West Ham have had bigger wins in their past than a 3-2 win over Manchester United – 10-0 vs Bury in the League Cup, October 1983. They have also had more important victories, with two springing directly to mind.
Manchester United 0-1 West Ham in 2007 to avoid relegation from the Premier League and West Ham 2-1 Blackpool in the 2012 Championship play-off final. However, few if any matches since the victorious 1980 FA Cup final can be more memorable than the final match at the beloved Boleyn Ground.
Officially, 34,662 supporters were present but you will be hard pushed to find a Hammer who does not claim to have been there to say goodbye to the old ground and witness a thrilling end to 112 years of history.
In the grand scheme of things, a home win against Manchester United to move sixth in the Premier League table with one game to play, whilst still a big win, does not exactly scream ‘a match for the ages’ but that is on paper.
For those present this was more than a game, this was an emotional goodbye to a lifelong love, a funeral that turned into a glorious wake, an emotional rollercoaster that football fans around the world can relate to.
It began with scenes of joy, intimidation and a little violence outside the ground. Supporters with and without tickets lined the streets of Upton Park, beers and flares in hand as the Manchester United traveling party were greeted with bottles thrown at their team coach. The baying mob made it quite clear to their opponents not to ruin the farewell. With the Manchester United squad crouching on the floor of their coach in case a window broke the atmosphere was set long before kick-off.
The crowd did not let up once the football actually began and an early Diafra Sakho goal sparked jubilant scenes in the stands. This however was still West Ham, and they were still up against Manchester United. Of course, it was not going to be a simple 1-0 win.
Despite the Hammers’ first-half dominance, Slaven Bilic’s team could not extend their lead and two Anthony Martial goals in the space of 21 second-half minutes looked to be spoiling the party.
With 18 minutes remaining the planned post-match celebration looked to be in ruins, would it really be the same saying goodbye to a beloved home after a disappointing result that could cost the club a place in Europe?
Luckily, we will never know.
Two terrific headers in four minutes from Michail Antonio and Winston Reid put paid to that. The party was well and truly underway and was going to be a memorable one.
Antonio is of course still at the club, he is now West Ham’s record Premier League goalscorer and destined for cult hero status long after he hangs up his boots. Reid has only recently left after an injury-laden few years, for other players taking a huge salary whilst not contributing anything on the pitch for such a long time might see the love of the fans wane.
For the man who won the last ever match at the Boleyn Stadium, there was no such fate. His time at West Ham will be fondly remembered for more than just ‘that’ goal but his 80th-minute leap will forever be many Hammers supporters’ favourite moment.
When Reid announced he was departing West Ham, his social media post was met with an outpouring of thanks from Hammers supporters. Nearly all mentioned the final Boleyn Ground goal.
Many fans have never forgiven the owners for the move away from their spiritual home and only now with the team doing so well on the pitch is the London Stadium beginning to feel like an intimidating football stadium. Maybe West Ham will never be able to recreate the feeling of the atmospheric Boleyn but they are trying and with a superb team to watch the London Stadium is starting to have a real buzz about it that many thought it never could.
In 2021, with supporters allowed back in the stadium and David Moyes’ team going well in Europe and seeing off the likes of Liverpool and Manchester City at home, the Boleyn feel is beginning to return and it is noticeable that opposition managers and ex-players now working in the media are commenting on this.
The Boleyn at its best was a fabulous place to watch football but none more so than on its final night.
Fittingly the last man of the match award ever handed out at the old ground went to current Mr.West Ham, Mark Noble. The Hammers have a long list of great club captains with the likes of Bobby Moore and Billy Bonds standing out. Noble has well and truly cemented himself alongside those legendary Hammers and gave the Boleyn the send off it deserved.
West Ham 3-2 Manchester United. Mark Noble man of the match. Perfection.
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Source by Football London