Filed: Monday, 3rd October 2016
By: Paul Walker
David Sullivanís ability to talk his way into a corner is pretty well known, be it transfer boasting, or claiming that we have a world-class stadium in Stratford. Which we haven't.
More people than just me have implored him to just button it a bit more. Now he has stepped into the latest match day problems at the London Stadium, and laid himself wide open to ridicule by the very same media that he is accusing of sensationalising the incidents that marred SaturdayĎs draw with Middlesbrough.
The clubís PR machine via the website is imploring us to get our tickets quickly for the League Cup clash with Chelsea. That draw sent shivers down my spine for all the wrong reasons.
I have been watching West Ham for 60 years, through all the very, very bad years of hooliganism and I have travelled away hundreds of times regardless. I wonít be told that I am not seeing properly what I am seeing now.
I wonít be at the Chelsea match. My excuse is a wedding anniversary and a celebration trip to north Wales for myself and my good lady. I donít willingly miss West Ham games, though, she will confirm.
If I had really, really wanted to trek down from the north, she knows I would have found some cunning plan to be in two places at once. But not this time, you see. Because after long, painful thought, I do not believe our new home is a safe place to be when 5,000 plus Chelsea fans are there, along with a few of our known head cases.
Frankly, I donít trust the ability, knowledge and management skills of our new landlords. They havenít got a clue. I am witnessing things now that I have not seen for decades at football grounds. And once again, donít tell me I donít know what I am talking about because I have travelled the world watching football through all those bad times, and I am not easily dissuaded from seeing my team.
I am watching crowd problems inside and outside our ground, I am seeing illegal drinking of alcohol in sight of the pitch, and now there has been plastic bottle throwing and away fansí coaches being attacked.
Yes, David, these are small, sometimes isolated incidents and the vast bulk of our fan base is doing their level best to embrace our new home--because there is no going back--and they are giving Slav and what is thankfully an improving team, all the help we can give.
The support on Saturday was excellent, Slav must see he has the support of a vast amount of our fans in these trying times, and we saw a better organised, more committed, performance with team spirit and Dimiís spellbinding goal.
But when Sullivan starts talking about sensational reporting, he is going to get told a few home truths. Firstly, what do him and his board know really about what goes on in the vast surrounds of the Olympic Park as they are being chauffeured away from the arena?
Has he even bothered to consider that the positioning of pop-up bars behind the BML and the away section seating are virtually allowing fans to drink and watch the game from the concourses. The fine line between legality here has really surprised me. The law says you are not allowed to watch football and drink at the same time.
On Saturday, I have read from respected observers on other influential sites, there were plastic bottles being thrown from home and away sections at each other. How on earth do they get their hands on such ammunition?
Not surprisingly, these are the bottles on sale in these bars behind the sections I have mentioned. So if they are getting those bottles into the seating areas, then the stewards are not doing their jobs. Nobody managed to get bottles or plastic glasses up the steps into the old BML at the Boleyn, no chance.
So now we also have away fans being escorted from the ground at the same time as home fans are heading home. And we have roads shut and home fans blockaded. My friendís wife and young son were trapped behind these barriers on Saturday and were unable to reach family members waiting for them in Hackney Wick.
Everybody had to use Stratford station. I would suggest that Mr.Sullivan and his cosseted pals should spend a match trying to get through Stratford station. Itís a nightmare.
The concept has been flawed from the start. No Premier League stadium I can think of has been married up with a vast shopping complex that would have many thousands of shoppers there anyway on a Saturday afternoon as well as 60,000 football fans.
This weekend we had transport chaos. First I was told by a copper there had been a fire at Stratford station, then I read on our fellow fansí site that there may have been a passenger taken ill at Leyton station, thus holding up the tube. Then there was a serious stoppage on the overground, where a train was halted because a muppet with a beard and a blue and grey jacket had been banging and kicking a train door because it wasnít opened quickly enough.
That train sat motionless for over a hour and the clown responsible soon had plenty of police crawling all over him. The police acted quickly and efficiently, knew what they were doing, but that didnít help me and my lad missing our connection at Euston. I also heard that a Middlesbrough player was also caught up in the nonsense, having been left behind to have his drugs test, and he to missed his train north.
Then, of course, we find out that Stratford was shut because of overcrowding. Shoppers and fans just too much for it. And this are the world-class transport links we were promised. Frankly, I am yet to see it.
Me and my lot have now found somewhere to get a beer and food some way in the opposite direction from Stratford, the people there are happy to see us and donít mind some club shirts. We are trying to make it home. I will only use Stratford station if it is the very last resort.
Then we had twitter footage of a Middlesbrough fansí coach being attacked. Punch-ups being filmed. And all you could see was slow to react stewards, so where was the police escort? Boroí officials have been far from impressed, Steve Gibsonís daughter has been on twitter to complain and there is little doubt they had problems.
It is this sort of thing I have not seen in years, frankly never at the Boleyn. Nobody was allowed to turn left out of the Chicken Run, where there was enough police and paddy wagons to mount a small invasion. Away fans were routinely escorted round the bus station and back to Upton Park tube and away.
Old fashioned grounds in built-up areas gave little chance to running battles, well not since the dodgy days of the '60s and '70s before the Police got a grip.
And that is really my point about our new home. The ground management is reactive rather than proactive, there is vast areas of concourse, grassed surrounds and walkways. Huge areas of land that make policing a real problem if not almost impossible.
And that is why I will be happy (I frankly am surprised and saddened by my attitude) to give Chelseaís visit a miss. My fears now is that clubs all over the country have enough knuckle-draggers to have realised there are real problems with policing and stewarding at the London Stadium, and they fancy seeing it for themselves.
Middlesbrough had their nutters, the ones that were dancing on the vast amounts of tarpaulin sheeting that covers the lower seating from view at the two ends of the stadium with retractable seats. The one picture I saw had two clowns out there cavorting and I counted a dozen stewards in the picture doing nothing.
I just donít think our landlords know enough about football crowds to handle these now weekly, two weekly, problems. They think because they coped with the happy, clappy Olympics for a fortnight, or a few rugby matches, occasional Newham Fun Run and the odd rock concert that they know what they are doing.
No, they donít.
I have feared all season, after watching carefully how the teething problems are being handled, that there is a disaster waiting to happen here soon. I just hope the Chelsea game goes off quietly on that score, because we will get it in the neck--just as Sully claims-- if something goes wrong.
What saddens me most is that my son has already decided he will never bring his young daughter to a match while these constant problems keep happening. He knows our family legacy, me, my dad, my grandfather and countless uncles have carried a family tradition back to Thames Ironworks days.
My little grand-daughter may well not like football, it happens. But I doubt I will ever have the pleasure of seeing her at this new home of hours. The Boleyn would have been no problem, but not here, not with the people who are running the place and in whom I have to trust my own safety.
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
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