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Money canít buy you love


Filed: Tuesday, 3rd April 2018
By: Paul Walker


So where did it all go wrong, David? There you were, perched up above your own Directorsí Box, looking like an extra in a Peaky Blinders episode with that new cap, and peering over the glass barricade while wondering just why you are so, so disliked.

You may be a billionaire, you have just had your 69th birthday - you are just a couple of weeks older than me - and you probably have all you want, materially in the world.

I mentioned this fact to a few mates recently, and was taken to task over my own very modest achievements in life, in comparison, and my answer was that at least I wasnít hated by 50,000 people!

You may own a Premier League club with no way you can be forced out any time soon, but you canít buy being respected, being loved or even being wanted. And you know, David Sullivan, that will never change.

Maybe you donít care what people think of you? Maybe you are happy behind the beefed-up security to keep your clubís fans away from you. Maybe not.

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You were looking down on 60-plus security men in goggles and glowing Nike football boots, just to make sure nobody got on your pitch to complain about the way you have run West Ham. And, in fact, ironically, you have achieved these past few months all you wanted.

There was no march, at a time when powerful RWHFAG could maybe have got 10,000 fans onto the streets. That never happened. This time around there was a small gathering of the WHUISA early doors, passing motions of no confidence against you, and across the wastelands of Stratford there were a couple of marches taking place.

They were endorsed by differing groups and they were noisy. They made their point and good luck to them, because they had every right to show their anger. But I would doubt there were no more than a couple of thousand ,tops, venting their annoyance at how their club has changed and the amount of pony they were fed to get them away from Upton Park.

So Sullivan got his way. No mass protest beamed around the world to damage the brand, an excellent team performance, a crucial victory and a set of supporters who should never have been doubted for a second, who roared and sung the side to victory.

We were as one, us and the team. Never in doubt. But how does it feel to know deep down that you may own it, but you are not part of it, you are not really wanted?

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What bothers me most is that your actions, you and the Board, had got us to a place nobody wanted to be in. Throwing things at people is wrong. Against the law. Running onto the pitch is wrong. Against the law.

But it came to that. Yes, it was wrong, but many if not everyone had some empathy with the Ďfewí who got onto the pitch during the Burnley disaster. More so, from my point of view, with Bubbles. Heís about my age, heís been following the club for nearly 50 years, he goes to games with his lad, and I bet thatís the high-spot of his week.

It is for me. My lad had been charged by his mum not to let me drink too much (failed there lad), not to lose me, and to get me home in one piece. Iím in my 70th year now and itís 61 years since I saw West Ham for the first time, so sharing that heritage with my son is important to me.

But Bubbles is now going to miss all that for one loss of patience. One lapse. He knew he would get banned, but a lifetime exile, thatís a bit steep. And it was David Sullivan who pushed him to that fateful choice.

It is the fracturing of our fan base that I blame Sullivan , David Gold and Karren Brady, for. In good times supportersí groups organise coach trips. In bad times they proliferate and demand regime change, to have a voice and to hold people to account for what the rank and file call lies and the Board call exaggerated ambition.

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We now have an array of fans groups who seem to be at war with each other. We are all West Ham, but at the moment you would not think so. And itís split politically and by class, so it seems.

The abuse is distressing to hear. People are being abused for being on the Right, for being lefties, for maybe knowing the Mayor of London, who gets dreadful stick for either being brown, Muslim or Labour. Or all three.

Our fan base is not split, it is fractured alarmingly. There are calls for a united front to deal with Sullivan and the board. There seems as much chance of that as seeing Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn on the same platform calling for greater friendship with Russia!

The splits between the fans' groups is sad. When it is split, it is weakened. There was a point when a negotiating committee of several groups were able to meet Brady. That's long gone now.

And when Sullivan can sit in his stadium with a just few thousand outside chanting, then he has won, it doesnít get to him and force him to make concessions.

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I must admit, with not being around the ground for matches much of late, I was surprised to discover so many people who were fed-up with the in-fighting. Basically folk want to enjoy the football, have a stadium that is fit for purpose, and a transfer policy they can understand. The in-house bickering is just putting people off getting involved, or daring to have a different opinion.

One guy I spoke to told me of having what he thought was a polite exchange on line, only to find that he was soon being abused through his own Facebook messaging page. That sort of thing turns people right off becoming involved.

But we now have a situation where one of the biggest fan groups, whose leaders did so much to force the club to listen to supportersí complaints - 15,000 Facebook members in a matter of weeks for the RWHFAG that scared the crap out of Sullivan - do not have a voice, well not officially anyway, that is being heard.

When the "colourful past" of their leaders became too prominent outside of the West Ham bubble, Brady and Sullivan ran for cover behind the Supporter Advisory Board, distanced themselves publicly and declared they would only deal with fans in future through the SAB.

Now the newly launched RWHF group, who like our goodselves here at KUMB are not on the SAB while smaller groups are, find themselves on the outside looking in. That has caused a considerable amount of annoyance and has contributed hugely to the current antipathy between fans.

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Only West Ham can sort this out. My advice, for what itís worth, is for the RWHF to bite the bullet, clean up their act a bit, and try to get onto the SAB as the only real avenue to get at the people that matter at the London Stadium. They represent far too many to be ignored.

So there you have it. I would rather talk about the football, about those three outstanding goals, about Markoís stunning volley for the third, about Arthurís great cross.

But you end up being sidetracked by what is going on off the pitch. There were media guys there on Saturday who were sent just to cover what the fans were doing, one I know went to the WHUISA meeting and then was off to watch the two marches. The match was of secondary importance.

We need to get back to a situation where the fans are united, where the talk is about what happens on the pitch. It has been suggested to me that nothing really has changed much despite four months of pressure from fansí groups. Again, only West Ham can change that perception.

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There is a start. The flags were excellent, it looked like a real football pitch when the teams came out. And with the ring of stewards around the pitch, it actually looked a much smaller arena.

I am sure that wasnít the initial motive. But players and managers have complained about the vastness of the pitch and the surrounds, but with those stewards, the whole place looked more compact. An optical illusion, yes, but still the football played was no illusion.


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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