I participated in the Premier League National Fans Survey last month and I was very honest and open in my responses. I rated my home and away experiences very highly and I hope that my written responses were constructive.
Those of you who also filled in the questionnaire will know that the questions are fairly general and ask about your opinions on stadium facilities, customer service, travel and other features of the overall experience of supporting a club. Of course, as it was sent to my email address, it was a specific set of questions aimed at West Ham United fans. So I found it all fairly easy until the final round of questions when it asked me about our upcoming change of stadium, and specifically questioned my views on ceremonies for both leaving Upton Park and arriving at our new home, the Olympic Stadium.
The moment I read the question, I got that horrible little heart flutter and butterflies in my stomach. I didn’t really want to think about it. Even just picturing a “closing ceremony” at our home made me feel a bit teary. I composed myself a bit and thought: “This is my chance to voice my opinion and maybe make a difference to my beloved club.”
But I then found it a difficult question to answer. Who’s ever really thought about what a club should do to both celebrate the life of a stadium and look ahead to the future? The first thought that popped into my head was that I didn’t want it to be cheesy. A pop concert where the Spice Girls have another reunion to sing ‘Goodbye’ is something that I can imagine happening, but it would be my worst nightmare.
I wrote out my response which explained this. I said that I would like our absolute legends to be present on the day to commemorate the fantastic history that we hold within those four stands. But then I ran out of ideas and simply said that it needed to be tasteful and sensitive.
There won’t be a dry eye in the house that day and we definitely don’t want the club to treat it as a big pay day. Similarly, when there is some kind of ceremony to celebrate our arrival to the Olympic Stadium (or McDonalds Park or whatever it may be), it needs to be equally sensitive. We will have just lost one of our greatest historical assets, but we need to be moving on. We need to bring a bit of the old into the new, so I think our legends should also be present on that day.
Some kind of special unveiling of the newly placed Bobby Moore statue would give us time for reflection, but would also help us to remember that greats like Bobby have helped us to move forward and believe in our club. Then I wondered if it’s really that important to have a grand ceremony as such when we move. Is that just blowing our own trumpet and setting ourselves up for a fall?
Will it take away from the really important business which is on the pitch? This could be an opportunity to knock out our opponents with playing in such a grand and already historical arena. I had an ask around on Twitter to find out if I was alone in my thoughts. Turns out not. @dave_boy replied: “Closure: a celebration, not a funeral. Opening: nothing too cringeworthy.”
That echoes my sentiments and he’s obviously another slight pessimist about the ability of any British run ceremony to have a little cheese thrown in. All we need to do is get Danny Boyle on board and we’re sorted! Another tweet that reflected my thoughts was from @JimBarwick1: “Should involve as many ex whu players as poss in the closing day of the Boleyn Ground”.
As you will have already gathered, I agree completely. Seems there is a general consensus that this should be the case. A reply from @browser1983 said: “Last game should be a tribute to everything good that’s happened to a club. 1st a look to the future”. That last one will be an emotional rollercoaster, but a fitting tribute to everything we have loved and grown up with.
Finally, @Richard97Kane thinks we should get the flares out! Do you mean the 70’s jeans, or the soon-to-bebanned smoking type? I think if we look at how Arsenal left Highbury behind, they brought back their legends and the Marching Band, paraded their trophies, had a lap of honour and left time for reflection of personal memories – that all sounds perfect. The bits I’d subtract from their occasion would be a balloon release, Roger Daltrey singing a specially prepared song and maybe even get rid of the fireworks.
This is undoubtedly an incredibly emotive subject to think about and I think we’d all rather sweep it aside for now, but maybe if we get our thinking caps on now and contact the club in such ways as this survey, we can make our own celebrations that touch more personal to us, the fans. As we get towards the end of 2013, that’s another calendar year marked off towards our big move. It’s going to happen. Let’s make it as positive and painless as possible.