It’s been a long summer for West Ham fans, but this month we’re finally going to be able to see a Saturday football match at home.
Tottenham Hotspur visit us with a point to prove after last year’s loss cost them the league. Ahead of this year’s grudge match, let’s cast an eye back at that brilliant Friday night under the lights. We went into the match in the bottom half of the table and needing to pick up points to ensure avoiding relegation.
We hadn’t had an easy time at ‘home’ as the London Stadium was still feeling uncertain and unfamiliar to our struggling side and frustrated fan base. Tottenham arrived knowing victory would keep them in the title race with Chelsea. There was a lot to play for on both sides, but only one side brought that mind-set onto the pitch. From the first whistle, West Ham were ready for the game. Organised, (mostly) disciplined, and smart, we more than matched Tottenham on the night.
We marked well and kept Tottenham’s lethal strike force quiet. Excellent saves from Adrian kept them off the score sheet, and even Jonathan Calleri turned in an outstanding shift working tirelessly to keep the pressure on the visitors. The score was 0-0 at half time. In the second half, both teams came close to scoring – and then suddenly, the magic happened.
In the 65th minute, we put the ball in the back of the net as Manuel Lanzini slotted home a right-footed shot from close range after an Andre Ayew pass. It was wonderful. The ground erupted in noise. The better part of 52,000 people leapt to their feet, jumping up and down and yelling in delight. It was the first time I’d properly heard the roar of the stadium and the noise of the impact of thousands of feet on concrete, sounding over and over again. It was electric.
Lanzini was then booked for excessive celebration, as if it somehow wasn’t warranted after a goal like that. The next 31 minutes were pure torture. Would we revert to our normal West Ham ways and throw away two late goals? Would Mark Noble give away a free kick outside of the box and earn a second yellow in the process?
Would Adrian start indeterminately juggling the ball in his own area and knock it into his own net for an equaliser?
And yet – nothing calamitous happened. We held on for a deserved three points, and ended Spurs’ title dreams in the process. It was a huge result for us, and not just because we’d won the annual Betway ‘We beat Tottenham’ trophy, but because we fi nally saw the Olympic Stadium come to life as we threw one heck of a house-warming party.
This was the night that the ground fi nally came to life. We saw what a caldron of noise it could be, instead of a bowl of disappointment. This was the night we left with our heads held high and settled in for a night of drinking and laughing in pubs that were starting to feel familiar. This is the result we were proud of after a largely disappointing season. Let’s not forget; Tottenham were good last season. They very nearly won the league, were it not for those pesky Irons who did very well to keep them quiet.
In hindsight, I wonder what fans watched more of that night – Lanzini’s goal or the faces of the dejected Spurs players as they realised exactly what they lost out on the pitch that night. Either way, it made for a wonderful night.