Former Academy player Lee Goodwin is hoping for a bumper turnout this evening when Dagenham and Redbridge play host to a West Ham United XI.
The 32-year-old is being rewarded for ten years of service at the Daggers before a serious knee injury forced an early retirement from the game in summer 2008. During his career, the tough-tackling defender was at least able to finally make his Football League bow having played a major role in the club's rise from non-league to, after another promotion last year, League One.
The Hammers are taking a side made up of first-teamers not away on international duty and some of the club's brightest young talent on the short trip to Victoria Road. With the strong local bond between the two clubs, Goodwin is hoping many will take advantage of an opportunity to see an exciting game of football, with both sides free of the pressure of competitive action.
"It has been like organising a wedding for the last two or three weeks," said Goodwin. "We have not stopped but everything is in place now and we have done as much as we can. We should have the weather and both sides should be decent. We're all hoping it will be an enjoyable night.
"Both sides have played a massive part in my life. I learned to ply my trade at West Ham and did a year as a pro. I was affected by injury and didn't end up making the grade. I hoped to step straight back into the league but it didn't happen. However, we went from strength to strength at Dagenham and I loved spending my adult career at the club."
Like his youth-team contemporaries Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard as part of a superb crop of teenage talent in the mid 90s, Goodwin owes much to Tony Carr. "He was a big part of my life when I was growing up. I went to West Ham when I was 14 and was there right through til I was 19. I have fond memories of what he taught me and his record speaks for itself."
He also owes much to Billy Bonds - "a legend" - who was the first-team manager as he came through the ranks and then Harry Redknapp. "My whole career has been a privilege. I have experienced the lows in football but had some tremendous highs with Dagenham. I am really happy to get this opportunity and local businesses and people are all saying they are coming along."
Goodwin, who played 244 competitive games for Dagenham, will not be able to take the field this evening because of his ongoing troubles with his knee but, as a promising young coach, will be managing the Dagenham side. He will also introduce a few other famous Daggers face off the bench in the closing stages to make it a nostalgic night.
"Everyone is coming together and it will be great. I spoke to Rio and Frank and they would both have come over had it not been for their England commitments. We will have entertainment at half-time and I know that many fans of both clubs do have a soft spot for the other. The atmosphere should be great and I am very grateful to West Ham for agreeing to support me on the night."
Kick-off tonight is 7.45pm. Tickets are on sale priced at £10 for adult terrace tickets and £5 for concessions. For seats, adult tickets are £12 and concessions are £6.