves. I see another captain – the awesome Billy

Bonds – buccaneering through the mud to make a crucial tackle. He slides in, wins the ball, springs to his feet and immediately looks for Sir Trevor. Brooking angles his body to receive the pass, allows the untouched ball to slide past him as he uses his muscular frame to shield it, and then brings it under instant control as he turns and powers away from a desperate defender. Look again and I see Paolo Di Canio’s unforgettable goal against Wimbledon; I see Liam Brady scoring with his last shot in his last game, leaving the ref no choice but to


blow the final whistle a minute early as ecstatic supporters piled on to the pitch in celebration. I see Pat Holland run half the length of the field to score a brilliant solo effort and save us from FA Cup humiliation against the giant-killers of Hereford. The images of times gone by flash up so quickly it’s hard to record them all. I see Gordon Banks saving Sir Geoff ’s penalty to deny us a place in the League Cup final; I see Ray Stewart smashing home a spot kick at the other end to send us into an FA Cup semi final – and ultimately on to Wembley itself; I see Adrian ripping off his gloves with the swagger of a matador before converting the winning shoot-out penalty against Everton. Now the memories are cascading like a waterfall. I see the knowing smiles on the faces of all around me when Mr Moon is in the ground – and the even wider grins when he leaves the stadium. I see an ocean of claret and blue scarves hoisted high as Bubbles reverberates around the terraces of yesteryear; I see replica shirts swelling with pride as the same anthem rises in tribute from the modern all-seater stands that followed. And still the recollections come flooding back. The unlikely 4-1 victory under lights against Liverpool in the

On the pitch: West Ham fans sure know how to celebrate

Boleyn Ground history West Ham moved to the Boleyn Ground in 1904. In August 1944, a V-1 flying bomb fell on the south-west corner of the pitch. This forced the team to play its games away from home while repairs were undertaken. The record attendance was 42,322, against Tottenham Hotspur in a Division One match on 17 October 1970.

Light relief: Upton Park hosts a game in World War Two League Cup; the sickening relegation from the top flight six months later. Phil Parkes and Allen McKnight. Julian Dicks and Rigobert Song. Pop Robson and Marco Boogers. Alan Devonshire and Nigel Quashie. David Cross and David Kelly. Good times, bad times. The ups and downs. The West Ham way. Clearest of all is my memory of a game long-forgotten by most. It was against Bolton Wanderers in 1997 – the first time I took my son to Upton Park. My fabulous father-in-law was

in the next seat. Three generations, side by side at the home of the Family Club. You never forget that. But now there can be no new memories of the Boleyn Ground. It really is over. The time has finally come to commit her body to the pages of history. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Please, forgive the moisture in the corner of my eye. Farewell, my old friend. We will remember you. Rest in peace. * Brian Williams is the author of Nearly Reach The Sky – A Farewell to Upton Park BBM

In June 1989 evangelist Billy Graham hosted a three-day Christian mission to London. So many people turned up there were not enough seats and the congregation spilled onto the pitch. In 2012 boxer David Haye knocked out Derek Chisora at Upton Park while Hammers fan Kevin Mitchell also lost his world title fight against Michael Katsidis. Upton Park was also used by Charlton Athletic for a season in the early 1990s during their years of financial difficulty.

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Boleyn memories

Four Hammers fans share their favourite ever moment at Upton Park

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he Boleyn Ground holds a special place in the hearts of all West Ham United fans. From our first games to the amazing nights under lights, we all have our favourite memories of trips to Upton Park. Here five fans share their favourite moments at the stadium…

as we’d lost the last three matches 4-0 but then Dean Ashton equalised, and then with about fifteen minutes to go, youngster Freddie Sears came on for his debut. Five minutes later, he scored the winner and the place erupted with joy, relief and new-found hope for the future.

Lucy Woolford I saw some very bad times and some great times. My favorite? I’d have to say the play-off semi-final against Ipswich in 2004. I’m not a great one for remembering things, but I’ll never forget that night. It was the first time I’d experienced a seriously elated crowd there. We’d turned around a 1-0 deficit from the first leg, which led to deafening choruses of ‘Bubbles’ and copious amounts of clapping, so much so that I ached for days!

David Meagher Over the years one game stands out. In February 2000 when we welcomed Bradford to Fortress Boleyn. An early injury to Shaka Hislop triggered a defensive implosion and we found ourselves trying to outscore a rampant Bradford City. Although everybody remembers the argument between Frank Lampard and Paolo Di Canio about taking a penalty, most forget that prior to that Di Canio had asked to be substituted after a series of unsuccessful penalty claims. But we were treated to one of the greatest comebacks as we won in a 5-4 thriller. BBM

Emily Pulham Saturday, 17 March, 2001 was my first time watching West Ham and my most memorable Boleyn

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Only at West Ham: Paolo Di Canio rows with Frank Lampard over who should take the penalty experience. I was born in America to an English father who supported West Ham and, owing to the lack of football options on TV, I had never watched a West Ham game before. My Dad set out to rectify this and, shortly before my 14th birthday, he flew me to London to watch West Ham play Ipswich at the Boleyn Ground. We lost the game 1-0

but I was hooked. The singing, the atmosphere, the energy – I’d never seen anything like it before. Geoff Hillyer One of my abiding memories of the Boleyn is being there for an otherwise nondescript match against Blackburn Rovers on Saturday, 15 March, 2008. We were 1-0 down with the crowd restless


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Superb Slaven Bilic has given West Ham fans their club back A s we approach the end of another season it seems an appropriate time to reflect on Slaven Bilic, who was appointed as the club’s 15th permanent manager last summer. I’ll be honest and say that when the club let Sam Allardyce go I was nervous. Not because I’d become a disciple of his ‘hoofball’ or had fallen for his debatable northern charm, but because I knew the club could not afford to be relegated in the final season before we move into the Olympic Stadium. I needn’t have worried. Bilic has, quite simply, proven himself to be a wonderful appointment. The Croatian has kept all of the good things about an Allardyce side – the pragmatism and defensive solidity – but has reconnected the team to the club’s core values: attempting to

LETTER OF THE MONTH

Hero: Slaven Bilic has led West Ham with class and integrity since taking charge play attractive football and win matches. Bilic understands the fans’ mentality and in turn they have responded to him. I have also liked the way he has handled himself in the media. You never hear him moan or criticise referees, despite an awful run of decisions

that have dented our Champions League hopes. He also never moaned when we had loads of injuries before Christmas. Instead he has handled himself with humility and class and I hope he stays at the club for a very long time indeed. Marcus Brown

Baby Lauren joins the West Ham family Everyone at Blowing Bubbles would like to congratulate Geoff Hillyer and wife Sara on the arrival of their first child Lauren Rose. She was born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital at 10.21am on April 25.

