On This Day: West Ham United bid an unforgettable Farewell Boleyn five years ago today
West Ham United bid an emotional farewell to the Boleyn Ground with a stunning closing ceremony following an unforgettable 3-2 Final Game victory over Manchester United on 10 May 2016 - five years ago today.
The Hammers ended 112 years at their historic home with a 45-minute showpiece that featured Hammer of the Year winners, dozens of former players, Slaven Bilic’s first-team squad, the Cockney Rejects and ended with the late, great Bobby Moore turning off the lights at the famous stadium.
An amazing day saw tens of thousands of supporters descend on Upton Park to be part of the occasion, just wanting to be among their fellow fans as West Ham said 'Goodbye' to a ground the Club initially moved into in 1904.
Those fortunate enough to have a match ticket witnessed a wonderful spectacle on the pitch, too, with Diafra Sakho putting West Ham ahead, Manchester United roaring back through two Anthony Martial strikes, then seeing their own lead disappear as first Michail Antonio, then Winston Reid headed past David De Gea to seal an unforgettable victory.
Following a breathless 90 minutes of football between two of English football’s finest clubs, the Club put on show fitting for their illustrious home ahead of the move to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford.
After a season review video had played on the big screens, ceremony hosts and lifelong Hammers Bianca Westwood and Ben Shephard took centre-stage.
Proceedings kicked-off with captain Mark Noble leading the first-team around the pitch to accept the applause from a capacity crowd – many of whom were reduced to tears by the overwhelming mixture of pride, sadness and optimism that filled the stadium.
It was then the turn of Sky Sports presenter Westwood to head to the Betway Stand Upper to meet some of the 100-plus former players who had taken up the Club’s invitation to attend the Final Game.
Next, three of the Hammers’ super supporters were introduced by Shephard, with champion fundraiser Jonjo Heuerman, then-100-year-old Season Ticket Holder Mabel Arnold and the loyal Belgian Irons supporters’ club going under the spotlight.
Attention then turned to the Club’s outstanding Hammer of the Year winners, more than 20 of whom had made the journey back to their spiritual home, who entered the Boleyn Ground in five Claret and Blue-clad traditional London taxis.
As the memorable climax approached, three truly iconic moments in the stadium’s long history went under the spotlight – Paolo Di Canio’s world-class volley against Wimbledon in March 2000, Sir Trevor Brooking’s 1976 European Cup Winners’ Cup semi-final goal against Eintracht Frankfurt, and finally Billy Bonds’ wave to a crowd-covered pitch following promotion to the Premier League in May 1993.
The atmosphere could hardly have gone up a notch, but it did as Mark Noble led out the 2015/16 first-team squad out of the tunnel and onto the pitch one final time, before bidding his ‘West Ham family’ farewell.
"I'm feeling emotional, blown away," said the skipper. "That's the best atmosphere I've ever played in in my life. This Club is a family. It's more than a football club. That's why so many people follow and players sign.
"I've got my family here I mean every West Ham fan out there when I say my family. Thanks to every single one of you."
The Cockney Rejects played a rocking version of ‘Bubbles’ that nearly took the roof off the stadium before silence fell for the climax – moving footage of the late, great Bobby Moore switching off the Boleyn Ground lights one last time.
All that was left was for Mr Moon to officially leave the building, and 112 years of highs, lows, laughter and tears at the Boleyn Ground was brought to a poignant end.