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Let’s not be petty but welcome the plastic Hammers

 

 

By Allen Cummings

 

 

What a summer it’s been as a with our club hardly out of the headlines – and for a change it’s been for all the right reasons – as Manuel Pellegrini’s spending spree tops the £100m mark.

The spotlight has well and truly been focused on events at the London Stadium, and that’s sure to continue once the season actually gets underway in a few weeks’ time. If all our hopes and wishes are realised, and we’re treated to an exciting and entertaining brand of football, producing the desired results, we could find ourselves attracting a growing band of new visitors to home game.

But that in itself poses the big question: Are we ready to share our club? Are we willing for outsiders to come and join us? Or are we likely to see a sad return to the claims that the board are shamelessly encouraging unwanted “plastics” or “tourists” to our own particular part of the east end?

There have long been calls from certain sections for the club to deliver on their “promise” of taking us to the next level, to justify taking us to a new and bigger stadium in order to bring us top quality European football on the back of a genuine challenge for a top 6 Premier League place.

If that should begin to happen over the next nine months, are we ready to accept that not everyone taking up the seats at the London Stadium is likely to be 100 per cent hardcore, West Ham until I die breed of fans who have been through the mill over the years. Through good times and bad times. Highs and lows. Thick and thin – and still stayed loyal to the club they love.

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For the third consecutive year the club have announced all 52,000 season tickets have been sold. The argument in the past has been not all those seats have been occupied on a regular basis because some of the purchasers are casual rather than committed to West Ham.

Should we win our fight to have the capacity increased to and beyond 60,000, and we’re playing the kind of football we’re longing for, I have no doubt whatsoever those extra seats will be filled and possibly not by people who have attended previously. But is that a surprise? And is it something we should resent and reject?

Do we really want to turn away mums and dads who want to bring their children to the LS, like it or not, a superbly appointed and iconic venue, to see an entertaining style of football played by some of the top names of the game. Isn’t that the realisation of the ‘family friendly’ football the two David’s aspired to bring us?

The average attendance for the 2015-2016 season, our last ever at Upton Park, was 34,910. By general consensus one of the club’s best seasons, for results and entertainment, for many a year. Even that figure must surely have included a share of ‘plastics’ or ‘tourists’ – either because of the football, or maybe the nostalgia factor.

So it doesn’t take a mathematician to work out filling a 60,000+ seater stadium requires another 25,000 backsides that have to come from somewhere. Is it really a crime to have those ‘extras’ amongst us? Those young families, general football lovers, general sport lovers even, visitors to London from far and wide?

I don’t believe we should sneer at those people, reject them, tell them they’re not wanted and we’re not willing to share our club with them. Will the fact they are in the ground mean us lifelong Irons can’t support our club to the full. Create the noise and atmosphere we all long for? Of course not.

We can’t have it both ways. We cannot become a big club but remain in our own little exclusive bubble! Man United, City, Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea all have to go beyond their own dedicated fans to fill their grounds and survive.

The spuds will be no exception either as they desperately look to put up the ‘sold out’ signs at their new home. It’s a sign of the times. I’m unashamedly ‘hardcore’ West Ham, always have been, always will be.

But I’m not offended or feel threatened by outside interest in my club. On the contrary I’m flattered by it. Sharing isn’t a sin. In today’s football it’s an inescapable fact of life!

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About Hugh5outhon1895

Hugh Southon is a lifelong Iron and the founding editor of ClaretandHugh. He is a national newspaper journalist of many years experience and was Bobby Moore's 'ghost' writer during the great man's lifetime. He describes ClaretandHugh as "the Hammers daily newspaper!" Follow on Twitter @hughsouthon

7 comments on “Let’s not be petty but welcome the plastic Hammers

  1. What a good, well reasoned article. It’s a matter of progression from Hermit Road to the Memorial Ground to Upton Park and now the London Stadium.

