Boleyn People

Lifelong West Ham United fan Roy Mizen pens a poignant farewell letter to the Boleyn Ground
Lifelong West Ham United fan Roy Mizen pens a poignant farewell letter to the Boleyn Ground

IT will be very sad to see the old Boleyn Ground disappear.

My first trip to the ground was when I was about six years old. My Uncle took me to the old wooden Chicken Run.

I remember being a bit worried when everyone started swaying from side to side, just before the players came out. My Uncle said ‘Don’t worry, they always do that’; but he didn’t say why. I still don’t know!

Then the war came. After the war my Mother let me go to football on my own, so I used to head for the boys’ enclosure at the top of the North Bank. If West Ham were kicking the other way at half-time, we were allowed to run under the Main Stand to the South Bank.

I remember being lifted over the heads of the crowd to the front behind the goal. On another occasion, I was in a queue to go to the turnstiles just off Green Street, when a one-armed man approached me. He said he was from the press and had a pass to the Press Box and would I like to join him. He said I could be his assistant and hold his note book as he only had one hand.

I did join him and enjoyed the match from the Press Box. He wrote a report at half-time and asked me if I had anything to include, unfortunately, I was too shy to add! I think he said he was from the Daily Mirror.

The Boleyn Ground has always been full of atmosphere. In the 1940s and 1950s Tom Jenkinson, Chairman then of the Supporters’ Club, would come on to the pitch at half-time and say in his very loud and distinctive voice “Ladies and Gentlemen, here are your lottery results for today”. There would be a hush, everyone waiting to see if they had won.

In 1980, when we won the Cup, Tom managed to get tickets for some supporters so some of my family joined me at Wembley. He borrowed the Cup and a lot of the Club members, including us, had our photos taken with it.

I’m sure a lot of fans will remember the era of ‘Monty’ – I suppose it was just after the war that a poor old fellow dressed in a full Field Marshall’s uniform complete with beret, used to be at every home game.

He had a bugle and if it looked as if the players needed to put in more effort, he would play a couple of chords of the Post Horn Gallop. The crowd always cheered and so I suppose he created the desired effect.

Of course, when the floodlights came they created a new atmosphere and I remember some great floodlit matches. I was there for the first, we beat Spurs I think 1-0.

Part of the reason why there has been a good atmosphere at the Boleyn is the fact that the supporters are so close to the action. I hope that can be created at the new ground.

I had a season ticket for years, saw all the greats, Bobby, Geoff and Martin. I was at Wembley in 1966. I gave up my season ticket a couple of years ago because at 82, I’m too old to get to the ground.

I was born in Howard Road just off Green Street, so it was only natural that I would be a West Ham supporter. I am very disappointed that I probably won’t see a match at the new Stadium; but I wish all the management and team every success in the new venture.
The opinions in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of West Ham United