Jack The Lad: Home comforts

27th September 2017

With the Swans heading to the London Stadium this Saturday, supporter-turned-blogger Jack The Lad looks at how West Ham fans can follow the Jack Army's lead in settling into their new home.

I know it’s not Hammers fans’ beloved Upton Park and it’s a fair schlep from Stratford Station to the ground, but I really can’t see what the problem is with West Ham playing at the London Stadium.

The iconic arena has first-class facilities and although the pitch is further away from the stands than at most British grounds, the views from where I was sitting when I visited in the summer were excellent.

Admittedly I haven’t been there for a football match yet, my only visit came when I attended a session at the World Athletics Championships in August.

One of the criticisms of the stadium is that it has no atmosphere. Well, when British pole-vaulter Holly Bradshaw cleared a vital jump in her competition, the roar from the crowd was as loud as I’ve heard at most football stadiums.

I wasn’t there for either of Sir Mo Farah’s races, but I would imagine the atmosphere was electric.

Some of the Hammers' faithful are unhappy with the track being around the pitch and the stands being so far from the action.

But despite being just four rows from the back of the upper tier in one of the corners (if you can have a corner in a round stadium?), I thought the view was excellent.

My eyes aren’t the best, but I was easily able to follow the javelin and shot put events going on at the opposite end of the stadium

Apparently, some of the seats at the lower levels don’t have brilliant views, but that can be a problem at many stadiums.

I loved the Vetch, but if you stood at the front of the North Bank the players on the opposite wing looked as if they had been cut off at the knee because of the camber of the pitch.

Perhaps that is the problem with the London Stadium, Hammers fans are still missing Upton Park . . . faults and all.

I’m sure once they’ve got a couple of seasons at under their belt they’ll come to appreciate what a wonderful facility they have.

I for one found the transition from the old character-filled Vetch to a spanking new Liberty Stadium difficult.

Modern arenas like the Liberty and the London Stadium have often been described by some as soul-less concrete bowls with no atmosphere.

Talk about stating the bleedin’ obvious! Of course they are. When a stadium is built on a new site, it has no history, no memories, no familiar old smells, no favourite places to stand or sit. It is just an empty building – cold metal and concrete.

To have tradition, you must have successes, failures, laughter and tears – memories, good and bad.

They will come, and with them will come the heart and soul of the venue.

At the Liberty Stadium the players are building the history and memorable moments on the field, while the fans are chipping with their share of atmosphere in response.

Grounds like the Vetch and Upton Park were special to people because of the memories they held of unforgettable moments and famous victories.

When the Swans moved to the Liberty back in 2005 it was a blank canvas, everything was new and unfamiliar - it simply didn’t feel like home.

But in the past 12 years, the team has helped us pack what seems like a lifetime of memories into the stadium’s relatively short history.

The 7-1 hammering of Bristol City; the brave stripper on that bitterly cold night against Yeovil when Trunds lobbed the keeper from almost half way; the Championship Play-off semi against Forest when Pratley did score from half-way; the 1-0 win over Premier League leaders Man City, the 3-0 demolition of Cardiff . . . these are just a few of the many highlights already.

There have inevitably been lows too . . . seeing the likes of Ferrie Bodde and Neil Taylor being carried from the pitch after awful injuries, Craig Bellamy’s winner for Cardiff here in the Championship, and, of course the heartbreaking tributes to the late Besian Idrizaj.

But these experiences are what make a stadium a home.

The Liberty has built up its own memory bank of special occasions and magic moments. The London Stadium will do the same for Hammers fans . . . preferably not this Saturday though!

C'mon you Swans!