Monday 25th April 2016 k 19.00
U21 Premier League Cup Final 1st leg
WEST HAM UNITED 1 (Parfitt-Williams 90)
HULL CITY 0
I’ve got no great connection with West Ham United, just two previous visits with Oxford United, but when this fixture came up I felt drawn to it. At the time I wasn’t sure why, perhaps it was that regular travelling companion Simeon hadn’t paid the Boleyn Ground a visit, but as we approached the ground I could see, or rather feel why.
Stadia like this are a dying breed, the inner city locations are fast being traded in for out-of-town locations. They’re clean, they’re safe, they’re easy to get to, but where’s the thrill of seeing them?
The Boleyn Ground sits in the centre of its community, and its community shapes what it is. That runs even down to the pie and mash shop, and the Boleyn Pub adjacent to the main stand. What will happen to them when in 3 games the club moves to the Olympic Stadium?
Of course sometimes a move to a new stadium is the making of a club, I’m sure few at Manchester City regret the move from Maine Road, even if something is always lost when a club moves. I’m a Oxford United fan, and we’ve had a great season, but believe me, we’re not the same club since the Manor Ground was lost back in 2001.
So this was a chance to say goodbye and with the two remaining Premier League games long since sold out, this was a chance for 10,000 people to say goodbye.
It was a typical youth game at the top level, two sides who could pass and move beautifully but not yet at a pace to really hurt each other. One burst of pace settled it Djair Parfitt-Williams tapping home in stoppage time, and as much as the majority cheered at a win at what the club billed as “The Final Final” there was a far bigger picture.
I saw it as I left, people lingered, and found quiet places to stand and reflect. Then and only then did they turn away, head for home and consider what they’d lost.