Ask any football fans who've experienced a stadium move, it's tough. It's not what you're used to, it doesn't feel like home and will always resemble a tourist destination at first. However, the contrast between the Boleyn Ground and the London Stadium, is so drastic it feels like the club has lost a part of it's soul.
As someone who was a season ticket holder at the Boleyn Ground for the last 15 years, it was always hard to picture what life would be like when we moved to the London Stadium. My football life was the Boleyn, it was the reason I fell in love with the game.
Whether it was going nuts at the decision to bring on Christian Dailly (…which happened every single f#cking game), or going nuts after Payet’s impossible freekick against Crystal Palace, watching West Ham from the Bobby Moore Upper was football and without meaning to speak for all West Ham fans, that was us. We knew nothing else.
‘The Boleyn under the lights’ atmosphere is something that will never be replicated, not because the atmosphere at the London Stadium won’t ever be great, but because that atmosphere was built from the club’s history. For the majority, West Ham isn’t a choice, you’re born into it. That’s what creates this atmosphere, it’s a ferocious desire to win not just for those present but for that family that devoted their lives to it before you.
We’re not unique, however much we like to think we are. Fans of the lesser clubs understand these struggles, but what the stadium offered us as fans was a chance to progress. A chance to get away from the inevitable disappointment and strive to reach the pinnacle. Quite how West Ham fans would react to reaching the dizzy heights remains to be seen, it’s not really the ‘West Ham Way’, but that was the aim which led to our move and while leaving the Boleyn hurt, it made sense.
The chaos in the stands and at times shambolic performances on the pitch have soured the dream for many Hammers fans. Maybe we were never meant to leave Upton Park, maybe we were always destined to retain our reputation as a ‘proper team’ who do things our way.
Or maybe, it’s the new stadium syndrome that has plagued many before us. The atmosphere has struggled at the London Stadium, there are plenty more tourists not invested in the club than there were at the Boleyn, the tensions between fans and stewards has been embarrassing for the club, but if you don’t win games you can’t just pluck an atmosphere out of thin air.
The clash against Manchester United proved what the London Stadium could be. Mike Dean aside, we had a passionate game of football at West Ham. The atmosphere up until the red card killed off the game was the best I’d seen it, and the football was the best we’d played there, albeit for just 15 minutes. But for quarter of an hour, it felt more like a home. If the team plays good football and win games, the atmosphere will improve.
It’s not the Boleyn Ground, we’ve got to accept that, but it can be a ground with it’s own history if the team pulls their finger out and the club and fans work together… and Mike Dean isn’t refereeing.