West Ham United return to their unpopular London Stadium home this weekend but are the critics right?
West Ham finally got their first points of the Manuel Pellegrini era thanks to a 3-1 win at Everton.
It was all smiles again after a torrid start which saw the Hammers lose their opening four Premier League games.
Superb goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Marko Arnautovic secured an unlikely win at Goodison Park.
The Hammers came away from Merseyside on a high.
But the trepidation that seems to come with playing at the club’s unpopular London Stadium home looms large.
London rivals Chelsea are the visitors this weekend.
There is no love lost between the two sets of fans.
Universally criticised and they can’t all be wrong
And that should at least ensure one of the better atmospheres at the much-criticised ground even if it is a Sunday lunchtime kick-off.
The problem for West Ham is that now, into their third season at the former Olympic Stadium, it still doesn’t feel like home.
In fact there has been absolutely nothing to suggest it ever will be home. Not a happy one anyway.
The ground has been pretty much universally criticised by home and away supporters, pundits, West Ham legends and even opposing managers and owners.
Everton have actually used the London Stadium move as a marker of everything they want to avoid when embarking on their own ground move.
Everything from the distance between the upper and lower tiers, the distance from the stands to the pitch, the layout of the amenities, the matchday experience, the lack of atmosphere and even the carpet which covers the running track have been the subject of fierce criticism.
‘It’s not a football stadium at all’
Two defeats from the first two games there this season against teams West Ham fans would expect to beat in Bournemouth and Wolves have done little to convince anyone the place will suddenly feel like home just because they have been there for a couple of years.
The latest criticism came from former Hammer Ray Houghton on talkSPORT.
But it may be the most relevant yet.
“At West Ham, I’ve done a couple of games and you are up in the Gods!” Houghton told talkSPORT.
“You’re so far away from the pitch, you’re so far removed you don’t feel like you’re at a football game. I feel like I’m at an athletics meeting seriously, that’s how I see it.
“I played at the old Upton Park by the Chicken Run and I used to the West Ham players would come out and terrify the opposition.
“There’s no fear factor about playing at the London Stadium – it’s not a football stadium at all.
“I’ve got West Ham mates and one of them was round my house yesterday and said there was 57,000 there, but you wouldn’t think that.
“They’re not near enough to influence the players or get onto them or back them or whatever to get that sound across to them.”
Some of the issues being raised are red herrings.
But the points Houghton makes should worry all West Ham fans and the club’s owners David Sullivan and David Gold.
Because there is no fix for those issues outside of a major reconstruction of the stadium.
A sobering thought.