The next level and the match day experience

So, you travel by train to the OS, or London Stadium, call it what you will, and you get out at Stratford or maybe one of the smaller stations nearby.

If Stratford, you go along with the masses and pass through a sanitised shopping centre that really doesn't want you in there. You take the exit and go along the concrete concourse towards the big stadium you see ahead. It's your stadium, it's our stadium, but where's the claret and blue?


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The crowd around you gets bigger the nearer you get and there might be an occasional shout here and there of 'Come on You Irons'. There's no stalls, no merchandise, no programme sellers, no fast food, nothing you normally get on the way from a station to a game on match days elsewhere. It's a home game, but if feels like an away day, no matter how many times you have done it.

If you've come from a smaller station, Bromley-By-Bow maybe, you walk almost alone crossing main roads as you go. The crowd builds a little, but not much. You get within sight of the ground, you are less than five minutes away, but it's like you're intruding on someone else's game.

It's almost as if you are sneaking in after the kick off - so bare are the streets as you pass Pudding Mill Lane. Up the back, across the Greenway, and finally you mix and mingle as you approach the club shop - the only place you see where they are selling something football related on the day.

In you go, up those concrete and steel steps, all nice and neat and grey and silver. There's no West Ham, no claret and blue, nothing making you feel at home. After the scaffolding and tarpaulin covered gaps, you see 'Welcome to the London Stadium' time and time again.

Maybe a beer in the bar - a little better, a splash of colour here and there, and then into the great big soulless bowl we now pretend is home. Take your white plastic seat and think to yourself the view don't seem too bad.

It's deceiving though. You can see what's going on, you even try to compare it with where you were in the Boleyn Ground. Doesn't seem too bad - but human memory is notoriously myopic. You seem to have forgotten the view experienced by those down the front is absolutely nothing like what it was.

No one is near the pitch. The game is going on before you realise you can't hear the thud of the leather or smell the freshly-cut grass. You can't hear the players anymore, the referee's whistle is barely audible. Your eyes drift to the giant TV screens where you see replays of what's going on.

You sometimes find yourself watching the screen rather than the game.


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You are so far from the singing, you can only recognise 'Bubbles'. Any new ditty barely gets a whimper and cannot make the rounds because only a few are singing. The happy clap has taken over simply because it can be heard and is easier to join in. You listen to the away support sing, 'You sold your soul for this ****-hole'.

You don't disagree with this sentiment.

You watch a game you do not feel a part of. You know you can shout as much as you like and no one on that pitch will hear you. The players are pretty small on the far side, the manager looks pretty isolated out there. You soon realise the players are not really getting a lift from the crowd. You know you are owned by people who do not understand you, your club, or your heritage.

When it's all over, you move away with the masses. If Stratford, they follow you onto each train. It's jam-packed rush hour all over again. If elsewhere, you have beaten the crowd and soon find yourself in isolation once more. You are as detached from the club as you are from the pitch.

They say no man is an island. West Ham United is that no man right now. And there is your match day experience. The longer you follow, the more you become a beggar on the street of forlorn hope.

Despite modern collective amnesia, you remember walking the streets of East Ham. You remember going to and fro amongst your own. You remember the buzz when your bus went over the iron bridge at Canning Town and you saw the flood lights appearing on the horizon - even better when lit up for night games.

The buzz when your train arrived at Upton Park and you got off and saw the signs that read 'Alight here for West Ham United Football Ground'. The buzz when you parked your car down the side streets of East Ham and found yourself amongst your own going towards the ground.

The endless hot dog and burger vans, street cafes, pie 'n mash, fish 'n chips. The multitude of West Ham pubs to meet up with your mates. The programme sellers, the fanzine sellers hollering out their wares. The stalls selling all sorts of football coloured merchandise, scarves, rosettes, badges.


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You passed by houses that have stood and seen the match day masses coming and going for a hundred years. You were amongst your own. You were West Ham. You were claret and blue. It was all around you.

You made your way into your favourite, lucky turnstile. Everything was painted claret and blue. You took up your seat, claret and blue was everywhere you looked. There was no mistaking it - you were at Upton Park in the Boleyn Ground.

You know we didn't win much. But that didn't stop you going. You knew it was something deeper - much, much deeper. You knew in your heart it wasn't about winning. At the end of the day, it was you, your family, your mates, your life, your story, the feeling of belonging -the simply being there.

For those of us who felt this, for those of us who were as one, you know deep down this is what it was all about. There is no other level. There never was.

There would never be a level above the glorious sixties - the moments we discovered ourselves under those misty lights on winter nights. There would never be another level above the European nights of 1976. There would never be another level above the coming together at Villa Park in April 1991. There would never be another level above the Ipswich play-off night or the last game at the Boleyn in May 2016. It ended there.

The soul of West Ham United was destroyed in the dust of destruction at Upton Park. The con men responsible for the destruction are still at the helm today, churning out the same old razzle-dazzle nonsense knowing full well there is a mug born every day.

And that is West Ham London under Sullivan, Gold and Brady. A trio who care little about anything other than sucking the last quid from your pocket. They need to go, and one day they will. Fear not where we will be when that day comes - bring it on.


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But it is not about them. It never was. Regardless of who pulled the strings, at the end of the day it was all about us. It was always us. We had something special, the players felt it, the club felt it. We had each other inside our old home.

We were at one with the Boleyn. We can never be at one with the London Stadium. This is a tough call - but at the end of the day there is only one solution. Either the stadium goes, or we do.

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