Talking Point

Olympic Stadium Capacity Figure Comes Under Scrutiny

The spectator capacity at the Olympic Stadium was 80,000. I was therefore a tad disappointed to find out that the capacity when we take over next season will only be 54,000. My Spurs and Arsenal supporting friends doubt whether we will fill that. Personally I have no doubt it will be full for at least a third of the games, and probably more, if not all.

However, it has emerged that the latest Design & Access Statement shows that there are actually 53,000 seats in the upper tier alone, with 21,000 in the lower tier, making a capacity of 74,000, not 54,000!

But it’s more complicated than that. According to Claret & Hugh? 2,000 more upper tier seats have been removed to allow construction of what I am told is a rather impressive roof. It might be thought that they could now be reinstalled, pushing the ultimate capacity up to 76,000 at some point, but apparently the headroom wouldn’t be acceptable.

The fly in the ointment is that the stadium only has planning permission for 54,000, which in theory will mean that 20,000 seats will remain empty or covered up. So even if we are sold out, it won’t look as if we are.

Once we see how many tickets we can sell at 54,000, especially in lower attraction games, surely we should apply for renewed planning permission – at least for Category A games – go increase the capacity to 74,000. This may mean also allowing more away supporters to attend, but that would surely increase the atmosphere exponentially. If that happened, I think I am right in saying that only Old Trafford would have a bigger capacity.


Transfer Gossip

Rumour Round-Up: West Ham Reject Cole!!

Firstly, thank you for your warm welcome last week and I apologise for being MIA for a few days. Was treated to a secret trip away by the Mrs. and had very little access to WiFi etc. Will hopefully have no more distractions! Now, on to today’s rumours!

Firstly, London24 are reporting that West Ham have rejected the chance to sign Devante Cole after being unimpressed with his performance in the defeat to Colchester United last week. There’s only one Cole who should be playing up front for West Ham and it definitely isn’t Devante!!

We are also interested in bringing Dimitri Payet’s former Marseille teammate Mario Lemina according to this? report. Whilst I do believe we are badly in need of some width, after the last few games I think it is clear to see we are in desperate need of a goalscorer so I would rather we put our resources into that then financing a move for Lemina. Does anyone have any feedback on Lemina? I have to be honest and say not a player I have heard of previously or even seen linked to other clubs.

Metro suggest we are close to tying up a £4.2million deal for Alen Halilovic. Again, a player I don’t know a great deal about except he was widely courted last year before opting for Barcelona. Lots of friends I discuss this with say this could be a real coup for West Ham if we can get this wrapped up and he can stay focused. Let’s hope he doesn’t turn out to be Ravel Morrison mk.2

And finally, youngster Reece Burke appears to be realistic about his chances this season and would be happy to seek a loan move to aid his development. London24 state that the youngster would be willing to drop down as far as League One to earn some first team minutes but would prefer to play as close to Premier League level as possible. Personally, I would rather we kept Burke around the first team and allowed the likes of Oxford & Pike to go out on loan. As Burke has already played a handful of Premiership games & Europa League games it would seem logical to keep him around should there be an injury crisis but I do admire his desire to play to further his ability. I hope he can really crack on this year!


Match Preview

We Must Play Our Strongest Team on Thursday

We need to take a healthy lead to Romania next week, seeing as our first Premier League game is only three days later. Ideally, therefore we wouldn’t play our strongest side in Romania, leaving our key players at home. So Thursday’s match takes on a huge importance. We need to have a two goal lead and not allow them to score. Easier said than done.

So this is the side I would play. Kevin Nolan would not feature as he has been a huge disappointment so far. His non selection would be a big sign that he couldn’t be considered an automatic first team choice, and after his outburst last week, he’d have to make his own decisions about his future. I still think he would make a good makeweight in a deal for Charlie Austin, along with Matt Jarvis.

