As we now prepare to enter the play-offs, there are mixed feelings of disappointment, anticipation & fear. West Ham’s season will end either on a massive high or a terrible low, with the outcome known either on 7th or 19th May.
Most of you reading this will be fully aware of the season defining moments that have come with the last match in five of the last ten seasons – here’s a reminder:
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We headed for St Andrews to play Birmingham City in a game that meant very little to the opposition, but to us, only a win would save us from relegation, and even then only if Bolton failed to beat Middlesrough at home.
On the way, I remember reading in a fanzine that no-one should be seen crying on TV should the worst come to worst. When we arrived we were given a firm welcome by Riot Police with faces covered & battens drawn.
Paolo Di Canio was again left on the bench by Glenn Roeder but we still had a strong team including Joe Cole, Michael Carrick, Trevor Sinclair, Freddie Kanoute & Jermain Defoe.
Defoe missed a couple of chances & then the home crowd started chanting rubbing it in that Bolton were 1-0 up and soon after 2-0.
We needed a miracle now but Les Ferdinand put us ahead & there was further hope as Middlesbrough pulled one back at Bolton.
This didn’t last long as Birmingham got two goals in the dying minutes to make relegation a reality. Substitute Paolo was given his last 10 minutes in claret & blue and he scored a rare header with literally the last touch in his last match for us.
The very next morning Defoe showed his lack of loyalty & integrity by handing in a transfer request! We love him down at the Boleyn now don’t we?
This season ended in Cardiff with a play-off final against Crystal Palace, the day consisted of a miserable journey down the M4, a poor performance and a disastrous result losing 1-0 to a team we should beat 9 times out of 10.
Even worse, we sat next to the South London contingent & had to keep seeing their gloating fans coming back down the motorway.
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Again we reached the play-off final, this time against Preston North End, the club we had defeated to win our first ever major trophy in the 1964 FA Cup final.
Tomas Repka hit the post in our first attack but we had to wait until the 58th minute for what proved to be the ‘£20 million goal’ that took us back to the Premier League, appropriately scored by Hammers fan Bobby Zamora. Nearly 40,000 Hammers fans celebrated from the final whistle all the way back to England.
The annual pilgrimage to Cardiff but this time for our first FA cup final in 26 years. We thought this was our year and it certainly looked that way as we raced into a 2-0 lead through an o.g from Carragher and a shot by Dean Ashton. We had been pegged back to 2-2 when Paul Konchesky’s long range effort put us 3-2 up with just 25 minutes left – surely we would win it now. We surely would have if right-back Lionel Scaloni hadn’t stupidly put the ball out of play near his own corner flag just because Liverpool’s Djibril Cisse had a touch of cramp.
You all know the rest…..
A controversial season ended with us needing to get at least a draw away to champions Manchester United to avoid going down. We started the day in the relegation zone but luckily for West Ham, the two other teams that could also go down in our place were playing each other. Sheffield United only had to avoid defeat at home to Wigan to make themselves and us both safe.
We won 1-0 thanks to Carlos Tevez’s final Hammers goal and a fantastic team effort. Poor old Sheffield United lost at home to Wigan and were relegated, and we all ‘know’ it was Carlos Tevez’s fault and not their own!
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