The GoatyGav Column

So Do You Want A Multi-Billionaire Owner?

So Do You Want A Multi-Billionaire Owner?
It’s not always easy finding new subjects for a regular column. One of the aspects that needs to be considered is if a topic has been covered before. As I looked back through my more recent posts I decided to read one of them again – along with the comments made.

One article that I returned to was posted on the 18th December last year entitled ‘The Eye Of The Beholder, What We See in Players And A Tribute To Luca Campanaro’. As I read through the comments I happened upon one posted by ‘The Academy’. I had replied to The Academy’s comment as, it appeared that, he may have refereed the match that the U14s team I manage played in the previous weekend – where the Minute Silence was observed for Luca. I’m glad I checked back as, by the reply I’ve now read five months later, it turns out that The Academy was, indeed, the referee for the match in question. Small world isn’t it? Thanks for your kind comments about the team mate – the boys always make me feel proud. Your encouragement at Half Time and Full Time were greatly appreciated. If you’re around at any of the tournaments this Summer I may see you there.

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The main reason I went back so far was because I was positive that I’d already written about the pros and cons of having a mega-rich investor take over the club. As I don’t generally do closed season transfer speculation, choosing only to comment when a player actually joins the club, the Summer months tend to be a quieter time with posts not forthcoming on as regular a base as they are during the football season. The subject matter of the articles, therefore, tend to look at club issues from a more structural and behind the scenes view.

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In two season’s time David Sullivan and David Gold, the owners of West Ham at the time we moved to the OS/LS, will be in a position where they can sell the club without incurring any financial ‘legacy’ penalties. This fact, alone, considerably increases the likelihood of West Ham being sold at that time. As much as the club owners profess to be ‘in love’ with the club and are fans like the rest of us they are, at heart, businessmen. If I were cynical, which I’m not but if I were, I would suggest that the plan has been to take the club to the Olympic Stadium, make some money out of selling the Boleyn Ground, before selling the club on at a huge profit when able to do so while making some extra bunce in interest payments in the interim. Only time will tell if this will come to pass but, regardless of the speculation and as a supporter of West Ham, you have to ask yourself if this is the outcome that you want. Are the current owners that bad? Are you enjoying life as a West Ham fan or would you prefer it if a mega-rich investor ploughed over a billion quid in to the club, and team, to ‘buy’ success?

I was listening to Johnny Vaughan being interviewed on the radio a few months ago. A fully paid up Chelsea fan the celebrity spoke extensively about his longing for a time when he felt closer to the club and it’s struggle for success. He went on to describe how exciting it was to put one over on the big teams and never know what result you were likely to get from games against teams around you in the league. By contrast he doesn’t have the same enthusiasm about games against teams in the lower echelons due to the expectation of victory which usually transpires. Big victories meant so much more. Players seemed less mercenary and more like ‘one of our boys’. Going to matches was a more exciting experience and one that Vaughan longs for a return to. At present Manchester City fans are basking in the glory of their various titles but, I believe, it won’t be long before many of them will start to feel the same way.

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For me nothing is ever going to take away from enjoyment of good football. No matter how ‘corporate’ things get at our club I’ll always be vociferous in my support from the stands, enjoy a few beers on match days and encourage the right brand of the game to be played. Frankly the club is already becoming a more commercial animal. You only have to look at operations like the merchandising and club shop, sponsorship deals (although I think the mascot sponsorship is an outrageous liberty), corporate hospitality, food & drink and general environment that the LS is located within to get far more of a ‘big club’ feel to West Ham. An observation backed up by a Manchester United supporting friend who joined me for the Arsenal game this season.

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Actions like the current one by UEFA, against Manchester City and Chelsea, might prove prohibitive, and a dis-incentive, for a mega rich investor anyway. We may never see the kind of investment that those in the top six clubs have enjoyed in recent years because the obstacles being put in the way of team investment may be sufficient to put the investors off. Notwithstanding UEFA’s actions under financial fair play the goose continues to be fattened. A sale during the Summer of 2021 looks a distinct possibility despite Aleksander Ceferin’s best efforts to exercise the rules to bring English clubs to heel.