Diego Poyet has more than made a case for him replacing Nolan, if Obiang is still injured. Carl Jenkinson hasn’t featured in any games yet, and although he may well play against Norwich tomorrow, Thursday may come too soon for him. The same may be said for Enner Valencia, although he did play against Charlton.

Talking of the Norwich game, I am in Norfolk at the moment so will be trotting on down to Carrow Road tomorrow, where I expect to see a West Ham team full of players who won’t be in the starting eleven on Thursday. Hopefully the lineup will look something like this…

Randolph, Reid, Collins, Hendrie, Page, Oxford, Cullen, Samuelsen, Amalfitano, Lanzini, Lee.

UPDATE: I have revised the team to play Astra as several of you pointed out that Sakho is still suspended, and so is James Tomkins, following his sending off in Malta.


My Upton Park Memories

On Being a Blind Hammer (Part 3)

In this third Part of Being a Blind Hammer David Griffith describes how West Ham enabled him to access being a supporter again.

After the emotion of the Play off Final celebrations in 2005 and especially after I retired in 2008 I had a hunger to return to the West Ham family. However the problems appeared daunting. I needed to somehow find my way to the ground, then find the correct entrance, then find the right access inside the stadium and last but not least somehow identify which row and seat was mine. This is not to include other essentials like finding the loo or getting a drink. Of course all this navigation had to be done in reverse after the game. I also needed to be reasonably secure that on any match I attended I would find a radio commentary somewhere so that I could have some idea of what was going on. The availability of a commentary proved difficult to establish in advance.

Eventually I took the belatedly obvious step of ringing West Ham to discuss these problems. I spoke to a lady called Julie who works on disability matters and all these apparently daunting problems melted away.

Now whatever the problems the Club experience on the pitch we can all be justifiably proud of the efforts the club makes off it. We are Champions League class in terms of disability access and put some other clubs to shame.

After speaking to Julie I simply had to email her proof of my blindness and the club promptly and without fuss provided the following.

  • Access to a specialist disability ticket ordering service. This is staffed by what are obvious West Ham supporters who are friendly and flexible. They will go the extra mile to help. If I want a group of friends to attend the match with me they will endeavour to arrange seats near me, even though they technically do not have the responsibility for organising tickets for non-disabled supporters.
  • For me personally as a blind supporter the club provided a ticket at a concessionary rate. This was especially welcome given my fall in income after I retired.
  • Most importantly the club provided an extra free “Carers” ticket for the seat next to me. Suddenly all difficulties in accessing the ground disappeared as I could take somebody to guide me everywhere I needed to go.
  • The club provide special disability stewards who provide friendly helpful support and who are incidentally also West Ham through and through.
  • Last but not least for every single game the club provided me with a head set which gave me and in-stadium commentary on the game.

So these superb ticket arrangements provide me with equal physical access to the ground but for me the in stadium commentary is just as important. At West Ham the commentator is James Datson who provides sterling support through illness and health, whether it rains or shine,

The importance of having a West Ham supporter commentating cannot be under-estimated. I remember being outraged when Colin McNamara on Five Live scathingly refers to our forward line of Cole and the heavy Benni McCarthy as being like Laurel and Hardy. He may have been objectively correct but to my mind only somebody who at heart loves the club ever has the right to slag either the club or its players off.

So when James expresses disappointment or even despair you know it is because we are all feeling the same pain. This is surprisingly important. It is easy to listen to a neutral commentator when we are playing well. However a West Ham Commentator is essential if we are not playing well.

The experience of listening at the ground is light years away from listening at home. At home listening to the radio I would probably turn it off if it is too painful or the tension is too high. In contrast at the ground I can shout to relieve any tension and also, unlike when I am at home, I can possibly make a difference. I can remember in the 2012 Wembley Playoff we were, in the second half, definitely second best to Blackpool but I am convinced it was the unflagging support of the fans that day which forced the team home to triumph. Individually my efforts at encouragement may have a minuscule impact but along with thousands of others it can change games. Football at the highest level is about small margins. If Carlton Cole has not reached that extra inch to toe poke the ball across Blackpool’s penalty area, Vaz Te would not have been able to rocket the ball home for glory and enable our return to the Premiership. The fans were crucial that day and probably gave Carlton that extra inch of lunge he needed despite the tiredness of playing in the final minutes.