  2. Your sentiments are right and yes no-one should discriminate against anyone that wants to buy a ticket and come and watch a game. These people, described in derogatory ways for not being ‘hardcore’ enough, have no less a right to do so. I’ve only seen West Ham in the flesh a handful of times and have been an armchair fan for nearly 40 years, but I find the idea of being called ‘plastic’ or not a ‘proper fan’ really offensive. I’ve bought the shirts and merchandise and paid to watch matches on tv or online as much as thousands of others and the club wouldn’t be what it is now without us. In fact there’s many more of ‘us’ than there are of ‘you’, ‘you’ being the so-called hardcore. I get the sense of entitlement that comes with being a long-serving hardcore fan but I think a stronger sense of the middle-ground would help. Not everyone who’s never bought a season ticket, or hasnt got Irons tattoos, or has never got into a ruck on Green Street is an outsider and many of us are just as passionate as you believe it or not. So there should be many many people who may now come to the LS who are fans, and do love the club, and can add to the experience for everyone, who should never be made to feel like less of a fan for it. COYI.

    • I couldn’t agree more Stu.
      Having been attending home games since the sixties, I’ve lost count of the number of times I witnessed the sold out signs placed outside the old Boleyn ground. Even as a nipper growing up in E7, I knew our fan base was massive, I remember the FA cup parade in1975 there must have been over 150,000 Hammers fans lining the streets, many of them I’m sure didn’t go every week home, or away, but they were allsinging and clapping the players on the open top bus as it inched it’s way along the Barking Road.
      Consider this for a moment, our catchment area is unique, from east of the City to the Essex and Kent coast there is no other PL club, let that sink in, now imagine going north of Essex as far as Suffolk, still no other PL club. Believe me when I say we could sell out 70,000 season tickets as there are far more non attending fans, than attending, it’s always been this way in my experience of being born in Stratford and growing up locally. I apologies for labouring the point but we most definitely have more local fans than most London clubs, I’ve often wondered what would happen to our club if we could manage a sustainable period of success, because we are already massive (fact, see Forbes rich list).
      Can you imagine if we actually won something?
      No wonder Levy, Hearn et al done a hatchet job in trying to tether our launch back in 2014 because had that original deal stood, my goodness our traction would have been rapid.

  3. Thought provoking article Allen :-), if we want to be trully next level then we need to expand our support as the other teams have, not locally we are argueably the biggest club in London for pure support but outside of the M25 and internationally, I won’t feel threatened by any of that it would be great to share our love of West Ham internationally, we have many supporters already internationally of course and they enrich the club imho so the more the merrier COYI !!!

  4. We have all probably noticed an increase in recent years in the number of people coming to the games who clearly are not regulars. It is mildly irritating when some of a party spend most of their time playing games on their phones,taking selfies & not really understanding what is going on. But they have paid their money the same as us. Just have to shrug your shoulders & tell yourself that some will never come back, but some will become lifelong supporters.

  5. Not having 100% hardcore filling the stadium is not unique to our new home. I have supported the Hammers for close on 45 years through thick and thin. Watching them at the Boleyn every other week when you could pay on the door (alternating with Highbury as my mate was a Gooner) through the 70’s & 80’s.

    Having moved away to York in 2000 and bringing up my 3 boys to understand what supporting West Ham was all about, we travelled back down to Upton Park with my 2 youngest lads (twins of 14) in 2009 after being part of the away day fans at Sunderland, Bolton, Wigan (Tevez year, although for me Jimmy Collins was the main reason we stayed up and being part of the 6,000 that travelled that day) Boro etc on multiple occasions. I had told the boys if you think the Stadium of Light is a good atmosphere, wait until you get to the Boleyn.

    We did the whole Green Street thing with Pie & Mash as I had done when I was their age and they were loving it. The adrenaline was flowing and they couldn’t wait to get into the ground and savour the unique West Ham atmosphere. The only seats we could get were right at the top of the West Stand but they and I were just pleased to be there.

    It was only when Zavon Hines collected a poor back pass, went round the keeper only to strike the post and we all lept out of our seats, screaming at the top of our voices, that we noticed the 10 rows in front of us and at least 20 seats either side had not moved. It was full of different nationalities not even watching the game. Most of them were looking at their phones. They all looked at us as though we were disturbing them.

    I think I was more shocked than my boys were but we continue to follow the Irons on away days and continue to believe this great club will reach their potential

    I suppose the message is don’t look at the LS as the reason why we may have to accept so called plastic fans, it has been going on for sometime and accept that everyone through the turnstile is money to our great club

    COYI

  6. By the way the game in question was the 2-3 loss to Liverpool. Diamante and Cole scoring with some bloke called Torres getting a couple for them and Kuyt the other one. I must say watching Gerrard and Torres warm up was something else though! Talk about class. Hopefully this season we will be where the scousers were then

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