A Hammers’ fan shares memories of his first match at Upton Park
14:08 26 February 2014
Following our recent appeal to readers to share memories of their first match at Upton Park, we feature Peter Sharp’s recollection of the Hammers match against Chelsea in September 1961.
He said: “Since there was no adult interested in taking us, my school friend and I, two 12-year-old boys, decided to go to our first West Ham match on our own. Having located the ‘Boys Entrance’ in Castle Street we found ourselves on the old South Bank terrace. Realising that we would otherwise see very little we spent the match sitting on a crush barrier.
“It was September 1961, a warm sunny Saturday afternoon. The opposition was Chelsea, who had just appointed the veteran Scottish defender Tommy Docherty as player manager.
“Docherty had West Ham’s skipper Phil Woosnam off for treatment after a crunching foul, and would have been yellow-carded and sent off by today’s standards, but things were different then. Nevertheless West Ham were two up within half an hour, thanks to their rapid counter-attacking style.
“In the second half Chelsea’s rough, tough tactics continued as they tried to get back into it. The crowd got more and more niggled and the atmosphere got very tense. West Ham had bought the Scotland goalkeeper Lawrie Leslie in the close season and if his ability had matched his courage he’d have been world class.
“Leslie characteristically rushed out and dived headlong for the ball, receiving a boot to the head and a deep cut, and was knocked unconscious. The ball broke free to another Chelsea player who put it in the net. So irate was the crowd that the goal was allowed to stand that several (fans) ran onto the pitch to remonstrate with the referee. Bobby Moore took over in goal (no subs then) and the ten-man West Ham team held on for a 2-1 win. The Sunday papers called it “the battle of Upton Park”.
“Quite an initiation for us, but we were completely hooked from then on.
“Regular attendance continued for many seasons and during the 1960s I had the pleasure and privilege of being present at Wembley Stadium to see the late, great Bobby Moore receive major trophies three years running.”