It’s not often that I would write an Article in this style, indeed ever using the word “I” in my work, as regular readers will have surely picked up on by now, but a glance at today’s date (11 January 2018) and I couldn’t resist.
This date will always be very special to me because I can attribute it to being the most enthralling night of my life so far and it marks a time in history where my feelings and relationship with West Ham United were extremely different.
We will get to what happened on the evening of 11 January 2011 shortly, but first I want to explain to you, my faithful reader, just what the odd transition between a Football fan and a Football Journalist is like.
Nowadays, rather confusingly to people who have known me personally for a long time, I like to refer to myself as more of a West Ham Correspondent or a West Ham Writer.
And I’ve never felt that, if I was to consider myself a balanced and objective Journalist, that I can be the above and a member of the Claret & Blue Army at the same time.
Of course, ironically, a major element of this change is myself being closer to the club than I have ever been before, but my current state is a feeling that I find it hard to summarise to my Claret & Blue-blooded family.
They ask me questions of the like, “what is it like not to celebrate an Irons goal”? To which I reply, “you wouldn’t understand”, referring to not being able to cheer when the home team score at the London Stadium due to being in the Press Box, which I’m fortunate to have the privilege of donning for the majority of home games.
I can remember a clear turning point on the first night I had managed to gain an Accreditation, a home Carabao Cup clash with Bolton Wanderers, the club’s Head of Media Communication, my good friend Max Fitzgerald, was showing me around the dugouts and tunnel before kick-off.
The whole of the first-team Squad walked right past me at this moment and then I knew that my fanboy instincts had to desert me and desert me they did, my passion for West Ham United has been converted into a passion for writing about them, striving to deliver fair and accurate coverage.
It’s just the same going to Rush Green at the end of every week for David Moyes’ Pre-Match Press Conferences, you get a real insight into the life of a Manager and you feel more on a level with them, more connected, respecting them more than you have ever done before.
That feeling comes naturally to me in the present just like the feeling of being fan did before, however, I must get back to the purpose of this Article, reliving a tale from back when I was just a Hammers-mad ten-year-old.
For many, that day was just a normal Tuesday and for the first half, it was for me too, I got up, got ready and walked to School as I would have every weekday.
However, there was something a little different, I’m not ashamed to admit that my mind was far from my School work and in fact on what I would be doing that night, I was due to be partaking in the once in a lifetime activity of being a Mascot.
For all my excitement there was also a great deal of nervousness, the daunting proposition of walking out in front of well over 30,000 people turned my stomach over, though it was mostly thwarted with anticipation.
As a result, I got to leave School early that day to ensure that we got to E13 with plenty of time to spare from our home on the Kent Coast, the combination of M20 and M25 can be a recipe for disaster on some days, although this time around they were very kind indeed, traffic wise.
Mascots have to go in three hours before kick-off, as my Dad, just as excited as us, continued to remind me when we were waiting to enter in the bitter cold in the early evening darkness outside Upton Park.
What happened next is something of a magical blur to me, it was so incredible to train on the pitch right under the nose of players like goalkeeper Rob Green warming up and an unrivalled privileged feeling to be behind the scenes, much like I am on each Matchday nowadays.
But, there was one question on my mind for the whole build-up, which Claret & Blue star was I going to be holding hands and walking out onto the pitch with? Would it be one of my two idols? Scott Parker or Mark Noble?
When the time finally came, all the Mascots were lined up down the tunnel, one of the others being my brother and one of the other ones being the Nephew of famous Hammer and singer Chesney Hawkes.
I had already counted how may kids were between me, the pitch and the Dressing Room so that I could quickly determine which player it would be as they all walked towards us.
I swiftly worked out that I was going to miss out on Parker by one, although when I looked up, elation filled me as a, what seemed giant-like, God-like Noble stood there before me.
A few seconds passed before I plucked up the courage to speak to him and little did I imagine that chatting to one my idols would be just like a playground conversation with one of my mates.
One of the last things that I said to him was “Are you going to score some goals tonight Mark”? Which seems like an odd question to me now considering that he was and is a central defensive midfielder.
To which Noble replied “I hope so mate”, Birmingham City were the visitors to East London and it was a special atmosphere, being a Carling Cup Semi-Final and all.
Standing out in the middle was an unbelievable experience, the famous Boleyn Ground looked so different from the centre-circle and I just couldn’t wait for the game to begin.
On 13 minutes, Noble netted a deflected effort and there was only one thing in my mind as he did so, I like to think that he thought of me when he scored that strike and if I ever get the chance to Interview him one day, I will be sure to try to jog his memory.
One thing is certain, I will never let that night slip from my memories, regardless of the eventual result and the way that season panned out, it’s a tale that I will never stop telling.