I hadn’t gone to any of the Olympics there so I didn’t know what to expect but I have to say I was impressed. It’s still hard to think we won’t be playing our football at Upton Park ever again but we now have an excellent stadium – even if it is a bit of a walk from the station! The people behind the scenes have been working incredibly hard to make it feel and look like our home and the branding all around looks great. Everything is in claret and blue. I’m sure when the fans arrive for our first few homes games they will feel like it is our home and not just somewhere we are renting.
As for the kit launch, it was fun but a bit jazzy – not what you’d expect from West Ham at all. They had it all going on and must’ve spent quite a bit of money on it but this is the direction Gold, Sullivan and Brady want us to go because they want us to be a top six club and a major commercial player year on year
There is a rumour our new ground will be called the Tesco Stadium – it’s not the sexiest name is it – but personally, I don’t care. For many it will always been called the Olympic Stadium. There are lots of stadia that have various names. I can’t even remember what Bournemouth’s stadium is called these days, and Newcastle have had a fair few names recently. Fans will call it what they want to. I know the club have called it the London Stadium in a few tweets and I quite like that name.
As for the coming season, I would really love us to have another go at the FA Cup and get to Wembley this time. I’d always back us to win in the final, and we had a really good chance to get there last season but ultimately we fell short. I’d also like to progress in the Europa League but as much as I want us to do wellband it’s always good to win football matches, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if we didn’t win it. Breaking into the top four is going to be very tough this season because the competition is the fiercest it has ever been in the Premier League. You’ve got Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Pep Guardiola at
City, while I’m sure Liverpool will be more of a force this season. Who knows what Arsenal will do, and of course, Antonio Conte has come in at Chelsea after impressing with Italy at the Euros. If we do manage to break into the top four, that will be one of the greatest achievements in our history. Fifth or sixth place would be great for us but in order to get there, we are going to need to sign a few more players. This is also Slaven Bilic’s second season in charge so we will see how good he really is. I think he is going to be absolutely fine. I mean, how good was he as a pundit during the Euros? He is the coolest manager around.
One thing I hope he changes soon is playing Michail Antonio at right back. I’m not sure why he persists with him there. He doesn’t want to play there and goes missing at times but it’s not his position so there is no expectation from my point of view for him to excel. For me Antonio is always best marauding down the wing. The defenders are never sure what is going to do and even he admits he is never quite sure what he is going to do next. He is always going to cause problems in the opponent’s box, and I hope we are able to get to the stage where we have a solid back four where Antonio isn’t playing at right back. I would think that Slaven wouldn’t have let James Tomkins go without having a concrete plan in place in case we had injuries.
I don’t want to see us playing Kouyate at centre back this season because we’ve not got the players available to play in their correct position. I would like to think he will ensure we have the cover because if not, it might be seen as a very naive move to let Tomkins go – even if he did want more first team chances. Will the injuries to Aaron Cresswell and Manuel Lanzini have an impact on how we start in our new home? Perhaps but I would hope not. We certainly missed Cresswell away at Domzale in the Europa League but there is no doubting the potential of Sam Bryam.
He is very competent for his age but he hasn’t got the experience that Aaron has and it showed. He’ll get there! Finally, I would like to thank Tony Carr for his tremendous service to the club. I had the pleasure to meet him a number of times and he was always a complete gentleman. He is one of the nicest guys in football and has an eye for players like no-one else. He brought through some of the biggest names in English football and I was sorry to see him go. Whatever he does, he will enjoy himself. He has been a brilliant ambassador for West Ham and I’m sure every fan would like to say a huge thank you to Tony. BBM