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Editor David Blackmore was just glad Geoff, who has written for Blowing Bubbles since it launched in 2012, managed to file his piece for May’s issue before Lauren’s arrival. We look forward to taking her first column!

Don’t forget the funding source I loved your article about the upcoming Bobby Moore documentary film made by Matthew Lorenzo. He talked about the struggle to make the movie and his negotiations with Fifa over the cost of usage of World Cup footage, but sadly fails to mention that the film was only made with the backing of fans via a Kickstarter crowd funding exercise. A campaign page was set up to raise the necessary money needed to make the film and fans were asked to contribute what they could for various returns once the film was made. It was touch and go for a while as to whether they would raise the required £100,000 from pledges, but at the last moment the money was secured, allowing Lorenzo to go ahead and complete the work. I have seen the trailer and cannot wait for the release; not least because as a funder, my name will be on the credits. Andy Marriott

Noble deserves an England call

Love: The Hillyer clan

How is that clown Danny Drinkwater in the England squad ahead of Mark Noble? Sort it Roy! Liam Williams


GEORGE

PARRIS

THE HAMMERS’ HERO PULLS NO PUNCHES IN HIS EXCLUSIVE COLUMN

Andy for England?

Atmospheric: The Boleyn Ground was a wonderful old football ground

Upton Park was a special place to play my football

M

y first memory of Upton Park as a schoolboy is quite funny as we used to train under the stand and also in the school car park. They are my first recollections of what was to become an incredible Boleyn adventure. It was, and has always been, a fantastic ground to play in. I loved every game walking out there. Because of the way the pitch was, it was quite tight. As for the night games, the atmosphere always felt like it notched

up a level. I never played at West Ham as an opposition player. In fact, I only played against West Ham once. That was for Birmingham but we were at home. I always felt very comfortable playing at Upton Park, I always had a great relationship with the fans, but I imagine it felt like a tough place to come as an opposition player. In particular, I always enjoyed the Chicken Run. You’d put in a strong tackle and put

the player in the crowd and the fans would ‘help’ them back onto the pitch. Or the fans being so close they could take the throw in for you - or offer you sweets! The Boleyn Ground has changed a lot from those early days of my career at West Ham. With every change, there is always a level of uncertainty, but hopefully we will move to the new stadium and have another season like we’ve had this year.

There always seems to be a debate about Andy Carroll whenever we get near to a major tournament. Football is all about opinions, and there are always plenty of people willing to give their view on this debate. To some degree, whether Andy gets the nod will depend on how many strikers England manager Roy Hodgson decides to take to the Euros. There are arguably already three England strikers who are ahead of him on a consistent basis, but if Roy takes four or five, it will also depend if Andy is fit and well, and raring to go. And more than anything, when he is fit, he gives you so much. Personally, I think this tournament has come too soon for him and that could be good for West Ham as it will allow him to rest before the new season.

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Pub talk

The Blowing Bubbles team settle down to put the world to rights... Leicester City are probably the most unlikely champions in the history of English football. What can West Ham learn from Claudio Ranieri’s side? Lucy Woolford: We’ve probably lived through some time with the Leicester mentality - it doesn’t have to be pretty, you’ve got to win points. They might be becoming less popular with the footballing world, but Ranieri has been effective and I really have to admire his ethos. More teams should relax and enjoy playing without the weight of the world on their shoulders. Kiran Moodley: Not much football-wise unless we want to return to the long ball tactics of Big Sam. Clearly, the ability to maintain a core squad and keeping all

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Fairytale: Claudio Ranieri has led Leicester City to the most historic season the key players fit is what helped the Foxes. Yet the real lesson is their belief, their lack of fear, and their energy. How we needed all three in our Cup replay against Manchester United.

Danny Rust: We can learn that you do not need to be a member of the ‘Big Four’ in order to challenge at the top of Premier League table. Leicester’s rise and success is also a fantastic

example of not needing to spend vast sums of money on players. The Foxes’ three best players this season - Riyad Mahrez, Jamie Vardy and N’Golo Kante - were signed for less than £10m. David Bowden: It really has been the ultimate fairytale. They were seemingly doomed last season, but are worthy champions this season. But I think there are very few things the Hammers can learn from the Foxes. They have been very fortuitous in the fact they have had very few injuries. Indeed, the only thing I can think of is the ability to see out a game. Ranieri’s men have mastered that and that’s why they are winning the league and we are just a top-six side. West Ham have suffered a dispropor-


tionate amount of bad refereeing decisions in recent weeks. Is using technology to help referees the answer? LW: Technology is the only way in my eyes. We live in a world now where tech is part of everything we do, mostly for the better. So why are we so afraid of what it could do to football? While some referees seem to be just poor, there are countless incidents of human error and misinterpretation on display week-in, weekout. These decisions cost clubs so much and mistakes could be largely avoidable. KM: Sorry Lucy. I disagree. There is a difference between technology that is clear cut - i.e. goal line - and technology that simply involves replays that are watched and decided upon by someone who could still go against what you think is right. A replay could have led to a referee not sending off Jamie Vardy. Kouyate’s red card was only overturned by a 2-1 decision. Opinion will always remain. DR: I think technology should be available for game-changing instances. For example, if a red card is debatable - as was the case for Cheikhou Kouyate against Crystal Palace, which led to a Palace equaliser - or if a penalty is wrongly given, like the penalty against Chelsea. Technology would lead to referees getting criticised less and the correct decisions

