Boleyn People

It goes without saying that the Final Game was an incredibly emotional affair for every Hammers fan in the Boleyn Ground, but for West Ham United’s Head of Press Paul Stringer it held double significance.

After nearly five years in the role, Stringer is bidding not just the Boleyn Ground farewell but also West Ham United as he takes up a new position at the Premier League this summer. And although he admits proceedings were tinged with a hint of sadness, Stringer says it was an experience he relished.

“It was an amazing night to be a part of,” Stringer explained. “The post-match celebrations were really exciting. The Club invested a lot of time and money into making it a night to remember and that's exactly what it was.

"It was an amazing night and it didn’t really hit me that that was it until I’m on my way home.”

On Sunday at Stoke City, Stringer oversaw the press operation at the Club for the final time.

Prior to that, his duties ranged from the management of Slaven Bilic’s pre and post media conferences to dealing with media enquiries and writing club statements.

The Club’s move to the former Olympic Stadium has certainly meant the last few years have been anything but quiet, but the 34-year-old insists he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“The Olympic Stadium move has been a brilliant project to be involved in. It’s been fascinating seeing the stadium’s evolution over the past few years, right from when we took Mark Noble down there to become the first person to kick a football there in July 2013. I was there a few weeks ago and stood in the centre of the pitch and it just looks incredible.

"The new roof is going to become famous the world over and I think opposition players will be intimidated by the scale of the place.

“Away from the pitch, West Ham being named anchor concessionaire at the Stadium has obviously meant we’ve been subject to a lot of media scrutiny, which has been challenging but also a great experience. The end result is that we will move to the Stadium next year with Season Tickets totally sold out so it is nothing short of an unrivalled success.”

Like many of the staff working behind-the-scenes at the Boleyn, Stringer is also a Hammers fan, coming from a long line of claret and blue supporters.

“I used to have a Season Ticket with my Dad but then I got the job here and he had to find other people to come with. He’s got his ticket next to the Press Box so he always pops by at half-time to say hello and quickly digest how the game’s going.

“We’ve got a bit of a problem now though as he’s bought his Season Ticket for the new Stadium next to the Press Box but unfortunately I now won’t be in it! So although it will be sad to say goodbye tonight I’m really looking forward to being able to come back and watch games with my Dad as a fan again.”
Stringer certainly saw plenty of memorable moments during his professional time with the Club, after originally joining the media team in August 2008 to help run the website. After a brief break in 2010, he returned to the Hammers in his new role in January of 2012, midway through Sam Allardyce’s first year in charge and the successful promotion campaign.

So in nearly eight years at the heart of the media operation, what has been his favourite memory?

“It’s really hard to pick one,” he explained. “But if I had to I would probably say the Play-Off final at Wembley, as it is not every day you see West Ham United win there.

“But talking about the Boleyn, some of the best memories have probably been this season. Angelo Ogbonna’s last-minute winner against Liverpool was a real moment of euphoria, the atmosphere and jubilation when we beat Tottenham for the last time at the Boleyn and Mark Noble’s Testimonial were all moments to savour.”

And have there been any moments Stringer would rather forget?

“Well I had to write the minute-by-minute updates for the infamous game against Millwall in 2009, which was challenging to say the least!” he recalls with a smile.

“Looking back at my Boleyn memories as a fan, some of the more left field moments are probably the ones that stand out – Freddie Sears’ debut goal against Blackburn, beating Man United 4-0 in the snow with Jonathan Spector scoring a brace and belting out ‘Aboooooo’ every time Samassi Abou scored.

“Like most Hammers I also used to love the way Paolo Di Canio played as you never knew what to expect. I also enjoyed watching the famous Academy graduates like Joe Cole and Michael Carrick break into the team for the first time as they were about the same age as me. I think it was then I realised my dreams of playing professional football were never going to materialise!”
Although in reality it seems Stringer had given up on those ambitions some years before. After graduating with a degree in journalism, he made landing a job at West Ham his primary focus.

“I remember reading about one of the press officers in an old matchday programme and thought what an amazing job it would be. So I made it my ambition to one day work in the press team here. After originally sending in my CV for work experience, I didn’t hear anything back. However, a year or so later I was afforded the chance to come in for an interview and was duly offered the website job and I haven’t looked back.

“During my time at the Club, I’ve worked under Alan Curbishley, Gianfranco Zola, Sam Allardyce and Slaven Bilic and they have all been good to work with for different reasons.

“Obviously the way the team have been playing this season has made it a joy to come to work and ultimately the way the players are playing at the moment makes our job easier as the stories are always a lot more positive!”

Like most games this season, the Press Box was packed for the Final Game with journalists around the world, many of whom stayed in their seats to enjoy a 45-minute closing ceremony that was beamed around the world.

“I think the closing ceremony was a fantastic event and a celebration of what makes us proud to support West Ham,” he added. “I’m quite philosophical about the move as I’m a firm believer that you can take your memories with you wherever you go. It’s the same as when you move house, job or even school – you’ll always have your memories to take with you.

“Next season I’m looking forward to getting back on the terraces and making new memories in our new surroundings. And, like everyone else, I hope and expect they’ll even better those we’ve created here.”