Talking Point

I'll Have to Seriously Consider Whether the Olympic Stadium is Safe for my Eight Year Old

Guest Post from Stan

I wanted to share my experiences so far at the new stadium. I’ve always been in favour of the move as its allowed me to be able to buy season tickets for my eight year old son Frankie and myself and although not perfect, no one can deny its an impressive stadium. However the reason I’m writing this is not about the merits of otherwise of the move but about serious issues regarding safety.

It didn’t start well at the Bournemouth game when Frankie and I were forced to walk through the away end to get to our seats! Now I know the club have now put in measures to stop this occurring again but it should never have been necessary to begin with. The small walkway which acts as segregation between the seats will NOT be enough to stop rival fans reaching each other and mark my words there will be violence inside the ground in future matches unless the measures to segregate fans are made more robust. This is a worry as Frankie and I are in the block of seats next to the away fans.

After the game both sets of fans were let out at the same time and inevitably there was violence. Thankfully it was not large scale but any violence is unacceptable and very worrying when you have your child with you. If this is not addressed it will be very bad when we play certain teams. There was zero Police presence and an officer had told a fellow fan the Police cannot come onto the raised platform around the stadium!!!

The stewards admitted they had never ‘worked’ a football crowd and this was very evident. I hoped this was just one of the ‘teething’ problems that David Gold alluded to on Talksport but the game against Astra was even worse. Having taken up our seats 45 mins before the game a large number of Romanian fans (20 to 25) started sitting around us and even though the row of seats behind us were covered in claret tarpaulin they ripped this off as the seats they had been sold were the ones covered! I may have been a bit naive but as there was no hostility from the Romanian fans or the West Hams I hoped everything would be OK.

Sadly I was wrong. When Astra scored some of the Astra fans jumped up and cheered. This led to violent confrontations all around us as many of our fans were understandably unhappy about this. Frankie and I were right in the middle of this and I’m extremely unhappy my son was put in this situation. I was lucky enough to move us quickly away from the area and found some empty seats elsewhere in the ground. However, the damage was done and we left well before the end of the game as I just wanted to get my son home.

I know have serious concerns about people’s safety at future games and I hope I’m wrong but I can see serious violence inside and outside the ground this season. Although I’ve tweeted David Gold, Karren Brady and the London Stadium a number of times and emailed the club twice I’ve not received a reply. I was hoping that by bringing this to people’s attention via ‘West Ham till I die’ that the club will take notice and address these issues before someone gets seriously hurt.

I will have to seriously consider whether to take Frankie to certain games if these problems are not addressed which is a shame as for an 8yr old Hammers fan football and West Ham are all he thinks about and enjoys so much.

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The Mike Ireson Column

Forgive me, Jeff, For I have sinned

Last week I did something terrible. After many happy years of devotion and loyalty I was unfaithful (Mrs Mike, please put that frying pan down and hang on). I tried something new.

At first it felt exciting, a change from the usual same thing you experience week in and week out.

But I soon felt dirty, guilty and ultimately unsatisfied. I wanted the new relationship to work out. I tried to go in with an open mind. On another day without the competition of old faithful it may have lasted longer, but I did ultimately go back.

I may give the new relationship another try in the future, but I now know it has so much to live up to.

Anyway, before that frying pan does get wrapped around my head I must declare I was in fact unfaithful to Sky’s flagship football programme Soccer Saturday.

The hussy who tempted me with their wayward charms, and glint in their eye, was a new pretender to the throne, BT Score.

For more years than I can remember, Jeff Stelling et al have been there for me. Always friendly, making me feel welcome, and giving me instant updates of how well the Hammers are faring and how well my bookmaker is doing in relieving me of my cash in my traditional 2 accumulators that afternoon.

We’ve been through joy and sadness. Jeff has given me a 95th minute penalty winner for Forest Green Rovers to turn what looked like a losing four team bet in to a glorious winning one. On the flip side he has also given me many, many examples of teams losing games that were ‘bankers’ on my betting slip.

