Evening Standard Column: Be Careful What You Wish For
This is an article I have written for the Comment pages of tonight’s London Evening Standard. I am fully aware my opinion on this is not universally shared, but it’s my honest view. Please be polite in the comments.
I’ve had a season ticket at West Ham for 25 years, but on Saturday I woke up and for the first time since Sam Allardyce’s reign, I decided I didn’t want to go to the game. In retrospect perhaps I had a premonition – not about the 3-0 defeat to Burnley, but the terrible scenes that happened in the second half where grown men lost their marbles.
They were scenes I found profoundly upsetting. Three days later I still ask how people who no doubt have perfectly normal day jobs can be so hate-filled as to want to hurl abuse (and worse) at the 82 and 68 year old joint chairmen, David Gold and David Sullivan.
‘Sack the Board’ is the usual chant of the more knuckle-headed element of any football club’s fan base. And what does that achieve? Does it make Mark Noble tackle harder or Joe Hart play like he was ever England’s Number One? No. On Saturday it achieved what it normally achieves. Sweet F.A.
Not that long ago West Ham came from 2-0 down to beat Everton 3-2. That was never on the cards on Saturday and it was entirely due to a few mindless idiots and thugs. There were some who no doubt wanted to recreate the so-called ‘glory days’ of the ICF, the notorious Inter City Firm, who ran amok in the late 1970s and 1980s. These men are now in their 50s and 60s but seem to fancy one last hurrah. Pathetic.
My heart still lies at the Boleyn Ground. My head tells me the Board made the right decision to move. Like many other fans I genuinely believe the London Stadium is a fabulous arena and we’re bloody lucky to have it. Yes, when the team plays badly, the atmosphere stinks. It is a myth that the atmosphere at Upton Park was rocking all the time. The sound of 57,000 fans cheering when we were beating Spurs and Chelsea last season rivalled even the greatest night games at Upton Park.
So why are there so many violent scenes at the London Stadium? We can blame the players, we can blame the stadium itself or we can blame the amateurish stewarding all we like, but in the end grown men have to take individual responsibility for their own actions. They should just grow the f*** up.
Yes, the club have made some poor decisions, but those who want Messers Sullivan to sell up should beware. Whatever their weaknesses, they care deeply about the club.
Does anyone seriously think that a new Chinese, Azerbaijani or Russian owner is going to give two figs about fans? Yes, they might deliver a short term boost, but that’s all it would be. Short term. Be very careful what you wish for.