My first game – Andrea Ryder

Leyton Orient v West Ham United
Pre-season friendly
Brisbane Road
August 2000

West Ham United had always been a big thing for my family, but going to games was not a frequent occurrence for financial reasons. My dad had taken us to see the Boleyn Ground a few times as at the time the family was still based in the general Green Street area, we would just stand outside it and stare in awe.

So in the summer of 2000 when I was 12, my brother 10, Dad decided to take us to a pre season friendly at Leyton Orient, this is a game that most West Ham fans will have experienced. We met a couple of my Dads friends and played football in a park just round the corner from the ground and then walked down to Brisbane Road. We were in the standing area right behind the goal, which I’m not sure is there anymore?

There are a few things I remember really clearly; firstly, I was a 12 year old girl, so I thought I was in love with Joe Cole, secondly, Dad bought me a hot dog, the ketchup of which I proceeded to spill down my white doc martins away kit (the stain is still there) thirdly, Kanoute managed to clear the cross bar thus kicking the ball straight at us about 5 times, one of which I managed to block from hitting my Dad’s friend Brian’s glasses right off his face.

I also remember that we didn’t play terribly well and when we left I think the score was 2-2. Having been 2-0 up at half time, we had subbed the first team and stuck the kids and reserves on the the second. We left quite early, I think my Dad was worried my brother and I would panic in the crowd, but this turned out to be a blessing in disguise; as we left, the first team coach was also leaving, someone was shouting “OI CHRISTIAN HURRY UP OR YOUR TRAVELLING BACK WITH THE RESERVES!” someone came out

“Nah he’s still in the shower, lets go”. Which they did, not without saying hello and waving at me and my brother as we stood there completely speechless. I always remember Freddie Kanoute sticking his thumb up at us as they drove off and how quickly it made me forget how rubbish I had thought he was half an hour ago.

Andrea Ryder

My first game – Steve Arnold

Gloucestershire Senior Professional Cup Final
Bristol City 1 Bristol Rovers 1 aet
Bristol Rovers win 4-2 on pens
May 9th 1972
Att 13,137

Of all the football trophies the Gloucestershire Senior Professional Cup doesn’t really rank along side the FA cup or even the JP Trophy, but on that night in May it seemed magical.

My father took me to the game as he was Rovers fan, but little did he know that I was hooked, with Ashton Gate and the team in red. He can’t complain as he didn’t follow his father either, he was welsh and supported Cardiff City, then following work on the railways ended up in Bristol. The game kicked off in front of just over 13,000, which at the time was, more people in the same place than I had ever seen before.

Like most small lads I watched the crowds reaction as much as the game for the first half. In the second half City went ahead with a goal from city great John Emanuel. Rovers equalised through a headed goal from prolific goal scorer Sandy Allan, despite both sides best efforts the score remained the same until the end. Extra Time it was then, which was not as exciting as I thought it would be. No further score brought us to a penalty shootout this was more like it, and at our end. City missed a early one and never caught up, eventually losing 4-2.

It might not have been Champions League, but how many first games do you get 90mins, Extra Time, Pens, see a trophy presented, & all on school night Fantastic.

Steve Arnold

My first game – James Weaver

Dagenham & Redbridge 3 Macclesfield Town 0
Vauxhall Conference
27th April 1996

Made in Dagenham

Most of my friends growing up all had pretty awesome first football matches. Glamour ties like Spurs vs Man Utd, and West Ham vs Liverpool were common place. However, my Dad wasn’t really into football (in fact I took him to his first match in about 40 years Grays Athletic vs West Ham XI in 2009), so I kind of missed out on the “Nick Hornby sitting on your Dad’s shoulders at Highbury” experience, not that I’m complaining as he took me out shooting air-rifles and stuff instead.

No, instead my first match was with a couple of school friends, and was a Conference relegation battle between Dagenham & Redbridge and Macclesfield Town in about 1995/6. I think Dagenham won yet still got relegated. We were about 15 and to be honest it was probably the first time any of us had been to a match without a grown up.  We sat in the stand rather than go on the terrace. We didn’t know any better.

