I’m sat here in the tumbleweed of an international weekend staring at a blank TV screen where English Premier League football is usually played so I’ve started reading the aftermath of the decision (finally) to award West Ham United tenancy of the Olympic Stadium.
Inevitably, in just mere minutes following the press conference to announce the decision, the dissenters raised their eyebrows, gathered their thoughts and then went on the attack. The newspaper I have beside me has the headline, ‘Stadium Move Hammers Taxpayers’. Yes, I do see what they did there, there’s an article on who’s paying what and why, and another one questioning West Ham’s ability to actually fill 54,000 seats. Well, that remains to be seen.
On the flipside we received the e-mail from Karren Brady, a message delivered with so much passion I could hear the stirrings of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance rising in the back of my mind.
But as I read through the various newspaper articles, Internet posts, the arguments for and against, the bluster and the bravado, a feeling of sadness has welled up inside of me — this is due in no part to the memories of amazing Saturday afternoons spent in the Green Street area which can all too easily slide into the sort of melancholic pathos one can get when looking back nostalgically on times gone by. There’s also the remembrance of anger after truly shocking displays — yes Glenn Roeder, I’m pointing at you — and the demonstrations around that time of the Terry Brown era.
Plus there’s the memory of the continual in-joke with my season ticket buddy of signing up to the Hammers Social Club week in week out. There simply was never enough time. Moreover, though, my thoughts have moved to a greater worry, one that has been overlooked in this whole debate. You see, I’m concerned about just what is going to happen to the bar staff at the Duke of Edinburgh. I’ve always thought these people are the best bar staff in the world. Every home match, they’re working their socks off in a manner that can only be described as a logistical masterpiece.
How do you serve a pub full of thirsty pumped up West Ham supporters in a way that means no-one ever seems to have to wait more than two minutes at the bar? It seems impossible but is achieved every time thanks in no uncertain terms by the best landlady in the world, I’m sure. It is an operation of military perfection. Obviously, I am fully aware that most are employed on a casual basis to cater for that very crowd but still I fear for what will happen to these people three years down the line.
I think about the Duke of Edinburgh because that is where I choose to ‘warm up’ before the match (if and when I am in the UK) but I’m sure the same thing can be said about the Boleyn Arms, the Queen’s Arms and others in the area. And that’s when I start thinking about other businesses – what about the chip shop? The KFC? The place that sells the pies? All these places are going to be affected by 30,000 odd football supporters disappearing up the road to E15.
Also, what’s going to happen to the Quality Hotel? It gets good reviews on Trip Advisor, don’t you know, and what will the school do? Will it remain painted in claret and blue? After all that worry, then there’s the consideration of what’s going to happen when our focus shifts to Stratford. The decisions made in the early days of our OS tenure will pave the way for Saturday afternoon routine for years to come.
There’s so many vital decisions that have to be taken. Top of the list is the over-riding importance of the choice of a new pub. Where in Stratford is going to step up to the mark? Edward VII? The Princess of Wales? The Goose? This actually reminds me of an episode of Men Behaving Badly – when faced with the closure of their local, Gary and Tony visited others in the area carrying out vital research in order to establish their new ‘home’
And then there’s Westfield. Will they be joining the party? How will 54,000 fans be segregated from people who, for what ever reason, aren’t interested in football and want to actually just go shopping (I know)? Will we be allowed around Westfield? If so will everyone suddenly go posh and head for some champagne and oysters at Searcy’s after the match? No, I thought not. Will the stadium bar offer a four pint pitcher for £12 – I have been out of the UK for a while now, is that still doable? Will Jamie’s Italian chip in and serve up pie and mash on a cold November Saturday afternoon? So many questions but where are the answers? The very fabric of our trip to West Ham is at stake. We need to know. And we need to know soon(ish). Now, where IS that Elgar record?