West Ham United Academy
Rush Green Stadium
Rush Green Road
Ground Number: 451
Friday 9th January 2015
West Ham United 1-3 Tottenham Hotspur
U21 Premier League
Originally on this night, I had been planning to go to Cornard United v Stowmarket Town in the Eastern Counties League. My new plan was to go to a lot more football on Friday nights, especially as the alternative was a few drinks at home, and my (already broken) new years resolution for 2015 was to be more healthy. I'd already defeated the object of Friday night football by having a few drinks on Thursday instead, but nonetheless I would push ahead with the trip. My choice of destination changed during the week, I spotted that West Ham United's U21 side were at home, and with that being a lot nearer, I opted for that instead. I was hoping that I would be able to take fellow groundhopper Anwar with me to help out with costs, but he was unavailable, so I was on my own. Luckily it was quite near in comparison to others, and so wouldn't break the bank.
Up until the start of last season, the Rush Green Stadium was home to Grays Athletic for a season. However, West Ham at some point had become the owners, and so they turfed them out to make way for their youth football operation. Grays now play at the Aveley ground, which is also sadly on it's way out, and presumably they will move with their landlords, with a return to their original home ground impossible as it has now been redeveloped. At least I did get there for one game though - in 2009 they lost 4-2 to AFC Wimbledon in the Blue Square Premier, a game which I am still looking for a programme from.
As mentioned above, The Rush Green Stadium has been home to many teams, so I will try and piece all the bits of information I can find in a timeline, as there is no real definitive article on the internet, certainly not that I can find anyway.
1934 - 1959
As far as I can tell, FORD SPORTS (DAGENHAM) were the original owners of the ground, though I have been unable to find any definitive information as to what year they moved into the ground. They competed in the London League and were also in the FA Cup after the 2nd World War, with their sole victory coming against a side from Chelmsford called Hoffman United. They lost their next 5 FA Cup ties and did not compete in the competition after the 1949-50 season.
FORD UNITED were now owners of the ground. Effectively they are a follow on of the Ford Sports Dagenham side, and the club came about after a merger with Briggs Sports, another team who were a works team in the motor industry. They played in the Aeotolian and London Leagues before joining the Essex Senior League in 1974. The club nearly disbanded in 1996, but a late sponsorship deal from Sky Sports saved them. This led to the most successful spell in their history, with them winning the Essex Senior League for the 2nd time in 1997. They joined the Isthmian League at Division 3 level for the following season, and enjoyed rapid progress through the leagues. They had an incredible run to the FA Cup 1st Round in the 98-99 season before losing 3-0 at Preston North End. They also had a great run to the FA Vase 5th Round that season, as well as winning the Isthmian Division 3 title.
They won the Ryman D1 North in their final season at the ground, though with the facilities deemed unfit for the Ryman Premier, they took over the lease at Barkingside FC's Oakside Stadium, having the former owners stay there until the end of last season as tenants. Barkingside FC now share at Ilford, with Redbridge (who changed their name from Ford Sports in 2004) jacking up the rent and making it impractical for them to remain at their former home
ROMFORD FC were tenants for a short time, however in the April of 1996, they moved to Collier Row FC's Sungate ground, and the 2 clubs merged later that summer, keeping the original Romford name after a year of being called Collier Row and Romford. However, due to the poor state of the facilities at the classic but dilapidated Sungate ground, they were often having to rent other club's stadiums to host games. During this season at Rush Green, they won the Essex Senior League and gained promotion to the Isthmian D1 North. They also had a run to the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup, and reached the 1st Round of the FA Vase.
ROMFORD FC were back, after Ford Sports vacated the ground to go to Barkingside. They had just been relegated after a stay in the Isthmian League. Despite initially doing well after they had left the ground for the first time, the last few seasons had been a struggle and they found themselves back in the Essex Senior League. During their second spell at Rush Green, they had a best finish of 2nd in the 2006-07 season. That season saw them have their best FA Cup run during that tenure, reaching the FA Cup 2nd Qualifying Round. The following season they reached the FA Vase 3rd Round, which was a club record. At the end of that season, they left for Aveley's Mill Field ground, and in their first season won promotion to the Isthmian League after once again becoming Essex Senior League Champions.
WEST HAM UNITED purchased the land and stadium in February 2009 from the Ford Motor company for a sum of £1.4M. The original plan was to transform it into a new training ground after rumours of poor facilities at their Chadwell Heath training base. However, at present this has not happened and it is currently used as a base for their reserves/youth teams, as well as soccer schools. As a consequence, the bar that was here when Grays Athletic rented the stadium has now gone, and has been transformed into training facilities.
