'We all follow the West Ham'

Few West Ham United supporters have enjoyed as many ups and endured as many downs as Ronald Pratten.

The 85-year-old has been watching the Hammers since 19 January 1935, when he attended a 2-0 Division Two victory over Brentford at the Boleyn Ground.

Over the past eight decades, Pratten has seen West Ham win three FA Cups, lose another in heart-breaking circumstances, lift the European Cup Winners' Cup, achieve six promotions and suffer five relegations.

Along the way, he has befriended some of the Club's top players and even found himself in the dressing room on the day West Ham returned to the top flight.

"I'm a Custom House lad born and raised," Pratten started. "My uncle Jim signed for West Ham as a professional. I don't think he ever played, but I've seen his name in the books.

"My cousin brought me to a game on the day after my sixth birthday, January 19 1935, and I was put down the front and I began by supporting the wrong team! I got mixed up between West Ham and Brentford!

"That was the start of this lovely affair. I worked for the same company for 40 years and wherever I moved about - Newcastle, Nottingham, the Lake District - I always travelled miles to see West Ham."

After getting over his initial confusion, Pratten has followed West Ham loyally all over the country and beyond, attending some of the most memorable matches in the Club's long and illustrious history.

In April 1958, he was at Ayresome Park to see West Ham win 2-0 and secure the Second Division championship on the final day of the season.

Due to his friendship with centre-half Andy Nelson, the then 29-year-old found himself in the Away dressing room celebrating with the players - but not for long!

Ronald with son Spencer (left) at the Boleyn Ground

"I went to school with Andy and [fellow West Ham player] Billy Nelson at Shipman Road in Custom House and I was living up in the Lake District at the time, in Penrith, so I whipped down to Middlesbrough," he explained.

"As I came past, the dressing room door was open and I looked in and I saw Andy, so I went up to him and he said 'What are you doing here?'. We had a lovely chat but then I thought I had better go.

"As I left, Ted Fenton was there with a tray full of Champagne glasses and I knocked them! I won't repeat what he said to me, but I got out very quickly."

Six years later, Pratten was at a muddy Hillsborough to see West Ham upset a star-studded Manchester United in the FA Cup quarter-finals.

"Brilliant! Bobby Moore was impregnable that day. I've seen him play some of his wonderful games, but I think that was probably his best. Geoff Hurst and Ticker were great, too. I got soaked but who cares!"

Closer to home, Pratten has enjoyed some fantastic times in his native East End, both at the Boleyn Ground and elsewhere.

"I was very friendly with Harry Hooper in those days as we used to go to the East Ham Winter Hall to go dancing, so I was always a keen fan of Harry. When I stood in the old Chicken Run it was always exciting because what a player Harry was! The other one was the Ipswich game, the Play-Off semi-final, in 2004, which was a wonderful night."

While he has enjoyed many highlights, Pratten has also endured more than his fair share of shattering defeats during 80 years in Claret and Blue, listing the 2006 FA Cup final as his least favourite day as a Hammer.

Even after major heart surgery in 2007, he was back climbing the steps to his seat a mere two weeks later, such was his desire to watch the Hammers. So, what does he think sets West Ham apart from other clubs?

"For me, it's my home team. I live fairly near and my uncle having played for the club. It's something difficult to describe, but I just couldn't imagine supporting any other team. It is something that is in your blood."

"I believe in the West Ham Way of football. I always thought West Ham were an eight-man team because we didn't have the money or resources to buy that extra two or three players, but we always punched above our weight, even then.

"We love our football and win or lose, it has been exciting. This year has been great, too.

Pratten is looking forward excitedly to the future, including the big move to the New Stadium in Stratford in summer 2016.

"I'm delighted with the move to Stratford, because Stratford was always the capital of West Ham and the main part of West Ham. I love Upton Park, but I'm looking forward to the future and, at 86, I do hope I've got at least two or three years at the Olympic Stadium. My son Spencer will get me up there with a walking stick, I'm sure!

"One of my grandsons is ten and has been with Bournemouth since he was six. I've lent him to Bournemouth and his great-grandfather was Norman Corbett, a great West Ham player of the past who got a Scotland cap, and he's going to come to West Ham!"