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Protests, marches and three valuable points for West Ham

West Ham manager David Moyes got it spot on.

“We would be having a very different press conference if we had lost,” said the Scot after Saturday’s precious 3-0 win over Premier League relegation rivals Southampton.

The joyous scenes at London Stadium as the Hammers outplayed the Saints came three weeks after the toxic scenes during the home defeat against Burnley.

The fallout from the protests and pitch invasions back then led to five Hammers fans being banned for life.

Defeat against Southampton would have made life very uncomfortable, not just for Moyes, but co-chairmen David Sullivan and David Gold, plus their managing director Karren Brady.

But even so, to say that all is suddenly rosy in the West Ham camp would be wide of the mark.

I spent four hours with various groups of supporters before the match to assess the mood around the troubled London club.

‘No confidence in the board’
Just after noon, at the end of a two-hour meeting in a cafe-bar close to London Stadium, the West Ham United Independent Supporters Association decided upon a course of action.

“We were promised a world-class team in a world-class stadium,” said a statement. “Today the members of the WHUISA that were present voted unanimously in a vote of no confidence in the current board of West Ham United to deliver this.

“We will therefore launch a concerted ‘UNITED Campaign for Change’ and will announce further details shortly.

“We will be in touch with our members and other West Ham fan groups for consultation.”

Various ideas had been discussed, including a protest march, ambush protests and isolating Brady to push for her removal.

The meeting involved discussion not argument. There was no sense of militancy. There was simmering resentment but it is not boiling over.

A desire to exert pressure on the board was obvious. However, the point was made by a number of members that a coherent strategy is required.

That, as it turns out, may turn out to be the tricky bit.

For, while WHUISA’s membership is rising, over 3,000 at the last count, and the organisation says it is democratic, only a small percentage were at the meeting. And, more importantly, they are not the only show in town.

Walk this way
Not long after the WHUISA meeting finished I headed towards the Westfield centre, past Stratford station, through the Stratford Centre and on to Stratford Park.

I was in a hurry. I wanted to attend an event organised by a group that calls themselves the West Ham United ramblers association, which was scheduled to start at 12:30 BST.

They were fewer in number than had been at the WHUISA meeting.

Islington, who explained that the idea had come about because a protest march that was supposed to be held prior to the Burnley game had been cancelled by the organisers at short notice and some fans wanted to do something pro-active anyway.

Mick, from Dover, was rather more forthright in his view of Sullivan, Gold and Brady than anyone at the earlier meeting had been.

“They have sold our soul,” he said. “We have given up our home for this shambles.”

I didn’t actually stay for the ramble itself because a third protest was about to start and I had to get back through the Stratford Centre.

Where’s the money gone?
By far the most noisy and numerous protest was the one endorsed by the Real West Ham Fans group.

It started back at Stratford station, where supporters had been asked to gather from 13:00 BST.

The chants were aggressive in nature but I didn’t sense any outright hostility from those who made their way up Gibbins Road, past the Carpenters Arms, up Hutchins Close and towards the stadium, picking up greater numbers as they went along.

Police followed the march to the stadium and although it seemed they were wary at the outset, by the end they were posing for pictures.

They chanted about wanting to ‘sack the board’, which was especially loud as the march snaked through an underpass.

They proclaimed they were ‘West Ham till I die’, ‘Stratford’s not very nice (these weren’t the actual words), I want to go home’ and another song about Gold and Sullivan, demanding to know what happened to the money it was envisaged would be generated by the stadium move.

The whole thing took about an hour and involved a 10-minute stop outside the hospitality entrance at the stadium, near which was a solid police and security presence.

The only person isolated for special treatment was a fan who bore a passing resemblance to Harry Potter.

Together, these fans groups would make a very loud voice. Apart, it is difficult to establish exactly what it is they want – still less whether it is achievable.

The fear from upstairs
The game against Southampton was West Ham’s 34th in the Premier League at London Stadium.

It was their 13th win, only four of which have been by more than a single goal. The 3-0 scoreline equals their biggest victory at the ground.

A concern expressed in private by a senior figure at West Ham before the match was that unless the atmosphere at the stadium improves, it will continue to have a negative impact on results and the Hammers might end up “doing a Sunderland”.

Marko Arnautovic
Arnautovic scored twice and there was plenty of passion and determination on display at London Stadium
Despite Friday’s 4-1 win at Derby, the Black Cats are still facing a second successive relegation.

Sunderland have collected a total of 26 points at the Stadium of Light over the past two seasons, putting them bottom of the home form league table last season and second from bottom in the Championship this time around.

But at the end of Saturday’s match in London, the tannoy announcer thanked West Ham’s ’12th man’ for their part in the victory.

In stark contrast to the pitch invasions and venomous abuse being directed at Sullivan and Gold three weeks ago, the home fans in a 56,882 crowd were a wholly positive influence on their team, something acknowledged afterwards by Moyes.

He said: “The fans were with the club and the team. These things can change clubs.

“They have had their say but today they were terrific. I hope we can give the supporters more of what we did today. If the stadium stays the way it was today we will have a great chance.”

Quite where the planned protests will go from here remains unclear. But one thing seems certain – when West Ham win, the team at least still has the backing of the fans.

 

Source: BBC

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