Boleyn boy Nigel’s sad goodbye: “Everything the club wants to achieve could be done here”


Kahn2Passionate lifelong fan Nigel Kahn – who  launched CandH’s Farewell Boleyn series – as this site’s former historian earlier in the season is three games away from a personal tragedy as Upton Park disappears forever.

Nigel has made no secret of his opposition – reacting angrily for months but now the ‘funeral’ as he describes it, is just around the corner and we asked him to recall the nights and days which have made such a huge impact on his life.

This is Part One – the second follows tomorrow

Thank you for the days

Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me

I’m thinking of the days

I won’t forget a single day, believe me

1978 was not the best of seasons, but those last few games of that season are forever etched in my memory, Derby County were defeated 3-0 with Pop Robson scoring a brace, Alvin was fresh faced youngster with full head of hair, new to the first team, and I got bitten by the football bug.

As the players waved goodbye that season after the Liverpool home game even though we had been relegated I didn’t hear any resent or abuse. Instead Upton Park – packed with fans – gave them applause and cheered them off the pitch.

My heroes were Bonds and Brooking, Robson and Lampard and I couldn’t wait for the next season having no idea what relegation meant or represented but back then it didn’t have the Armageddon feeling it has these days; no fire sale of our players, though I still believe that it was lucky for Brooking that his former manager, Ron Greenwood was in charge of the national team and was reassured his place was not under threat.

First game back was against Notts County, and they got smashed off the park 5-2, disappointed not to go straight back up but just around the corner was even better days

I bless the light

I bless the light that lights on you, believe me

And though you’re gone

You’re with me every single day, believe me

Night games were the best back then, mainly as it meant staying out late on a school night but the Boleyn under the lights was magical, none more so than the 21st of December 1979 against Cambridge United. The snow at one point was so heavy we couldn’t see the pitch. It was my first time seeing the ball swapped for the orange variety, the frozen crowd managed to dance at half time to a popular instrumental song of the time that sounded more like it was a Morris dance than a Christmas Song not forgetting the mad fan that jumped out the south bank with no trousers on. Pop had left by then replaced by Stuart Pearson. The Southend game in October of 79 I’ve mentioned a few times, as the young me discovered a new hero, just for three weeks mind, Billy Lansdowne.

Nottingham Forest in the League Cup, a 0-0 draw but the ground was heaving that night, i won a fiver on the West Ham lottery scratch cards my Uncle’s mate had given to me. My uncle didn’t want to pay for our season seats that night so he bunked in, while I was pulled over the wall onto the West Stand steps.

Those same steps later that season I met Harry Redknapp for the first time and it turned out he knew my uncle and they chatted while I just stared… bored! My uncle told me who his mate was, but I didn’t remember him from my childhood or from playing at West Ham. I do know though who Frank Lampard was, and the delight I got at the times he used to wave to my uncle as his Jag pulled into the car park. Years later I myself would get to know Frank through work.

1981 brought the League Cup run to the final, and the European adventure that started in surreal surroundings of the Ghost game v Castilla. I was outside the ground for about 15 minutes, but it was obvious this was one game my Uncle wasn’t getting us into, so it was the short drive back to Canning Town to drop me home, though i still have the programme.

Coventry in the Semi-final lives long, mainly as it looked like going into extra time before Jimmy Neighbour popped up with his last minute goal to send us back to Wembley.

Tbilisi can’t be forgotten, I was just 11 but can’t remember an away team so destructive that they get applauded off the pitch as well.

Nothing ever beat the night games at the Boleyn.

Days I’ll remember all my life

Days when you can’t see wrong from right

You took my life

But then I knew that very soon you’d leave me

But it’s alright

Now I’m not frightened of this world, believe me

I wish today could be tomorrow

The night is dark

It just brings sorrow, let it wait

The current season was never going to be able to be fully celebrated no matter what the outcome, for me when it finishes, West Ham will no longer bear any resemblance to that club I first fell in love with back in the 70s, but boy have we had some fun. The evidence was there early doors we could be onto something special with the win at Anfield. The Gods had transpired that I would be there for that historic win and back then I thought that no matter what, this will be a great season, and with the Liverpool cup win, only losing 2 home games so far all season, the place is buzzing. But, i find myself somewhat detached from the excitement as the the club prepares for the move. The Man United game will be like a funeral for me. Those that know me have heard me argue non stop that everything the club wants to achieve could be done here. The owners disagree but then again they would, after all, DS is now a billionaire on paper helped by the share price of the club that has gone through the roof.

Thank you for the days

Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me

I’m thinking of the days

I won’t forget a single day, believe me

Days I’ll remember all my life

Wrexham arrived on May the 9th 1981, 364 days after winning the FA cup and this game is celebration time, after 3 years top flight football has been achieved, and today, the Division 2 trophy is paraded. Finally West Ham have won a league, won with style as they achieve a points record in the 2 points a win era, one that will never be beaten as the year after 3 points a win was introduced.

