West Ham United v Watford FC
A very disappointing afternoon at The London Stadium
A very disappointing afternoon at The London Stadium
I should warn that this is probably going to be more of a rant than a blog for those of a delicate make up, it won’t however include the sort of swearing I heard today. (and that by the way I can accept as a problem in our society rather than attribute it to football)
I’m going to start with the sport side of things, the football and the reason, I thought people were in the stadium. I’ve often looked at my rugby league team London Broncos over the years and compared them to their opposition size wise, it matters a great deal in that game and Broncos have generally been much smaller than their opponents. I wasn’t too sure it mattered in the same way when it comes to football, but I’d changed my mind about that by the end of the 90 minutes.
It had felt like the Hammers couldn’t buy a goal against Bournemouth, but this line up was very different. Dimitri Payet was back, Simone Zaza was making his home debut, Michail Antonio had been away with England and Manuel Lanzini had had time to settle in. All of those ‘factors’ led to some football that was a sight to behold.
We didn’t have to wait until the dying moments of the game for a goal, Antonio headed a Payet corner into the goal, cue ecstasy all round. There was a tangible feeling of excitement every time the ball was at Payet’s feet and none more so than when he did something I don’t think I’ve seen live on a football pitch before. A Rabona kick, I hadn’t heard that term before either! It involved in this instance Payet striking the ball with his right foot, behind his left leg, it was to say the least spectacular! Antonio was the recipient of the kick and he headed the ball in again. West Ham were 2 nil up and seemed to be heading to a win.
Watford had other ideas however, they had threatened the West Ham goal on a couple of occasions and but for Adrian (the goalie with one name) they would have been on par at least. A fan sitting behind me summed up the position on the field, Watford were using the pitch better, they seemed to know exactly where the ball was going at any given moment.
Watford kept the pressure on the West Ham goal and a shot from Odion Ighalo took a deflection from Collins to leave Adrian completely wrong footed, he headed to his left, the ball headed to the right and into the goal.
Wrong footed on the first goal a total mix up between Adrian and James Collins saw the two of them going for the ball, Collins pushed the ball away from his keeper leaving a virtually open goal Troy Deeney spotted the space and lobbed the ball into it. West Ham must have been reeling, they went into the changing rooms with the score on 2 apiece.
Things went from bad to worse for the home team 8 minutes into the second half when a perfect cross from Roberto Pereyra fell at the feet of Etienne Capoue who broke a few Hammers hearts with his 3rd goal in 4 games. If I had to describe the game briefly I’d say it was a case of finesse over strength and the latter won the day, on this day size did matter, West Ham had no answer defensively.
We seemed to be back in that, I have no idea where a goal’s going to come from mode, for West Ham whereas Watford added to their tally, a firm tackle on Payet from Yuones Holebas had the home players outraged, a few possibly stopped concentrating rather than playing to the whistle, Holebas had a one two with Ighalo and volleyed the ball into the West Ham net, that was a really good goal, but it helped spark the events I’m now going to have that rant about.
As a rugby fan first and foremost I’ve spent a fair amount of time defending football fans and I am going to give a rider before I crack on. The people I’m in close proximity to at West Ham are a nice group, there are several young children, including girls which is great to see.
What wasn’t great to see was the behaviour of some of the Watford fans in the first instance, rather than focus their attention and joy at their own team when they scored they focused their hate at a group of West Ham fans, who had admittedly been giving them some grief when Hammers were ahead. Hate really is the only word I can use, I saw one man basically spray what was most likely and expensive beer in the direction of the home fans, fists were waved and my goodness the look on the faces, not joy at their team getting back into the game, but pure hate.
The response from a handful of West Ham fans was quite simply a disgrace, while at the lower level there’s a clear metal barrier between both sets of fans there isn’t a similar barrier on the tier my seat’s on. Yes there were stewards, but a couple of hooligans, an apt label I feel, just made their way above them to get to the away fans. One in particular was very clear to see as he made his way across and the stewards seemed to have no power at all to either stop him or the Watford fans fuelling the fire. Punches were definitely thrown, I couldn’t say whether they were at opposing fans or at the stewards trying to prevent what could have been a disaster with the height of the stand.
As far as I could see no one was removed, having spent a decent amount of time where he shouldn’t have been the West Ham fan, along with his ‘friends’. seemed to melt back into his own crowd. The Watford fans who’d made their way up into the area covered in claret remained standing there, there was no attempt to make them get back into their seats.
As all of this was going on there wasn’t a police officer to be seen, a group came in when things had died down, I do feel that the punches wouldn’t have been thrown and both sets of fans wouldn’t have been so bold had there been a risk of arrest!
There were several home ‘fans’ who should never see the inside of the London Stadium again, season tickets paid for or not. What went on was frightening, with the number of season tickets sold to children, I hate to think how many left that stadium worried about what may or may not be happening outside, I walked next to one Dad going to the station whose little boy was very fearful and had a strong grip on his Dad’s hand.
In addition to the issues between the 2 sets of fans there seems to be an ongoing drama surrounding fans who refuse to accept that they just can’t stand during the game, for the 2nd game in a row I saw home fans ejected, in spite of the fact we’d all received a letter explaining the reasons behind the no stand rule. Second hand I heard of West Ham fans fighting amongst themselves, which really is a form of lunacy!
One of the reasons I bought my season ticket was due to the fact that I’ve always felt safe going to watch West Ham. On my way out I heard a group of men talking about the likelihood of trouble when the likes of Spurs visit. One thing that is certain is that something different needs to be done as far as interaction between the 2 sets of fans is concerned, I’d hate to think what may happen when a different sort of club comes to the London Stadium and if I’m honest I’d be very loathe to take a child along to watch the likes of Spurs or Manchester United. This clearly wasn’t the bad old days of football violence in the 70’s, but if things don’t improve it has the capacity to be.
It seems there’s still a core, a small minority who actually have no real interest in the football on show, they want to go and beat their chests and hurt someone. There really is no room for that in sport!
Great article. Unfortunately football will always attract the less desirable elements for as long as we keep accepting that ‘the heat of the moment’ is an acceptable replacement for intelligence and decency. Half the fun of sport is having fun with the opposition, you give it and you take it, but most of all you just want to talk sport with people.
The field will always influence the stands, football has to realise that and hopefully other sports will make sure that anarchy on the pitch never takes hold.
Thanks Jon, sport should be about joy, never hate. West Ham have a lot of work to do, there seem to be too many unpleasant people amongst the crowd