So we can stay at the Boleyn

So now we know. If our owners do not go for the Olympic Stadium option, we won’t leave the Boleyn and will aim to redevelop our 108-year-old home.

Vice chairman Karen Brady's appearance on Sky threw up some very interesting pointers to how our future will develop. And I'm not sure I've ever heard of the one that says we stay at a redeveloped Boleyn.

I've been a supporter of the proposed move to Stratford, not because I want to leave a ground that has been my family's second home since the 1920s, but because I accept the need for a bigger stadium and the revenue that produces as the only way to see the Hammers progress.

You only have to look at the state Liverpool have got themselves in trying to compete with Manchester United using a stadium that holds 30,000 less that Old Trafford. And how Everton have hit a glass ceiling because they cannot move from their ageing Goodison Park.

You see why Fulham want to expand Craven Cottage and how desperate Spurs and Chelsea are for stadiums that will allow them to progress to a higher level.

Small stadiums mean a club just cannot compete with the major clubs. So, reluctantly I accepted the financial reasoning for a move to Stratford, despite the running track.

I felt that we created a pretty a good atmosphere at the old Wembley in '64, '65, '75 and '80 to win major trophies at a stadium with a track around the pitch to believe that problem could be overcome in time.

But the Boleyn is our home. We love the place. Even our owners admit to that. But when the Olympic stadium debate was at it's height, staying at the Boleyn was never an option. Our owners made that pretty clear.

They claimed that the local police would not sanction an expanded Boleyn because of the increased parking and transport problems around Upton Park. They claimed that the local council would not be interested in granting planning permission for a bigger stadium.

In effect to develop the Chicken Run side of the ground in the way it was always intended when the new West stand was built and the pitch shifted away from the East stand patrons. Gone at a stroke was the intimidating atmosphere the Chicken Run crowd was famous for, where visiting fans were reduced to panic and fear with our fans breathing down their necks.

A few home players could also be frightened into better performances after some advice from the Chicken Run crowd. My dad told me how Stan Foxall was hounded into better displays back in the '30s, and I recall Harry Redknapp responded to verbal encouragement, for want of a better term!

But while Ms Brady was telling Sky that there was still an 'if' about whether we went to Stratford, she also said that we would not leave the Boleyn and that the stadium would be developed if the Olympic move fell through.

The goal posts, of course, have been moved. It is now a lease we will be trying to get in Stratford not the purchase of the stadium that so frightened Spurs, who knew very well how dangerous we would be as neighbours if we could pull 60,000 crowds while White Hart Lane was stuck in the 30,000s.

It meant they went to every means possible, some very dodgy indeed, to scupper the original plans to sell the Olympic Stadium to ourselves, the preferred bidders. They, along with Orient, achieved that and made no friends at all in government and political circles. And the Police are showing an interest now in some of the skulduggery that went on. Spurs never wanted Stratford, they just wanted to stop us getting it.

But the world has changed. We have to make a decision soon on whether we tender again this time as tenants, and with the prospect of sharing with all sorts of other sports. One of which cannot be rugby because new rules, I understand, from the Premier League will stop such new arrangements (Swansea's agreement with Ospreys I would assume will be allowed because it is already in existence, much the same as Wigan's with the Warriors).

But now Ms Brady has intimated that there are still 'ifs' and that the Boleyn could be developed, my view - and I'm sure many others - will change.

The theory was that our owners wanted to get rid of the debts by selling the Boleyn, get us back into the top flight and then expand into a 60,000 ground. Then, presumably, they could sell the club to big money foreign buyers.

They were also looking to turn a profit, and I have no problems with that. But if they are going to consider developing the Boleyn - a new East stand could take our capacity to close on 50,000 - then they are obviously here for the long haul.

I heard all the arguments about an expanded stadium being too much for the infrastructure around a ground when Manchester United wanted to rebuild Old Trafford. In those days the stadium held 55,000 tops. Now it has got close to 80,000, and the local community has coped over the years.

Staying at Upton Park would clearly benefit the local business community. The pubs, restaurants, shops, chippies, the local East Ham working men's club I use prior to games, would all give a collective sigh of relief.

Coping with 15,000 extra fans would be a problem. But don't forget that the transport links being upgraded around east London for the Olympics would still be of benefit to us in the future. Being forced to walk to Stratford at times over the past couple of seasons because of line closures has not been too much of a hardship, has it?

Walking to Canning Town has also be an experience as well, but not impossible. So we, and the community, would cope.

So let the government run the Olympic stadium the way they want. Let Orient use it, I'm sure they'd love 3,000 fans scattered around the place. And frankly, as long as we got a 50,000 capacity stadium at the Boleyn, Spurs can have Stratford too. Call their bluff.

It would be no difference to the closeness they now have with Arsenal, but just in a different direction.

But surely if we can stay where we are, and have a bigger stadium, that is all that would matter. Our revenue would be boosted by a return to the top flight, so it's down the Big Sam now to finish the job.

We've got 20 games left now and need another 40 points, if the manager's calculations are correct. A couple of signings this month - a striker is a must - and no selling of our best assets and we'll be back in the big times. Easy, isn't it?

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