But I always forgive him.

And up till now Jeff and the team have had a pretty clear run at my affections.

Nobody has had the infrastructure to attempt putting together a programme like it. The BBC of course has Final Score, but it is a half hearted affair, mainly only starting from half time and often relegated to the red button. The only excuse for tuning in is to see how many pies and donuts Garth Crooks has consumed that week.

But now the TV football, and sport in general, landscape is changing. BT have thrown serious money at hoovering up broadcasting rights and personalities, along with splashing big cash on glitzy presentation.

Up until now though, they haven’t attempted to take on Sky’s Saturday afternoon behemoth.

Obviously feeling confident they have everything in place to take a good stab at making a similar programme they have gone all out to woo people across.

Their big coup (and the reason I tuned in) was the hiring of Mark Pougatch to front BT Score. Mark has for a long time been the radio equivalent of Jeff Stelling on BBC Radio 5 Live. Holding together several hours live programming whilst whisking us to reporters around grounds, keeping everyone up to date with scores, results and information.

Pougatch has the same unflustered style as Stelling, with an air of confidence that he knows what he is talking about and won’t send you wrong.

The Soccer Saturday format is genius in its simplicity. Scores, information, simple easy to read graphics and a bit of ‘banter’.

BT know there is absolutely no point in reinventing the wheel. The best you can hope for is a set of fresh tyres and a different type of hub cap.

Their format therefore is the same but just polished a different way. Pougatch hosting 5 ‘experts’ who report on live games going on in front of them, jumping to various reporters around the grounds with a live videprinter showing goal news as they go in.

Instead of being behind a desk the experts have the luxury of a long sofa with a bank of monitors on the floor in front of them showing their particular live game.

The experts were the usual fare of ex pro’s and managers. Harry Redknapp, always good for a witty one liner, Dion Dublin being too cool for everyone.

It appears as if they will be having a rotating roster of pundits as only 2 of the 5 had appeared the previous week.

To make things a bit more ‘edgy’ Pougatch wandered around the studio, standing behind and talking to each expert as something happened in their games.

And that was about the long and the short of it. Just a slightly different take on a well tested format.

I stuck with it for about 30 minutes, but all the time I had nagging feelings in my brain. “Is Jeff coming out with puntastic one-liners?”, “Is Kammy making an idiot of himself somewhere , completing missing a goal?”, “Has Paul Merson formed a whole sentence in English?”

When my wife came in she summed it up, “oh no, that just doesn’t look right”.

And there lies the BT Score problem. Soccer Saturday is an institution and is ingrained in our televisual watching. The format and look has not changed for many years, because it doesn’t need to. It works.

Is BT Score a bad programme? Certainly not.

But my infidelity has taught me that you just can’t run in to the arms of another without realising in some cases what you had was pretty darn good.

COYI

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Dan Coker's Match Preview

Match Preview: Man City v West Ham

Blast from the past

4th November 1961 – Elvis Presley was number one with ‘Little Sister/His Latest Flame’ as West Ham United emerged victorious from a First Division encounter against Manchester City with an entertaining 5-3 win.

Peter Dobing scored a hat-trick for City but still ended up on the losing side at Maine Road in front of 18,839. Doubles from John Dick and Alan Sealey (pictured) were added to a strike by Malcolm Musgrove to ensure maximum points went back with the Hammers to East London. Dick would go on to be runner-up in the Hammer of the Year voting later that season, with goalkeeper and fellow Scot Lawrie Leslie claiming the main award.

The Hammers went on to finish in 8th place in 1961/62 while City ended up 12th in Division One. Ipswich won the league title and Tottenham won the FA Cup.

Manchester City: Bert Trautmann, Bobby Kennedy, Dave Ewing, Barrie Betts, Cliff Sear, Alan Oakes, Colin Barlow, Joe Hayes, Gerry Baker, Peter Dobing, Dave Wagstaffe.