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Signing off I wanted to congratulate the youth team on making it to the semi-fianls of the HKFC CITI Soccer 7s Tournament. Losing out to Rangers 1-0 the boys did very well and showed some lovely stuff in the group stages. Newcastle United pipped Rangers in the final to retain their title. Seven a side is a quick and entertaining format of the game that’s great to watch. I look forward to seeing West Ham compete again in next year’s tournament.

COYI!


Talking Point

Looking Back Over My Shoulder

As the season has come to a close, and teams are already releasing the new kits for next season, I thought it appropriate to reflect on several of the best moments in the season. I think it is important to reflect on things and try to learn from them, and in a week which has seen me finish my undergraduate degree, I am feeling rather contemplative.

As fans of West Ham, along with fans of most other clubs, you come to expect ups and downs. The opening four games were certainly not positive but, as the season has progressed, we have seen improvements in individual players and as a team.

The 3-1 win at home against Manchester United in late September was brilliant, and was made better on a personal note given one of my best mates and housemate supports United. I dislike Manchester United at the best of times (sure I’m not alone there. Incidentally, Man U is the only other club my Dad would have objected to me supporting) but to see them fall from the dizzying heights of the Ferguson era, to that dismal side that we deservedly beat was very satisfying. Anderson’s silky first goal for the club was great, and it is a shame we couldn’t see an attacking trio of Anderson, Arnautovic and Yarmolenko for an entire season. This result was exactly what Pellegrini had emphasised when stating the club needed to have the mentality of a ‘big team’, and given my friend Louis down the years has been able to poke fun following results between the two teams, this result was very enjoyable to say the least. To witness a Manchester United fan realise his club is at the moment very mediocre has also been entertaining. I hope (as Yazz yodelled back in the day) the only way is up in East London! And like the Quo: down, down, deeper and down for Man U…

Furthermore, the 1-2 away win against Southampton just after Christmas was very satisfying. I was at the pub with friends and I recall not feeling overly confident due to a slightly depleted squad and the Saints had started well under Hasenhüttl. After going 1-0 down to a slightly dubious goal, we struck back instantly with a brilliant goal from Felipe, and then counter attacked to great effect to score a second and win the game. The game was by no means a brilliant performance but, given that Antonio was at right back for example, it was a performance that highlighted Anderson’s quality as well as the team’s resilience.

The 1-0 home win against Arsenal again demonstrated how well we can play against the bigger sides and, while the performance was very impressive, it was Rice’s debut goal that was the real highlight. I remember texting my mate who’s a season ticket holder and saying ‘I’m so happy for him’, and you could see the genuine happiness from all of the players when he scored. The England international had a fabulous season in holding midfield, and I’m sure he will only get better.

Of course the 0-1 away win at Spurs was fantastic. I have one friend who supports Spurs, and I know along with the rest of their fans they really did not want the first team to score and win to be us. It was an excellent performance from the team with everyone working for each other. Antonio’s celebration was random but made the goal all the more iconic! Last team to win at Highbury, first team to win at the Emirates, and the first side to win at the Tottenham Hotspurs Stadium. If every other team could kindly build new stadiums, we’ll be contending for the league!

Finally, along with the Spurs result, the six points gathered from both Southampton at home and Watford away was a great way to conclude Pellegrini’s first season. The form in particular of Noble in the final few games was great to see, and it’s always nice for him to silence the critics he has always had, as well as several pundits recognising his underrated ability.

The 2018/2019 season was a transitional one allowing for Pellegrini to implement his attacking style and assess the squad. After the summer window, we should have a good idea where we are. I am usually optimistic regardless but things do appear to be on the up at the London Stadium. Hopefully whatever I do now that my time at University is over is as positive as West Ham moving forward!

Hope everyone is well, have a good week.


My West Ham Story

My Year With West Ham

Being a supporter from abroad for whom there is no point in buying a season ticket, I can only pick some games per season and every West Ham match which I go to in the London Stadium must be selected carefully. Flights have to be booked in time (sometimes with Laudamotion, one of the airlines of Austrian compatriot Niki Lauda who sadly passed away on Tuesday), the trips must be coordinated around other meetings or events which I attend in London, and then I have to hope all goes well and the date of the game isn’t shifted to a conflicted kick-off time. And you know, with West Ham, you never can be sure if you will get any reward for all the bother. But that’s what football and being a football supporter is all about: following your team during good times or bad, and trying to go to as many games as possible.

Only Manchester City and Liverpool have done better

And this season has been a really good one for me and I was very fortunate with the games I have selected to watch in the London Stadium! I graced the upper tier of London Stadium’s West Stand in the 2018-19 season on five occasions, being able to watch the games against Wolves, Burnley, Crystal Palace, Arsenal and Southampton. These were not only more games than in previous seasons, but above all I could celebrate four wins, and West Ham suffered only one defeat when I was present. I‘m sure this is my best points ratio since I have supported West Ham! Only Liverpool (2,55) and Manchester City (2,58) have won more points per game this season than I have (2,4)!

Wolves 0-1

But first we got our fair share of West Ham’s bad start into the season (losing out four times in a row for the second year running), as our first “live game” was the 0-1 defeat to Wolves in September.

I have to admit that this was a game less interesting and exciting than the Proms’ concert #65 which we had attended the night before at the Royal Albert Hall (Stravinsky, Ravel & Berio, conducted by Semyon Bychkov).

And the Sunday afternoon we spent at Hampstead Heath, strolling through the sunny park, walking along the ponds, and enjoying scones at Kenwood Brew House Cafe, which was a much more pleasant time than the one we spent 24 hours ago. Only the sunshine had been bright over the LS pitch as well.

But to add also something on the positive side of this trip (in addition to the scones at Kenwood House), on this journey we discovered a new kind of hotel in London, operated by a hotel group called CitizenM, which we would use for all our following stays this season.

A new philosophy

But after this fourth league defeat in a row it seemed the players began to understand the new way of playing that Manuel Pellegrini was asking of them, and when I had the opportunity to come back to London in November, our stay consisted not only of an environmental law conference in the City, an Andrea Bocelli concert in the O2 Arena and a visit to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in London’s Westend, but also of a thrilling 4-2 win over Burnley in the East London Stadium!

Burnley 4-2

In the game against the Clarets West Ham went in front twice, courtesy to goals of fellow Austrian Marko Arnautovic and of Felipe Anderson, but on both occasions Burnley was able to equalise. Nevertheless Anderson with his second and Chicharito with West Ham’s fourth goal sealed the Iron’s win in this entertaining encounter, showing that this team now had developed a real winning mentality under Manuel Pellegrini. Well, and they had already defeated Manchester United a month ago at the London Stadium (3-1).

What a wonderful world

We love to come to London in December with the family, soaking up the British capital’s Christmas atmosphere with carol singing in Christmas concerts, ice rinks at historic places, street markets and the beautiful lighting in Regent Street. Hence we had to be in good voice on our December trip, singing Christmas carols at St-Martin-in-the-Fields in the evening and “Bubbles” the next day at West Ham, and it became a joyful afternoon in claret and blue with a 3-2 win over Crystal Palace!

Crystal Palace 3-2

As you know, this game was part of West Ham’s best ever December in Premier League history! The Hammers were 0-1 behind at halftime, but after the interval we again saw Chicharito and Anderson score, along with a beautiful long range shot from Snodgrass. Chicharito’s fox-in-the-box goal put West Ham in front, and Felipe Anderson scored a beauty to make it 3-1 with a right footed strike into the far top corner, a goal which recently became West Ham‘s “goal of the season”: after some quick build-up play, the Brazilian picked a beautiful shot over the diving keeper – a strike which proved enough to win West Ham this game, although there was a bit of “same old West Ham” when the Eagles pulled one goal back afterwards.

That could have led to a nail-biting finish, but I always had the feeling that a fourth goal for the Irons was more likely than an equaliser – evidence that I was getting more and more sure of West Ham’s newly gained winning mentality under MP. “What a wonderful world”! Also West Ham-wise we could join in this song performed by Katie Melua in the concert we attended at Westminster Hall in the evening after the game.

Comeback of the West Ham way?

Arsenal 1-0

And then it got even better on our next trip to London as we were there when West Ham celebrated the famous win over Arsenal with Declan Rice’s first Premier Legue goal! Yeah!!! It was an imperious display of young Declan in his holding midfield role, with his composed passing and the scoring of the decisive goal, and Dec grabbed all the newspaper headlines the other day. The 1-0 win was a totally self-assured, exciting and entertaining performance of the whole team, with lots of ball on the ground, reminding us of what was once called „the West Ham Way“.

Well, and Marko Arnautovic’s waving good-bye when the Austrian striker was subbed throughout the second half was just a side note in the morning papers, and in the end the transfer to China which Arnie and his brother had wanted to engineer in January fell through like Theresa May’s Brexit Deal.

Fortune’s hiding again

My next chance to fly to London didn’t come before the beginning of May. Therefore I could only watch via telly and the internet what happened after that brilliant win over Arsenal. This part of the season (from February to April) reminded us that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, and that Manuel Pellegrini would need more than one season to revolutionise a club whose fans have sung that “fortune’s always hiding” for ages. The team played inconsistent within this period of my absence from the London Stadium, they were eliminated from the FA Cup against much lower opposition and had to be happy that Fulham, after West Ham had been five games without a win, and later on Huddersfield came to the London Stadium to help the Irons get back to winning ways. The club had ranked ninth in the Premier League after the Arsenal win, but they never were able to climb higher up the table, injuries and dubious decisions of referees didn’t help, and Pellegrini’s claim to play for Europe was scuppered by a series of mixed results which saw West Ham drop out of the top ten for most of the time.

First-away-team-to-win-at-Tottenham-Hotspur-trophy

But the best was yet to come this season. Tottenham’s new stadium had been finished and Spurs had managed to win all their home games there prior to West Ham’s first visit to their new ground. Well, I think that not only I was sure that the Hammers would be the first team to win there (as they had done 12 years ago in an other London derby when Arsenal was beaten for the first time at the Emirates).

When Tom Jones, the architect of the Tottenham Stadium, came to a sports facilities conference in Vienna, just some days before the Hammers’ game against Spurs, I let him know that West Ham would be the first team to inflict defeat to the home team for sure, and I even dared to put a bet on West Ham winning this game with Betway. As we all know, I was perfectly right to do so, and Michail Antonio’s beautiful goal from a brilliant Marko Arnautovic pass sealed an historic win!

Arnie again, at last!

And one week after West Ham had successfully claimed the “first-away-team-to-win-at-Tottenham-Hotspur-Stadium-trophy” (a quote from the Southampton match day programme), we finally were on our way again from Vienna to the London Stadium for the last home game of the season vs. Southampton, a game in which we had the rare opportunity to see two Austrians on a Premier League pitch: one in the coaching zone (Saints’ manager Ralph Hasenhuttl) and the other one hopefully playing in the West Ham team, and starting to score again at last!

Saints 3-0

Marko Arnautovic’s form had improved in the games prior to that match, but obviously it was mandatory that we came back to the London Stadium before he hit the back of the net again. On an unexpectedly cold Saturday afternoon, with bright sunshine alternating with rain several times, Arnie in fact started scoring again! He put West Ham ahead with two goals, one in each half of the game, before Fredericks with his first PL goal sealed a comfortable win for the Hammers. Arnie’s two goals were his first ones since the beginning of January when he had scored against Brighton and Birmingham! And for the last minutes of the game he even wore the captain’s armband again after Mark Noble had been substituted.

Well, we’ve already heard that MP is planning with Arnie again for next season, and I hope that the Austrian who has been West Ham’s top scorer in the last two seasons will be at the club for another year!

Our stay in London lasted for three other days, with a Sunday highlight of eating the best scones of our lives at “Maison Bertaux” in Soho, just behind the Palace Theatre, beating the ones at Kenwood House at the beginning of the season by far! And we came back to Royal Albert Hall, where we didn’t listen to a concert this time, but participated in a truly inspiring and motivating LC19 leadership conference on the Monday and Tuesday together with Christians from 80 countries and all denominations!

And in the end, not only our stay in London, but also West Ham’s season, ended on a high note: their win at Watford helped them climb up the table in the last round and finish in the top half of the Premier League in MP’s first year at the helm!

And next season …

Well, I hope to come back to London, despite Brexit, several times next term. And by doing so, as our trips to the London Stadium have turned out to be talismanic for the Irons this season, I hope to contribute to West Ham performing even better at the next call, and the “Pellegrini Revolution” will continue!

And prior to the kick-off of the 2019-20 season (on 10 August) it seems the Hammers want to do me, as well as my compatriot Arnie, a favour by travelling to Austria and to China in pre-season. But with West Ham, you know, things aren’t always as good as they seem:

The Austrian pre-season friendly (11 July) will be played in Vorarlberg, which is almost as far away from Vienna as Stratford! And when Arnie will step onto the pitch in China later in July, he will find out that he’s still on West Ham’s and not a Chinese club’s payroll. Well, on the other hand, for me the latter would be something that I’m particularly pleased with!

Come on you Irons!


The HamburgHammer Column

The summer transfer window: Shop smart, but take some money with you

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When I was a kid, a month or so before Christmas it was a well worked routine for me and my brother to hand in our respective wish lists to our mom, she then promised to pass it on to Santa on the next trip to the post office, but we were also given the strong and sage advice to be realistic in our expectations.

We certainly shouldn’t count on the bearded fellow and his reindeer pals to regard our pieces of paper as legally binding bucket lists to studiously work down, ticking every item on the lists without fail.

And that’s exactly how it panned out after mom had rung that little bell on Christmas Eve, indicating that the presents were ready to be admired before getting unwrapped.

And as sure as West Ham home games begin with a passionate rendition of Bubbles, every year under the Christmas tree us kids were happy to find some bloody nice presents (plus the customary socks, new pyjamas and underwear which we had never specifically asked for but which were apparently deemed absolutely necessary gifts by our parents regardless, they must have fiddled shamelessly with our lists before passing them on I suppose).

My parents were not exactly loaded, to put it mildly, but they always made sure that Christmas was special for us kids, we always ended up with a fair selection of items from our list, but never ever, as a matter of principle, did we get EVERYTHING that was on the list and deep down us kids knew the score. Which was perfectly fine and acceptable.

It still was worth it though, compiling a decent wish list. An ambitious one at that, with the odd pie in the sky entry to boot. You never know…

The same very much applies to transfer windows at West Ham. By all means, as a fanbase and as manager, we need to be realistic, but we can still aim high and dare to dream!
Ask and you may receive!

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Maybe, every once in a while, the stars and planets will align, you could punch above your weight and still win occasionally, you may be quicker than other clubs for once, right place, right time – or the player may just be enticed into choosing the club after a brilliant interview with the gaffer, outlining his irresistible plans and footballing philosophy at West Ham. Still, it might not be enough. Bigger clubs, offering more money and European/CL football, you know the story.

Take Maxi Gomez. Players with a current asking price of 40 million quid upwards do have a certain quality. Which means other clubs, bigger clubs than us, will have him on their radar too and spending that kind of money is pretty much commonplace for them, and not a big deal, unlike for us.

If I was still in the habit of writing wish lists for Christmas (or West Ham), you can bet your house, your garden shed and your cat on me putting Maxi Gomez pretty high up on that list right now. But I’d be realistic enough to also put some alternative names on the list, just in case.

And I am convinced that Manuel Pellegrini and Mario Husillos have done and are still doing just that. They will be smart enough to have a plan B, C and possibly D too.

My trust in them at this point is sky high and they probably know they won’t be getting £100 million to spend every summer.

They have shown us last summer how they are able to bring in decent quality players for modest amounts. However, this should be no carte blanche for our board to go down Pennypinch Lane all summer. You still need to spend money in the current market to bring in the kind of players that are going to improve our squad and hopefully the starting XI too.

You can’t take money for a used Ford Fiesta to the showroom, expecting to drive off the premises in a shiny new Ferrari. Or at least a reliable Volvo with all the trimmings.

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So, even if you have to miss out on the top names on your list, even the names further down won’t come cheap. That’s par for the course if you’re a Premier League club. We still need to be alert, quick and realistic with our bids in order to be successful.

There are always rival clubs lurking and aiming for the same players and we simply cannot afford to play fancy games with low bids or ridiculous payment terms if we are REALLY interested in signing a player.

Yes, Jordan Hugill could of course be like a new signing for us, but I’d rather we won’t be testing those waters when trying to replace the likes of Carroll, Hernandez and Perez who are all likely to depart in the coming weeks.

Later this week I will make that phone call to the West Ham ticket office, sorting out my e-credits and renewing my season ticket. I will do it in the full knowledge that I have no Scooby at this stage what our team is going to look like come August. I will probably be unimpressed with the players we will have signed by then and maybe even more irritated with the players we may be allowing to leave or sell to the highest bidder. However, from a personal perspective, who we sign or sell can and will not be the clincher why I will be renewing anyway.

