Does Home Really Feel Like Home?

Last year my team, West Ham United moved from Upton Park to the London Stadium. A move which split the opinion of thousands of West Ham supporters. Upton Park contained history, saw world class players and created memories for years to come. The London Stadium? Very much the same. The home of the 2012 Olympics, witnessing history being made and watching world-class athletes perform at the top of their games. So why has the move from Upton Park to the new, 66,000 seated stadium gone so downhill?

When match day came about, you were excited. Walking to the stadium passing flag sellers, endless burger vans and hearing the voices of hundreds of supporters collectively shouting ‘Come on you irons!’ was part of the whole experience. You knew, that no matter what team you were playing, they were in for a real game. Forever blowing bubbles would ring around the stadium from supporters of all ages ready to get behind their beloved team. Despite holding just 36,000 people, it felt like 100,000. Every game was sold out. West Ham fans will tell you it’s a hard team to support. Forever being disappointed with league finishes, the lack of big signings and rotation of managers. But it didn’t matter. You supported West Ham with all of your heart. So why has the move to the London Stadium killed our team?

The 5th August 2016. Match Day. The very first West Ham game in our new stadium. And what a stadium. Enormous posters wrapped around its base, West Ham flags under every lamppost. It felt good. But even to this day, it doesn’t feel like home. Walking up to the stadium felt as though I was there to watch an England friendly. The atmosphere was cold, photos were being taken everywhere. Not like the old days where voices were heard in full spirit. It was as though we knew results weren’t going to come. Despite winning our first game 2-0, you could see fans weren’t impressed. They missed little old Upton Park.

The 7th August 2016. Juventus at home. If our first game felt like an England international, then this felt like a concert. Despite West Ham playing, you couldn’t help but feel like you were watching two foreign teams who had come to England for a pre season friendly. And this would carry on into the league. Our first year was a very poor one, and supporters had already begun to get on the backs of David Gold, David Sullivan, and Karen Brady. We wanted our home back (which was currently being destroyed).

A whole season has passed, new, quality signings have been made, new kits and again the cheapest season tickets in the Premier League. But does the attendance truly show this? Empty seats are every where. People have lost interest in watching West Ham. Largely to do with poor results, but also supporters’ company. West Ham was a family and it’s as though the owners have decided to split us up. Now of course, if results were going our way and we were a top 8 side, there’s no doubt supporters would warm to the stadium. But the reality is, nothing will ever top Upton Park.

As the saying goes, ‘there’s no place like home’ and for West Ham supporters, if we could turn back the clock, we would.

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