Talking Point

Blind Hammer responds to Voice of Reason’s “Should I Stay or Should I Go”.

The great thing about West Ham till I Die is that it offers a platform for a variety of views. Normally I am sanguine about reading articles and am normally just happy to just let others have their point of view. However I do feel the need to respond to the article from Voice of Reason musing on whether he and by extension others should continue to support West Ham in the new stadium.

I respect the views put forward in the post but I fundamentally disagree with the points made and feel in particular, that it is unrealistic in the expectations he places on the Board.

There is no doubt that there is a massive constituency of commentators, fuelled by numbers of jealous fans who have done their utmost to sabotage and seek out bad news stories about the stadium. This is very reminiscent of the Press Campaign against the Millenium Dome before it transferred to the O2.

Make no mistake about it, this negative Stadium narrative has nothing to do with unbiased reporting but is driven by an agenda of resentment against the deal West Ham were able to strike with the LLDC for the hire of the stadium. These include the same people who lined up to petition against the deal West Ham struck. The same people who tried to hamper any future deals the LLDC and stadium operators were able to strike by forcing Freedom of Information demands for contract details.

These include the BBC Journalists who vindictively reported on the so called “West Ham Steal of the Century” in the BBC Media, a standard of biased journalism so crass that even the BBC Board were compelled to censure the producers of this program for its unjustifiable level of biased and unfair reporting.

These are the same people who salivate on Five Live at the slightest suggestion of any spectator trouble at the stadium, even though the Police reported at the London Assembly hearing that they had no particular problem policing the stadium compared to other stadiums in London. We have had 19 arrests at the stadium this year at the time this was looked at. One Rangers match at Ibrox in Scotland produced 14 arrests this season but this passed almost without comment.

After the victory against Chelsea Mark Chapman tried to strap line the victory as “Well West Ham won but the real Story, David Pleat, was the trouble in the ground”. Pleat , not my favourite pundit, did on this occasion refuse to be drawn into the Stadium bashing, and argued that the confrontation inside the stadium at least, were no different to those confrontations which had occurred in other high profile London derbies.

Over the summer TalkSport tried to run a virtual campaign including inaccurate reporting of the Stadium tenancy deal to such an extent that Sulivan had to phone the Station and try and redress the biased balance that the station was promulgating.

During our game Against Arsenal Sam Matterface tried to invite Stuart Pearce to agree that the stadium was “soulless “compared to Upton Park. Stuart Pearce resisted the steer, insisting that the stadium provided excellent sight lines and was a step up from Upton Park. In the UEAFA Cup game Jim Proudfoot tried to denigrate the stadium, with Terry Butcher on this occasion having the defend the view which he accepted was different to Upton Park but which he nevertheless described as “panoramic”.

There was never any chance that this constituency of hostile commentators in the media in general and TalkSport in particular would be persuaded that West Ham and their supporters were anything more than dirty thieving b****rds for so called fleecing of the Tax payer in their Stadium deal.

The fact is that all season long it has been a lazy easy story to talk about the “difficulties” of the stadium and run a negative narrative to “punish” West Ham for the alleged arrogance of their move. Those supporting other London clubs in particular were extremely hostile to a notion of a suddenly uppity West Ham moving from their normal lowly status to compete more regularly at the top level with a World Class Stadium.

In the face of this blizzard of negative narrative and attempts to denigrate our club it would have been a media own goal of astronomic proportions for the Board to formally declare in an official announcement , as Voice of Reason suggests, “that we made a bit of a ricket” with the move into the new stadium. All the anti-West Ham propagandists who have campaigned against our club inheriting the stadium would have whooped for joy and then had a field day of pumping further bad news and criticism towards our club. You can imagine the headlines “Board admits to disastrous move”. Follow up grilling over subsequent weeks of Stadium questions directed at all the players, manager, and anybody else to do with the club would have been the inevitable result. To an extent this has happened anyway, a Board declaration of this kind would have given these negative stadium narrative enormous extra legs. To suggest that the Board should adopt this as a club PR strategy is, I feel, naïve in the extreme.

The reality is that we are not operating in a neutral unbiased media environment; many people have agendas, even if they do not openly declare them.

Now of course even though I am a Blind Hammer, I am not blind to the fact that there have been difficulties associated with our move. You know what? People at the club are not blind to that either. Off the record people at the club have told me that they think it may take 2 seasons to finally iron out all the awkwardness and crinkles of the move. Privately I have been personally infuriated by many things that the club have failed to doo, especially initially from an accessibility stand point, and especially as I and others were warning the club of issues before the season even started.
Behind the scenes I, and I am sure others, are trying to work with and influence the club positively to try and make things improve.

I have never used this website to make a major wash of our dirty linen in public, precisely because I know that there is a whole cohort of anti-West |Ham commentators, resentful of our move, which is desperate to trawl for any bad news story that they can dredge up against West Ham and their stadium tenancy. There is gradual progress being made with much more to do but I am convinced that West Ham can have a successful future in the stadium.

As I and other posters have noted in the past, moving into new stadiums is seldom completely trouble free. We have managed to also change training Grounds in the same season which has created even more upheaval

The key in the end is about the football. . We need to create a tradition of positive memories at the new Stadium. All accounts of the match against Chelsea were that the stadium was rocking. It put to bed once and for all that with the right football the stadium could not create a fantastic atmosphere. There have been flat atmospheres at certain games because the football on occasion has been dire. You know what; I remember just as many flat atmospheres, even toxic atmospheres at Upton Park when we suffered similar dire performances. It is a complete myth that Upton Park was a constant cauldron of positive support no matter what the team was playing like. Remember the 2014 game against Hull where the team was famously booed despite an undeserved win. Remember the dreadful 0-0 against Bristol City on a Tuesday night in the Championship; Upton Park was like a morgue that night. Against that we can pitch the thrilling game against Manchester United in our last game, at Upton Park; I am convinced that if we put in a similar performance against Manchester United in our next game we will again create a cauldron of atmosphere.

Above all I write for a site called West Ham till I Die quite simply because that describes me. Even if we end up in the Championship I will be getting my Season Ticket and turning up to urge our team to do well, no matter how much media resentment there is of our success in winning the stadium. Others may decide to whinge, sulk and slink off, I for one am staying with my club until the end.


David Griffith