My mum got me to the game early where i remembering meeting John Lyall, coolness personified, when the cheeky 11 year old Nigel told him that Clive Thomas was out of order for sending him off, he just smiled and said well those things happen.

I’m taken into the dressing room, Ray Stewart was late, though what he said in his thick Scottish accent when apologising beat me. Then I’m taken to meet Phil Parkes, i noticed his hands were so big they could wrap round a football.

I then stand in the tunnel looking out into the light, staring at the Chicken Run hearing those around the tunnel, one of which Darren Toole was a school mate, Wrexham gave us a guard of honour in recognition of the club’s season and onto the middle of the pitch for the end of season tradition of waving to the fans in all stadiums before the last game of that season. That day will never pass still crystal clear in my mind, made better as I made the 1982 annual as well walking out with Bonds.

The views expressed here are solely those of the blogger and are not necessarily shared by ClaretandHugh

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Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!"

Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon


  • bubs says:

    Great read a bit of something for everyone,

  • Dave says:

    I can’t agree with you enough.
    I feel like my football watching days are coming to an end.
    My friend is a life long Arsenal fan and he said its the worst thing that we could have done as a club. The emirates is a lifeless , soulless place and we are so far away from the pitch that we can never again feel part of the game, I feel so bad about this move.
    Wembley is a soulless place as well, again we are even further away than there.
    Those of us who went to Stamford bridge in the early days will know what it was like.
    Once the excitement by some has passed and you can’t get a drink anywhere, and we play a midweek average game in a half filled stadium, we’ll al be asking why ?

  • StanThe Man says:

    Fantastic piece Nigel.Now you are a man who deserves to feel the sorrow & sadness.No crocodile tears needed fella.
    Dave I really do not take anything from what Arsenal fans say.The Emirates may well be a souless bowl but Highbury wasn’t called the library for no reason.It’s because their fans are sh*t!!
    If our fans go to the OS with your view of being there then yeah we are going to have 60k of silence.Ffs it will be a morgue if people go there with your attitude before even giving it a go.

  • WHU647580 says:

    One thing I’ve learned over the last few years as this move took shape, was that everyone is pretty much different in how they feel about it and how it affects them, plus how they’ll have to deal with it after, in their own way and I respect that. If you cry, you cry, if you don’t you don’t.

    When I first saw Nigel with his “Say no to Stratford” banner I couldn’t work out why he was so against the move, that was back in the days of the first bid process, when that got scuppered I then started to have small reservations myself. I’m okay with the move, it wasn’t my first choice (Redevelop East stand and stay) but in general I’m okay with it, in the hope we do push on a bit as a club.

    I did my generally grieving (if that’s the right word) for the club a long time ago, knowing I wouldn’t be a regular at the Boleyn due to my own personal circumstances, so obviously this move doesn’t “hurt” me anywhere near as much as others.

    I underestimated Nigel’s involvement (like many, many others) in the club and in his life. I’ve “got it” for a while now and it’s helped me to respect and understand that it does mean a whole lot more to some folk, how they deal with it is their business.

    Stan is right though, it’s up to the fans to generate the atmosphere at the OS to make it feel like a new home and give it a good old go.

  • Sams P45 says:

    Haha,don’t you start on about this crying **** 80.Last time I mentioned The Wailing Wall I almost ended up facing a firing squad 😀

    • WHU647580 says:

      Evening Corporal!! Ha ha behave! I suppose what I’m saying is each to their own.

  • TRB says:

    Nigel, I perfectly understand how you feel. However, if you asked Manchester City or Arsenal supporters if they would rather be back at Maine Road or Highbury, the answer you’d get would be a resounding NO!! West Ham have to move forward and part of our discontent as fans is that our club has remained stuck in it’s unambitious and mediocre past. I’d say that every one of our fans would like to see us win the odd trophy or two. I’m old enough to have been at Wembley for the cup finals and charity shield matches between 1975 and 1981. I remember the decent European competition adventures back then too – They were great times for my much younger self., but apart from the FA Cup final ten years ago, West Ham haven’t exactly been close in the last 35 years. In fact, during my time as a loyal supporter, I’ve seen the club relegated FIVE times…..I don’t ever want to experience that again! The future of West Ham is bright….. it wouldn’t be if we stayed at the Boleyn.

    • 4FF says:

      And where has it got either Arsenal or Man City!?

      Mediocre, at best; often flattering to deceive.

      At least their grounds were purpose-built not some *******ised attempt at making a one-occasion stadium into a ‘home ground’.

      Clearly, the ground will fill the more the prices are lowered.

      More money to buy over-inflated overseas players that no one has ever heard of.

      It is true to say that, unlike the 2 Davids who act not on scouting intelligence but according to whichever of their agents shouts loudest, Bilic does request players of whom he has either first-hand knowledge or who been properly scouted.

      Those WERE the Days, My Friend………..

      • Mr Kebab says:

        And where has it got Leicester City you might well ask.. as for Man City they have won the Prem a couple of times since moving right ??

