In 2010 West Ham United won the bid to make the London Stadium their new home after the London 2012 Olympic Games, then in the summer of 2016 the Hammers officially moved into their new home. The ground has received mixed reactions from the fans with some loving the state of the art, modern sporting arena and other fans believing the owners, David Gold and David Sullivan, have sold them a dream that they haven’t fulfilled. But have the owners really sold them a nightmare or was it a truly great move for the club?
I am a 16-year-old season ticket holder, along with my Dad, at the London Stadium and have been since we moved to our new home in 2016. I come from a family of West Ham fans on my dad’s side so have always been a West Ham fan, but I was never fully interested until I was about 12 years old. I have been to the Boleyn Ground about eight times and loved every minute of it. The atmosphere, particularly pre-match, was always brilliant and made me realise that West Ham fans are the best, and most passionate, in the world.
The 2015/16 was brilliant for me and all the West Ham fans. It was a chance for us all to brag about how well we played and the great players we have, best not to mention a certain someone! But past two seasons not been so great. Since we have moved to the London Stadium we have experienced many ups and downs (more downs than ups some would say!) and the ground has seen mixed reactions from the West Ham supporters. The Stadium is often portrayed in a negative light by the media and by a lot of West Ham fans, particularly the older generation. I can understand the views of the, mostly, older fans. Having been there a few times myself and with my Dad and Grandad both being lifelong West Ham fans, I have a pretty good understanding of what it was like at Upton Park, but I can safely say that the best atmospheres I’ve ever witnessed at a West Ham game have been at the London Stadium. When ‘Bubbles’ began being played at our first official game at the London Stadium against Juventus, I have never heard anything so loud at a sporting event, I could feel the ground moving as 56,000 passionate West Ham fans sung ‘Bubbles’ at the top of their voices. Our 1-0 derby win over Spurs must be the best West Ham game I’ve ever been to. I’ve never seen the team perform better than that and a lot of that was down to the crowd, who did not stop chanting all night. I could barely speak on the train back to Epping!
It is no secret that the team’s performances haven’t been that of a ‘top’ side since the move to Stratford. This annoys a lot of fans, me included, as we were promised that this would be the ‘next step’ for us in becoming one of the elite football clubs in Europe. The change was never going to occur overnight but the ‘teething problems’ seem to have lasted a lifetime. The ‘big money’ players have not been seen over the last two seasons but now the owners are beginning to make a statement by spending over £100 million in the 2018 summer window and smashing our transfer record in the process by signing Brazilian winger Felipe Anderson for £42 million. This signing gives me reason to believe that the 2018/19 season will be different under the management of former Premier League winning manager Manuel Pellegrini. Where in previous windows we have seen out top targets go by, examples being Lacazette and Batshuayi just to name two, we are now showing that we are prepared to pay big money for our top targets in order to bring them to the club and not let other clubs get to them first. I now feel that we have a manager and squad worthy or playing, and performing, at the amazing London Stadium.
Since our first game at the London Stadium I have always been a big fan of the move. I think that with the way the game of football is progressing, we had to make a change and I feel we seized a great opportunity when we won the bid for such an iconic stadium and landmark in, not just the U.K. but, Europe. Upton Park was a fantastic and historic stadium but was not designed to be a huge 60,000-seater stadium, which the large West Ham fanbase need for the club to compete with ‘big clubs’ around Europe. The London Stadium’s accessibility is also what makes it stand out to me. It used to take around an hour and a half for me and my Dad to get to Upton Park. This is a huge contrast to the smooth, 25-minute Underground journey from Epping to Stratford. The travel is so much better that me and my Dad both feel comfortable for me to go to games with just a friend, which I wouldn’t have felt comfortable doing at Upton Park. This is a huge credit to the facilities in the Olympic Park which I feel are amazing and the huge amount of work that the police and security do around Westfield and the Olympic Park to keep shoppers and supporters safe. Quite simply, none of this would be possible at Upton Park
Another thing fans struggle with is the atmosphere. I have been to some horrible games, such as Brighton and Liverpool, where the atmosphere has been almost toxic. However, many fans choose to forget that sometimes when performances were bad at Upton Park, it became toxic there too, so I feel that the poor atmosphere cannot be blamed solely on the Stadium. A good atmosphere is very much down to the team’s performance, and West Ham haven’t given much for us fans to shout about over the past two years. People also feel that a good atmosphere must be created by offensive chanting, but these people are so wrong. Gone are the days of extreme hooliganism and racism in English football, that is to be left in the dark past of English footballing history. West Ham fans must get behind the team and be positive and with the signings made by the owners this summer, I feel next season will be very different and one every West Ham fan can get behind.
Overall, I do genuinely believe that this move was made by the owners with the club’s best intentions at heart. Believe it or not, we simply couldn’t try and compete with top clubs like Manchester City, Liverpool and Manchester United at the Boleyn Ground and a change had to be made. This move is one that I feel will take us to the ‘elite level’ in European football that Hammers fans have been dreaming of for decades and will give us a chance to attract top players from around the world. How the stadium is perceived depends on how the eleven players on the pitch perform and when they do perform the atmosphere is electric and we all want more matchdays like this. So, love it or loath it, get behind the club and the Stadium and give it a positive image for the young generation of West Ham fans, like myself, who want to call it Home.