It has been a busy summer for West Ham United as the club prepares for their big final goodbye to the Boleyn Ground. We have a new manager, six new players (so far) and our European adventure is already well underway.
The West Ham faithful had their wish just 40-odd seconds after the final whistle blew on the final day of the 2014/2015 season. Big Sam Allardyce had gone. Cue a month of Twitter speculation of who would replace the former Bolton manager. Would it be Emery, Benitez, Biesla or Bilic? Eventually Gold and Sullivan plumped for the popular decision of former Hammers defender Slaven Bilic.
His arrival was greeted with a mixture of excitement and expectation as, rather fittingly, a former fans’ favourite would lead out the players during an emotionally charged final home game at the Boleyn against Swansea.
Whilst I am for the move to the Olympic Stadium, like every other West Ham fan I am going to miss the old girl. I may only be 23 but that ground is steeped in memories and life lessons. Everyone remembers their first time walking up Green Street and soaking in that east end atmosphere. Ironically, my first proper memory comes from my second trip to the Boleyn. Let’s be honest, as a six-year-old kid you are more likely to remember the nine-goal thriller between Bradford and West Ham than the rather dull 1-0 win over Aston Villa.
Since that day, I have seen two relegations, two promotions and a FA Cup final defeat to Liverpool (sorry, for reminding you). I may not have been around during the glory days but I still go all misty-eyed when I look back at the footage of Bobby Moore and the boys lifting those FA Cups and European trophies.
When you look back over time at some of the greats that have graced that famous old turf over the years it is hard to imagine it becoming a block of flats. The likes of Pop Robson, England World Cup winners Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters, Alan Devonshire, Billy Bonds, Tony Cottee, Paolo Di Canio to name just a few. All their memories at that ground will soon disappear in a puff of dust. One thing is for sure though, those memories will be cherished in the mind of every Hammer as we make new and hopefully more successful memories in Stratford.
Enough of all that reminiscing and on to this season and one thing is for sure, there is a real buzz back around the Boleyn.
The excitement is back at the Boleyn following Bilic’s arrival and there is a real feeling around the east end that positive times are just around the corner. The arrivals of Payet, Ogbonna and Obiang have only echoed those hopes. Players who play with real flair, and there is an expectation that the former Croatia boss is set bring back the ‘West Ham way’.
There has been a lot said about the ‘West Ham way’ of late but for me it is playing with passion and heart and trying to play football the right way. We may not always win by playing pretty football but as long as the effort to play good football is there. West Ham fans will forgive the odd defeat.
When I look back to that opening Sam Allardyce press conference, it is hardly surprising he lost a lot of West Ham fans that day. He mocked the ‘West Ham way’, and then added that the Hammers’ faithful are ‘deluded’. Not an ideal start, as football fans you want to hear the right things, Slaven has mastered that, he has said all the right things and by doing so has unified the Claret and Blue army again.
The fact the Hammers sold out their opening Europa League clash against Lusitanos a fortnight ago echoes the level of excitement around the club at the moment and the eagerness to welcome Slaven back home.
This is going to be an emotional year for the club, but I get the impression from all the right thing going on behind the scenes that this is going to be a great farewell to the Boleyn.
Come on you Irons!