Cheltenham Town: Baker delight at trip to Hammers
CHELTENHAM Town chairman Paul Baker can't wait to make his first appearance in the West Ham boardroom after countless visits to Upton Park as a fan.
The Robins will travel to the Premier League club during the week commencing August 26 in the second round of the Capital One Cup.
Baker is a lifelong fan of the East London club, having been brought up on Hammers heroes like Sir Geoff Hurst, Bobby Moore and Martin Peters – all stars of England's 1966 World Cup triumph on home soil.
He described it as his 'dream draw' and the one he had always wanted since taking over as Cheltenham chairman in 1997.
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"It's an unbelievable draw, it really is, for not just me, but for the whole club," said Baker.
"I used to watch West Ham regularly in my 20s and I even went to Brussels to watch them in the European Cup Winners' Cup final against Anderlecht in 1976, which they lost 4-2.
"I remember catching a coach to London from the old Black and White station in Cheltenham, staying overnight in London and then taking a supporters' train to Brussels."
Baker went to the 1975 FA Cup final, in which West Ham defeated Fulham 2-0 to qualify for their European adventure.
He also attended the 1980 final victory over Arsenal, when Sir Trevor Brooking scored the only goal of the game.
"I have no affinity with London, but during my formative years West Ham had so many great players and for a Cheltenham lad to be travelling to the East End of London was such a contrast," Baker said.
"The atmosphere at Upton Park is always good with the crowd virtually on the pitch and it will bring back memories for me of roasted peanuts and jellied eels outside the ground.
"I've never been in the boardroom before so I am looking forward to going there with my hometown club and it'll be a proud moment and another great day for Cheltenham Town."
Baker plans to wear both a red and white and a claret and blue scarf on the night, but he said his loyalty lay firmly with Cheltenham.
The Robins have played Premier League clubs Tottenham Hotspur and Everton in the FA Cup third round over the past two seasons.
This will be their third League Cup clash against top flight opposition having bowed out to Sunderland in 2005/06 and Stoke City in 2008/09.
Their other second round ties were at Crystal Palace in 2002/03 when they were thrashed 7-0 and West Bromwich Albion (2006/07) when they took an early lead before going down 3-1. Players to have been on the books of both Cheltenham and West Ham include Grant McCann, Jamie Victory, Josh Payne and Holmar Eyjolfsson, while ex-Robins boss Martin Allen spent six years as a Hammers player.
The clubs have never met in a competitive fixture, but there were three home friendlies between the clubs at Whaddon Road between 1947 and 1952,with Cheltenham winning two of them.