West Ham United: Lawrie Leslie, John Bond, Bobby Moore, Ken Brown, Joe Kirkup, Alan Sealey, Phil Woosnam, Geoff Hurst, John Dick, Malcolm Musgrove, Ian Crawford.

Club Connections

A large group of players have turned out for West Ham United and Manchester City. Divided by playing position, they include:

Goalkeepers – David James, Perry Suckling.

Defenders – Stuart Pearce, Tal Ben Haim, Tyrone Mears.

Midfielders – Marc-Vivien Foe, Kevin Horlock, Mark Ward, Eyal Berkovic, Steve Lomas, Frank Lampard Junior, Michael Hughes, Ian Bishop, Trevor Sinclair.

Strikers – Carlos Tevez, Craig Bellamy, Phil Woosnam, Justin Fashanu, Trevor Morley, Paulo Wanchope, Clive Allen, David Cross, George Webb.

Malcolm Allison and John Bond join Stuart Pearce as West Ham players who have gone on to manage City.

Today’s focus though falls on a player who played an ill-fated eighteen matches in all competitions for West Ham in 2011, having joined on loan from Man City – Wayne Bridge.

Bridge started his career at Southampton before joining Chelsea in a deal worth just over £7m in 2003. The left-back moved on to Manchester City in the January transfer window of 2009 for a reported fee of £10m. He is perhaps most remembered for an episode which culminated in his much-publicised refusal of a handshake from John Terry, which was interlinked with Bridge’s self-imposed termination of his England career – he won 36 caps for his country, scoring one goal. Bridge’s first-team opportunities at City faded with the arrival of Aleksandar Kolarov and, later, Gael Clichy. He made 58 appearances for the club, without scoring.

Bridge was offered an escape route in January 2011 by the relegation-haunted Hammers. He played in both the semi-final of the League Cup and the quarter-final of the FA Cup during his brief West Ham career but these Cup successes were not supplemented by points in the Premier League and the club was relegated as the division’s bottom side. Bridge would return to his parent club but was shipped out on loan again, this time to Sunderland.

Bridge would later have to drop a division for regular football, joining Brighton for a successful 2012/13 campaign. He turned down the chance of an extension to his time with the Seagulls, opting instead to join newly-relegated Reading. The ex-England left-back announced his retirement from the game in May 2014.

Referee

The referee on Sunday will be Andre Marriner; he was the man in the middle for our 0-0 home draw with Stoke last season and, more recently, our 1-0 win over Tottenham at Upton Park in March. Since we achieved promotion back to the top flight in 2012 the Birmingham-based official has refereed ten of our league matches, officiating in two wins for the Hammers, three draws and five defeats.

Possible line-ups

Manchester City are expected to be without the injured Bacary Sagna, Vincent Kompany, Ilkay Gundogan and Leroy Sane as they seek to protect their 100% record. Kelechi Iheanacho should be fit enough to claim a place on the bench. Sergio Aguero has scored six goals in his last seven league appearances against West Ham.

West Ham United have seen Havard Nordtveit join Aaron Cresswell, Sofiane Feghouli, Andre Ayew, Diafra Sakho and Andy Carroll on the injury list. Dimitri Payet and Manuel Lanzini are back in training and could claim a place on the bench.

Possible Manchester City XI: Caballero; Zabaleta, Stones, Otamendi, Kolarov; De Bruyne, Fernandinho, Silva; Sterling, Aguero, Nolito.

Possible West Ham United XI: Adrian; Byram, Collins, Reid, Masuaku; Kouyate, Noble, Obiang; Antonio, Valencia, Tore.

Enjoy the game – Up The Hammers!

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Match Report

Slav Loses Formation Gamble

Blind Hammer thinks that for once Slav selection gamble failed.

West Ham 0-1 Astra Giurgiu (Astra win 2-1 on agg)

You win some and you lose some but losing, for the second year running, against a small Rumanian team with tiny resources is particularly hard to take. Astra, hardly European giants, were admittedly occasionally on the ropes but I personally was filled with pessimism the instant I learnt the line-up.

It is well known that we have an injury crisis in the creative heart of our squad but I was shocked by the team selection. Bilic was at pains to state before the match that he did not want to rely on the away goal and wanted to win the tie outright. However Bilic’s selection revealed a strategy opposite to this avowed intent. Bilic gambled on a safety first approach of protecting the away goal and possibly winning the tie 1-0.

Not just Nordtveit but Obiang and Kouyaté were piled into a midfield three defending a back four of Byran, Reid, Obonna and Burke.

Calleri was left to plough a lone furrow up front, despite not showing any evidence so far that he is able to do this successfully in a side lacking any midfielders with any incisive passing.

Tore and Antonio were expected to provide penetration from the wings, but it is again not at all proven that either of these has the game to do this with a midfield bereft of a killer pass. Antonio in particular seemed to miss the support a Cresswell or even Masuaku.

Bereft of Payet. Lanzini and so on West Ham were always going to have to go back to basics. They had to rely on pace, power and determination. Playing a lone forward in an attempt to not concede is probably acceptable in a premiership game, given our injury straits, paying similar respect to a team who lost 5-1 to CFR Cluj on Sunday is a different matter entirely. For me this game cried out for Calleri to receive support from a second striker, especially in a settling in time when his confidence is probably low after several high profile missed attempts on goal. A game based on power and determination is more likely to require 2 up front. If you are unable to deliver a pass into the penalty area with guile and precision you need to increase your chances by getting more bodies in the box to fight for possession and a possible chance.

Because of this I would have started Calleri with Fletcher and brought Valencia on if this was proven not to be working. The impact that Fletcher made when he came on though, he was one of the few to emerge with credit from the night, made it unlikely that Valencia would have been needed. It is speculation now but I am reasonably convinced that if we had started with both Fletcher and Calleri the leaky Ostra defence would not have been able to cope for 90 minutes and Fletcher in particular would have worn them down. The increased risks of Ostra scoring would have been offset by a team probably capable of scoring more than one goal. The team we saw was unable to score even 1 goal.

It is not at all clear that Calleri is currently an upgrade on Sacko. West Ham should have taken an early lead when Burke controlled a long ball with an exquisite touch before opening up the Ostra defence only for Calleri to fumble another finishing attempt. Calleri is in danger of having a psychological block. If he does not convert one of these chances soon they may mount to create pressure on a young forward.

Personally I would not have played Nordtveit, instead giving his place to Fletcher up front. Nordtveit also it seems has a lot to prove, and there is little evidence that he also is an upgrade on Song. Tore, essentially our replacement for Moses also does not feel you with confidence that he will perform any better.

We have had excellent transfer windows with players hitting the ground running in the last two years. Nordtveit, tore, and Calleri seem to at least need much more time to adjust to the rigours of playing for West Ham. Based on the evidence of the first few weeks we will need very good luck with injuries this season as frankly the squad still lacks depth in Premiership quality, despite summer recruitment.

Of course Slav reverted to 4-4-2 in the second half when Valencia came on. This was obviously his Plan B after conceding a killer goal. My view is that 4-4-2 should have been his opening gambit rather than packing a team with midfield enforces.

If we make it to Wembley in one of the cup competitions tonight will become a fading and irrelevant memory. However for the time being I fear the portents for an injury prone squad liable to Miss Payet, Lanzini, Carroll and Sacko for at least parts of the season. I really hope that they all stay fit but recent evidence appears to indicate otherwise.

I will regain positivity I am sure but tonight it definitely a night for licking wounds.

COYI

David Griffith.


Talking Point

Safe Standing - A Response to Blind Hammer

Guest Post by PC Hammer

This article is in response to THIS article by Blind Hammer.

Sections of our supporters are not doing such things that Blind Hammer has listed in his piece and are not insisting on their right to stand – far from it. They are just doing what they have done for years and years. To know what’s happening now is to know the past and I am sure a lot of you will recognise this path in one way or another…

I sat in the East Stand (Row P seat 108) from the age of 12 for 2 years when my dear old Dad bought me a season ticket in 1982. I was surrounded people the vast majority of whom were at least 60 years of age or more and boy did they moan about almost everything except when we scored – then they cheered and stood up. I remembered them saying they had stood on the terraces once but now that was a young man’s game as they were getting on.

My mates from school stood in the North Bank and implored me to join them as standing was great fun. Once I plucked up the courage to tell my Dad I started the 1984 season on the North Bank terraces. I can count on the fingers of one hand the times since then that I sat at the Boleyn Ground until we left this year.

My mates were bang on – standing on the terraces was exhilarating – singing songs, constantly cheering and making a noise to get behind out team no matter what was happening on the pitch and this could not have been further from my earlier experience in the East Stand. The 1985/86 season was outstanding and I stood on the South Bank as well as travelling away.

Of course being on the terraces was not always the safest place to be. Five years later I stood on the North Bank on that fateful day in April 1989 when having lost 2-1 to Southampton I found out when I got home that 96 of our fellow football fans had died at Hillsborough earlier that day. In the aftermath the fans themselves were blamed by the authorities and this led to the Taylor report proposing the ‘recommendation’ of all seater stadia to help avoid such a disaster happening again. We all now know it was not the fans’ fault that they died and God rest their souls but a line in the sand was drawn and legislation passed on the back of the flawed decision making processes of members of the now utterly disgraced South Yorkshire Police Force.

The South Bank was torn down in autumn 1993 and the Bobby Moore stand was opened initially with away fans (Newcastle were the first on March 19th 1994) in the lower tier and they and other teams fans who followed them stood during the matches. I last stood on the North Bank on 7th May 1994 watching us draw 3-3 against…Southampton. I became a season ticket holder for the 1994-95 season in the BML and held that seat until we left in 2016.

Varying attempts were made to get the fans in the BML to sit down and on the rare occasions this happened when threatened with banning letters / ejection / safety certificate bans the atmosphere was the worst I and others can ever remember. Standing for the 18 years I was in the BML was never dangerous and so I was able to bring my son to join me when he was 11. He always stood – never a problem. He may not have seen everything but that was just like the terraces. Don’t forget those older people I first encountered had made their choice to move to a seat in the East Stand when they had had enough of standing.

For those hankering after the terrace days and the people male & female who were going through their teenage years the BML was the place to be where the atmosphere was at its best and a ticket to that area became like gold dust. With only 4,400 admitted other areas of a now fast developing Boleyn ground were sought by those wanting to stand. As the away fans became settled in the lower tier of the Sir Trevor Brooking stand so people gradually moved into CR1 and ES1 & ES2 of the East Stand to stand near those opposition fans thus adding to the atmosphere. The new West Stand saw corner lower tier blocks 1, 2 and 3 and of course 12, 13 & 14 (Chav Corner) become standing areas generating an even stronger atmosphere. The key here is that there was a distinct separation between the upper and lower tiers and so no-one was inconvenienced in the upper tier by the domino effect of standing. The remaining lower tiers of East and West stands were all seated and I never once saw the scenes I witnessed in the new East Stand against Bournemouth on Sunday. In fact I cannot remember seeing stewards use such menace and force for ejections for standing at the old ground.

So that’s the history. West Ham United Football Club condoned standing in a number of areas of the Boleyn ground from 1994 until it’s sad demise and no-one got hurt. It was not dangerous. If you did not want to stand you went to a seat in the East and West stands. There is your evidence.

We now have a massive problem in the new East Stand of the conflict between seated & standing which is pitting fan against fan and causing untold grief amongst the clubs most loyal supporters. This problem however is NOT the fan’s fault but the club’s in the way that they have handled the migration process. They gave the impression at the marketing suite in Stratford to those who had been standing that they could in comparable places in the new stadium – i should know i was there ! This works for the BML as in fact there are less seats in the new stand by almost 1,000 (hence not being able to offer plus 2’s to us) so the vast majority of people in the new BML would have been those from the old BML since 1994 where standing was condoned. There is no direct connection to upper tier seating so no-one is inconvenienced by the domino effect of standing.
Unfortunately it does not work elsewhere. The problem arises when those who stood in the corners of the West Stand (inc Chav Corner) were sold comparable seats along with seasoned ‘seaters’. The mixture is because our larger ground means more people can be placed in these new (comparable) areas than in the Boleyn. It’s a recipe for trouble since there is not a complete break between most of the lower and upper tiers any more as we have a single kop-like stand. So people who had stood for years and who were given a nudge and a wink by the club during the migration process that they would be with fellow minded fans now find themselves standing (as they have done for years without recourse and had been led to believe) but with kids, young families, the elderly and in some cases infirm people around them. No wonder it’s all kicking off. To re-iterate there is no self-interested defiance as Blind Hammer suggests just people doing what they have always done working on a green light given by the club to carry on as before when they purchased their tickets for the new ground.

The board, having condoned standing for years, have now totally shamed themselves by hiding behind the landlords – the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) in suggesting that fans standing are to blame for the capacity level being capped at 57,000 thus stopping fellow Hammers fans from coming. They are now in an awful position (entirely of their own making) where they cannot be seen to turn a blind eye to standing (as they have done for years) as the LLDC will throw the book at them. At present they are letting us have our own civil war which is entirely their fault and standing by doing nothing for the lifeblood of our club as their hands are tied by the terms and conditions of the tenancy they signed with the LLDC. They knew full well this could happen and by allowing the LLDC send in the heavy mob last Sunday the Club seems to want to have their cake and eat it leaving the poor fans in the East Stand high and dry.

The solution to the problem will not come from the club as outlined above but from the fans themselves. From a fans point of view I see it that blocks 145-148 and 152-155 (the whole BML) will be an area where people will stand and there will be little dissent here as that is what everyone in the ground expects. There is also no connection to the upper tier so no domino effect on others further back. People in the East Stand in blocks 141 and 142 as well as 130 and 131 are in the direct comparable areas of the corners of the lower tier of the old West stand and as such these would have been earmarked / sold as to be standing areas. This works here as there does not seem to be a direct connection to the upper tier and so mirrors the old ground thus negating the domino effect. Those who have bought a seat in any of these areas and expect to sit have been sold down the river by the club and that is where we are seeing trouble. They should have the chance to swap their seat with a ‘stander’ who has also been sold a pup and been directed to any other area in the East Stand lower tier apart from blocks 130, 131, 141 and 142. There should be no standing in blocks 132-140 inclusive as standing here impacts on those behind in a domino effect as that part of the ground is continuous into the upper tier. Whilst the above block numbers may not be exact (I have only been in the ground 3 times) it is a start so if anyone can be more accurate lets us know because a fan has attempted to sort this out and here is the link – http://www.westham-seatexchange.co.uk/
In my opinion an all seater stadium where everyone does sit will be like a library and j have no doubt that the team will suffer from this. Football fans have always been like-minded but not exactly identical people supporting the same club and as individuals we all have our own ideals and expectations. Every match should be enjoyed by all and sundry in their own ways whether seated or standing but in a safe and exciting atmosphere. We all lived happily at the Boleyn Ground as the place developed and changed over the years and once settled in our place in the old ground we spent our energy getting behind the team which undoubtedly helped them to do so well last season. We have a massive problem, not of our own making, staring us square in the face. It is vital we sort the standing issue swiftly in an adult and camaraderie way so we can make our new home the best in the land for us the fans. I don’t expect the club to lift a finger so spread the word, follow the link above if you are affected by this situation and let’s not be the laughing stock of the football world and all accommodate and look after each other in the name of supporters of West Ham United.

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