Time to get over our grief

by on at 8:47pm

This is written by Greg Richardson  (twitter @rakis14)

We all experience loss in our lives, whether it’s a beloved toy, a family pet, or a near and dear family member, everybody suffers the feeling of losing someone or something that a has been a significant part of our lives, wrapped up in nostalgic memories and forever associated with a deep rooted sense of love and belonging. It can be heartbreaking and soul destroying and many people seek help to get themselves through their feelings of grief. To that end that there has been research done that suggests there are 5 stages of the grieving process – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. Once people reach the acceptance stage they are then able to move on, never quite the same, but fuller, more complete than their loss has left them. People find a new favourite toy, get new pets, remarry etc. They begin to look forward with hope rather than sorrow.

On 10th May 2016 West Ham fans suffered a loss that has left many of us incomplete, unable to see a future in which we will ever be happy again. The Boleyn ground was taken from us. Our spiritual home was no longer ours. Once the fireworks and celebrations were over, we were left without a place that was very much a central aspect of our identity. Since then I have seen many a twitter rant, Facebook post and fan written blog or vlog that would fit comfortably into the denial, anger, bargaining and depression stages. The question is, will the majority ever reach the acceptance stage of their grief and be able to move forward with the club and it’s new home? And how much greater and harder has the grieving been because of last seasons nostalgic drawn out goodbye?

Following a string of unimpressive performances at The London Stadium, culminating in the lack lustre display versus City in the F.A cup, twitter and the blog-esphere where awash with claims that this type of embarrassing performance would never have happened at Upton Park. Martin Keowns comments that City will have enjoyed playing at our ground cut deep with those who remember the Boleyn as an intimidating place that noone wanted to visit. And whilst there is an element of truth in that reaction, it’s not an entirely realistic representation of our 100+ years at our old home. There were many a time where the atmosphere was electric and hostile and the 12th man that is the fans, really helped drive the team on to perform at elevated levels, not least last season as the whole squad rode a tide of emotion. But likewise there have been times when the atmosphere was lacking. And there have certainly been times when performances have been as bad or worse that last night’s abject display.

The suggestion though seems to be that because we as fans are now further away from the pitch we cannot create the intimidating environment and so the opposition have an easier time and that it is this that is causing or at least contributing to our poor home displays. It also seems to connote that we are unable to inspire our own players and give them the support of the 12th man in our new surroundings.

Now ignoring the actual footballing side of these issues (the tactics we employ to stop the opposition from playing, the work rate and effort insisted on by the manager etc.), I don’t believe that the issue is the distance from the pitch or in fact the stadium itself but more the reluctance of many to move onto the acceptance stage of their grief. I refuse to believe that the matter of a few additional yards has killed our ability to support our side effectively.  Against Chelsea in the cup and United in the league (following Mike Dean’s ‘look-at-me’ performance) the atmosphere was brilliant. It has had its moments I other matches too. But too often I hear moans of a lack of atmosphere from people who don’t sing when echoes start to reach us from other parts of the ground and who leave once we go behind.

The stadium is not to blame for people not joining in with singing. It is not the reason that people are choosing to leave rather than support the team in the hopes they can turn a deficit around. It’s all part of their grief about the loss of the Boleyn. It’s their denial, their anger, their depression. It is understandable. But it needs to stop. We can support the team as we always have regardless of our grounds location and our distance from the pitch.

Of course it isn’t as clear cut as all that. There are problems with the stewarding at the stadium and more consideration need to be given to the allocation of seats to bring like minded supports together etc. The way the Boleyn supported the local community has not followed us to Stratford either and this should be rectified. But the club we know and love has. Our history has. West Ham United is not defined by being close to the pitch but by the passion of our fans. We have moments, seasons full of joy and seasons where it all falls apart. Great players that come through the academy. Mavericks that get us out of our seats.  All of this is just as possible now as it has always been. Our DNA is the same. Our ability to roar on our team and to intimidate opponents remains. We just need to be open to it, to move beyond our anger, to stop the hypothetical ‘back to the Boleyn’ notions. To accept our loss and look forward with hope that the next 99 years will bring us more of the West Ham we love.

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  • Stuart Duck
    9th January 2017 at 9:25 pm

    Could not agree more with this article mate, great read

  • Eddie bottoms
    9th January 2017 at 9:53 pm

    As a Chelsea fan I feel that the statement is true fans make a ground and team I hope the so called fans will start to give the support they always use to give

  • mike
    10th January 2017 at 9:33 am

    Betrayed is how many feel and despite all the hoopla surrounding the move to the shiny new world of stratford and how much bigger the club would get and in doing so then be capable of competing with the elite of English football everyone who is a fan knows it is pie in the sky..these are business men who saw an opportunity and took it…yes they “saved the club from oblivion” but even before purchasing the club they had plans for the move…cannot increase the capacity at the Boleyn they said the east stand and corners could not be filled in as planning permission not given…wrong it had been and there were even plans but of course we would be looking at a huge investment costing many millions so why do that when you can just sell up and move…..it makes business sense and that is what they are business men…I do not doubt they are west ham supporters but they are that second firstly and always will be business men…they have sold the clubs soul who knows in 30/40/50 years it may feel like west ham but truth is we rent our ground that’s all we are tenants nothing more nothing less…I will be one of many who will follow west ham away but the London stadium well personally I will never set foot in it.

  • Ian Ross
    10th January 2017 at 11:34 am

    Fans, get in the real world!! Upton Park’s 38,000 gets us a “yo yo club”
    London Stadium’s 58,000 at least gives us a chance to attract better players
    and hopefully compete with the elite.

  • Ian
    10th January 2017 at 7:07 pm

    This is my first season at West Ham and I was looking forward so much to watch the free flowing football West Ham played last season. I will admit West Ham are not the team I have supported from a kid, but as I am getting on a bit,I like to think of myself as a FOOTBALL FAN.
    As I was brought up in the area I though what a good idea it would be to watch the football with my family.
    My first impression of the London Stadium at the first match was what a wonder place to watch football. A great view from everywhere. But since then I have felt a certain hostility creeping in.
    I agree with you that the ground is different. The pitch is bigger. It is further away from the ground. But that should not make a difference to the performance. Both teams have to play on it. Seating is an issue. Every week there is friction between fans and stewards who are only trying to enforce Premiership and the stadium owners rules. What impression does that give to the young children coming to the London Stadium for the first time.

    It is now halfway through the season. The Boleyn ground is now gone and fans who have seen their team play there for years are understandably bereft.
    It is time to embrace this lovely stadium. Come to terms with the standing issue. Make it place of excitement to take young sons,daughters and grandchildren.

    At the end of the day it’s all about the BEAUTIFUL GAME

  • 13th January 2017 at 1:54 am

    Exactly how I think. I’m from Brasil and last year I went to London just to see West Ham vs Sunderland, to feel that família vibe of suport West Ham in Boleyn. It was fantastic, like a DRAM com troo. But nos we need to move on. As you said “Our DNA is the same”. And we have to make a new vibe, new atmosphere, New home!! Tks for your articule! Very good read!!

  • Alex Greaves
    22nd April 2017 at 12:03 am

    What about the day-trippers, the Thomas Cook-ers, and the fans of other clubs that seem to pop up every week who don’t even know the songs to sing along anyway? The place has lost everything I loved about match day. Before, during and after is not what I fell in love with about West Ham and as much as I’d like the accept and move on, I can’t see myself enjoying another whole season there.