Night of shame

THERE was a certain inevitability about the events of Tuesday night in and around West Ham, writes DAVE EVANS. People arriving via Upton Park station as early as six o clock, were met by an air of forboding as fans hung about on corners; Hammers fans goad

THERE was a certain inevitability about the events of Tuesday night in and around West Ham, writes DAVE EVANS.

People arriving via Upton Park station as early as six o'clock, were met by an air of forboding as fans hung about on corners; Hammers fans goaded Millwall supporters from outside The Queens Public house, and police, some on horseback, waited for something to happen.

Of course, something did, something disgraceful and the events inside the ground did not put West Ham in any great light either.

Fighting broke out between stewards and supporters in the corner of the Dr Martens Stand nearest to the Millwall fans, and these were not kids throwing pun-ches and kicks, these were supposedly grown-up men with hate in their eyes, beer in their bellies and no brain in their heads.


You may also want to watch:


But police seemed to take too long to arrive and assist the outnumbered stewards.

There was little that could have been done about the first pitch invasion. But when you see stewards simply putting the encroachers back into the crowd instead of escorting them from the ground then something is wrong.

Most Read

If they had done that, then the second and third invasions may never had happened.

Many of those running on to the pitch were impressionable youngsters, too stupid to realise that the majority of law-abiding West Ham fans wanted them off the pitch so that the match could continue.

Millwall boss Kenny Jackett was quick to point out that none of his team's supporters ran on to the pitch, but that is a simplistic view of things. They were surrounded by a deep line of police and stewards, while there was things being thrown from the Sir Trevor Brooking Stand, one which went perilously close to Junior Stan-islas.

With Sky Television reporting that there was civil war in and out of the ground, the national press wanted answers in the post-match conference, and so the game was forgotten and instead hacks decided to try and take the moral high ground.

That meant badgering manager Gianfranco Zola in an attempt to get him to condemn his own club's supporters.

The Italian coped with the pressure well.

Football

"I just want to talk about football because that is what I am here for, to work on football and talk about football, and this unfortunate thing hasn't got anything to do with football.

"I cannot control these situations, I wish I could. The whole of football is not guilty because of this. I was with Chelsea for seven years and I have been here for 11 months and I have never seen anything like that before."

He is right of course. West Ham cannot be condemned for the actions of a minority of their fans, but it is imperative that lessons are learned.

Chief Executive Scott Duxbury commented: "This is a family club and the Boleyn Ground has always been a safe place in which all supporters can enjoy football.

"We are determined to ensure this remains the case."

Not wholly accurate of course. West Ham certainly had their troubles in the dim and distant past and clashes with Chelsea fans springing to mind, but so did the majority of clubs in the days of fences and terraces.

Realisation

It is the realisation that the sort of violence we saw in the 1970s and early eighties is still alive and kicking at Upton Park, which makes it all the more worrying.

"We will leave no stone unturned in identifying the perpetrators, rooting them out and then taking the proper action," said Duxbury.

"The vast majority of people at the game last night were law-abiding, loyal football fans and a small minority spoiled it for everyone. They will not be allowed to succeed."

Looking at the huge amount of column inches in papers all over the world on Wednesday morning, the thugs may have succeeded already.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter