The GoatyGav Column
If I could click my heels together three times and repeat Dorothea’s wish until I was returned to the Boleyn Ground I would. Sadly this isn’t ‘The Wizard Of Oz’ so home will remain in Stratford.
I’d say that Saturday went some way towards making the OS/LS feel, just a tiny, bit more like home. Many fans have been, or remain, critical of the owners but, of late, they seem to have got a lot more right than wrong. The decision to name the ‘Kop’ style East Stand the ‘Billy Bonds Stand’ was one of the best that they have made. To top that off the ceremony that they laid on was terrific. There was a great sense of occasion with many of his former team-mates and players he managed forming the guard of honour for him, and his family, to be greeted on to the pitch by. Like so many of you I was hugely made up for Bonzo. The day felt special to me. Only Billy can know how it felt for him but it was a highly charged emotional event which visibly affected him to the point of him becoming misty. Those tears of joy that welled up encapsulated our feelings too and I’m so pleased that Sir Trev’s ‘enforcer’ is once more alongside him at West Ham.
Back to the Stadium itself there’s still a huge gamut of feeling amongst the supporters. At one end of the scale you have those who have gone to the extreme of giving up their Season Tickets – so disenfranchised have they felt. At the other end there are those who have welcomed the move and the benefits that it has brought including affordable tickets, especially for kids, and the increased capacity with it’s accompanying revenue increase for the club. Personally I’ve come to accept the move like I’ve come to accept Brexit as someone who voted to remain. If I could change anything about the situation I would but, like the fact that I’ll always be British, my club allegiance is set in stone and so it’s a question of just having to get on with it. Making the best of a situation is not necessarily the same as having to put up with one though. So my attitude is very much to enjoy life at Stratford as much as possible and Saturday will help form fond memories of our new ‘home’ to help that enjoyment.
There are, however, still things that require some work. Chatting to the, now familiar, Hammers fans around me I learned that there were forty supporters ejected from their seats by security at the Fulham game. I shudder to think how many it was for Liverpool despite many of those being fans of the Merseyside team sitting in home seats. The word ‘snowflake’ seems to have gained momentum in recent months and, it would seem, that many coming to matches at the London Stadium are easily offended. Don’t get me wrong, if some fans are acting overly aggressive around small children then it’s wholly appropriate for the parents of the toddlers to request to move seats. When lifelong fans, however, are being ejected from their seats for small infractions then some common sense needs to be applied. Sadly sometimes ‘savvy’ stewarding, and common sense, are not being applied. I won’t tar all stewards with the same brush but, you have to say that, there’s a way to go until the overall standards come up to the same level as we were used to at Upton Park.
Whether we eventually get to see the planned lower tier seats in the Sir Trev Stand bring fans closer to the action, or not, remains to be seen. There were many who quickly observed the potential exposure to the elements leaving supporters soaked to the skin. It’s great to be near to the pitch but would you really want to be in those seats if it were hammering it down cats and dogs on you for two hours? Not sure I would and definitely sure I wouldn’t subject my lad to being drenched whenever the heavens opened up. I suspect there’s some work to do to make sure those seats are protected.
Overall I feel that the nightmare many predicted, including myself being very sceptical, hasn’t fully come to pass. I’ve mentioned a few times before, in the comments, that my Father, who was born and raised in Compton Avenue, Upton Park, was of the opinion that West Ham should have moved to a larger capacity stadium decades before they did. If someone with ties to the ground as strong as his understood the reasons for moving on then it’s my hope that many of those who are considering giving up their tickets, or have already done so, either stay or return. Yes, affordable football has brought many new fans in but the soul of the club IS the supporters and if too many leave then those chants of “You sold your soul for this $ – hole,” will have it completely right. In my mind’s eye I can see something pretty special with a great atmosphere as well as increased financial muscle to bring success to us, long suffering, fans.
COYI! BILLY BONDS’ CLARET & BLUE ARMY!