This is how I see it…..
Author: ExWHUEmployee. Published: 16 March 2018 at 8:16pm
Written by Mark Vickers @westhammer011
Much has been written about the events on Saturday and the present situation at our Club. I have attempted to collect my thoughts and opinions and detail them in what I hope will be an objective and reasoned appraisal of where we are now. I have also detailed my thoughts on some potential next stages that we might collectively consider to move forward.
Firstly my bonafides. I have been supporting West Ham since I was a boy in the late 60’s and attending matches since 1972 when, as an 8 year old, I had the privilege to see my hero, Bobby Moore, lead the team out against a Newcastle side for a 1-1 draw. I have now held a season ticket for 6 seasons, originally in the Bobby Moore upper at the Boleyn and now in the West Stand at the London Stadium. I live in the West Country and attend games with my Family, commuting some 136 miles each way for a home match. West Ham are a massive part of my life and like many people reading this, I am unhappy with the current situation at our Club.
Everyone has an opinion, here is mine.
Where shall I start? Let’s revisit Saturday. From my seat I could see the first pitch invader get felled by Noble. This was shortly followed by the first of the fans to run towards the Directors Box to vent their frustration at current events. This was quickly followed by more pitch invasions and then a steadily increasing number of fans around the Box. The abuse was audible and the hatred tangible. I have a few observations and concerns here:
- The completely inadequate Stewarding failed to react to the initial fans approaching the Box. Had they apprehended and ejected the original few approaching the Box, it’s highly unlikely others would have followed as there would have been a consequence (ejection) in them doing so.
- The stewards seemed totally unprepared for any crowd issues and the area around the Box seemed to have only 2-3 stewards on duty – why?
- When, after some 10 minutes, a group of Police arrived by the Players area, they seem to discuss the situation and decide not to deal with the matter at all – why?
I, along with many fellow fans around me arrived at the match and discussed our thoughts and concluded it was highly likely, should we lose against Burnley, that some form of protest would take place, especially given the decision to cancel the march. I had no insight as to this, it just seems to me that any basic perusal of social media would provide intelligence that this was extremely likely. If my fellow fans and I could ascertain this, why on earth could the Club not? It seems to me grossly negligent that neither Stewarding nor Policing was adequately briefed for such a disturbance. Who is accountable for managing this and what action should be taken against them?
As for the ‘protest’ itself? My opinion is those encroaching the pitch should face a punishment that the Club/authorities see fit. I think it’s clear where the line is here and those entering the field of play crossed it (no pun intended). As for the fans laying siege to the Directors Box, well, in my opinion, had the Club been more professionally prepared for the day, I believe the protest wouldn’t have escalated to the level that it did. That said, the missile throwing and assaults are unacceptable. I was also very disappointed that we heard chants clearly aimed at those of us still watching the game. The gentleman next to me who travels weekly from Norwich and who has held a season ticket since 1958 said in leaving, that this was the first time in all those years he’d ever left a game before the final whistle – that speaks volumes.
I’d like to ask the fans involved to consider this. Can anyone say categorically, that at 1-0 down we couldn’t have fought back for a draw had the invasions and protest not waited until full time? Sadly we’ll never know.
I have some thoughts on the Board.
- They (Gold & Sullivan) have made mistakes (Avram Grant) and inspired choices (Allardyce) but the one massive and contentious legacy they will leave is the Stadium move. It is beyond doubt that they made ambitious claims (as yet unrealised) over the benefits of the move and the quality of the Stadium. I’ll touch more on these and my view on the migration later.
- I do believe that the Club is in a better financial position than when they arrived, however, there remains fan misgivings around the transparency of our Finances – especially around the monies taken back on loans by our owners. Again more on this later.
- They have presided (and one assumes, are accountable) for the last two dismal transfer windows. If ever there was a time to go out and get a ‘Deedonker’ or a ‘Carvalho’, it was in January. Pay over the odds, get your man and placate the fans. Dismal and abject failure here when a statement was required. As for selling Ayew to a relegation rival – a red rag to a bull!
So now we have something of an impasse at our great Club. Fans are dis-united in a way I have never, ever known. ‘Board out’ fans are ritually abusing all others who are either ‘Board Neutral’ or ‘Board In’ and the same more than applies in reverse. There is a mistrust of the Board by a substantial number of our supporters that won’t ever ‘blow over’. Mr Gold and Mr Sullivan ignoring the supporters and failing to take action will not cut it, so how can we move forward? My thoughts are as follows:
- Firstly, it is important that supporters acknowledge that our owners cannot and should not be expected to walk away. West Ham is (and I hate myself for saying this) a Business, it is run for profit and there is more money in football now than ever. Personally, I’d prefer to go back to the old days but unless the Premier League folds and the Sky money disappears this will never happen. Our owners could decide to sell the Club to the appropriate prospective owners at the right price but that ultimately is now their decision. It’s well worth remembering that for every Man City sheikh there are multiple shoddy owners (Sunderland, Birmingham, Villa, Newcastle, even Liverpool and Man Utd).
- Secondly, the owners should acknowledge that the Stadium move has been an unmitigated shambles and hold Karren Brady to account. In my opinion quite how you undertake such a contentious move and mis-read a fan base so badly shows a total lack of adequate preparation and professionalism. Key failings here are:
- A total lack of effective segregation inside the Stadium for the first half of last season.
- A total lack of protection for away supporters leaving the ground – again only rectified after numerous altercations after the season started.
- A total lack of a Family area – still not addressed and highlighted again on Saturday.
- A mis-reading of fans desire to stand as per the Bobby Moore lower at Upton Park for the last 20 years, resulting in fights between our own Fans in season 1 at the LS.
- Numerous failings around Stadium Design – retractable seating on building blocks etc.
- I could go on………….
- Thirdly the Club needs to create a regular forum to meet and discuss the Fans agenda’s. Given the now fragmented nature of our fanbase this will be a challenge, however, I would suggest starting by uniting/inviting all the various social media sites, providing free facilities and starting to establish a way forward.
- Lastly I would urge the owners to be 100% transparent about the Club’s finances. I have heard Mr Gold discuss ‘caustic loans’ and the benefits of their loans over the Banks (4% interest over 10%) but how about a gesture of a 1-2 % reduction, reinvested to show the fan base they are serious about becoming debt free and funding player purchases?
If our owners truly want to unite our fan base, then a statement on all of the above should, in my opinion, be immediately forthcoming. But what of us fans?
Currently we are fragmented, split and disillusioned. We all support West Ham for a reason and for me a big part of that is what made us ‘West Ham’. Proud, passionate, independent and different from the rest. We love our history, our terrible days (Oldham away), our victorious days (Blackpool @ Wembley, Preston @ Cardiff) and those special days with family or friends. We aren’t glory hunters, we are West Ham, and we turn up through thick and thin – that is what makes you…………….. well makes you an Iron.
Relegation will benefit no one, the Club will lose value and it will diminish the chance of any prospective new owner taking us on. We will lose our best Players and probably go backwards by 10 years. We must survive and we must all play our part, Board, Fans and Players.
On and off the pitch, can we not unite, get behind the Team and see this mess of a season out?
I have said my piece. COYI