In this week’s edition of our weekly Throwback segment, we hear from Nathan, a 16-year-old lifelong Hammer, and Season Ticket holder, about Bank Holiday Monday delight in a difficult season at Upton Park.
“Having had my pride and joy, a West Ham United Season Ticket, for over five years of my life now. There are certain games that stick out more than others and I have to accredit a certain Championship clash from the 2011/2012 campaign to being one of those.
After painful Relegation under Avram Grant the spring before, it had been a choppy year in East London as our struggles continued in the Division below.
Sam Allardyce had failed to deliver his promise of automatic promotion, so, we subsequently found ourselves in the Play-Offs, a nerve jangling experience for any fan.
We had suffered our fair deal of embarrassments and blips on the way to finishing third that term.
Including, a 5-1 thumping at Portman Road and a run of five frustrating consecutive draws in March, not to mention being knocked out of both Cups by lower League opposition.
However, we went into our Semi-Final tie against Cardiff City of Wales with the confidence taken from a 0-2 victory at The Cardiff City Stadium, no more than a month and a half earlier.
The Bluebirds, Managed by Malky Mackay, had qualified in sixth place after finishing five points ahead of Middlesbrough, but no Hammer was counting their Chickens heading into the tie.
Thankfully, Jack Collison had made it easier for us by the time of the home leg, with a magnificent brace in Wales to give us a two goal away victory, four days earlier.
As is customary with most Bank Holidays in England, there was a jubilant atmosphere in E13, that had bubbled up perfectly by the time that we had to play it out for a spot at Wembley.
It was just one of those incredible days at The Boleyn Ground, one of those days where you could just taste the atmosphere in the air and one of those days that you were proud to just say “I was there”.
After what had been a downward spiral from thoughts of guaranteed Promotion to having to battle it out over three Games for Football’s richest prize.
Optimistic feelings were just starting to creep back into the mentalities of the Hammers Faithful. Including, myself, my Brother and my Dad.
From the moment that Referee Mike Dean opened up proceedings to the moment that he blew his final whistle, inflatable Sheep danced from corner to corner of the Ground as noise erupted from every angle.
On the field, a wonderful performance complimented the special ambiance as goals from Kevin Nolan and Ricardo Vaz Te had our first Wembley appearance in 41 years wrapped up before the break.
Nicky Maynard added a late stunner to round off a terrific occasion, it could have been so much more than three, but an emphatic Aggregate total of 5-0 was enough to justify a post-match Player Parade.
We all know what happened under two weeks later in the Final that followed against Ian Holloway’s Blackpool on that sunny Wembley day.
While my memories of that Vaz Te winner on May 20, 2012, will stay with me forever, it was that Semi-Final and all it symbolized that really glued to my Brain.
The events of that day will always go down as some of my happiest moments at my favourite place, the much-missed Upton Park”.