Filed: Thursday, 10th January 2013
By: Lucy Woolford
Cast your eye back 12 months to January 2012, when West Ham United were kicking off the second half of their nPower Championship season.
We were coming off the back of a poor December consisting of four points from five games. January saw us gain a positive nine points out of a possible 12. But we were about to enter a period that would see us crowned 'draw specialists' at our very own Upton Park, which saw the pressure mount on Sam Allardyce and co.
In February and March 2012, we drew five home games in a row followed by a loss and another draw. In fact, after beating Millwall during a lunch-time kick off on February 4th, we didnít win another game at the Boleyn until April 14th when we thumped Brighton 6-0. It does pose the question of what could have been, and how we could have showed that league who was boss, but as it was at the time, Upton Park just wasnít as daunting to traveling teams as it should have been. It was a good opportunity for them to come at us and we just didnít deal with that pressure.
Now we find ourselves doing reasonably well in the Premier League. I accept weíve had a dip in form after what was a fantastic start to a season from which we expected little, but thatís no surprise with the long list of injuries and suspensions we have been plagued by. We have however, managed to turn around this negativity that surrounded our home ground last season, and on many occasions before that. Whilst itís great to win away league fixtures, they key to an all round season is to be consistent at your home ground.
If, like me, you find that commentators referring to Upton Park as a "fortress" is a bit of a habit, then maybe itís about time it returned to its previous glory. Itís not far off it now.
This season we have picked up 15 points out of the 33 available to us at home (45 per cent). That doesnít sound brilliant as a statistic, I know, but compare it to the eight we have taken from 27 available at away grounds (30 per cent) and itís not bad. It is understandable that during a time when we couldnít win at home for love nor money, home fans got frustrated, questioned why they paid x-amount every other week to watch a former Premier League side draw against Championship level opponents - but now our home matches are drawing more positivity.
Unfortunately I donít get to many home games these days, but Iíve attended three away games this season; two were terrible games (Wigan and West Brom) but the trip to St Jamesí Park was much better. Luckily for me a lot of our home matches have been broadcast on television, and some of the games I have watched at Upton Park have produced the best football I think Iíve ever seen us play.
I think I am still in disbelief about the way we played against Fulham back in September. I have never been stunned into silence at half time, but I was. We may have caught Fulham on a bad day, but still, Iíve seen us catch teams on bad days and not capitalise the way we did on that day. The passing, movement and brains on show that day were pure class and the Boleyn Ground had the atmosphere to match. That captured what our ground stands for and how players and crowd feed off each other.
I fully support the call to sing Sam Allardyceís name (however we manage to fit it into a chant!). I have heard murmurs coming through the speakers, but I want more. Weíve found a man who can actually turn this club around (with the help of decent financial backing) and who seems to be enjoying himself. I see him as a good long term investment, not the usual interim that we have had in the last few years. He has installed belief in the players and staff and introduced a more relaxed way about the side, encouraging them to enjoy their football in front of their own 30,000 supporters.
Maybe the term "fortress" wonít be applied to the Olympic Stadium, so we should absolutely make the most of what so many teams see as a difficult ground to come to. We need to make it intimidating, because if our away form keeps dipping then home points will be vital in holding a decent league position.
Weíve hosted a lot of "big" teams already this season so in theory we should have an easier home run to the end of the season. However, the team must not take that for granted as they so often do. It seems as though our ability to gain points (or at least put in a performance) against bigger clubs is there, itís just against teams who we should beat that we struggle.
I definitely believe that the Boleyn Ground holds the keys to a good season, whether that be this one or the next. "Fortress Upton Park" may be a cheesy clichť, but itís a phrase that weíd like to keep. For years to come, even after we have (maybe) moved, let us say: "I used to go to the fortress".
Please note that the opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should be attributed to, KUMB.com.
by El hammer
08:19PM 10th Jan 2013
''Totally agree with this post, it's time to get Upton Park to become the "fortress" we all know and love.
We can put the fear of god into teams at our best so let's all stop worrying about what we can and can't sing and just sing and show our support for the team. We don't have to use insulting or any other language deemed unacceptable to show support for the lads, so lets all sing our hearts out for them every minute of every game and get back the atmosphere which makes us want to attend every match regardless of who we play, with us as the 12th man we can look forward to every game! (Look what happened v Chelsea! COYI.''
05:55PM 10th Jan 2013
''The Boleyn has never been and never will be a fortress since all the new stands have been built!''
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