Filed: Tuesday, 20th September 2016
Billy Bonds believes fans will eventually get used to the “strange” new surroundings of the Olympic Stadium.
Speaking at Southend’s Cliffs Pavilion on Friday, the club's record appearance holder - who celebrated his 70th Birthday earlier this week – criticised the stadium as being "not a football ground", but insisted that fans will embrace their new home in time.
"I went to the Bournemouth game and I was sat behind the media," he said. "It just seemed miles away from the pitch and you couldn't get the atmosphere up there.
"Personally speaking, I don't think it's a football ground. I can honestly say that. That's not to say I didn't moan about it when we were moving, but I didn't share a lot of opinions about it because we were going to move anyway, so it didn't matter.
"And it doesn't matter that it's not a football ground because we're going to be there for a long, long time. It’s still our home. We don't own the place and there are a lot of problems with that going on as we all know, but it's still where our team are going to play and if you're a West Ham supporter then you're going to embrace it.
"But I don't think it's a football ground. It seems strange... It's like an island out in the middle. Slaven has to walk 20-odd yards to get to the edge of pitch and when you're sitting up high you can see a big trench where they've moved the seats... It just feels strange to me. Arsenal built a new stadium but they're two yards away from the playing surface.”
"There’s plenty of noise there. I'm not saying the fans weren't making noise - there was loads of noise there. It just lacks that little bit of atmosphere of a football ground I think. But I’ll get used to it and we’ll get used to it."
Brooking, Bonds, Devonshire & Gale at the Cliffs [Pic:@CLARETnBLUESguy]
Bonds, whose famous number 4 shirt adorns the concourse of the London Stadium, shared further concerns about how long it will take the Hammers' playing staff to get used to the move on the pitch.
"I think teams will come to [the Olympic Stadium] and they'll relish it - they'll play with freedom there because they won't have the pressure of fans slaughtering them from the Chicken Run,” he said. “I think they'll enjoy it and I think our team needs to learn to play there."
Speaking at the same event, Bonzo’s former teammate Sir Trevor Brooking said that he believes the club regime will eventually resolve the teething problems that have plagued early matches at the Olympic Stadium, including the much-discussed issue of persistent standing.
"In the first year it's a bit like, ‘where are you allowed to stand and where are you not?’" he said. "I think by this time next season everyone will know where they need to be going if they want to stand in the seated areas. That's probably what we would've liked it to have been like at the start of the season.
“What they're left with now is a lot of issues that I think will get sorted out this first season. But at the moment it's uncomfortable for quite a few people and that's not great.
“To go from 35,000 to 60,000 is an amazing reflection of the fans... New people are coming to support West Ham now because suddenly Premier League football is there and it's so accessible at Stratford.
“There are going to be changes during the season but I think they'll get there.”
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