The Boleyn – heading, like the woman it’s named after, for the chop.
Just nine more league games and, perhaps, more cup stuff before Olympic superstructure and sheen replace Cockney grime and 112 years of Iron-willed East End grit.
1989 – first time here for Luton’s League Cup semi-final. The walk to the away end was like a stroll between packs of dogs eyeing you hungrily.
The surroundings were bleak – still are – and there was an air of simmering violence. That day, I walked into the away end to spot my cousin from Tenby – a copper – policing the Luton fans. When I bounded up to him and kissed him, he nearly nicked me.
After Luton won 3-1, the walk back to the Upton Park station was almost as memorable as the match, as bullet-headed locals turned the blazing psycho stares up to 11 all the way along Green Street. No they weren’t pleased to see us, that was a cosh in their trousers.
Well it’s not like that now.
The hat seller was flogging ‘Alf Garnetts’ for £7. In the car park, Sir Trevor Brooking, scorer in the 1980 FA Cup final, when every neutral was rooting for the Hammers, was signing this that and the other for autograph hunters.
People had surrounded two cars as though the Queen had turned up and they could stroke her corgis.
A closer look, and they were admiring the Rolls-Royces of Davids Gold and Sullivan. No one in them. Just a scrum of 50 people staring at the cars and standing a respectful distance away so they didn’t breathe on the windows. So this where a lifetime of selling sexy keks and stroke mags gets you.
Sullivan has a purple one, a Roller that is, though I think he would describe it as aubergine. Gold’s is silver – oh I so, so, so wanted it to be gold. That would have been beyond satire.
The commemorative programme went big on Billy Bonds, skipper in the 1975 and 1980 finals and featured star fan and wannabe Barry boy James Corden who has already been for his last match now he’s otu in LA. In fact, the best programme I’ve read for a couple of years.
In the Bobby Moore upper stand it’s a good view for your £25 – the FA Cup made it affordable and many fans were making their first visit.
Soapy bubbles floated past as the club anthem was aired and gustily sung, like a school assembly. As it has been here since the 1920s.
Nice logo on the side – ‘Moore than a club’ – a nod to Barcelona’s ‘Mes que un club’ – a slogan with the same meaning.
The first half was as tame as tame can be. Thank God for Wolves fans turning up. When they crowed ‘You’re supposed to be at home’, they were spot on. And if the Iron fans don’t take their voiceboxes to the Olympic Stadium then it’ll be the worst footballing experience on the planet.
Some weak shots, Argentinian Zarate hung on to the ball too often. Wolves broke away dangerously once with only to put a poor ball into the box which James Collins cleared easily.
The visitors just climbed into a defensive shell, ten men behind the ball, almost all in the box at one point, looking to score on the break.
Second half started badly for Wolves when the promising forward Bjorn Sigurdarson was stretchered off.
More defensive boredom from the visitors, effective but dull. Home skipper Mark Noble went off after 67 to a standing ovation, a rare outburst of atmosphere.
Wolves keeper Ikeme whacked three goal-kicks into touch and couldn’t blame any cross-wind. In the directors’ box Sir Trev surely looked on, aghast. Well I got lucky last year in the third round, so was due a dud this time.
The big football story in 2016 is, of course, Wales are in the Euros and all that, so nothing else matters, who gives a monkey’s about anything at all?
Here we had James Collins and David Edwards on opposing sides. After one second-half jostle between them in the Hammers’ penalty area, Edwards won a corner and the two shared a fist bump, which was nice.
Both had a 6/10 match. Collins, the East End’s ginger Pele, playing his 150th game for the club, had a couple of average early touches and played a couple of poor balls under pressure.
Edwards, in his 20th game of the season, is a willing workhorse who can get around well and pinch goals. During John Toshack’s Welsh reign, it looked like he might develop into a Premier class player but has not.
Both are heading for the Euro2016 for sure but more as back-up, bench fodder. Collins, 32, the Hammers’ oldest player, could well feature against Russia in Toulouse as their nine-foot or thereabouts striker Artyom Dzyuba will need some attention.
Edwards, 30 next month, is unlikely to start matches unless there are some injuries and could get a couple of 25-minute run-outs if Wales need fresh legs.
There’s a lot of debate over the king of bling, all of which leaves me baffled. I’ve seen him twice in the flesh and he’s been brilliant. Wish he was Welsh.
Here, the bun-haired beanpole only played 18 minutes yet he was man of the match. A reflection of how ineffective everyone else was. The Wolves defence visibly panicked every time the ball neared him, his touch was good and he oozed threat, unlike any of the other 25 players fielded.
And then with five minutes to go he crossed for Jelavic to score from point blank range. All over.
On the move
They’ve schemed their schemes and dreamed their dreams and the Boleyn is interred in the spring when Swansea arrive on May 7 to witness the burial.
Will the Olympic Stadium be a good football venue, that is the question?
You won’t be able to ogle an aubergine Roller, pop into a proper pub (nearest decent one is about 15 minutes’ walk) or lay a wreath to a loved one.
But transport links are better and at some point modernity has to be confronted.
But as an old-school fan, give me the long walk up Green Street’s Asian shopping experience to the sybaritic paradise of Forest Gate.
Hammers will be faced with the deathless steel and shimmering emptiness of Stratford Westfield, where ‘trendy’ young men float on hoverboards through the air-conditioned corridors of shoe shops and fashion outlets.
Rugby World Cup matches at the Olympic venue felt a bit remote from the action. The Boleyn has proximity to the action and a track record.
Night games could well be memorable as the lighting in the stadium promises a sense of occasion. Inside, it might be a different matter.
But then home fans weren’t exactly vocal at this game.
This could have been the Hammers’ last FA Cup game here – tomorrow’s draw will reveal all. The game was drab but the chance to pay homage to what’s gone before at a club that is deeply rooted in its community like few others was well worth the effort.
West Ham fans go on about tradition, principles etc etc and it’s easy to dismiss it as a dose of Canning Town cock and Bow bull. But the guts of the claims are accurate. The Boleyn will be some sort of loss in a way that many old grounds are no loss at all. All will be clear in about five years’ time.
So maybe not the last FA Cup match to be played here.
The fourth round is at the end of the month, but after witnessing this dampest of squibs – I shudder to think what Sir Trev thought of it – if it’s at home then I’m busy.