Impressive: Manuel Lanzini has had a fine debut season

being made more often, so it would help teams and officials. DB: I think this is another reason why Leicester are winning the league and we aren’t! We just never seem to get the rub of the green. How any club can go four-years without winning an away penalty, before the one we were given at the King Power last month, is beyond

me. Technology simply has to come in now. It is in nearly every sport, but the biggest sport in the world. It would take seconds to review a decision and then we wouldn’t have to have this constant beef with the referee. Dimitri Payet is widely expected to win the Hammer of the Year award. Taking our star Frenchman out of the

equation who else deserves to be in with a shout? LW: It’s great to have had a season where a few names could be in the mix. Lanzini has been a revelation and if he hadn’t had a spell out with injury, he’d have been even more influential. Mark Noble should be in with a shout. All right, he’s not on song every game, but without

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his direction and passion there’s a big void. I’d say Adrian has kept us in a few games this season too. KM: Cheikhou Kouyate and Mark Noble will always be my favourites, even when up against Dimitri Payet, purely because their work ethic and consistency is far greater than the Frenchman’s. Yes, he can have a bad game and then one bit of magic swings the game in our favour (Liverpool FA Cup replay), but Noble and Kouyate keep us in games when the rest of the team isn’t performing. DR: Cheikhou Kouyate has been superb this season. The midfielder was good before, but I think he has been on another level this term and should be in with a shout. His work rate is phenomenal and his defensive and attacking play is fantastic. Manuel Lanzini and Michail Antonio have surprised me with how good they have been in their first season in the top flight and Mark Noble has been great once again. DB: Payet will win it,

Going? Will Victor Moses be at West Ham next year?

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Star: Cheikhou Kouyate has had another fabulous season

that I am sure of, but in my mind there are one or two others who deserve to be in with a shout, Michail Antonio would be one, he has been a revelation since breaking into the side. James Collins would be another, he has been an absolute rock at the back

for the Hammers when fit, and it is no surprise his absence has seen us start to leak goals again. Would you like to see West Ham keep Victor Moses this summer? If so how much would you be prepared to pay Chelsea for him? LW: I think he’s the kind of squad player you need in a team like ours. He’s a great option to have on the bench and a really handy ‘cup man’. But would I want us to pay anything significant to keep him? I’m afraid not. That’s no disrespect to him, I just think we have better options. For the money Chelsea would demand plus

wages, we could scout a greater alternative. KM: Victor Moses is somewhat of an Andy Carroll player for me. Not always great when he starts but can make an impact with his pace and physicality from the bench. I feel what West Ham needs is more consistent players with flair, like another Mark Noble with a bit more wow factor! I don’t see Moses as a long-term player. I wouldn’t be upset if he stayed, but I wouldn’t be overjoyed either. DR: After his fantastic performance in the 2-0 win over Newcastle United in September, I thought he was going


to be a good addition. But he doesn’t seem to have the same fight and determination as others. Michail Antonio has come in and become a fans’ favourite straightaway because of his goals, work rate, commitment and determination. Chelsea will demand a huge amount for Moses so I would be inclined to look for someone else. DB: Personally, no I wouldn’t sign the Nigerian. As much as I like him as a player, he hasn’t shown enough to warrant a permanent deal at the club. Chelsea would want a fortune for him, and in my mind, there are better players out there than him. Rumours of Nolito are exciting and I would rather club invested in him than Moses. Roy Hodgson has constantly overlooked West Ham players during his time as the national team boss. Do you care how England get on during this summer’s European Championships? LW: Roy Hodgson keeps falling in my estimation. That sounds really bitter, but I just don’t think he’s done well in justifying his decisions for dismissing our players so openly whilst picking those who’ve done little to keep their places. I get excited for big tournaments but I have very low expectations and I won’t be surprised if he makes himself less likeable during the summer.

KM: Of course I care how England get on this summer. For me, they are like West Ham on the international stage. So much promise and so much hope, and yet your dreams are always shattered in the cruelest of ways. I am not too bothered by Hodgson’s omissions of Cresswell, Carroll or Noble. As much as I love that trio, I completely understand that he feels he has better players. DR: It seems like Mark Noble and Aaron Cresswell will never get a chance for England while Roy Hodgson is in charge. The best thing that could happen for the duo is England fail and a new manager is brought in. Then they might finally get the opportunity they deserve. I will still watch the European Championships and want England to win. But it will not be nice to see a lot of Tottenham players on show. DB: The club over country debate is simple, I am West Ham over England all day long. Having said that of course I am going to support my country in the Euros. It is scandalous that players like Aaron Cresswell and co get overlooked but it is something I think we have all got used to by now, Hodgson is an old fool. It would be great for the nation to win a major tournament and I want to see us do well. BBM

Not a fan: Roy Hodgson doesn’t seem to like West Ham players very much

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The future is bright but it will still be incredibly hard to go

S

o this is it then. The night we have all been looking forward to and dreading in equal measure is almost upon us. It’s finally hit me that this is the month I’ll watch West Ham United play their last ever game at the Boleyn Ground. I don’t know how I’m going to hold it together when I co-host the final game at the Boleyn against Manchester United with Ben Shephard – it’s going to be super emotional. I’ve been going to Upton Park since I was seven or eight years old. I was too young to remember the specific game when I first made the pilgrimage to E13 but I can vividly remember the 1985/86 season. The match that really excited me was when we beat Newcastle 8-1 and Alvin Martin scored a hat-trick against three different goalkeepers including Peter Beardsley. I remember paying £1

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Hero: Alvin Martin scored a hat-trick against Newcastle to get in and standing in the North Bank and I was stunned and ecstatic to see us score so many goals. We were buzzing on the journey home! I’ve still got the following day’s newspaper. In my mind’s eye I can see Alan Devonshire on the wing, mullet blowing in the breeze, Ray Stewart, Georgie Parris, Billy Bonds, Phil Parkes,

