Dennis Arthur Leatherbarrow will turn 82 in May, on the same day West Ham play their last ever game at the Boleyn Ground.
Born in East Ham, he has been a Hammer all his life and experienced things as a fan I’ll probably never experience. His love for the club has been passed on to his two sons and that tradition has been passed on to my generation – his grandchildren.
I’m sure me and my cousins will continue this when we have kids. It’s this tradition that will encourage more West Ham Fans and is one that carries on in every family.
So here it is, an interview with a proper Hammers fan…
What was the first West Ham game you went to?
West Ham v Arsenal just after the war, in 1945. My dad had me right at the back to keep me away from the crowd. West ham just signed a Scottish striker, I can’t remember his name, from Arsenal and he made his debut that game.
What was Upton Park like back then?
Not like how it is today. We had to get into the ground an hour before kick off because we had to make sure we could all fit in the main stand and have a good enough view. Tickets used to be half a crown to get in for an adult and free for kids, because we used to go under the turnstile and sneak in! The workers at the turnstiles used to take a few bob and let the kids in. The workers used to earn more money on the gates than the players!
I took my eldest son to his first game and we used to take the car seats and hook him on the back of the fence in the chicken run. He was happy sitting up there on his own because a lot of the men used To give him sweets. It was a nightmare to get him off to sleep when I got him home because he would be high on the sugar.
When I took both my boys when they got a bit older I took beer crates for them to stand on to see the game. before it was stopped the adults used to pass the kids down to the front so they could see the action. It was a regular site to see the front full up with youngsters and I suppose it gave them a better experience because they all supported the club in their age group.
How did you become a West Ham fan?
Well, from day do, but my Dad and uncle were really QPR fans. Because you was born in East Ham and West Ham United was one of the first London clubs that started playing football again after the war, so naturally they were the first team that caught my eye and especially being my local team at the time.
How did you feel when West Ham won their first Trophy in football?
Over the moon! The first one was the 3-2 win against Preston North End and Ronnie Boyce scored the winning goal at the old Wembley. Then I saw them play in the European Cup Winners Cup final and we beat 1860 Munich – Alan Sealey scoring twice in two minutes. And then, of course, we won the World Cup, I didn’t go to that final because I was looking after my youngest boy, who actually took his first steps on that day.
You favourite favourite West Ham kit…
That’s a hard one but the Shirt I’d choose is the shirt Di Canio made iconic with his spectacular volley against Wimbledon.
What do you think of the current team?
They’re doing alright, aren’t they!? I like their box to box passing and the players seem to be a lot quicker on the ball. I’m loving their style of football at the moment.
What’s your opinion of Slaven Bilic? What thing makes him stand out to other managers we’ve had at the club?
Top notch and he doesn’t back out of any questions from the media. He also doesn’t hide his feelings in regards to the Chairman’s ambitions. He is very down to earth and comes across as a player’s manager rather than an owner’s manager.
What would you rather – West Ham win the FA Cup or West Ham to qualify for the Champions League?
I would rather see them win the FA Cup because I don’t think the squad are strong enough to compete in that particular competition. If they did qualify then they would have to buy a lot more players, there would be a complete turnover of the squad and that might break the harmony.
What are your feelings on West Ham leaving Boleyn Ground and moving to the Olympic Stadium?
It’s a shame really, but there are a lot more people that want to see West Ham United play football, the club have naturally and organically got bigger so they have to move to enable the growth of fans to see their club. The Olympic Stadium I haven’t experienced yet, but from the pictures and other people’s impressions it comes across exciting. I’m sure I’ll have a better opinion when I go to watch a game there in the future, but i’m favour of the move and back the Chairmen entirely.
Who is your favourite current West Ham player and why?
Has to be Payet, doesn’t it!? Lets face it, he runs the team. He’s not flash, he gets on with the job and does it. He’s a bleeding good player and reminds me a lot like Paolo Di Canio.
Describe your experience of being a season ticket holder with me. Sitting in the Trevor Brooking upper, seeing Pardew as manager, Harewood and Sheringham as strikers in the Championship season. How we went into the Chinese before games, etc.
I used to really enjoy it, seeing the game in the stand was a brilliant view and used to hear the away fans underneath. I particularly loved the Chinese takeaway we used to take in the ground and eat a chow mein. Remember when we used to sit down in the seats, watch the warm ups and tuck in to a prawn ball? Those were good times.
What do you think the club should do on the last ever game at Upton Park?
Anything that brings back memories of the old days. The post horn gallop, a brass band playing before the game during the warm up. To see any old players who used to play for the club be presented and glorified on the pitch.
Describe West Ham in one word…
What do you hope to see West Ham achieve a club in the next 10 years?
To become a powerful squad and challenge for the league title on a consistent basis. I’m not worried about European glory, I’d much rather see West Ham dominate in the country we’re based. FA Cups, League Cups, League Titles and even Community Shields, that is where we should focus and anything in Europe should be taken as a bonus.
Best ever player you’ve seen play?
There’s been a lot. Stanley Matthews, Tommy Lawton, George Best… but if I had to choose one, it would be Bobby Moore.
Any advice for new West Ham fans?
Be patient, don’t give up and support the team. I’ve been a fan for many years and when success comes it’s a great feeling, I’ll always be a West Ham fan, it’ll never leave me.
May I ask that you show your Grandad, Nan, Mum, Dad, brothers, or sisters this article and see if they can relate. It would be great if your relatives can answer the same questions I have asked my Grandad, and I’m sure it’ll roll back the years in their head to give the real reason why they are West Ham fan.
Recalling the history is what makes OUR club so special. We don’t forget our history and we shouldn’t when moving forward.
Come on you Irons!
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