What's wrong wth Upton Park anyway?

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I don’t remember the first game I ever went to see at Upton Park, and that is because I have been taken there since I was a babe in arms.

My mum can't remember the game but she can recall taking me as baby and standing in the West Stand lower tier balancing me on the old crush barriers. I can remember like it was yesterday the day in 1975 when the Hammers lifted the FA Cup, street partying the road I lived in, in Canning Town.

I can even remember that Dr Who faced the cyber men that day as it scared the life out of me and I ran back out to the party -  I was only five at the time. I remember vivid the day my uncle turned up with our first season tickets in August 1977, walking up the Barking Road with all the other fans, not realising what relegation meant as we walked out after the last home game that season which was a 2-0 defeat by Liverpool.

The glory years that followed - well for me they were - the cup win of 1980, the League cup final of 1981.

The greatest ever day for me of them all soon followed as I walked out onto the pitch holding Billy Bonds' hand as the champions of Division Rwo were applauded onto by Wrexham in the last game that we would play in that division for another eight years.

Standing on the pitch against Ipswich in 1986 and singing, “we're going to win the league” and actually believing it. Fans under the age of 30 won't believe it but - yes - West Ham did once nearly win the league.

The last day of the North Bank, where I had stood since the age of 13, in Tony Gale's testimonial. The stewards that day had to literally push me out the ground at the end so sad I was to be leaving that terrace for the last time.

Upton Park like every other top football ground has been reconstructed to make it safer for those that go but also something has been lost along the way. But I will still prefer to stay at Upton Park than move into the Olympic Stadium in Stratford, but then as I am a fan no one has asked me my opinion, not that it has stopped me expressing it.

In the press I read every day about another athlete or a Labour politician backing the Hammers' bid, but yet none of these, except Hammers' fan Chris Akabusi, have a clue what West Ham is about or what the fans want.

Lord Coe was a hero of mine as a child but now I wish we had not won the bid for the Olympics if at the end of it I am faced with the prospect of watching my football the wrong side of a running track. The way I see it is that Lord Coe made the promise of a running track to be left in place, not West Ham United or Tottenham Hotspur.

If legacy was such a priority then why didn’t UK Athletics bid to take the stadium? Perhaps because in this country athletics is a minority sport that cannot afford a 25,000-seated stadium, which is how it has been built to be left once the games are over.

Upton Park for me is not just about the past happy memories it is the part of the fabric of the club, the badge has a castle in it which symbolises the old building that stood in the grounds of the land where the stadium is on Green Street.

It is not just bricks and mortar, as some fans have called it, and some businesses rely on it to survive. The move, in my opinion, is the biggest gamble any owner can make with a club's future and, if it were my decision to make, I wouldn’t go any where near the place.

It was built to be downgraded to a 25,000 seated athletics stadium, and that is exactly how it should be left.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are that of the writer and may not replicate those of the Professional Footballers' Association.

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Premier League
West Ham United

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