Boleyn People

Lifelong Hammers fan and Academy Driver Dennis Lepine will miss the Boleyn Ground
Having been a supporter and employee of the Club for so many years, Academy Driver Dennis Lepine will certainly miss the Boleyn. But he also can’t wait for a new era to begin…
My first ever West Ham game was back in the 1971/72 season – a 1-1 draw against Southampton. It was my birthday, and I went with my Dad and two brothers. We went to the Bobby Moore Sports Shop and bought posters.
My brothers got Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore, while I got Paul Heffer. As he’s also at the Academy, I now work with him every day. To be honest, I didn’t really know who he was at the time!
The first away game I think I got to was away at Carlisle, and I remember asking my Dad if I could go. He must have thought it was somewhere in London, because he was pretty surprised when I left early and got back after 11pm. We won 2-1, and Frank Lampard Snr got both goals.
I’ve got a few collections, including all the ticket stamps from the 1976 European journeys, even to Russia. There were 47 of us who went, and we travelled with the team. I went to Ararat Yerevan, who we drew with out there but beat to go through. I also went to FC Den Haag, Eintracht Frankfurt and to Brussels for the final against Anderlecht.
Back in 1975, I actually slept outside the ground to make sure I got tickets for the FA Cup semi-final against Ipswich at Villa Park. In the morning, we were told that particular turnstile wasn’t going to be open, so we had to run round and we thankfully got tickets in the end!
In all the years I’ve supported the Club, Billy Bonds has been my favourite player. It was just in his heart – the desire.
In terms of games, a lot of people say the greatest game at the Boleyn Ground was the 3-2 home win over Eintracht Frankfurt. Brooking’s goals against the Germans – it was amazing. Officially, 30,000 fans were there but I think it was closer to 60,000.
One of the best feelings from recent years, though, was coming out of Anfield this season. The previous time we’d beaten Liverpool at Anfield, I was a month old, and I probably went 25 times in-between. In 1976 I remember going there and drawing, but until this season, we really didn’t have much luck.
Slaven has done a great job this season, as the team just doesn’t know when they’re beaten. I was up on my seat when Payet scored at Everton – I was with Nobes’ Dad and we were both going mad in the away end.
I personally started working for the club over ten years ago, first as a scout. I brought Jonjo Shelvey to the Club and it was nice to see him when we went to Swansea earlier this season.
I like to think I’m well respected and trusted within the West Ham community. Having followed the team for so long, you get to know everyone.
Duties as Academy Driver include doing the schoolboys’ runs, taking them from digs or home to school and to training. I also pick up stuff from the shops for players and then take the boys home at the end of their day.
I work with another driver on a shift rota, and I start at 6:45am and work until around 4pm. But, you have to be flexible as people obviously have different schedules. One of the perks of my job is having a foot in each camp, all over the Club. It’s good to have that mix and it’s something I cherish.
I also do stadium runs for whoever needs it – club officials, lawyers, agents, trialists, new signings – in some ways I’m the first face a new signing sees.
My family is all West Ham – my son Billy is a goalkeeping coach here at the Academy, and my daughter Penny used to work in the canteen. My wife does the snack bar for the U21 matches, too. I’ve got so much memorabilia from over the years – old floodlights, seats, and thousands and thousands of programmes.
We’re obviously moving to the Olympic Park, and I honestly can’t wait. I think everyone’s coming round to the idea of it now.
I’ve worked here full time for seven years now and I can honestly say I’ve never thought before a day: ‘God, I’ve got to go to work today’. It must be a sign that I’m in the right job!