TC! I’ll never forget running onto the pitch that season - with other supporters of course - to tell Frank McAvennie how much I loved him. Memories that will never leave me. I was at Upton Park when we had to beat Cambridge by two goals to be promoted to the Premier League for the first time. Clive Allen

scored the second goal in the dying moments, and everyone was going mental, celebrating like mad and running onto the pitch. The atmosphere that day typified what the Boleyn Ground was like at that time - that was another great season. It was also the final season I stood on the South Bank. I’ve been reminded of all these memories in recent weeks as I’ve been filming a Farewell Boleyn piece for Soccer Saturday. It has given me the chance to interview lots of different people about their own experiences and their fondest memories and has been a great way for me to say goodbye to it all. There is so much good stuff to get in and I want it to be perfect. I’ve got 30 years of memories. I know I will be able to make more memories at the new


place but saying goodbye is going to be tough. Paolo Di Canio’s goal against Wimbledon is the best goal I’ve seen live at the ground. I was in the Chicken Run, and I can still see the ball being floated over and then him smashing it in like it was yesterday. This season, my favourite Boleyn memory was when we beat Liverpool in the FA Cup, and that last minute goal from Angelo Ogbonna. It’s all these moments that makes being a West Ham fan so exhilarating and unbelievable at times. We don’t have many triumphant moments but when we do, we really go all out to appreciate them. It’s scary to think it’s getting so close to

the final game now. It makes you realise how important a place can be to you. We’ve grown up there, we’ve been there all our lives. It’s going to be a huge wrench. I’ve had the worst days of my life there, and some of my best days. I’ve been there with my family and I’ve been there with friends. The thought of knowing I won’t be going again is difficult to take. I’m all for the move but I am realistic enough to know how poignant that moment is going to be. I’m so emotional already - goodness knows what I will be like against Manchester United. But all my family will be there and it’s going to be the perfect way for me to say goodbye. BBM

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Vital: The Olympic Stadium gives West Ham a chance to move forward as a club

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Olympic Stadium move

How it really feels to change grounds - by those who have

Three fans whose clubs have changed stadiums tell their stories...

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est Ham play their final ever game at Upton Park before they move to the Olympic Stadium this month. Slaven Bilic’s side host Manchester United in the last fixture at the famous old stadium before they head over to Stratford in the close season. Given the club have been playing at the Boleyn Ground since 1904 no one really knows what to expect. Here Blowing Bubbles caught up with three fans of clubs who have previously moved homes and we asked them what we can expect…

Chris Rann

Southampton There are many feelings that come with a move to a new stadium; trepidation, reluctance, excitement, and pre-match drink location anxiety. But, in the end, you won’t know how you really feel until you are 3-0 down to Espanyol at half time in the grand opening game. You are going to lose some of your character, it’s inevitable. We certainly did by

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Upgrade: Derby County left the Baseball Ground for Pride Park in 1997

leaving such a unique ground as the Dell, and initially our form was dreadful and the ‘standard’ nature of St. Mary’s made it feel like the worst move of all time. But, you will soon realise that it isn’t the bricks and mortar that make a football club. It’s the people who duly pay there hard earned money to be continuously disappointed while sat in it. You’ll likely find the first season difficult, as the intimidating edge

you had at Upton Park will be gone, and the atmosphere will suffer while everyone works out where they are going to sit. Hopefully you will place the away fans better than Saints did. We’ve suffered because of that decision ever since, and lose our ‘noisy’ section in cup games due to allocation rules. On the whole though, I think you can view it as an exciting period for your club. Just do us all

a favour and leave the bubble machine at the Boleyn, this isn’t Ibiza.

Chris Parsons

Derby County When Derby County moved to Pride Park Stadium, it ended an 102year stay at one of the most endearingly rickety grounds in England. The Baseball Ground saw two League titles in the 1970s and played host to European giants like Real Madrid. But by 1997, the


creaking stands of the 18,000-seater ‘BBG’ could not match the ambitions of a Derby side who had just joined the Premier League. Derby’s modern arena suited the club’s needs - it’s almost twice the size now at 33,597, with potential for expansion should Derby ever establish themselves again in the top flight. And much like the ‘new manager bounce’, a new home does wonders for confidence. In Pride Park’s first season (97/98), The Rams didn’t lose a home league game until February. West Ham could benefit the same way. Some Rams fans feel Pride Park (now ‘The iPro Stadium’) lacks character. This is true in that it will never match the Baseball Ground’s charm. Similarly, the Olympic Stadium’s vast bowl will never feel as cosy as the compact cauldron that is Upton Park. Derby have, however, added nostalgic nods which now make the place feel like home. A Brian Clough/Peter Taylor statue greets fans outside, while a bust of record-scorer Steve Bloomer sits pitch side. In 20 years, Pride Park’s facilities have allowed Derby to enjoy sustained top-flight football, and more recently play-off triumphs. And let’s face it - when your ground’s too small and old, there’s only so far it will get you.

Big change: Sunderland’s Roker Park was nothing like the Stadium of Light

David Boyle

Sunderland When my club announced their plans to move from the dilapidated, yet still somehow enchanting, Roker Park in 1995, I had only really just embarked on my love affair with the club, having attended my first game that same year. That said, my brief encounter with the famous old ground left a lasting impression - the floodlights looming large above the local terraced housing that surrounded the ground on your approach like a beacon, braving the elements on the Roker

End Terrace, the smell of Bovril acknowledging the impending halftime whistle and that meticulous, lush green pitch - everything was simply so romantic to my young self. However, perhaps because I did not have such a long-standing relationship with the old place, the move to the Stadium of Light in 1997 was beyond exciting. There was a real sense of excitement on Wearside that, despite initial and somewhat still lingering misgivings over the new ground’s name, this was a real positive and encouraging move

by the club, and a move onto the modern era. The move also coincided with one of the most thrilling periods in the club’s recent history, as Peter Reid established a real swashbuckling, cavalier side which, spearheaded by Niall Quinn and Kevin Phillips, were irresistible on their day. The atmosphere in those early years at the SoL was staggering too. So embrace your move to the Olympic Stadium, make it your own and with the potential for big nights in Europe on the horizon, create something special. BBM

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FROZEN IN TIME

Wednesday, April 20, 2016: Andy Carroll congratulates Mark Noble after the West Ham captain scored his second of two penalties against Watford. The Hammers went on to win the game 3-1 and keep their European dream alive.


