Times moves very quickly when you have your own family and before I knew it my daughter was at the age where whether she wanted to or not she was coming to see West Ham, tickets in the new West Stand were bought and off we went, it was just the excuse I needed, although I think it was only the pick and mix that kept her attention. The real breakthrough to getting back into it came when my son was of an age where I could gently get him involved. So along with a mate and his boy we bought season tickets in the lower West stand, as I said gently got into it, again the pick & mix worked a treat and whether he liked it or not he was coming to the matches.
Now being a West Ham fan as someone in the their forties and seen it all before you understand that for the majority of the time games will not be all goals and excitement. You live for those moments when you beat a Man Utd or Liverpool at home and savor the atmosphere of playing Tottenham, Arsenal, and Chelsea and on occasions Millwall. But for a 10 year old it’s different a 0 – 0 against a mid-table team just doesn’t do it. Spending seven to eight hours with dad in the car, in traffic, walking to the ground, the nil – nil score line, walking back to the car, getting stuck in more traffic, when they could be out with their mates kicking a ball, the picture becomes clear. And even though I would say it will be better next week, he soon saw through that, it takes patience to be a West Ham fan and my lad had lost his.
By then things were changing again, the club were getting ready to leave the Boleyn ground and I wasn’t sure myself about whether we would move over to the new London Stadium. I wanted to believe that it was for all the right reasons and that things would be the same, but this was an Olympic stadium with a running track around it. Yes it would hold 60,000 fans but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will get the same atmosphere, yes it would generate more money for the club, but that doesn’t mean you can compete alongside a the top clubs, who are owned by billionaires who put extraordinary amount of money into the club, to buy success.
I have been to the new stadium on a few occasions with my family, and for me it’s not the same, and can never be the same. What was once a trip to see West Ham now becomes a trip to the Westfield Centre so the girls can have a sport of retail therapy, followed by lunch in chain restaurant and then watch West Ham.
Football used to be just that, the walk to ground with old style vendors selling hotdogs, scarves, pin badges, caps and woolly hats, a visit to the pie and mash or fish & chip shop or eating in a local cafe. There was a closeness a certain smell about it that built up the atmosphere outside the ground that then went inside the ground, which has been lost in a new sanitised environment. Now some may like even love the new stadium, great facilities better rail links but for me what the Boleyn ground didn’t have it made up for in atmosphere and history or our football club, West Ham United.