Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The big talking point this morning is of course the violence that erupted both outside and inside Upton Park last night at the Carling Cup match between West Ham and Millwall.

With so many people in the media seemingly salivating at the prospect of some good old fashioned football violence to report upon, the in-phrase to describe last night's events seems to be along the lines of "this is a throwback to an era of football long past".

Anyone who attends matches in England, and especially those matches involving Clubs whose fans have a reputation for causing trouble, will tell you that that is clearly not the case.

The hooligan element has never gone away, but has got smaller and less bother to the headline writers. It's not the sensationalist news story it was before, but it certainly has never been eradicated.

That to me is one of the main shocking aspects of last night's scenes - the vast scale and obvious organisation of it all.

No one can have seriously expected a game between West Ham and Millwall to kick off without any trouble at all but the fact that so many were involved and that it returned the trouble to the terraces (obviously seats these days) and to inside the ground is particulalry worrying.

The police seemed to be caught out by the size of those there to cause trouble and once they were unable to contain the initial surge and splits, they were always going to be fighting a losing battle to contain it.

As a West Ham fan since I was a little boy, I've known the reputation and stories of our support for years. Glamourised in print and film, what has really shocked me about it all is that it was the West Ham fans that were the main instigators in all this and that they decided to do it on home turf.

I'm sure that many of you were like myself and when they heard about the trouble automatically thought that it was the away fans that had started it all.

So is this a return to violent days of old or one-off? The media would have you believe it's the former and probably secretly hope so. The truth is that it is neither.

Stadium make ups and hig prices for match admission has signalled that the heydey of hooligans is in the past and football is all the better for that. There will always be sporadic bursts of major violence and especially in the lower leagues. Of course, when it isn't so high profile, the media doesn't seem to care as much.

As for West Ham, the sheer scale of the trouble and the number of pitch invasions involved is going to see them hit with serious repercussions. For a Club that has seemed to stumble from crisis to crisis off the pitch in the last couple of years, their so called "fans" have put them in a dire situation.

They are already not the most popular Club with the football league and the chances are that they will be made an example of. They will get little sympathy from other Clubs, despite the fact that this was such an organised operation by the hooligans that no Club would have been in a position to deal with it any better than the Hammers did.

With ownership concerns, money worries, the possibility of having to sell their top players and the fact that their bench at the weekend resembled a youth club outing, this is really the last thing that West Ham needed right now.

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