Slaven Bilic

Why it is time West Ham gave Slaven Bilic his new contract The Croatian boss deserves to know he is staying for the long-term

DAVID BOWDEN

A

@bowdenwhu

s final seasons go at grounds, Slaven Bilic, in his maiden season in charge has given us a heck of a final year at the Boleyn. He has packed it full of lasting memories, attacking football, and most importantly he has given us our West Ham United back. There is a buzz back around the ground, something that was severely lacking at the back end of last season under Sam Allardyce. In truth, Bilic had already won the Hammers faithful over before a ball was even kicked. He has an infectious passion for the club and the way he talks about West Ham shows he is one of our own. He has guided us to a good finish and a quarter-final of the FA Cup in his first season, some feat for a ‘second choice’.

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Top man: Slaven Bilic has done a superb jon in his first season at West Ham Of course, had we got the rub of the green in some games, like Chelsea away, Arsenal at home, and most importantly at Old Trafford in the cup, we could have been celebrating that much more come the end of the season. As Slaven himself put it we should be in the top-four but for some

iffy decisions here and there. He buys players that get fans off their seats. Long gone of the days where the club would buy Mido, Joey O’Brien, and Abdoulaye Faye. Now we are looking at players like Alexandre Lacazette and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. That is how far Bilic has taken

us in such a short time. Players want to join us, and our progression into history. Of course, the new stadium helps, but the way the Croat tries to get his players to play football makes West Ham a far more attractive proposition to join. With rumours beginning to circulate that other clubs are interesting in appointing our Slaven, it is now time the club rewards him for his efforts. He will, of course, need to get through the tricky second season in charge, but I have every faith that him and his staff with negotiate that with ease. He will be backed by the board, that I am sure of, and his scouts are some of the best we’ve ever had. Another admirable thing about Bilic, which I think endears him to the fans that much more is his honesty in interviews. Fans aren’t daft; we know if we’ve underperformed we deserve to be beat. Slaven acknowledges that. He doesn’t try to


pull the wool over our eyes, his honesty is refreshing after years of Sam Allardyce trying to tell us we were the better side after yet another 2-0 defeat. Our home form during our final year at the Boleyn has been phenomenal, just two league defeats all season before May has made our leaving that bit easier to stomach, and every trip is an absolute joy. At long last it has become enjoyable going to West Ham again, watching the Hammers under previous managers like Avram Grant and Allardyce became a chore at times, but now it’s the polar opposite and it is an absolute treat every time you walk into the ground. It is a vital summer for the club, with our historic move on the very near horizon, the board must react now to ensure we go into the stadium as one unified body. A squad full of talent

all pulling in the same direction, and a manager tied down to a long-term deal and feeling secure in his job with his mind firmly fixed on taking this great club of ours to the next level, is just what the club needs as it steps into the unknown. Seldom often have I been a believer of rewarding players or staff after just one season, but in Bilic’s case, such is the impact he has made at the club, I feel it would be justified. In reality, I can’t see the board giving Bilic a new contract, as they will want to see him get through his second season unscathed before they reward him. But I think they need to show that they believe in him and have their total trust in taking us forward. After all, they rewarded Payet after doing a good job for just six-months it is time to show the same faith in Bilic. BBM

In charge: David Sullivan will decide if and when Bilic gets a new contract

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Striking options

Five top forwards that could fire the Irons to the next level

West Ham seem set to splash the cash on a top striker this summer

GEOFF HILLYER

@geoffhillyer

West Ham are widely expected to invest heavily in a striker this summer. The Hammers have been linked with a host of forwards in the media in recent weeks. Here Blowing Bubbles considers some of those rumoured targets and how likely they are to be playing thier football at the Olympic Stadium next season.

Alexandre Lacazette

Age: 24 Club: Lyon, France Who is he: French international. Scored over 80 goals across all competitions for Lyon since 2010, having played over 200 matches for them. How much would he cost: £20 - £25m Why he could be the one: Proven goalscorer. This season, he’s netted 16 goals in 37 appear-

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In his prime: Alexandre Lacazette would be a fantastic signing ances. Very likely to be named in the France squad for Euro 2016. Could link very well with Dimitri Payet, also recently reinstated to the French national side. Why we may want to avoid them: This season he has been less prolific than previous ones. Last season, he scored 31 goals in 40 games. We’ll also face stiff competition to sign him from the likes of Liverpool and Everton, and he has already turned down

a move to Newcastle United, citing a desire to avoid a team battling relegation. Would he be likely to choose West Ham? Are we big enough?

Christian Benteke

Age: 25 Club: Liverpool, England Who is he: Belgian international. Signed for Liverpool for a whopping £32.5 million. Previously played for

Aston Villa, so it’s probably just as well he left. Underwhelming in an injury-hit campaign this time round. Apparently not first choice under Jurgen Klopp. How much would he cost: £20 - £25m Why he could be the one: When in form, he’ll get you goals. He bagged 42 of them for Aston Villa in three seasons. Out of form currently, but you get the feeling that he might thrive at a club like West Ham. He needs a run in a side, any side, to get his confidence back. Why we may want to avoid him: He has only played 24 games for Liverpool this season. Do we really want another striker who might miss 30% of the season through injury?

Michy Batshuayi

Age: 22 Club: Marseille, France Who is he: A Belgian international who signed for Marseille in 2014. Previously played for Standard Liege, scoring 39 goals in 97 appearances. He has continued his goalscoring for his


current club, with 23 goals in 57 games. How much would he cost: £25m Why he could be the one: Knows where the back of the net is. Most likely has his best years to come, being only 22. Dimitri Payet was a former teammate, so they might already be on the same wavelength. Why we may want to avoid him: Spurs are lurking, and other top scouts have been watching. Fourth place in the Ligue 1 scoring charts but would he be able to replicate, or improve this statistic in a completely different league?

World star: Zlatan Ibrahimovic would cost a fortune in wages

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

Age: 34 Club: Paris Saint-German, France Who is he: Swedish captain who plays at number 10 for both club and country. Widely regarded as one of the best strikers in the game, and one of the best footballers of his generation. His bicycle kick for Sweden against England in 2013 won the FIFA Puskas Award for Goal of the Year. In short, he’s good. How much would he cost: There would be no transfer fee as he is out of contract this summer but his wages could be astronomical. Manchester United are said to be considering a one-year deal worth £600,000 per week. Why he could be the one: One of the most

gifted footballers around. He’s scored 107 goals for Paris Saint-Germain in just 118 appearances, and a whopping 62 for the national team. His trophy cabinet will be creaking. He’d be a marquee signing, the kind of statement of intent that a team heading into the Olympic Stadium would want. Why we may want to avoid him: At 34, he’s getting on a bit. Very temperamental, overaggressive and rebellious at times, he’s been involved in several incidents with teammates. Would he be too expensive and disruptive?