GRAYS ATHLETIC spent a single season playing here, groundsharing with the West Ham United academy, after previously playing at East Thurrock for 2 years, after losing their own ground in 2010. During this season, they won the Isthmian D1 North and reached the 2nd Qualifying Rounds of both the FA Cup and FA Trophy.
SOURCES FOR THE ABOVE INFORMATION
Romford FC Wikipedia article
Romford FCHD page
Grays Athletic Wikipedia article
Ford Sports (Dagenham) FCHD page
Ford United Wikipedia article
Ford United FCHD page
Peter Miles' blog about Collier Row FC
West Ham Till I Die - What is the future of Rush Green?
Mishi Morath's Grounds for concern blog
On the day of the game, it was a really busy day at work for me, and I was tired I still had a couple of hours at home though, enough time to have a bath, grab some lunch and check Facebook I left home just after 4, expecting the 50 or so miles to be fraught with traffic. In the end, I had around 20 miles added to my journey, as my Sat Nav re routed, which kept me moving, but added a bit to the fuel costs. I needed something to eat, so I stopped at McDonalds in Dagenham and got a McRib and Fries for dinner. The McRib's were on a special promotion, having not been around since 2002, and I loved them then. Though it was not as good as I remembered, it was still decent enough and it filled me up. After that, I drove the 4 miles to the ground, getting there at 6.35.
It was a change to be directed where to park by a steward at such a small venue, but it was quite busy. I got my stuff from the car and went in paying £3 for the privilege. I had to wait 10 minutes for a photocopied teamsheet/programme so I checked Facebook while I was waiting. After I had nabbed a copy and so went round to take some pictures of the ground. I noticed from the teamsheet that ex Wycombe loanee Jordan Archer was in goal for Spurs, whilst I also recognised the names of Ravel Morrison and Blair Turgott from the West Ham team.I chose to stand just past the halfway line, as the end that West Ham were shooting at. The crowd seemed to be typical Premiership fans, with the stand packed out and the terraces sparsely populated. When checking Facebook, I noticed that fellow hopper Laurence was in attendance so I went and looked for him. I found him with another guy I knew, Peter, plus a couple of other hoppers whose faces I recognised, but who I didn't know by name. We spent the evening talking about the upcoming groundhops, and past experiences. As usual Laurence was the fount of much knowledge, most of which was digested and forgotten for the moment, but no doubt I will recall at a later date. Two things I do remember is our hotel location for the Scottish Groundhop - East Kilbride, plus more pertinently for this blog, that the Rush Green Stadium, has a huge amount of history and lots of stories to tell. The stadium is a classic, but is looking a bit tired now and falling to pieces - a large majority of the first half was spent by a few people holding a ladder against the side of the stand to stop the roof blowing off.
It was a bit of a slow paced affair, with the feel of a pre season friendly, but at least there was plenty of skill on show. The visitors opened the scoring on 23 minutes when Grant Ward's deflected free kick wrong footed the West Ham keeper and went in. The Hammers were level on 39 minutes when Ravel Morrison's excellent overhead kick flew in the net, and it was clear to see why he is so highly regarded. It was level at the break, both in terms of the scoreline and the balance of play. The same could be said of the second as both sides had chances, but it was Spurs who took their chance to win. On 55 minutes Harry Winks capitalised on a defensive mix up to give the visitors the lead while Grant Ward added a second free kick goal late on. It was harsh on the hosts, but at the end of the day the difference was the keepers. Former Wycombe loanee Jordan Archer was excellent for Spurs, while Raphael Speigel did not look anywhere near as assured for West Ham.
AFTER THE GAME
I said my goodbyes to Laurence and the other groundhoppers, and it was great to have a catch up. I made good progress on my journey home, after stopping for fuel I was home at 10.10. I had a couple of ciders while catching up on the internet and after watching Coronation Street on my Sky Box, I went to sleep just after midnight.
RUSH GREEN STADIUM is home to the West Ham United academy, and is probably up to step 4 standard in non league. The seated stand is modern and holds around 400 supporters under cover, while opposite a terrace for around 300 under cover is present. I'd say the ground capacity is around 3000. There are no club shop or bar facilities, though there is a burger van, with many other takeaways around a 10 minute walk away.
It's well worth a visit, West Ham are excellent at providing all the fixture information on their official site, and also keep you up to date on Twitter as well, which can't be said for a lot of clubs with their youngsters.