How much of a wrench was it leaving Upton Park?
As someone who had been attending matches at The Boleyn Ground since the mid-’70s as a child (following in family footsteps, which go back many more years) it was a tremendous wrench to leave Upton Park.
For many, however, this was acceptable as the move to Stratford would allow the club to move to the mythical “next level”.
At least, that’s how it was sold by the Board.
How have you found the atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium this season?
The atmosphere at the Olympic Stadium has not been helped by the frequently poor standard of football we’ve been subject to this season.
On the odd occasion that the team has performed, the stadium has briefly resembled a football ground so there is some potential there.
However the biggest problem is that the stadium was simply not designed to host football, thanks to Lord Coe and his athletics legacy – the stands being so far from the pitch being testament to that.
How hard has it been to replicate the atmosphere that would have been generated at the old ground?
It would be impossible to replicate the atmosphere of the Boleyn in Stratford due to the vast distance between the pitch and the stands.
There have also been a number of issues with the migration, such as no discernible family enclosure or singing/standing areas which has resulted in fans being dispersed all over the new stadium.
This has certainly affected any atmosphere the ground could potentially generate.
Do you think it’s had any impact on results this season?
Oh, without a shadow of a doubt.
As has people leaving in droves before the final whistle in order to beat the (human) traffic ahead of the 15-minute walk to Stratford station and thousands of empty seats every match – the result of the club’s ‘+2’ scheme which enabled all season ticket holders to purchase up to three tickets during the migration process (many of which are left unused).
Are you hopeful of things improving on that front next season?
I think, like most grounds, if the football is entertaining and the team are playing well you should be able to generate a decent atmosphere. It’ll never be The Boleyn, but West Ham fans can make Stratford their own over time. And as a West Ham supporter, I’m loathe to suggest that things can’t get any worse!
Has the manager or players commented on it?
Slaven Bilic has occasionally referred to the distance between the dugout and the pitch but as you would expect, nearly any official comment by the club’s employee’s toes to company line.