Breel Embolo

Age: 19 Club: FC Basel, Switzerland Who is he: Born in Cameroon, he moved to Basel as a young boy and is now a versatile Swiss international, having played as striker and midfielder for the under-21 side. He has several appearances for the first team under his belt. He’s scored 18 goals in 55 appearances for Basel and recently scored his first goal for the senior international side. Considered one of the best young players in Europe.

How much would he cost: £20 - £25m Why he could be the one: Up and coming talent with a bright future ahead of him. A speedy and clever forward who would add pace, power and trickery. Great on the ball and a good finisher. Could be the missing link up front. Why we may want to avoid him: He’s a bit pricey for such a young player. He might want to be playing for one of the ‘even bigger’ clubs in Europe, with lots of top names linked with his signature. Will he score enough goals? Will he adapt? BBM

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Toni Martinez Lethal: Toni Martinez has a superb scoring record for a player his age

‘New Aguero’ Martinez could become a real goal machine The young forward has joined West Ham from Spanish side Valencia

JAMES JONES

@JJ2388

O

ur move to sign highly-rated Valencia wonderkid Toni Martinez was arguably the worst kept secret of the season so far. Slaven Bilic confirmed

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the deal was close ahead of our 2-2 draw with Crystal Palace last month, and the young Spaniard’s arrival was officially confirmed on Apil 22. But what should we expect from the 18-yearold? The main thing we know of the striker is the fact he banged in over 100 goals in just four years for the Mestalla’s youth team before arriving in east London.

To put that into perspective, that’s pretty much the same record Sergio Aguero has enjoyed in the Premier League for Manchester City. Of course, the Spanish youth leagues aren’t exactly at the same level as our top-flight, but the initial signs are that we’ve got a natural goal scorer on our hands. There aren’t many clips of him doing his thing on the internet just yet,

but judging by the four minute highlight reel I found of him on YouTube, it doesn’t take long to realise why he is often compared to a young Fernando Torres. Martinez is fast, strong on the ball and loves to run at defenders. His pace and quick feet ensures defenders are regularly fooled by his trickery – put simply, Martinez is showing the early signs of becoming a typical Spanish cen-


tre-forward. He likes to get into the box and feed off balls from out wide, which certainly benefits the style of play West Hamve have adopted since Bilic arrived at the club last summer. Bilic claims he’s had his eye on Martinez for a while and you have to respect his judgement. The last player he said this about was Manuel Lanzini, who he admitted to doing all he could to bring him to Besiktas – but to no avail. No one had ever heard of Lanzini before he arrived, but he has become of our best players this season. So the arrival of Martinez should be met with excitement more than anything else. You can’t imagine he’ll slot straight into the first-team next season, and the fact he was paraded in front of the 10,200+ strong crowd at our U21s Cup final at the Boleyn at the end of April, suggests he’ll begin his Hammers career plying his trade with the youth system. But that will suit him. Reports in Spain claimed back in March that Martinez was open to a move to West Ham because he knew his chances of breaking in to Valencia’s first team were slim and that he was excited to work with a manager

who likes to nurture and develop young players. The big bonus is that Valencia have allowed Martinez to begin training with his West Ham teams with immediate effect, despite not officially becoming a Hammer until the beginning of July. This will give him a few months to settle into his new life in London, get to know his teammates and, more importantly, the style and ethos Bilic is successfully implementing at the club. So when the time comes for him to make his first-team debut, Toni Martinez should be ready to show the world that he really can be the Premier League’s next pre-Chelsea Fernando Torres. BBM

Boss: Can Slaven Bilic get the best out of Martinez?

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Under-21s Cup Final

The team celebrate Djair Parfitt-Williams’ winner

The next generation show their Blowing Bubbles Monthly’s top photographer Nicky Hayes captured

Doneil Henry marshallig the defence

Martin Samuelsen was one of the stars on show

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Reece Oxford also featured


Sam Byram played right back

Djair Parfitt-Williams was delighted Lewis Page is highly rated

potential as they sink Hull City

all the action from the first-leg of the development squad’s cup final Marcus Browne gets forward with the ball

Rafael Spiegel kept a cleen sheet

Boss Terry Westley was happy with the display

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Rio Ferdinand

West Ham still hold a special place in Rio Ferdinand’s heart The defender made his Hammers’ debut 20 years ago this month

LUCY WOOLFORD @lucy_whufc

I

t seems like only yesterday that a teenage Rio Ferdinand was lighting up the youth setup and making his first team debut, but can you believe that was 20 years ago? Yes, twenty! Academy graduate Rio made his first team debut for West Ham on May 5, 1996, coming on as a substitute in Harry Redknapp’s side starring Tony Cottee, Alvin Martin, a young Frank Lampard Jnr and current management team Julian Dicks and Slaven Bilic. His first full season was 96/97 and he immediately impressed. As a spritely 18-19 year old, he was a wise head on young shoulders. Always the composed defender, he was talked about in terms of the England setup from a young age. Rio had spent his formative years in east

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Big potential: Rio Ferdinand made his name at West Ham London joining the Academy at 13, and made strides into the international setup at 16. In the eight years he spent with the Hammers, he won Hammer of the Year in 97/98 following an eighth place finish and a League Cup quarter final. This was a season that saw much speculation about the Peckham-raised defender - Sir Alex Ferguson saw his potential and hoped to lure him to

Manchester. But with the Hammers enjoying a good season with some great prospects, Rio wasn’t tempted away at this point. He would, however, leave Upton Park a few years later in what was a record-breaking transfer. I think we all remember that day. As a fan, it was a peculiar mixed-bag of emotions. It was gutting to lose such an influential defender, but on the flip side, it was quite impressive to know that

