This is from today's Sunday Times Sports Section.
My club: Iain Dale on his love for West Ham
Broadcaster Iain Dale remembers the perfect day at Wembley and the decision to leave Upton Park for good. Interview by John Aizlewood
Why West Ham?
It wasn’t in my genes: my dad was a Blackpool fan who’d seen them in the 1948 FA Cup final. I was brought up near Saffron Walden in Essex, but I must admit I supported Manchester United until the shame was too much when they were relegated in 1974. My best friend was a West Ham fan and, being easily led I followed. I assumed there’d be no more relegations…
My first game at Upton Park was Alan Curbishley’s debut against Chelsea in March 1975. I went with my cousin, uncle and dad and we stood on the corner of the North Bank. We lost 1-0, but my eyes were on stalks: it was a war zone. I got a season ticket around 1990. I’ve had one ever since.
Best of times
The 2006 FA Cup final. The father of the friend who’d got me into West Ham had been a season-ticket holder since 1958 and he hadn’t got a ticket. It wasn’t right, so I gave him mine. A journalist friend heard about it and got another one for me. After we’d lost, Liverpool fans came up and said we had been robbed. That never happened before and it’s never happened since. It still makes me feel emotional. An imperfect result, but a perfect day.
Worst of times
Relegation in 2003. There were amazing players — Joe Cole, Jermain Defoe, Michael Carrick — but they couldn’t play as a team.
Paolo Di Canio. The flaws in his character added to his game. We’ll never see anyone like him again.
Least favourite player
Iain Dowie tried his best, but he was a terrible striker. He was a typical West Ham signing: we all knew it wasn’t going to work.
How good is today’s West Ham team?
It’s the best since the days of Joe Cole. Unusually for us, they play as a team. It’s a great feeling to be aiming for fourth rather than thinking about relegation. That said, we’ll finish seventh.
Sack the board?
I’m not part of any campaign to get them out. They’ve made terrible mistakes but moving to the new stadium was the right thing to do. When it’s full, the atmosphere is good. People forget that Upton Park was a deathly place when things weren’t going well.