In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from Jack, 30 and a lifelong West Ham United fan and Season Ticket holder about a special Valentines’ Day table for two in a very unlikely place.
“Around six years ago I can vividly remember a February like no other, the big day was fast-approaching, and I had run out of ideas of what I might get my beloved girlfriend Beth.
By the big day, of course, I mean the hellish holiday that is Valentine’s Day, an annual event which was really designed to catch out the man, unless he’s well-prepared, of course, which I wasn’t.
Anyway, after all of 30 seconds of deliberation, I had a lightbulb moment and I wasn’t going to go down the traditional route, oh no, it was a risk, but one I had to take.
At that time, I can remember my beloved West Ham United being in the Championship under Sam Allardyce and vying for promotion back up to the promised land of the Premier League.
Our main rivals were Nigel Adkins’ Southampton, with whom we had jostled for position with for much of the campaign and welcomed to Upton Park in mid-February.
It just so happened that the evening the Saints were due to visit fell on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2012, there was no way I was going to miss this top of the table clash or let my girlfriend down on her favourite day.
Just a few days prior to the affair, I had managed to get her an extra ticket next to my Season Ticket seat in the upper of the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand at the Boleyn Ground.
I had surprised her with the ticket on the day and as much as she pretended to be delighted with it, I could see the anguish in her face when she realised that our evening meal would not be at a Michelin Star restaurant, but pie n mash.
Anyway, we set off in the early evening, footballing wise, she had led a very shallow life up until that point and I was eager to see how she reacted to her first taste of live football.
All was set for a feisty affair, at that stage, the team from the south coast held a slight edge on the east Londoners, a win for the hosts would change that, however.
I was ecstatic that Beth got to taste Upton Park on one of its finest evenings, a special atmosphere under the lights, a loud chorus of “Bubbles” and all the makings of a night to remember.
On the pitch, the Hammers had made a promising start which made the noise from the terraces much louder and much more encouraging, it was ramped up when a penalty was won on 21 minutes.
Saints star Billy Sharp was the guilty man and the Southampton players didn’t take the decision very well at all, a disagreement ensuing, and Matt Taylor being dismissed in this commotion for allegedly slapping Sharp in the face which amused my girlfriend, not me though.
When Mark Noble converted the spot-kick, I lifted her in the air and forced her to take part in the celebrations, a nail-biting encounter followed with West Ham desperately trying to hold on for a huge victory.
Jos Hooiveld broke the home supporters’ hearts late on by levelling and the points were shared; I was happy with the result overall, however, as I tried to explain what it would mean for the table to my girlfriend.
I’d like to say that the evening inspired her to accompany to every match and she was with me when the mighty Irons did get promoted against Blackpool in the play-off final at Wembley.
But, the lure of the big shopping centre just outside the London stadium always proves too much for her nowadays, though my risk did pay off that night and it certainly made Valentine’s Day enjoyable for me, for once”.