Anyway, the game seemed amazing. I mean three goals amazing. THREE GOALS. I imagined every game would be like that if you went to see it. However, I subsequently went to almost all the home matches the following season (on the terrace, I was always a fast learner), and there weren’t that many goals then (although we went to Wembley in the FA Umbro Trophy).

The majority of matches I’ve been to have been non-league or very low league matches, and I think I’m always trying to recapture the magic of that first match.

James Weaver

My first game – Adam Bate

Wolverhampton Wanderers v Lincoln City
Football League Division 4
2nd May 1987

It is difficult to write an account of my first game without it feeling like a substandard Nick Hornby pastiche. Whether I like it or not, sentimental clichés and sepia images are all my mind has left of that May day in 1987. Fortunately, I do quite like it.

The match was Wolverhampton Wanderers versus Lincoln City in the old fourth division and the setting was Molineux. Not the post-Taylor report all-seater Molineux that exists today. This was old dilapidated Molineux with just one and three quarter stands open – the rest closed for safety reasons. Remarkably, it could still hold over 20,000 people thanks to the South Bank terrace.

Ah, the South Bank. At one time, of all the ‘Kops’ in England, only Villa’s Holte End accommodated more people. Not this day against Lincoln. The crowd was sparse – just 7,285 to be precise. But these were dark days for Wolves and a distinct lack of turnstile operators meant there was still frenzied queuing outside to get in the ground. I vividly remember my dad lifting me on his shoulders as he nervously alerted the drunken fans around us that a child (me!) was being caught in the crush.

The next thing I remember, we were inside. This was my first look at a football ground in the flesh and, despite Molineux’s tragic appearance, I thought she was magnificent. Wolves were already 1-0 up – not something that was to become a habit although it did explain the pushing and shoving outside.

Inside that vast South Bank my dad actually had to wander over to the nearest fan – a good ten yards away – and ask who had scored. The answer came back: Steve Bull. Unluckily for me, I had just missed his 13th goal for the club. No matter. I was lucky enough to see his second of the game moments later and most of the 102 that followed in the back-to-back title seasons that followed.

In all honesty of course, there have been plenty of lows to go with those heady childhood days. And my mum even insisted I sit in the family enclosure seats for the next ten years! But I’ll always remember my first and last game on that South Bank terrace with my dad. Perfect.

Adam Bate

My first game – Nigel Fuller

West Ham United 2 Leeds United 3
Football League Division 1
16th January 1971
Attendance: 34,396

In the mid to late nineteen-sixties when United were at the beginning of what was to be a lengthy reign as one of the top teams in the country, they found West Ham’s home ground to be a quite productive venue for them. In the 1965-66 season, their first back in the top flight, they were beaten 3-1 at Upton Park and lost again the following season, this time 2-1. After those two set-backs, however, United won twice and drew three times in their next five league visits. The last of those games was a 3-2 victory in 1970-71 and it was a game that produced a collector’s item, a cracking goal from Norman Hunter scored with his right foot. It was always said, with some justification, that Norman used his right leg merely to stand on while he delivered the goods with his trusted left leg. But Upton Park witnessed the rarity in January 1971 when United were locked in a battle with Arsenal for the League Championship.

United took a well-deserved lead after thirty-three minutes when Johnny Giles, a star performer, was their worthy goal-scorer. He took a corner on the right with Peter Lorimer and then placed an ice-cool left foot shot inside the far post. The score-line remained at 1-0 until the sixty-sixth minute when Norman Hunter took centre stage. Johnny Giles rolled him a lovely pass twenty yards out and Hunter hit it in spectacular style and at top speed with his right-foot. A slight deflection made it impossible for Peter Grotier to save.

The game looked won and lost at that stage and the 35,000 crowd became quiet. West Ham, however, rallied and Peter Eustace on eighty minutes and Trevor Brooking, eighty-three minutes, punished rare slack moments in the United defence to head goals from close range to level matters.

Upton Park fans were now roaring their side on in full voice and even the ambulance men were trying to cheer the Hammers home. But substitute Rod Belfittrestored United’s lead five minutes from the end. Giles deservedly took the match honours.

Nigel Fuller