It’s just that West Ham are still such a main contributing factor when it comes to planning my trips to London. Yes, it is mainly about meeting friends and mates from the blog, having a jolly good time and also doing things away from football.

But I just cannot imagine not going to a first team game when I’m over while one is scheduled. Time and fixture permitting I will also happily attend a game of our U23s or (hopefully) the West Ham Women’s team, but somehow at this stage I cannot kick the habit of a West Ham matchday when I’m over, despite the stadium and its well established shortcomings as a venue for watching football.

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And I still need my fix of attending 2-5 games a season of top level football in person which in my case gets provided by West Ham as I don’t attend either of the two big Hamburg clubs’ games unless I have visitors who are keen to go. So, what are my expectations for West Ham’s summer business ?

Similar to my Christmas wish lists back in the day. Please let us have not just the useful, but boring stuff: The socks, new pyjamas and some bloody new underwear. Give us something to get excited about. The latest Playstation. A new stereo system. Tickets for a Nena concert. Maybe a nice West Ham shirt or jacket. I know getting all those presents at once is unrealistic, but at least give us one or two of them. I promise to truly appreciate and even wear the new pyjamas as well then…:-))

COYI!!!

Hamburg football update:

Both top Hamburg clubs were out of the promotion race, so their respective results on the final day of league fixtures were pretty much irrelevant. Still, Hamburg SV beat already relegated Duisburg 3:0 at home – one wishes they had been able to perform like this in the previous weeks – promotion would still have been on or already secured then!

St.Pauli lost 1:2 away at Fuerth – which means that the team from Hamburg’s red light district finish the season in solid midtable, after gunning for promotion, same as HSV, for quite a while earlier in the season.

The Concordia first team finished a highly disappointing season with a 2:0 home win against Sasel on Friday evening. The revolving door will be busy this summer as probably only five players of the current squad will still be wearing the famous red and black shirt of Concordia next season. Loads of new, young and hungry recruits are expected to join in the next few weeks, ready to give the Cordi fans more reason to cheer next season.

The Cordi U23s meanwhile shot themselves in the foot, killing off their promotion hopes for good by losing at home to already promoted Muemmelmannsberg. Better luck next time, lads!

And finally, the Concordia Women’s team didn’t actually play, but got honoured on the pitch prior to kick-off at the first team game on Friday, seeing their amazing promotion season acknowledged by the home crowd, and deservedly so.

If you fancy it, have a butcher’s at the highlights of their promotion clinching game at Rahlstedt (and the ensuing celebration) in the videos below and please do watch out for Cordi’s best player and my personal favourite, Michelle “Mini” Hille, wearing the #7 shirt. And if you happen to understand a bit of German, enjoy the commentary too, delivered in the broadest local Hamburg accent you are ever likely to hear…:-)

Oh, and just in case you spot a portly figure with sunglasses on, wearing a grey hoodie and claret West Ham jacket, during the first two minutes of the longer video, guess who that might be…let me give you a hint:
It’s not Winnie-the-Pooh or the guy from the Go Compare advert…;-))

Match highlights:


Rahlstedter SC – Concordia from Wolfgang Neubauer on Vimeo.

After the final whistle:


Dawud Marsh's Photo Diary

Photo Diary 2018-19 Season Review Part 1: The Place

Now that the season has drawn to a close for West Ham United, the lights dimmed and gates closed until the next season, its time for the 3 part review of my photo diary. I have decided to start with the stadium this time round. The ground divides many supporters and for some the London Stadium may never feel like home, for others its not the place but the crowd and the atmosphere and for some the stadium is beginning to feel like our own. Its a great place for a photographer, especially for those games under the lights, but this season we have seen a lot more entertainment outside the ground with more bars, food stalls and music and there is an atmosphere like we never had at the Boleyn Ground. Inside the ground, although visually interesting for me as a photographer, the ground feels cold and lifeless until you walk through the tunnels and up the stairs to get to your seats. I really like the shape of the stadium and with the new claret carpet surround it’s beginning to feel more like a football ground. Well, thats my view and as always, I’ll let me photos doing the talking. Part 2 will be focusing on the fans and the final Part 3 on the players, some of whom we may never see again I the claret and blue shirt. I hope you enjoy the memories.


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