From the Terraces - Tony McDonald

Tony McDonald has penned an emotional new book entitled Upton Park Memories
EX Magazine editor Tony McDonald has penned an emotional new book entitled Upton Park Memories...

As first-time experiences go, my first visit to Upton Park will take some beating. It was Monday, August 26, 1968 and we brushed aside Burnley, 5-2, under the lights with goals from Geoff Hurst (2), Trevor Brooking (2) and Martin Peters.

I watched with my dad Terry, a West Ham youth team product in the mid-50s, from our wooden seats quite close to the front of 'A' Block in the upper West Stand. But I remember very little of the game itself, except two teams wearing different combinations of the same colours.

Even at the tender age of eight, I should have realised then that it was typical of West Ham to whack Burnley for five just a week after slumping to a 4-1 home defeat by Everton. After battering Burnley, we then walloped West Brom 4-0 in the next home game. It was all downhill from there!

Seriously, though, how lucky was I to begin my indoctrination watching Bobby Moore, Hurst and Peters on a regular basis, plus the emergence of Brooking, Billy Bonds and Frank Lampard – six Hammers legends playing together in one season, not forgetting steady Ron Boyce. No wonder I'm so difficult to please these days. That side didn't win any trophies but, under Ron Greenwood, it always attempted to play in an attacking, enterprising style that was easy on the eye. The 'West Ham Way', we called it.

Us little kids had to be at the ground by around lunch-time on Saturdays to guarantee a place on the wall at the front of the South Bank terrace, the vantage point from where I watched most games in that first starry-eyed 1968/69 season. The crowd was so close to the pitch, you could actually pat goalkeeper Bobby Ferguson on the back when he started his run-up before taking a goal-kick.

It was at that end of the ground that Hurst and Peters delivered pinpoint crosses for each other to head the goals that gave us a 2-0 lead in 15 minutes against Manchester City in November '68 (Francis Lee converted a late consolation penalty for the visitors). To think, the then new £170,000 East Stand had still not been fully opened – only the terraced area on the lower tier was ready – and in just a few months from now no-one will watch matches from there or anywhere else in this stadium again.
From 1987 until 2005 it became my great privilege to interview or write about all the greats mentioned earlier, and countless others who have worn the shirt or managed West Ham, in my role as editor of the Club's official monthly magazine and match day programme; and now for our retro EX-Hammers mag that it still going strong after 13 years.

Players and managers come and go but fans remain constant. That's why it has been such a pleasure to put together and self-publish our brand new book, Upton Park Memories – a 372-page, full colour hardback tome crammed with stories and anecdotes as told by 200-plus supporters whose devotion to all things Claret and Blue spans every decade the Hammers have spent here at the Boleyn Ground.

Their shared experiences form a unique legacy and the typical characteristics of being a Hammer – loyalty, fighting spirit and self-deprecating Cockney humour – leap from every page of what is, just like supporting our team, an emotional rollercoaster.

To order Upton Park Memories direct from the publisher for £20 (£5 off the RRP and with free P&P in the UK), phone 01708 744 333 or go online at Alternatively send cheque for £20 (payable to Football World) to: Football World (Upton Park Memories), 103 Douglas Road, Hornchurch, Essex, RM11 1AW.