‘All I want for Christmas is the chance to watch us at home…’

Will West Ham ever get to play at home on Boxing Day again after our move?

I miss playing at home on Boxing Day mainly because it gave me an excuse to avoid a day sat across from my angry and drunk Uncle Keith screaming at everyone over a Trivial Pursuit board.

But alas, the last five years have seen me yelling back that ‘doubles’ does mean I get another roll and if he doesn’t give me the cheese I am owed then ‘I quit’.

Arsenal beat us 3-1 at Upton Park the last time we had a festive home fixture the day after Christmas.

Carlton Cole opened the scoring before a Theo Walcott brace and a Lukas Podolski strike wrapped up the points for the Gunners. And the last time we saw a Hammers home win on hangover day? 2009!

An Alessandro Diamanti penalty and a late Radoslav Kovac goal saw us take the points of fellow relegation strugglers Portsmouth.

That’ll be a decade this year since we got to go and see our team win at home on Boxing Day and that’s not OK.

Football at Christmas time is part of the festive period as much as mince pies and turkey and we have been denied that in recent years.

There is a widespread belief that West Ham no longer play home games on Boxing Day because of London Stadium’s proximity to Westfield.

The huge influx of people keen to bag a Boxing Day bargain in the sales makes it too dangerous to host a football match – or so the story goes.

At a 2018 meeting of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board, Karren Brady claimed that notion is a myth. Now whether you believe Brady or not is up to you, but I for one don’t.

That is to say I certainly don’t believe it’s as black and white as she suggests.

There is no way in a million years a conversation would not have been had between the club and Westfield’s stakeholders when the initial stadium deal was struck.

And there is no way in 10 million years the business owners at Westfield would not prefer the Hammers to play away every December 26.

Simple logic tells you shoppers are less likely to visit Westfield with the threat of 60,000 raucous football fans (or 57,000 raucous ones and 3,000 quiet ones if we are playing Arsenal again) competing for train, road, car park and restaurant space.

And simple economics tells you less visitors is bad for business.

So while there may not be an official agreement in place, I find it hard to believe there are not some unseen factors at play and if not… well you can pluck my feathers and call me a turkey.

A lot of fans struggle to believe it is just bad luck or coincidence that has stopped us playing at home on Boxing Day.

And personally, I believe it about as much as I believe in Santa Claus. This year’s reason for being away to Crystal Palace the day after St Nick comes down the chimney is “transport issues”.

Sean Whetstone published an article on October 9 reporting the Newham Council led London Stadium Safety Advisory Group Chair Shelia Roberts informed the safety group in July: ‘There will not be a home game on Boxing Day due to challenging transport issues.’

Sean went on to write: ‘Other stakeholders such as Westfield Shopping centre, TFL and Metropolitan police are able to lobby the stadium safety group to request that certain fixtures aren’t played at home and for this season it appears TFL successfully persuaded the powers that be that the transport system in Stratford wouldn’t cope on 26th December 2019 with a West Ham home crowd.’

Apparently major engineering works are taking place on Southeastern railway – the high speed service into Stratford International – over the festive period and the high volume of supporters who use this line make a home Boxing Day fixture unfeasible.

Well unless I’m very much mistaken, railway companies use public holidays to undertake works all of the time. They always have and they likely always will.

So who says there won’t be ‘major engineering’ works again next year? And the year after that?

It’s one of London’s biggest stations for crying out loud. If you ask me it’s just another hidden clause in the contract no one was asked to sign when we switched postcodes to E20.

And if we have learned anything from recent times it’s not telling people what they are signing up for can be dangerous ground to walk.

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