My Hammers Greatest Night

30 Apr, 2023
written by Nigel Kahn

 

West Ham 2 Ipswich 1 30/4/1986

Today is the 37th anniversary of what, for me, is one of the greatest nights I had as a West Ham fan.
In 1986 West Ham’s last home game was against Ipswich Town. It had been postponed from February due to the snow that blanketed the country, wiping out virtually a whole month of the game.
West Ham did not play a league game after defeating Man United 2-1 at home on the 2nd of February until we played away at Arsenal on the 15th of March.
We did manage to play 5 FA Cup games in between, but nothing was played between the 6th of February and the 5th of March.
The fixture backlog that built up meant that we had to fit 16 games in from the Arsenal defeat until the scheduled end of the season on the 3rd of May. As it was, we had to play our last match on the 5th of May, which was a bank holiday Monday.

The Ipswich game was the 9th we played in April alone, averaging a game every four days.
On the Saturday, we beat Coventry at Upton Park, 1-0, thanks to a Tony Cottee goal, then on the Monday, we defeated Man City, again 1-0, but this time, it was a Ray Stewart penalty that kept our title hopes alive.
We sat third in the table behind Everton and Liverpool, but us and the blue side of Merseyside had a game in hand on the Reds sitting at the top. We had 78 points, Everton 80 and Liverpool 82.
At the time, I had an after-school job at a solicitor’s office at the Greengate. I still remember walking up to the Boleyn and around the gates on Green Street and seeing the queue for the North Bank was halfway back on the concourse. That was a big queue.
I joined the wait for the turnstiles to open, which would have been in an hour’s time, around 6:15 pm.
As luck would have it, I spotted my uncle on the concourse, and he had a ticket for me on the Lower West, halfway line, just above the tunnel.
Handy for the traditional end-of-season run on the pitch.

 

The atmosphere was nervous as the game progressed, and no goals in the first half only added to it.
On the hour, Ipswich, fighting to avoid relegation, took the lead with a Kevin Wilson goal.
Alan Dickens levelled the game 10 minutes later, and the noise just lifted from then on.
With time running out, Mark Ward, in front of the North Bank, fell when challenged by two Ipswich defenders.
The ref pointed to the spot, and the ground erupted.
Ray Stewart just didn’t miss penalties, and he didn’t disappoint this time.
The last few minutes seemed to take an eternity, but the ref blew up, the ground erupted, and the fans piled onto the pitch.

From where I was above the tunnel, I witnessed Terry Butcher trying to assault the ref, his face like thunder. The late penalty cost Ipswich a point, though it wasn’t known then, that point would have kept Ipswich up.
The night got better as it was announced that while Liverpool had won 2-0 away at Leicester, We had moved into second spot after Everton had lost to Oxford away, 1-0.
If Chelsea could do us a favour and beat Liverpool on the Saturday, and we beat West Brom, then a winner takes all game v Everton on the bank holiday Monday was on.
I’ve been lucky enough maybe to witness great times in our history and at Upton Park, but to stand on the pitch that night singing, “We’re going to win the league, and actually believe it, well.
You just had to be there to understand that feeling.
The closest we had ever been to winning the top-flight league, the dream had not faded and died.

 

 

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  1. Brilliant night from a brilliant season.. if only!

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