A stadium no one wanted, owners without a clue: West Ham trouble was inevitable

He stood alone, a symbol of what West Ham United have become. Not Sir Trevor Brooking, who sat on his own in the directors’ box, unmoved by the carnage engulfing the London Stadium. But the fan who picked up the corner flag and raised it above his head in the centre circle.

A stadium no one wanted, owners without a clue: West Ham trouble was inevitable

A stadium no one wanted, owners without a clue: West Ham trouble was inevitable

There were a few questions asked about how he had jumped the barrier, evaded stadium security, grabbed the flag, and reached the middle of the pitch. But he was the centre of attention as West Ham, and social media, went into meltdown during Saturday's 3-0 defeat by Burnley.

Just six years on from an awe-inspiring Olympics held at the same venue, the fed-up fan’s flag-carrying protest summed up a season of gross ineptitude, a supporter sick to his stomach that his club have become a laughing stock, torn apart by division both outside and inside the London Stadium.

This has been coming, too. No fan really wanted to move to the London Stadium when West Ham left Upton Park in 2016. It is not a football stadium. It is a world-class venue for athletics and no one truly believed the move would be completed without a hitch.

Fans were fighting in the stands at the start of this season, with insiders at the club believing a small section of the support were trying to have the Hammers thrown out, so that they could return to the Boleyn Ground, now long since razed to the ground.

And there are still fans fighting in the stands now. Saturday’s protests saw Burnley provide sanctuary on their bench for children to escape the baying hoards aiming their fury at the directors’ box.

There is a genuinely terrifying atmosphere in east London right now, one fuelled by anger and heartbreak. Fans want the board out. They were sold a dream, with David Sullivan, David Gold and Karren Brady targeting a top-four place within five years of their move.

Sullivan was ebullient, claiming he wanted to win the Champions League, and citing Atletico Madrid as an example to follow. They are more likely to be playing in the Championship next season, with results sliding at an alarming rate.

Broken promises have understandably led to bitterness and, while issue can be taken with the manner of the protest, few can argue with Hammers’ fans motivations.

A march against the board was called off at the last minute, and The Independent reported that Sullivan, Gold and Brady even met with self-professed hooligan groups in a bid to sate the rising anger. It is one calamity after another.

A bottle allegedly containing a supporter’s urine was thrown at Gold after the loss to Burnley, while Sullivan was hit by a coin thrown by a fan. Gold told fan blog ClaretandHugh after the game that he would not be driven out of the club. He is 81, a proud man, but there is little he can do to arrest this slide.

West Ham United Burnley Mark Noble 03/10/18
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The appointment of David Moyes in November seemingly sealed the Irons’ fate. He is a manager who turned the champions of England into also-rans, failed in Spain, relegated Sunderland and lulled Everton fans into an acceptance of mediocrity.

In the January transfer window, he signed Portugal international Joao Mario on loan and Jordan Hugill from Preston. Neither player has made an positive impact.

Last summer, Sullivan drove the recruitment process, deciding to bring in Javier Hernandez to add firepower despite West Ham’s success playing with a target man.

It would be funny if it weren’t so desperate. There is a leadership void in east London, and the fans have finally had enough.

With the Hammers just three points above the relegation zone, last Saturday offered a troubling glimpse of the scenes which would likely accompany relegation at home against Everton on the final day of the season.

Unfortunately, under the current regime, it is looking ever more likely.

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