Boleyn People

West Ham United staff, past and present, recall their memories of working at the historic home of the Hammers
Martin Godleman is a lifelong West Ham United fan, has provided commentary on many club videos and DVDs, and is now the Boleyn Ground stadium announcer…

“My first visit, standing at the side of the North Bank, was in 1970/71, aged 12. I spent most of that season watching Geoff Hurst blast the ball past goalkeepers from outside the box. He had this habit of puffing out his cheeks whenever he struck the ball, and I would watch from my vantage point on the terrace, marvelling at his efforts. True to form, he hit home a powerful shot from the edge of the area in a 2-2 draw on that day back in August 1970, celebrating with a mute wave at the crowd. None of today’s histrionics then for goalscoring strikers.
“My most dramatic memory came on a dark damp winter’s night in December 1971, when West Ham faced Stoke City in the second leg of the League Cup semi-final, 2-1 up from the first leg, and just 90 minutes away from returning to Wembley.
“West Ham only needed to play out time to get to Wembley, and for the first hour and a quarter, they managed it, choosing caution over a gung-ho approach. With 15 minutes to go, Stoke took the lead through their lone striker John Ritchie after a mix-up in the Hammers’ defence. Then, drama in the last minute! Harry Redknapp cut round the back of the defence and was brought down… penalty!
“Up stepped my hero Geoff Hurst to take us to Wembley, and although he blasted the ball with even more force than usual, his adversary was none other than Gordon Banks, his fellow 1966 FIFA World Cup winner. The save he made that night still defies belief, no matter how many times you watch it. Standing slightly to the right behind the goal I had one of the best views you could have had, and I was certain it had gone in. All I remember were the 38,771 audible gasps as everyone in the Boleyn realised that the ball had not gone in, and that West Ham were headed not for Wembley, but for a replay.
“Twenty years later I found myself up the gantry in the East Stand at the Boleyn, as the club’s first official commentator. Then, as now, you got up the gantry by a ladder, which you pulled up behind you before the match started. I can remember games when I was joined by summarisers who needed to visit the bathroom during a game, but were not allowed. The last minutes of some games were particularly traumatic for them, but not because of the football!
“There were many great games I commentated on at the Boleyn, but the one I recall was the 1992 1-0 win over Manchester United, who were chasing the title, as it featured a rare and stunning winning goal from defender Kenny Brown. The game was also memorable for me as I had ITV’s Clive Tyldesley and BSB’s Martin Tiler on the gantry with me, along with three cameramen. How the gantry didn’t collapse that night, especially after Kenny’s goal, I’ll never know!
The commentary position was a job I was lucky enough to have for 12 years until West Ham were relegated in May 2003. The final Boleyn goal I described was Paolo Di Canio’s winner against Chelsea in a West Ham team managed by Trevor Brooking. Surreal stuff.
I am behind the microphone as match announcer for our final season here. What a privilege.
So yes, Upton Park, The Boleyn Ground, I am going to miss you.