Former West Ham player Slaven Bilic has criticised West Ham’s move to London Stadium. Bilic who commands much respect from the West Ham faithful is bringing his side West Bromwich Albion to the Hammers new ground to play out their FA Cup 4th round tie at the weekend.
Bilic played for West Ham at their old stadium the Boleyn Ground and also managed the team, in fact he was in charge when the club played their last ever season at the historic ground. Bilic said: It’s not an excuse, but if you ask me if it was better to play at Upton Park or not then there’s no discussion,” he said. ”It was more home, it was more hostile. Not one opposition player enjoyed it when they had to go to Upton Park. That’s a fact. The Olympic Stadium is very different for an away team. You enjoy it more.”
The Croatian went on to say,”what also changes are the fans. It’s like pubs; now you have modern bars. When you take people out of the pub and go to them, they don’t feel comfortable. They prefer pubs where it is packed and you are shoulder to shoulder. Like what Roy Keane said about the ‘prawn sandwich brigade’ – it leads to that. You don’t want to lose that hostile home advantage and there are very few of those traditional clubs left in the Premier League because the league forces you to become more a corporation than a football club.”
Bilic did not mix his words, but is he right about the new stadium? Well fans of the club do seem to think so, and whilst the stadium is modern and state of the art compared to the old ground it has completely lost it’s sense of atmosphere.
It’s a difficult situation for clubs now who don’t want to be seen playing in old stadiums that feel well past their prime and there does seem to be a pressure in the digital age to move on. Change of course is natural and in 100 years time West Ham most probably won’t even be at the London Stadium.
A reason they could move is that they don’t actually own the stadium and it is being paid by taxpayers, which is a disgrace in all honesty, though that argument is for a different day and topic. It does seem as if the clubs owners have made a mistake in moving though. Surely the biggest asset of moving ground would be for money reasons but it is reported once all rent has been paid that the club only make an extra £2m in revenues.
Was that worth such a drastic change, in losing that intimidating atmosphere at the club? At the same time even when they were at their old ground they had won nothing in over 35 years, so maybe the closeness of the fans to the pitch worked for some games, but overall did staying at Boleyn Ground really make that much difference?
Perhaps the problem is in ownership, David Sullivan and David Gold are true supporters and love the club but at the same time maybe there time with the club is up. Maybe change is needed on a vast scale. Relegation could well be a possibility this season and playing in the Championship in a 60,000 concrete bowl with less atmosphere doesn’t sound too appetising. If Sullivan and Gold do indeed love the club maybe they need to sell up.
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