You can pick up a surprising amount from commentary. You can, drawing on past images of games, hear patterns of play. Admittedly you do not often hear off the ball runs or covering but hopefully pundits on either in stadium or Radio commentary will provide this insight. You can, however, hear on the ball involvement, and whether the involvement of a player results in a successful attack or in the loss of possession. Certainly if you do not hear Nolan’s name in the commentary for 20 minutes it is a big clue that he is not influencing the game. If you hear constantly that Tomkins or Reid are the ones trying to set up and attack it is an indication that our midfield has been nullified. When you repeatedly hear Collins’ name after an opposition cross or attempt a through ball has been attempted you know he is likely to be having a good game. If you hear a buzz of rising anticipation when Sackho is driving towards goal it is a good sign that he is looking dangerous. Sometimes however patterns are sadly predictable. During one game I thought we had a new forward called Cole mis-controls.

My reading of the game though must be worth something as Tommy, the friend and fellow supporter who guides me, started to call me Mystic Dave and even started asking me for lottery numbers because I was so accurately predicting substitutions or upcoming goals. Certainly nobody seems to take my opinions as being of lesser worth than the sighted supporters around me.

Of course there are disappointments but that is football. For me the periods of disappointment mean that we should all savour and celebrate the joy of success more when it comes around. Of course with West Ham that can be an unpredictable event. I guess the prospect of joy and hope that this unpredictability brings is at the heart of being a Blind Hammer going to the Boleyn. Whoever could ever believe that the previously impotent Jonathan Spector could score a hat trick against Manchester United on a cold November evening? When Spector burst into the penalty area to steer his third goal home I stood up in the Upper Alpari and yelled my joy to the skies. Two friends sitting behind me instantly threw themselves onto my admittedly broad back to cling on in celebration. A jumping fan in front of me heard the commotion behind him and decided also to hurl himself up to hug my front . Basically we all fell into a delirious scrum. You certainly do not get that experience sitting at home in the armchair.

This is why I am still a Blind Hammer.

Come on you Irons!

David Griffith

If you missed Part 1 click HERE and Part 2 HERE

Note from Iain: David has kindly agreed continuing to write articles for us under the pseudonym of Blind Hammer. We look forward to hearing a lot more from him.


Parish Notice

Mark Ward Signs for WHTID

As the new season beckons, I thought I’d update you on where I’ve got to in terms of recruiting some new contributors to WHTID. Well, first of all I am delighted to tell you that former Hammers winger Mark Ward will be writing a monthly column for us. Mark was one of the ‘Boys of ’86’ and played 165 times for West Ham between 1985 and 1990, scoring 12 goals. I had a long chat to him this afternoon and he’s looking forward to becoming part of the WHTID family. If you haven’t read his autobiography, you should. Buy it HERE. It’s a really raw, honest book – very differerent from the kind of football autobiographies that you normally come across. His first article will appear shortly after the start of the season.

I have also signed up another real West Ham legend to write a monthly column but I can’t reveal who it is yet. Trust me, you will be impressed. I’ve also asked another player if he’s interested, but he hasn’t come back to me yet.

You will have seen below that Mike Ireson will be writing a regular Sunday column. David Griffith, aka Blind Hammer will now also write occasional pieces, following the success of his first two articles. S J Chandos will return with a regular Wednesday column.

And even more good news. The new banner should go live tonight – it will feature Diafra Sakho, James Tomkins, Mark Noble, Cheikhou Kouyate, Andy Carroll, Slaven Bilic, Julian Dicks and Tony Cottee. There will hopefully also be a new ‘ghostly presence’ to keep Bobby Moore company… I think you’ll like it.


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