West Ham had nurtured someone who had become the most expensive defender in the world. The same can be said for his eventual move to Manchester United. Fergie finally got his man in 2002, making Rio the world’s most expensive defender once again and also Britain’s most expensive footballer. For a second time, we watched Ferdinand move to a club that we don’t have good feelings for, but as West Ham fans, there was a certain amount of pride to know that he’d made it this far because of his great start. Then, of course, it almost fell apart for him. He famously missed a scheduled drugs test in 2003, which would eventually see him banned from football for eight months. All signs pointed to this being a completely innocent mistake. It was a chance for the FA to make an example of a high-profile player and they took it. It was a tough lesson for Rio and a stark warning for his fellow professionals. To his credit, he returned in late 2004 and looked sharp, even


making it into the PFA Team of the Season in 06/07, proving there was plenty left in the tank for him at 27 years old. Rio departed Old Trafford in 2014 after 12 years – a time that saw him take home six Premier League medals, three League Cup medals and an all-important Champions League medal. Despite record-breaking transfer fees and mountains of silverware since leaving West Ham, Ferdinand has always remained grounded and grateful to all those at West Ham. It’s clear to see that his heart never left east London, something that he has vocalised. Ahead of Mark Noble’s Testimonial, he told West Ham TV: ‘It was great to be back on the pitch again. This stadium holds great memories for me and this club will always be in my heart.’ We tend to know when such words are empty, but with Rio I think we realise they’re heartfelt. He also boasts a prolific, if medal lacking, England career. Ferdinand has 81 England caps to his name and, surprisingly, three goals. After impressing in the U17 squad, Rio became the youngest defender to play for the full England team in 1997 at the age of 19. It wasn’t all plain sailing for him on the international stage after being omitted from the squad for Euro 2000. Of course, he also missed

Ferdinand’s career timeline

Smart: Rio Ferdinand works in the media these days Euro 2004 due to his missed drugs test ban. Despite the setbacks, he will always be remembered as a fairly consistent performer, with his calm nature and physical presence something that spanned across his domestic and international careers. Rio Ferdinand retired from international football in 2013 and professional football in 2015, nineteen years after his West Ham debut. Now, of course, he’s

part of the BT Sport team and still a regular visitor to the Boleyn Ground with that job. He’s a vocal but fair pundit and we can still see the twinkle in his eye when he talks all things West Ham. Harry Redknapp had previously backed Rio to become a West Ham manager in the future – if that’s on the cards at the right time in his life, we’d surely welcome him back with open arms. BBM

1978: Born in Camberwell London 1992: Signs for West Ham as a schoolboy 1996: Makes his Hammers debut, replacing Tony Cottee in West Ham’s final league game of the season – a 1-1 draw with Sheffield Wednesday. 1997: Makes England debut against Cameroon 1998: Wins Hammer of the Year 2000: Joins Leeds United in an £18million deal – a record transfer fee for a defender. 2002: Signs for Manchester United in a deal worth £34million – again a record transfer fee for a defender. 2003: Misses a drugs test. Although he passed the test the following day he is given an eight-month ban. 2008: Captains Manchester United as they beat Chelsea to win the Champions League. 2014: Signs for QPR, his final club, on a free transfer..

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Alex Song

Should West Ham keep Song beyond the end of the season? The on-loan midfielder has struggled to make much of an impact

STUART PLANT

A

@IronViewsStu

lex Song’s second loan spell in east London is drawing to a close - but should West Ham make the move permanent? It’s a tough decision for the club considering the 28-year-old has found it hard to make even half the impression he did in the first half of his first spell on loan from Barcelona. The Cameroonian has only made a handful of appearances this season, partly down to his injuries but more so to the form of those playing the central midfield roles. With Mark Noble having his finest season to date captaining the club, the sheer powerhouse of Cheikhou Kouyate and the criminally underrated Spaniard Pedro Obiang, it’s difficult to say whether or not Song is a necessity of a signing or if he would be a good

Going? Alex Song is unlikely to be a West Ham player next season squad player to have. If anything this is a testament to the squad we are building that should we sign Song in the summer, it will not be seen as a marquee signing as his loan-signing originally was, but would now simply be that of a good squad signing.

What is abundantly clear though is that having Song in a midfield where he has Manuel Lanzini and Dimitri Payet in front of him is a seriously mouth-watering prospect given the link-up play we have seen between the trio as recently as the 5-1 win in

the FA Cup win at Ewood Park. Ultimately it will likely come down to the clubs and the finances behind the move. Song clearly has no future at Barcelona, but the interest which stirred up proposed moves elsewhere during his original loan-spell have died down, leaving us as the only viable option for regular football. If the club are able to wrangle an agreement with Barcelona and we can get Song for a feasible wage then we should go for it. He seems happy here and comes across as a heavily-embedded character within the squad and is passionate about the club. For me, as long as Song knows he isn’t a guaranteed starter, and his wages won’t have a knock-on effect for the club when attempting their other marquee signings in the summer, then we’d be foolish not to take him on board permanently. Who knows, we could need extra midfielders for European football next year if we finish the season well. BBM

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West Ham Ladies

Netherlands tour will launch Ladies’ promotion bid in 16/17 David Blackmore find captain Katie Bottom in a confident mood

E

ven now, some two months on, the thought of her winning goal against Spurs during a special evening for the West Ham Ladies at Upton Park, still brings a huge smile to Katie Bottom’s face. In fact it took weeks before the defender was able to go a whole day without someone mentioning that extraordinary night in front of record crowd of 1,741 at the Boleyn Ground. Just talking about that evening, you can see how much it meant to the captain as well as all her teammates, who are all focused on ensuring the club enjoys plenty of highs next season. The hard work, Bottom says, has already begun with the Ladies still training once a week to ensure they keep ‘ticking over’ before their pre-season training kicks into full swing this summer. ‘It was an unbelievable night at Upton Park and was the biggest achievement for me as a footballer,’ Bottom told Blowing Bubbles. ‘Just talking about it now is making me smile. Scoring was the icing on the

