So this blog is a little late. I have just got back from the UK after my first trip the to new stadium, which is what I want to concentrate on here, rather than the game – I will come to that towards the end.
I was thinking that I was was going to document my first journey to the London Stadium more or less the same way that I did with my final game at the Boleyn against Stoke. But the journey en route was not what I was really expecting.
As soon as you get out of Stratford station via the tube you are greeted with the massive doors of the Westfield Shopping Centre. Not complaining, I did want to check out the LEGO store for a few parts, but it is such a change from seeing the hustle and culture of Queens Market. I did arrive very early as I did not know what to expect, so I did have a quick wander around for a few minutes. You could see swathes of replica tops accenting the Saturday Shoppers who did seem a little bemused by it all.
Time to get to the ground then. I had been here before for the Olympics and there was an abundance of volunteers to help you along the way and get to where you need. However, the signposting is just terrible . This time countless stewards were not being helpful, signs giving the wrong impression of which way to go. Not a good start as it is just not clear. I can only imagine the grief if you are an away fan.
I eventually found my way after a fair bit of frustration. Then the stadium appears as you walk across the foot bridge. Here is the funny thing – with Upton Park, you used to raise a smile, an old friend and a little bit cheeky – however the London Stadium, just seems a little soulless – maybe as I was there a little too early, but where were the badge men setting up for the day, and the fanzine sellers unloading their boxes?
Looking around there were plenty of catering outlets. I heard the prices were special, and they were not wrong – £7.50 for sausage and chips is a bit of a rip off. On the way through Westfield, many a fan was in the food court or restaurant having a decent and normal priced meal. I for one, headed to Waitrose and grabbed a pack of sarnies. Should have gone to KFC instead though – mental note for next time.
The WHU Committee have gone to a lot of trouble to convert the London Stadium to ensure it looks and feels West Ham – but TBH, it just felt a bit like a few stickers were added. It is a funny, one, this is our home forever more – but for some reason, it didn’t really feel welcoming……I am not sure why. Upton Park had all the roads leading to and around the ground, nooks and crannies, the cheeky food stall set up, memorabilia and flags on sale. Ken’s Cafe doing a trade as was every other eatery – people shopping in Queens market and pubs overflowing. However, now you are greeted with over priced pints from mini stalls outside. Which is good if you want a drink, but not capturing the pre-match atmosphere of the game as I have witnessed a few times in the Boleyn Arms and Queens on Green St.
Next stop was the Club Shop – very slick, very nice and a lot better than the old place. Indeed, I remember when it was a Portakabin outside the John Lyall Gates – when I first started going – evolution and progress. Lots to buy if you want to – and abundance of kits and training wear. The retail process was smooth and effortless with a huge amount of tills, which was always the problem at Upton Park. A far better experience than Upton Park I must say.
I did find puzzling was the Coffee Bar in the lower floor- the West Ham United Coffee Company. I know we are trying to go upmarket, but when you think of coffee houses, Starbucks, Nero and Costa are the benchmarks – this just seems like someone thought it was a good idea to chuck in. For my mind, this is a ill-conceived after thought. When they mentioned they had a coffee place, I just thought a nice place to sit down on a sofa and drink a cup – no sofa’s, no real vibe. Not that great.
Then to the ground, inside the stadium and my seat. It did remind me of the MCG in Melbourne as you wind your way up the stairs and and take up your residence. For once there are lots of catering outlets, but again the prices are just daft. You really woudl need to have missed Westfield completely to have chosen to eat inside the ground. The toilets are decent and a welcome change from those at Upton Park, which I have to say were quite grim. I had toms time on my hands so I did wander around the inside of the ground, taking a peak at the inside of the hospitality suites, which looked all airport loungy – perhaps one day I will get to see the inside, but lets see.
From my seat, I got a decent view and I am not complaining. Upton Park had those bloody awful pillars which always seemed to get in the way. But the view is fine. No issue. And for £289 for the next two seasons, I think I have got a good deal. But some observations:
- I know there is a running track, but more I think could have been done to bring the supporters closer to the pitch, which would have been more in line with the Boleyn. The massive green tones of fabric just seem irrelevant and out of place. Having looked at City’s Etihad Stadium, there could have been lessons learned here.
- there seems to have been a marked increase in stewardship, but absolutely zero police presence – it does seem a little unnerving, due to all the hassle that was caused over the last few home games. But thankfully this game passed off without incident. It was good to see the away fans sectioned off as well – why the logic to mix everyone together was executed originally is madness.
- there is a distinct lack of atmosphere. Yup, that is correct. The cauldron of the Boleyn has gone being replaced with the tempo of a library. Anyone would think that this is Arsenal. Sporadic singing, lots of chatter, the loss of away fans banter – it just made it all a bit hollow. And this is the problem that despite the rhetoric of Chairmen and Karren Brady, there is a really a lull of the Hammers buzz. Maybe it is because we are so far from the pitch, and that there are more fans spread over a greater area…….could this be how one watches West Ham moving forward, and if so, do we just accept it?? If you have been in the hub of the Bobby Moore Lower you will have stood and chanted all through the 90. North Bank Lower would have given the away support some stick.
But that seems to have gone…….a bit like the performances this season.
Well, TBH, least said about the game, the better.
Another abject display with little or no progress from our match against Accrington Stanley. I will not go on as it was shambolic.
West Ham captain Mark Noble told Sky Sports: “I thought we started all right and then ‘bang’ we conceded a goal and to be honest we never looked back in it. If I’m honest it could have been six in the end.
“Adrian pulled off some good saves and on the bright side, I don’t think it can get any worse.
“Eleven goals [conceded] in three games is laughable and it’s not good enough. I think we could have kept playing until tonight and we wouldn’t have scored.”
And so ended a very frustrating day. It was utter chaos trying to get to Stratford station on the way home – I miss the mad rush down Green St to Upton Park tube……but mixing it up with a load of Saturday shoppers who mainly could not give a toss about West Ham may not have been a good idea. Perhaps we need our own entrance and exit for the match day.
Am I convinced about the London Stadium? At this point, surprisingly no. As I mentioned at the top of this blog, my final visit to Upton Park took me around some of the famous streets of E13 and it was a joy to capture the trail in a series of photos on that day. I thought I would do the same at the new place, but on the evidence below, there were only a handful taken and all on the camera phone as opposed to a digital camera.
As good a job as West Ham have done in securing the stadium and trying to make it “home”, something really seems to be missing and I don’t know what it is…….but I hope some of the buzz will come back on later visits. Perhaps if the team is winning?
Fortune’s still hiding.
West Ham: Adrian; Nordveit (Fletcher 71), Ogobnna, Reid, Arbeloa; Noble (Fernandes 82); Antonio, Kouyate, Lanzini (Feghouli 46), Payet; Zaza
Subs not used: Randolph, Byram, Obiang, Oxford
Bookings: Noble, Zaza, Reid, Payet
Southampton: Forster; Cedric (Martina 88), Van Dijk, Fonte, Bertrand; Romeu, Hojbjerg, Davis, Tadic (Ward-Prowse 80); Redmond, Austin (Long 74)
Subs not used: McCarthy, Yoshida, Clasie, Hesketh
Bookings: Romeu, Van Dijk
Referee: Jonathan Moss