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Don't let ugly scenes detract from negligence at West Ham

Monday 12th March 2018

Grown men being hauled off the pitch by Mark Noble. Indignant, vociferous fans crowding around the directors' box. A coin purportedly thrown at David Gold. One fan, intoxicated by the lunacy, commandeering a corner flag and galloping around the pitch as if leading a battalion into war. Young Hammers' fans sitting on the Burnley bench for protection. This is a montage of madness. 

Opinion on the merits of these actions is split. For some, it was a troubling reminder of the hooligan culture that used to perpetuate English football, a series of incidents that showcased the very worst of our beloved game. For others, it was a necessary protest against a board that threatens to run this historic club into the ground. On the whole, it wasn't as bad as PAOK Salonika owner Ivan Savvidis coming onto the pitch armed and with bodyguards to protest a disallowed goal against AEK Athens. Greek football has been suspended while that one is sorted. Still.

When Mark Noble spoke in the aftermath, it was with eloquence and lucid understanding. 

But in this league for the past two seasons, it has been bubbling over with the fans not being happy and today was [the] boiling point and it just exploded. Do you know what? I am not going to even blame the fella who did it. His emotions were high - same as mine on the pitch.

That the Hammers sank 3-0 to a resurgent Burnley felt irrelevant, even though the loss leaves them dangling precariously over the drop zone. There is also a regrettable irony in Noble's words. His description of anger "bubbling over" is in stark contrast to the club's adopted hymn "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles."

While those vacuums of air rise into the sky, their upward trajectory limitless, West Ham's direction seems inextricably opposite. They are falling ever deeper into a chasm. 

Saturday's scenes were the product of raw, unadulterated, visceral emotion. More irony. The passion exhibited looking incongruous in the Queen Liz Olympic, a soulless bowl, a stadium that is simply not conducive to stirring atmosphere. 

We have arrived, then, at one of the burning points of exasperation for Hammers faithful. The move to the London Stadium was viewed cynically. The scepticism has been justified. Upton Park was an amphitheatre of raucous support.  To trade that for the new stadium's vacuous nature would be jarring for any fan. 

Combine this decision to move, despite the backlash from the fans, with the incompetence of Gold, David Sullivan, and Karen Brady, and you're presented with a deadly cocktail. The kind of drink that you shouldn't have ordered. Your vision is blurred, your head is thumping, you feel queasy. Perversely, you decide to order a double rum and coke, sending you over the edge. Hammers' fans have been sent over the edge. Wait, no. They've been pushed, with two hands, forcefully, aggressively.

That is why, to a certain extent, I can sympathise with their actions on Saturday. Of course, I do not endorse such mayhem, but it is the product of years of mismanagement. 

Brady and co. sold a dream to the Hammers. European football seemed like an achievable prospect. Their new stadium would propel them into the 'big boy' strata of the top flight. 

Like some minacious car dealer, promising a Porsche 9/11, throwing in staggering features, promising that everyone will suddenly be in awe of your amazing self, no longer seeing the pot belly and painfully thin combover, the board contrived to sell something too good to be true. 

Confronting players should be condemned, as should coin-throwing, and pitch invasions. Yet so should the Hammers' board. It is their negligence that has caused this. 

Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97


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