“The entire time I’ve supported West Ham it has been absolute mayhem but now we feel unified as a fanbase, everyone feels calm and relaxed. We go into games thinking we might win. It’s nice.”
HammersChat’s Charlie Walsh sums up what it is like to follow West Ham in the current state.
A combination of decent investment, a high-profile manager, and a general air of stability at the club is an alien experience for fans who have supported one of the most chaotic clubs in Premier League history.
The events of March last year, when a 61-year-old businessman stormed the pitch, commandeered a corner flag and planted it on the centre spot in protest at the way the club is being run, are a far cry from Saturday when we turned up to watch the Hammers comfortably beat Man United at the London Stadium for Football’s Front Lines.
The mood in the stadium that fateful day the corner flag was liberated turned from anger to violence as fans threw coins at the David Sullivan and David Gold, leading to arrests and lifetime bans.
It was then that the relationship between the supporters and the owners reached rock bottom.
However, speak to any West Ham fan today, likely still high after rolling United at home for the second season in a row, and all the vitriol of that day feels like a distant memory.
These days, the owners are trusted to deliver on what they promise to the fans and there’s is a real emphasis on doing things ‘the West Ham way’.
Long gone are the dour days of David Moyes holding on for ‘vital’ points at home to Bournemouth and the rag-tag disorganisation under Slaven Bilic, replaced with something akin to serenity and an entertaining brand of football under elder statesman Manuel Pellegrini.
So how does a ownership hated by the fans go about rebuilding bridges on and off the pitch?
Investing in players like Sebastien Haller and Felipe Anderson goes a long way.
We caught up with Geo Mackie, known on Twitter as @Redhammer8 and arguably one of the club’s most dedicated fans – making the 1,100 mile round trip from Aberdeen for every home match.
Mackie organises several canal boats outside the stadium for fans to get together before the game and the MOORE’D (get it?) project is contributing to the new traditions the fans are developing at their new-ish home.
For Mackie, the recent investment in the squad has been a huge factor in repairing the rocky relationship between the fans and the management.
“The relationship has improved because they’ve spent the money,” he said. “We got Pellegrini in, he’s paid more than some of the top six managers. And they’ve spent £100million so far.
“Last summer they didn’t spend so much but we still got Haller, who in my opinion is top-six quality.
“We’ve seen a change of strategy off the pitch from West Ham recently. Before we were buying 28 year olds with no resale value, now we’re going for young players.
“There was a slight worry about what we will do if those young players leave but we will get a lot of money for them and we can reinvest it. Before we never had that hope or safety net.
“Is the relationship perfect? No. But I think a lot of people are holding their breath, a lot of fans are wary but they are staying silent because the owners are doing what we hoped they would do.”
The period since West Ham made the move from their spiritual home for over 100 years at Upton Park to the London Stadium in August 2016 has been fraught with frustration and anger.
Fights between the fans, ticketing problems, crowd trouble, and banning orders marred the start to life at their new home.
After three seasons, it’s beginning to feel like home.
For James Jones, the man behind @WeAre_WestHam, a lot of those early issues could have been avoided if the team had been picking up results on the field.
“It feels like it is beginning to come together, everyone knows about the struggles we’ve had since we moved to the stadium – particularly those first two years,” Jones said.
“It’s beginning to feel as if, with Pellegrini coming in, spending a lot of money over the past two summers, that things are beginning to happen.
“Last year the football was a lot better and that really began to settle the crowd in the stadium. A lot of people were still upset with the move from Upton Park but it seems now to be a much more settled and happy atmosphere.
“I’ve always said it all comes from winning football matches. When we were struggling there were fights in the stands, people raiding the pitch all because we weren’t winning matches.
“I think if we had gone into this ground and started winning matches from the off we wouldn’t have had half of those problems.”
The West Ham owners have dipped into their pockets over the last two summers to inject some serious cash into the squad.
The likes of Anderson, Haller, Pablo Fornals, Issa Diop and Andriy Yarmolenko have arrived to the tune of £100million and the group now look ready to compete for the Premier League’s ‘best of the rest’ title.
But from the fans we spoke to, the expectation isn’t to outdo Leicester or Wolves this season, but just to see some entertaining football on a Saturday afternoon and banish any memories of the Moyes era to the depths of history.
“We’re not expecting to finish in that top seven, we just want a bit more stability,” Jones explained.
“We’re not expecting to win the league or the FA Cup every year. All we want is promises to be fulfilled and then play the nice football we want to see.”
Walsh echoed the opinions that West Ham should be playing football the ‘West Ham way’.
“Ultimately I just want to be entertained,” he said. “It’s about watching something that I love. I would trade some success for brilliant football and I know that’s kind of insane.
“We’re not expecting to win everything, we’ll get mid-table and that’s fine as long as we have great days out.”
However, for all the good sentiment surrounding the club currently, West Ham fans are all too familiar with what mayhem looks like at their club.
And many share reservations that if one of the three key pillars at the club – Pellegrini, director of football Mario Husillos, David Sullivan – were to fall, then the whole thing could come crashing down.
“If one goes, will the whole thing fall down?” asked Mackie. “It’s a domino effect isn’t it? It’s important that If one domino falls then the others must stay standing and I’m not so sure that they will.
“I’m a bit cautious but we’re playing good football these days.”
“It’s about enjoying the good times while they’re here instead of worrying about the next two years,” Walsh added.
“Everything in football is built on a house of cards really. One thing goes and then it’s just the domino effect.
“But again, when the team’s winning it’s surprising how quickly you forget the worries.”
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