In this week’s edition of our weekly throwback segment, we speak to Tim, 56, a lifelong Hammers fan and season ticket holder about a bit of Wembley glory in the modern era.
“Being a West Ham fan for the last 40 years means that trips to Wembley are unfortunately few and far between. However, having Claret and Blue blood meant that I wouldn’t have it any other way and if I was given my life over and over again, I would still be a Hammer every single time.
My first experience of The Old Wembley was seeing my team in the 1981 League Cup final. Although we lost in the final, we didn’t lose that day after procuring a 1-1 draw against Liverpool with a last gasp equaliser. After a few frustrating visits to The Old Wembley watching England, finally I would get to witness our Claret and Blue running out onto the pitch of The New Wembley and this time it would be with my two sons.
After finishing third in The Championship in the year of 2012, we cruised past Cardiff in The Play-Off semis and faced Blackpool in the final. We had already beaten Ian Holloway’s men convincingly twice in the League, but we felt that things would be different in this match with so much at stake.
After an hour and 20-minute car journey and successfully negotiating The North Circular, we arrived at a Primary School that had opened up its playground as a matchday carpark. With scarves and hats at the ready and faces painted with Hammers in Claret, we made our way to the Stadium.
The sea of fans took our breaths away when we looked down Wembley Way. Orange on one side and Claret and Blue on the other, it looked like an impossible mission to get to our turnstile. We joined the heavy throng of fans and wended our way slowly to our first visit at the new Stadium. The structure became even more impressive as we got closer, inside it was breath-taking and the atmosphere was building as kick-off became imminent.
Bubbles was sung with an intense urgency and we were soon underway. The game ebbed and flowed, with the moment we were waiting for finally coming in the 35th minute when Carlton Cole drove low into the corner of the net. A massive roar from our end of the Stadium reverberated around West London and our dreams of an early Premier League return were alive.
As Blackpool came back into the game, we were brought back to reality and stumbled into half-time with a narrow lead. The lead wasn’t to last with Tom Ince equalising for The Tangerines straight after the break in the 48th minute. A tense nervy period ensued with play again fluctuating from end to end. The game was soon approaching the 90th minute mark and extra time was looming. The thought of the dreaded penalty shootout was prominently playing in our minds.
Suddenly, interplay between Jack Collison and Kevin Nolan culminated with a ball into the penalty area where Ricardo Vaz Te was eagerly awaiting a chance. Carlton Cole delivered a scrappy but vital touch, and the former Portuguese U21 international smashed the ball into the roof of the net. Wembley’s roof was lifted with a tumultuous cheer.
The few minutes between the goal and full-time seemed like an age. Finally, Howard Webb blew the whistle to break Blackpool hearts, but send us into raptures. We had done it, back in The Premier League and with a memorable experience that me and my two sons still talk about even five years later”.