SO FAREWELL then to Upton Park, which joins Highbury, Maine Road, Roker Park, the Baseball Ground, Filbert Street and Ayresome Park and several other venerated venues in the time capsule of oft-remembered former footballing homes
West Ham supporters bade their farewells to the famous East London stadium in midweek, amid considerable post-match pyrotechnical bombast after the Boleyn Ground – to use its Sunday name – staged the last-ever game of its 112-year existence, a compelling 3-2 win over Manchester United.
Many other famous nights for the claret-and-blue have endured over the years, but what of Leeds United’s history at E13, which is a mixture of the good and not so good. Visits to Upton Park were commonplace once upon a time and rarely have Whites supporters celebrated a 0-0 draw there with as much gusto as they did on the final day of the 1999-2000 campaign on May 14, 2000.
That goalless stalemate famously helped David O’Leary’s young side qualify for the Champions League, with Leeds having West Yorkshire neighbours Bradford City to thank for helping them secure third place in the Premiership table after they beat Liverpool 1-0 to guarantee their own status in the top flight – thanks to goal from ex-Whites defender David Wetherall. While Leeds may have enjoyed intoxicating highs the following season, their demise and financial unravelling following those Peter Ridsdale excess years of the early noughties has ultimately skewed the sense of achievement to that Upton Park result just over 16 years ago – with sobering perspective afforded.
Back in November 2002, Leeds, then under the command of Terry Venables, arrived in East London in a moribund 13th place in the table ahead of an eventful game with the Hammers.
Leeds, after being knocked out of the League Cup in embarrassing fashion at Sheffield United, triumphed in a seven-goal thriller, producing a devastating opening half which yielded four goals. They then repelled a stirring comeback from the hosts to take a huge three points in their survival quest. United goals came from Nick Barmby, Harry Kewell (2) and Mark Viduka, with Paolo di Canio (2) and Trevor Sinclair on target for the Hammers.
Leeds also had a sweet occasion there in May 1999 when goals from Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink, Alan Smith, Ian Harte (pen), Lee Bowyer and Alfie Haaland booked the club a Uefa Cup spot in a 5-1 drubbing.
Amazingly, the Hammers ended the game with eight men after Ian Wright, Shaka Hislop and Steve Lomas were sent off.
A memorable success also arrived on the first day of the 1994-95 campaign, thanks to the explosive boots of Tony Yeboah.
The legendary striker struck twice, including a truly thunderous volley, in a 2-1 win – ahead of THAT Elland Road goal against Liverpool. There was also a sweet 3-2 win there for Leeds in January 1971, which included a real collector’s item – a goal from Norman Hunter with his right foot, while another noteworthy win arrived in October 1989, during the famous 1989-90 promotion season under Howard Wilkinson. A strike from Vinnie Jones midway through the first half – the midfielder’s first goal on the road for Leeds – saw Wilko’s Whites move into the top three of the old second division with an accomplished victory.
Jones – barracked by home supporters throughout the game – side-footed home following an accurate low cross from Mike Whitlow, to the delight of the 5,000 visiting contingent. Then there was the not so good ...
Injury-ravaged Leeds were on the receiving end of a 7-0 League Cup mauling in November 1966, when Geoff Hurst and Johnny Sissons fired hat-tricks for the hosts – whose performance was credited as being their best at Upton Park since November 1929, when Leeds were beaten 8-2!
Fatefully, it was also the venue where Whites legend Paul Reaney’s World Cup dream ended with a broken leg sustained in April 1970. United’s league match at Upton Park may have been meaningless given Everton’s securing of the Division One title the previous day, but it proved a fateful one for Reaney. United, who had just seen the first part of a treble dashed, drew 2-2 with the Hammers – with the game ultimately remembered for other reasons. Reaney was injured at the start of the second half, with United – for whom Allan Clarke struck twice – finishing the game with 10 men, with Terry Hibbitt already on as a substitute.