        The Boleyn is not the same stadium I remember anyway, my heart was broken along time ago when all the terraces were removed and the new stands put in… the local areas become a run down mess in the last decade and I no longer feel the same love for the area like i use to. I still love the football club though and ill follow them ANYWHERE

  • One Eye Jack says:

    I said all I had to say about the move yesterday with regards to having had family members going to Upton Park for millennia.OK exaggeration but it has been for the best part of 70 to 80yrs I’m sure.All I know is that I am very,very sad to see us leave Upton Park,it is a real wrench but I also don’t want us to stagnate while other clubs grow & grow.The last thing I really wish to see before my toes point to the sun is us to have regular success,not just a once in a blue moon FA Cup appearance.I have seen too many years of failure & mediocrity now I want to see a little success or silverware befoe i croke it.I will leave the ground on Tuesday with no tears just many,many happy memories.Surely we should all remember the good times we have had over the years not turn it into a wake.
    With regards to the man who said he would stop supporting us once we moved well that isn’t an option for me.I support West Ham United the football team no matter where they play or whatever division they are in.Non negotiable.

  • Billy the Hammer says:

    Let’s be honest here & not beat about the bush we might read these stories about the dismay of leaving UP but there is also thousands of fans who can’t wait to get to the OS & think UP is a sh#thole.Just saying lol.But still a fabulous piece of writing Nigel.

  • One Eye Jack says:

    No that’s a fair point Billy.I know many supporters who are looking to embrace the move & go with it with a positive mindset,many who are fully in favour of the move.It certainly isn’t all a one way street of derision about it happening.I might be an old codger but I always try to look to the future & not want to live forever in the past.Though the missus might say otherwise.

  • essexclarets says:

    I don’t get this, the club is moving grounds that’s all. Why will it be the end of the club as we know it?? Lets take our Claret tinted glasses off for a minute, The grand olde girl is looking more than tired and we have out grown her. How many extra seats would a new east stand give us?? Along with that the local infrastructure couldn’t cope with another 5000..ish fans going to the games. Would will be able to attract top players if we weren’t going to the OS?? Within ten years 90% of stadiums in the premier league will be ‘new’. If we stayed where we are we are going to be left behind. Fans are no longer happy with a greasy burger & a cup of bovil. Picture this, if we didn’t take the stadium what do you think might have happened..? We could have had the spuds on our door step looking down on us & ripping the p1ss out of us for eternity.

  • mattefumi27 says:

    I’m the last person who should be talking about this move, I’m just a foreign fan and I haven’t been through what you’ve been through, but I see this change as an opportunity for growth. Any change needs a period of adaptation, but what matters is how you deal with it… you got to look at the positive side of this situation: you’ll have a new great stadium, more seats, more fans, more money, more class players, more visibility and we hope more trophies (lol)… Memories don’t need a place, they live inside us. And being the man that I am, some memories I like to keep for myself and they cannot be left at everybody’s mercy, they start to lose a little meaning and I just consider that a grab for attention. But then again, this is who I am and this is just a personal opinion. 😉

  • One Eye Jack says:

    Everyone deals with things in different ways.For Nigel it is clearly as much about his life & being bought up around the area as it is the football club moving.West Ham playing at Upton Park has been part & parcel of his whole life which is now being taken away.I can fully appreciate how hard it will hit home for him.What I do agree with Stan about which I read him talking about yesterday is the continual comments about crying by the same people over & over again.It all ends up becoming rather superficial in the end to my mind.Maybe I am just a heartless old bugger but i find it loses its effect after the 500th time of writing it.

  • StanThe Man says:

    Men ain’t what they use to be Young Jack.They have gone all soft centered looking for their feminine sides & telling everyone how they cry all the time.Girls blouses.

  • One Eye Jack says:

    You ain’t wrong Stan me old son.Bugger me if I went into my drinker & told the boys I had been crying over a movie about the club moving they would think i was a right fairy.Now you got all these buggers want to tell the world & it’s dog that they are booing their eyes out over these clips.Might as well stick em all in skirts & call them Martha,Mary & Beryl.

  • one_bobby_moore says:

    Great read Nigel. As mentioned recently, I have started to realise just what we will be losing.i guess that walk along the barking road, from Canning Town to Upton Park, will be a much loved part of the match day experience that I’ll never get back.
    Meeting up with mates at the abbey arms, then collecting a few more at the old castle or greengate, before dragging the rest out of the wine bar was such a ritual.
    I know the pubs are gone now, but walking past and reminiscing about it was always great. Now, it will be walking past some shopping complex. I think someone said it earlier, if you grew up in the vicinity, it really is a big deal that there won’t be hardly any footprint of us ever being there, despite what the club says/plans. Gutted I didn’t spend more games in the east stand. Only a handful of games there and every one was great. Looking out to the rest of the stadium all new(ish) was quite spectacular. Oh well……told you that u converted me mate

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