Boleyn People

For Financial Controller and dyed-in-the-wool West Ham United fan Paul Ellis, the final season at the Boleyn Ground is particularly special
For West Ham United Financial Controller and dyed-in-the-wool Hammer Paul Ellis, the final season is particularly special...

As West Ham fans go, Plaistow-born Paul Ellis is as Claret and Blue as they come. Since attending his first match in November 1980 – a 2-0 win over Swansea City – he has been hooked.

Stemming from a family of Hammers, it did not take long before Paul adopted the family tradition.

“I was brought up literally just a mile down the Barking Road in Plaistow and attended school in Canning Town so I was only ever going to support one team - that was the way it was back then,” he began.

“I’ve been coming here as a fan since 1980, standing on the North Bank Terrace with my dad Bill and my brother John. I couldn’t see much of the action during those early years as I was quite small – Dad would sit me on a crowd barrier so that I could enjoy the game. He later constructed wooden stalls for both John and I to stand on.

“The family affinity with West Ham was started by my Dad when he began coming to matches from his home in Dagenham during the late 1950s. When I was a very young boy, I was always aware of Dad going to watch West Ham play once a fortnight on a Saturday afternoon, but at the time it was of no interest to me, even when he would bring home a claret and blue scarf and metal badge bought from just outside the ground.

“The 1980 FA Cup final changed all that and 10 May 1980 was the date when my passion for West Ham United was really ignited. I remember sitting down with my family and watching the match on TV (Dad was at Wembley) and I’ve been hooked ever since. The aftermath of that win lives long in the memory with the East End coming to life that evening with the celebrations and the open-top bus parade the very next day. I call it the ‘Spirit of 1980’ and I’m in no doubt that many new West Ham fans were born from that day.”   

Since then, Paul has enjoyed and endured the rollercoaster ride that is being a West Ham fan and he took a further step by starting work for the Club he loves in 2007.
Paul explained: “Essentially, as Financial Controller, my role is to support the CFO, Andy Mollett. I’m involved in all financial aspects of the Club such as managing cash forecasts, preparing monthly financial reports for the Board and the various heads of department, as well as co-ordinating the annual audit whilst also ensuring compliance with HMRC, FAPL and UEFA governance on finance related matters.    

“I’ve been working at West Ham for just over three years now, but this is my second spell. I was here before for around 18 months from late 2007. 

“The time came for me to move on and I then spent three years in the horse racing industry working in a similar role for the broadcaster Racing UK. The opportunity to come back to the Boleyn arose in November 2012, and I jumped at the chance.”

Due to the nature of Paul’s work, there has to be a degree of discretion around the financial workings of a Premier League club, but it is certainly an integral and intriguing role.

Now living in Rainham in Essex, Paul explained what the transition from being a fan to an employee was like: “It was difficult at first going from being a supporter to working for the club you love. Once you become an employee, it really does become everything. I had massive shift in outlook and opinion of what a club is all about.

“I’m quite fortunate in that I do not have to work on a match-day, although I usually come into the office for an hour or two pre-match to catch up on a few issues. If I have time before kick-off I then pop into the Supporters’ Club for a quick pint with friends ahead of enjoying the match.”
The family affinity with West Ham was started by my Dad when he began coming to matches from his home in Dagenham during the late 1950s
For every fan, this last season at the Boleyn Ground is a special, yearlong event that will live long in the memory.

Reflecting on the standout players and moments witnessed at the iconic venue, Paul continued: “From my early years, Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds were my idols. Bonds was a true leader of men, and for me as a young boy at the time, Billy epitomised what being a club captain was all about.

“Frank McAvennie was a big hero and that season of 1985/86 was just amazing. It seemed as if almost all of Frankie’s shots would find the back of the net that year. Moving on from there Paolo Di Canio was a fantastic player, that goal against Wimbledon was just incredible.

“At the time, I was a Season Ticket Holder in the Lower East Stand and my seat was parallel to the line from where Paolo struck the ball, I had an absolutely perfect view of the goal. As soon as the ball came over it was only going one place.

“Another goal that stands out is Ray Stewart’s penalty against Ipswich Town in April 1986 which kept our title hopes alive going into the final weekend of the magical 1985/86 season. That was also my most memorable match. Stewart stepped up as coolly as ever and smashed home the penalty to put us in the lead – the stadium erupted. I was standing at the front of the North Bank directly behind the goal and it was an occasion I’ll never forget.”

While the past clearly holds a lot of fond memories, Paul insisted the future is just as exciting for the Club, a move him and his four sons are all eagerly anticipating.

“I have four lads, Matthew, Tom, Daniel and Sam, who are all massive West Ham fans. It’s a huge part of their lives, and being realistic, they too were only ever going to support one club.

“Last summer I did a 10km run which finished inside the Olympic Stadium. It’s an absolutely fantastic arena, and I cannot wait to get in there. A tremendous amount of work has, and is still going on behind the scenes to make the transition to Stratford a smooth one but also to ensure that the Boleyn Ground is given the fitting send-off it deserves. As a fan who is also fortunate to be employee, this really is an exciting time to be involved.

“Naturally, I will find it emotional to leave the Boleyn as it has been such a big part of my life, from a very early age right up to the present. As mentioned, my first match here was against Swansea, so there’s some poetry in facing them again in the last ever game before we leave.

“Every match played here this season is treasured especially as the clock is now running down and I would say to fellow supporters that they should savour this season and then look forward to the future.”