By Gursimran Hans
So, today on the 10th May, West Ham’s penultimate game of the season is a midweek clash against Manchester United. You’d be forgiven for thinking we’ve been here before. But the mood couldn’t be more different.
That clash two years ago, the last after 112 years at the Boleyn Ground, was the perfect night. It felt as though God if he existed, was a West Ham fan that night. We had a manager who understood the big occasion and got his team playing like it.
The Boleyn Ground, as I’ve said several times over the past years was perfect to watch football. The ground was intimate and tight, putting you right up close to the action, you could see the sweat on player’s face from my seat in the West Stand.
You felt that you, in spite of your insignificance in the grand scheme of things, could make a difference to the result if you made some noise. You felt at home, the beautiful thing about this club for many is what it represents: unity, togetherness, pride. You felt that at abundance at the old ground.
Even the surrounding areas covered in West Ham stalls on match day and the traditional East End businesses, like Duncan’s, Nathan’s and The Boleyn Pub. Those businesses relied on West Ham’s matchday revenue to survive and they were ignored by the club during the move. Nathan’s will close at the end of this money after 80 years, the extra £8 million or so was definitely worth it, wasn’t it?
The businesses in Stratford do not even want us there.
The club is no longer united, the fan base is divided due to the current owners, who let’s not forgot met with a group of supporters linked to the ICF hooligan firm who proceeded to threaten fellow supporters.
We’re still in massive debt, despite selling the stadium, despite the TV deal, despite having low stadium operating costs and making a profit in transfers, the club’s attitude has rubbed up several clubs the wrong way – notably Sporting Lisbon and Leicester and affected our ability to sign players, these are all issues that the board are accountable for but their marvellous job at dividing the fanbase (the only thing they’ve done well in eight years) has prevented this from happening.
The stadium feels like a morgue at times, even in the recent 1-1 draw with Stoke, a relegation six-pointer you could hear a pin drop. The supporters who want to make noise are dotted around the ground, too dispersed, this correlates with the ones who want the board gone too. The club had said the migration would maintain the various sections of the ground, such as Chav Corner, the unofficial standing section. That was just one of a plethora of lies.
The world-class stadium was not delivered, the stewarding might as well not be there, they cause more problems then they solve. Fans being banned for complaining that an emergency exit was being blocked for one example. The stewards at the Boleyn who did wonderful jobs, were friendly, lost their jobs. For what?
As for the playing side, the football is dire under David Moyes. We’re starting games with no striker, 5 defenders and usually at least two defensive midfielders and we still have the worst defence in the Football League. Our style of play makes Allardyce look like Cruyff.
We’ve made League One teams look like Barcelona and sometimes don’t even look like we’re trying to shoot.
The justification for all this is that it’s about results and money. Anyone who says that does not understand football.
The thousands and fans who spend their hard-earned cash going up and down the country following their teams, they want to be entertained and see a side playing to the best of the ability, having a go and playing with pride.
Against Manchester City the other week, several players looked they didn’t want to be there. In 43 games, we’ve yet to score four or more goals at the Olympic Stadium. Manchester City have done it three times in as many visits, but on this occasion, they didn’t break a sweat. They pummelled us and there was no fight.
I would not care if we lost to Manchester City, they are better than us by a long way, so why not have a go? It’s basically a free hit.
If going to football was about results and money, then explain why Goldman Sachs don’t offer season tickets. It’s about so much more than that.
Ask me if I would rather win the FA Cup or qualify for the Champions League. I’m picking winning the FA Cup, every day of the week without hesitation. I couldn’t tell you how many times as a boy, I dreamt about scoring a last minute winner in the Cup Final and losing myself in a sea of Claret and Blue. Loads are in the same boat.
Did I ever dream about scoring the goal that makes us the 4th best side in England, of course I didn’t, who the hell does that?
Following the club’s 1-4 defeat to Manchester City, Mark Saggers, in my view, beautifully summed up the issues that are eroding the joy of English football.
Because clubs value results and money when they really forget what has built them, the fans, who they milk and shaft at every opportunity. Not just West Ham. TV games at 1945 on Sunday, imagine a London club playing in Newcastle at that time, no trains, you have work in the morning. A few years back we had a Monday night clash with Sunderland.
Clubs appoint the same old managers who have failed to deliver, because for many any experience is better than no experience. When fans are crying out for new, bold ideas to be injected into the club and team, clubs recycle the same old faces and methods.
These managers sometimes perform above expectations, but it almost always ends in tears. Still, they get their payouts and increased wages, whilst the fans feel more and more depressed about their team.
At points, the Boleyn felt more like my home than my actual home, I’m too young to really remember my old home. It was a place where you could release your emotions and feel the togetherness. It’s something you never truly understand until you feel it. But when it’s really flowing, you feel unstoppable. Not in relation to your team, but in your life outside too.
The Olympic Stadium just does not cut it. Interestingly, Hertha and Roma are moving from their rented multi-purpose stadiums to football-specific ones they own. Countless examples of that, as far as I can see we’re the only ones who willingly went the other way.
It doesn’t feel like West Ham anymore. Everything that made this club special has faded away. You’ll have noticed I have had ages where I don’t post on this site, it’s because I don’t prioritise West Ham in the same way before. I just can’t, it’s not real West Ham and there are other things in my life. My passion for West Ham still exists, in my interview with FA Cup winner David Cross, I spent an hour and a half chatting with him, my average interview usually last 10-20 minutes.
Renewing is a massive dilemma for a lot of us, the stadium sucks the life out of us and we don’t really enjoy it but if we leave, then surely the situation will get worse. Luckily, for me, I should be moving to Hong Kong next year, there’s a West Ham Supporters Club out there and the local side were once managed by Bobby Moore. Whilst the decision has been taken out of my hands somewhat, I don’t feel too sad. Because this doesn’t feel like West Ham, it feels wrong on so many levels.