Every Premier League side worth their salt knows the importance of home form in the English top flight.
The general consensus is that if you can manage to win the majority of your home games as well as pick up a few points here and there on the road then you will be guaranteed Premier League safety. But the question on West Ham fans’ lips is whether the Hammers can maintain their strong start to the league at the Boleyn Ground.
Can Sam Allardyce’s side emulate the success that the likes of Swansea City and Norwich City enjoyed last season in order to secure their top-flight survival? But hang on, isn’t this the same West Ham that struggled to win games at Upton Park in the Championship? Which begs the question how the Hammers have managed to start so strongly this season.
The answer? The expectation of the crowd and the general atmosphere around the stadium. When we were in the Championship, no matter who the opposition were, some fans believed we had a divine right to run out 4-0 or 5-0 winners. Now with the greatest respect, that could have been the case against teams towards the bottom of the Championship, but, as we found out, England’s second tier is a tough place, and results weren’t helped with the way sides set out to frustrate the Hammers.
As soon as the first chance went missing, groans could be heard around the stadium. If the away team managed to sneak an early lead, sometimes boos would ring out. Fast forward 12 months and things couldn’t be more different. The supporters are looking forward to watching Premier League football, they know they will be entertained and they know that West Ham only stand a chance of winning if the team has the full support of the fans. I detest the notion that the crowd can be “the 12th man” but this season the fans must be credited with spurring their side on to two victories and a draw from three games. Even more impressive has been the manner in which those results have been achieved.
The first game of the season was always going to be a nervy affair, but we held firm to see off Aston Villa before completely playing Fulham off the pitch in our second home outing. More recently, despite dominating against Sunderland we only managed to come away with a point, but I am sure that there will be games this season when we play worse and win. And I am a firm believer that the bumper crowds have more than played their part. S
Sure, when Allardyce decided to make nine changes we were embarrassingly dumped out of the Capital One Cup, but there were still 25,000 fans there to witness it and support their team, even when they were 4-1 down, just 10,000 under capacity. Compare that to the 60,000 Etihad Stadium, where only 28,000 fans turned out to see Manchester City defeated 4-2 by Aston Villa – there may have been 3,000 more supporters, but there were 32,000 empty seats too.
Or even cast your eye across to Old Trafford, where 46,000 witnessed Manchester United beat Newcastle 2-1, with another 30,000 seats left untouched. These figures alone go to show the magnitude of support that the Hammers have behind them. And it is this support that I believe will genuinely determine how well West Ham do at the Boleyn Ground this season. And you can bet your bottom dollar that if the Hammers do make the move to the Olympic Stadium…there will never be 30,000 empty seats, no matter what league or competition the boys in claret and blue are playing in.