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Instructions: Marc Nurse tells Katie Bottom what she must do

cake of the whole day. ‘It could have been any one of us to have scored the winning goal and taken the penalty. The manager (Marc Nurse) said before the game that I was on penalty duty and when it happened, I thought to myself “this is it, my chance to make history”. ‘The ‘keeper in goal for Spurs was Toni-Anne Wayne who used to

play at West Ham and I thought she would know where I would place my penalty. ‘I’d also taken a penalty against her during our shootout in the Capital Women’s Cup so, yeah, I was nervous about missing but as soon as I took it, I knew it was going in. ‘The support we had that evening was unbelievable too. It was great

to see so many West Ham fans come out. For the girls, it was great to be playing at a Premier League ground that had seen European football this season. The fact that it is the final season at the Boleyn made it even more special. This is something that no-one can take away from us.’ Confirming she is staying on for another season with the Ladies,


Bottom hopes to be appointed captain once more. ‘I really enjoyed being captain this year, and I hope I’ll be captain again but that’s down to Marc,’ she continued. ‘I always try to play to my very best every time I play but as captain, I knew I needed to be a leader on the pitch as well. ‘I’m not the loudest captain so I wanted to lead the team by my football, show the leadership they needed through my performances.’ Bottom was made captain following the departure of Stacey Little as well as few other senior players and the results for the majority of the season reflected the journey the club went on. ‘We didn’t really want the negative start to the season that we had, but we came through it and I think we are in much better place now. ‘Our performances towards the end of the season were great. We grounded out a good result against Spurs at Upton Park and then drew at Cardiff. ‘As the season went on, there was a greater sense of togetherness in the team, and I felt we played for each other more than we did at the start of the season.

Proud: West Ham’s Ladies loved playing Spurs at Upton Park

‘Once we’d settled a bit more following our negative start, we knew we weren’t going to be challenging at the top of the league but we knew we would be safe from relegation. This

gave us the chance to grow as a team, work on our togetherness and try out new formations.’ Bottom added: ‘I think most of the girls who came in have done an excellent job for us - as have the players who stayed on. We’ve all worked hard on our individual jobs. ‘Now we’re still training once a week to help keep us ticking over, and from conversations I’ve had with the rest of the squad, the vast majority will be staying for next season. ‘There will be some that go but that’s not

because of the players or manager, it’s something they’d already planned to do for one reason or another.’ She concluded: ‘We are going on a pre-season tour to Holland this summer and I’m hoping we can all get a solid pre-season and get off to a good start next season. ‘All the girls don’t want a repeat of the start we made last season. To an extent it will depend on who we get but there are no easy games in our league. There are games, however, where would fancy our chances more than others.’ BBM

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Supporters’ club of the month

#14: Trans Pennine Irons

T

his month Blowing Bubbles caught up with Liam Tyrell to talk about the Trans Pennine Irons. When was group founded? The Trans Pennine Irons was formed from what was previously The Northern Hammers Supporters’ Club. That was originally set up in 1993 by Mike Hanna. The aim was to organise travel to home games from West Yorkshire, from where a mini bus ran for several seasons picking up at various points off the A1. Norman Collins then took over the running of the club for many years before I resurrected it under the new name of Trans Pennine Irons in the summer of 2015. How many members in your group today? We currently have

The gang: Some members of the Trans Pennine Irons enjoy a pre-game pint

around 70 members. The numbers are slowly rising as word spreads and new requests are received. How many times do members travel to games? We have quite a few season ticket holders located all over the ground, and most of

Big flag: The group replaced the Northern Hammers Supporters’ Club

them travel away a lot as well. Our most memorable days as a supporters’ club were the three trips in succession to Cardiff for the play-off and FA Cup finals. We questioned Norman at the time but were grateful for his faith and foresight in booking hotel rooms in Cardiff and Bristol in advance. We’ve also had several successful ‘meet the players’ evenings arranged with the club when they stayed in the north prior to some away games. It was a good chance for photos and autographs and on one particular night

Harry Redknapp bought everyone a drink in the bar. What are the benefits of being part of your group? The main aim is to use our social media outlets to help fellow fans in the north. It has proved successful in helping out fans with spare tickets and travel. We have arranged meets at away games and many friendships have been formed. You can reach us by email at transpennineirons@gmail.com. We’re also on Facebook and can be found on Twitter @transpennineWHU

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The last word

Where would the taxpayer be without West Ham’s fine deal? Marcus Johns says the Olympic Stadium needs the Hammers to thrive

T

he full details of West Ham’s agreement with the London Legacy Development Corporation for the Olympic Stadium has been released to much furore. But why is there such outrage from others about the deal West Ham have got? Sure, it’s a good deal for West Ham, and credit to Karen Brady for brokering it, but the outcry has been far over the top. Most of the anger seems to be about the fact that the taxpayers are footing the bill for the transition costs, but weren’t they already? The stadium was built as an 80,000 capacity Olympic venue, the legacy of which being a 25,000-seater athletics stadium. How did they think funding was going to be raised for the transition to that? The only difference now is that West Ham have funded £15m towards the roof, that was never initially planned to be in place. What would the taxpayer prefer, money put towards an open bowl of a stadium that is

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Vital: Without the Hammers the Olympic Park would be nothing used twice a year? Or the money towards an asset that will continue to generate a return on the investment? Many have claimed the £2.5m per year we are paying in rent as derisory. But think about it, we have use of it for a maximum of 25 days. Ergo, we rent the stadium for £100,000 each time we use it. Add to this rental the matchday revenue – something that West Ham will no longer get to keep – and using Ar-

senal as the benchmark based on size and geography, you’re looking at £90m per year that the LLDC will earn. Not to mention the lions’ share of the naming rights. Not a bad income for 25 days of the year – especially as the ‘non West Ham days’ are free to be hired out for rugby internationals, rock concerts and the like. Huge earning potential, which West Ham have no claim over. The fact we are renting it for 25 days a year seems lost on most

people. Yes, we avoid costs on turnstiles, staff and even goal posts. But do AC/DC have to pay for their own stage? And to compare us to Arsenal, who had to cut costs while they paid for The Emirates to be built, people forget one thing by renting our stadium, it devalues the club, as we have a major asset less than other clubs have. So West Ham have had a fantastic deal. But so too have the LLDC, and indeed the taxpayer. BBM


They fly so high, nearly reach the sky, then like my dreams, they fade and die

Blowing Bubbles #59  

Blowing Bubbles Monthly’s May issue pays homage to Upton Park with a special issue celebrating the Boleyn Ground. 'Nearly reach the sky’ a...

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