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Is this the way it could have been?

Filed: Monday, 19th March 2018
By: Paul Walker

Surely it could have been better than this? Just how did it get to a stage when our fan base was so fractured and split that you wondered how many felt they didnít want to be part of it any more.

At times like this, you start harping back to the good old days, I know I did, and try to cling onto what West Ham UNITED was all about.

And in those dark moments you start to question everything that has gone before, the reasons for the move, what we were led to believe about the move from Upton Park and did it really have to be this way.

You start to look back without a sense of reality about anything, because the good old days were far better than anything we have experienced in the near two seasons in Stratford. You allow yourself a rosy glow about the past that probably does not stand up to scrutiny, but does make you wonder if decisions could have been different and did we need to move at all.

I know, daft really, because I always backed the plan to move to a far bigger stadium to generate the capital to be a bigger, more successful club. You note that I have not dare mention the London Stadium in this assessment.

At this stage I would like to credit Nigel Kahn and thank him for the YouTube piece (see below) he put out recently that destroyed the David Gold interview, the one where he said he was deceived by the architects over the Olympic stadium, and that, you know, heíd had serious doubts about leaving the Boleyn.

Nigelís piece really crystallised many random thoughts of my own about what happened ahead of the greatest migration in history! And it just heightened another thread in my head that we will all see more of in the coming months, and will make us sick to the pits of our stomachs when you consider what can be achieved with drive, ambition, determination and genuine desire.

What we were told couldnít be done about rebuilding Upton Park or moving to a new, purpose built ground of our own. Itís what fans continually rant on about. If we cast our eyes outside the West Ham bubble and look across to west London, we will soon see what can be done if you really put your minds to it.

We went to Stratford because David Sullivan and David Gold saw a blindingly obvious business opportunity, a short cut to glory, a punt, a gamble, just the things these two cannot turn away from. They are not built that way.

They could save millions, make millions and beat Spurs to the punch with a bigger new stadium. And Chelsea too.

Now I have to admit from the start of this next bit, that what I am going to compare us with are compromised by size and cost. But here goes anyway.

In the next few months both Queens Park Rangers and Brentford, two admittedly smaller clubs than us and with smaller fan bases, will start planning and building new homes. New stadiums going up in similar, high density inner city areas to ourselves, but still only a mile or two from their current homes.

Both have found, with the help and encouragement of their local authorities, land to build new stadiums. QPR will knock down an athletics stadium (sounds a good idea that, why did it not occur to us?) and build a new home to replace Loftus Road. And they will build a new smaller athletics stadium next door (come on, that couldnít work, surely). A certain Tony Fernandes (remember him?)and his new rich partner at Rangers, Lakshmil Mittal will provide the funds.

Brentford, hemmed in at Griffin Park, have found land near Kew Bridge station in Lionel Road to build a 17,250 capacity new ground which they will eventually share with London Irish. Itís on a 7.6 acre site, will cost about £70million and they have had help and support from Hounslow council. Itís one mile from Griffin Park.

Rangers' new ground will be built on the Linford Christie stadium site, at Old Oak Common. Loftus Road will be sold for housing, the new gaff will accommodate approaching 30,000 and Thames Valley Harriers will have a new, smaller, community stadium next door. And I repeat, I accept that our needs in terms of space and capacity will dwarf both the new ventures in west London. But, it shows with thought, determination and help from the local council, things can be done.

Embed from Getty Images

Now I donít live in east London, the whole place has changed dramatically since my family moved from Bow just off the Roman Road, to East Ham prior to the war. What land is now available for development I do not have a clue. In the old days the land around the Beckton speedway/greyhound stadium was suggested.

There must be land near the docks, like Everton have found for their new stadium in Liverpool, also part funded by the council. Yes we have an airport to consider now and much of the land around the old docks is housing and hotels. But did anyone actually try to find a solution that did not mean moving to Stratford?

Now Kahnís assessment was that no feasibility study was really carried out on rebuilding parts of the Boleyn, and I can only assume little attempt was ever made to find land to build our own new home. The vast cost would have turned G&S cold, and there is footage of Sullivan saying at the very first press conference when they bought the club, that their aim was to move to the Olympic stadium.

It is believed then that planning permission for a new east stand was allowed to lapse, the old argument about access to the bus garage was trotted out. The garage that now does not exist and flats are now planned.

|Then there was the argument that a new, bigger stand would block out the light to the next door flats. Again Nigel, thanks for the next bit. The new flats being built where the chicken run was is are high as the flats across the road. Of course the main problem from the council and police for a new plan would have been infrastructure and where would you put so many more fans?

But if you asked our fans now if they would have preferred a new, modified East Stand for say, 15,000 fans, or move to Stratford, I believe I know the answer.

That of course, would have cost a lot of money. Liverpool have spent £114million on their new stand. Money would have needed to be borrowed like Spurs have done for their new home on the White Hart Lane site. And S&G would have needed to find a new benefactor, a helping hand , with the cost. That would have meant diluting their interest, and of course it would have ruled out a massive killing when they finally get to sell the London Stadium. Which they will.

They spent around £80/100million to buy the club between them and they will sell Stratford for six or seven times that. Lovely jubbly.

Anyone who has any doubt about that should have listened to Christian Purslow, the former managing director of Liverpool and senior executive at Chelsea, who on Skyís Debate programme, assessed the West Ham business model (see below).

A football money man by trade and nature, he reckons that a business with £48million profit is doing just fine. And that a good £40million of that should be invested back into the club to maintain progress. And we all know what has happened there.

Purslow said that if West Ham stay up, then the owners will sell. We have all heard the rumours about Kia Joorabchian and his Chinese consortium doing ídue diligence.í It may be nonsense, probably is, and our owners continually say they have no desire to sell. But that doesnít mean they wonít sell if the price is right.

So you can now see how depressed I have got over the past weeks, as our fans have splintered into angry factions on political, class extremes. How disgusting is that? People have been threatened with violence, others have been abused and insulted on social media on a hourly, daily, basis.

My view is that I respect and thank anybody who steps forward to try to make our life in Stratford better, of any political persuasion. I donít care whether they are ICF old boys, Labour supporters, left or right wing (we havenít got either in our side at the moment) or just hard working fans, I respect them all for that they have done to get the board to listen, or are planning to do.

Some of the stuff recently you cannot make up. The hatred and bile has stunned me and many. It accounts for my blinkered rose-tinted trip down memory lane here, searching for something to cling onto. Something that I know is not really possible. But you can dream.

Pompous now, I suppose, but pull yourselves together everyone, we are all West Ham and our team is falling through the floor. Get behind them, forget the politics and the egos and lets have another go at this board in the summer.

Oh, one more thing. I donít buy the Sun, never will do, so Karren Brady, when you want to talk to us, the clubís fans, about something as important and game changing as three guys running onto the pitch (was that really an invasion?) then do it through the clubís own website, not your newspaper column in a paper I wonít read.

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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