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BOWLER’S DELIVERY: 1966, 3-4, AND ALL THAT

25 November 2015

Bye Boleyn

THE Boleyn Ground is our destination on Sunday for, pending the vagaries of the FA Cup, the final time in our history.

For the Hammers are about to embark on a move to the Olympic Stadium, the details of which are best kept for a different forum to this. There can be few doubts that the move will be for the greater good of West Ham United but as they leave the vicinity of Upton Park, they would do well to ensure that every last vestige of history travels with them and is not too easily discarded in the rush for the new and the lucrative.

For West Ham is a club of community, of tradition, even one of national importance, although the “West Ham won the World Cup” tale is overplayed more than somewhat. Nonetheless, it’s the ground where Bobby Moore played out the bulk of his career, where great European nights were housed, where Clyde Best made an early stand for black footballers. 

Nor, lest we sanitise things too much, should we forget that it was also a raw, visceral, sometimes brutally frightening bearpit of a ground in keeping with the fact that it was at the heart of territory once patrolled by the Krays and their ilk. 

Like most of football, the Boleyn was life in the round, the good, the bad, the ugly. All of that deserves to be remembered, for they are the slivers of life’s flame that burn most brightly for so many of us, the embers on which we warm ourselves in cold, wintry nights. West Ham 3 Albion 4, November 2003 for starters.

That in itself is an issue that is confronting football in this country, yet one to which the game has not yet awoken. In the past, catching memories was a haphazard business, often restricted by the length of a newspaper column, a radio report, an occasional magazine article, the odd book. 

We are living in a different world now, one where the infinite inventory of the internet means that recording matters for posterity, from all perspectives, is suddenly not just possible but essential. 

For the paradox is that while this century is the most commented upon, filmed, spoken and written about in human history – and football has cornered a disproportionate amount of that sound and fury – just you go out there and try and find it.

Swathes of information are being generated, guzzled, and then are falling into black holes, never to be seen again. More than, far, far worse than that, while we are downloading files, just who is downloading us? When the Great Albion Fan in the Sky gathers us up to take our place in the heavenly Hawthorns, we take all those memories with us, never to be stirred again.

Why aren’t we recording them? Why aren’t we interviewing every soul who pulled on an Albion shirt while we can? Why aren’t you using that smartphone for its smartest purpose and recording your dad, your granny, your brother, talking Albion, who they saw, where they went, what it was like? 

Think on Throstletariat. It’s later than you think. 
 

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