The news of the plans for the long-term use of the Olympic Stadium at Stratford – and the potential for my beloved West Ham to move in – reminded me of how I felt when my family moved home.
While I was at university – in the days before mobile phones and T’Internet – I wasn’t the most dutiful son for staying in touch.
This is a true story, I swear, but it had been four or more weeks without any contact and I finally rang home.
My dear old mum said: “Just as well you rang. We are moving tomorrow.”
I was gobsmacked. I am sure my mum and dad loved me, but perhaps it was stretching the point of trying to teach me a lesson about staying in touch too far. Nonetheless, the reality was that they did indeed move house the very next day
Admittedly, their move wasn’t an epic example of family migration – a hop across the East End, from Poplar to Bow (a mile and a half haul at that, a few stops along the 108 bus route.)
Stupidly, I failed to recognise the momentous nature of the situation and should have dropped everything to see my old home before the family closed the door to it.
In hindsight, it literally was a moving experience, and there are times when you face situations which are big – rather like what I call in my book ‘The Upturn’ ‘Golden Swan’ opportunities – where you may have to make a big decision, drop all the stuff you are doing, and attend to what in the long-term will be regarded as ‘important’.
The upshot was a few weeks later on my return ‘home’ I turned up at this unfamiliar address, in this unknown house to find my family freshly ensconced.
Sure, it was a nice new house, with a back garden, and even its own parking drive in front. (Because my younger brother is profoundly autistic my mum and dad were given priority by Tower Hamlets Council for re-housing.)
The evidence was that this was a good move, evidently better than the flat in the 26th storey tower block where we previously lived.
I now know in hindsight I have suffered since from a lack of closure: I never said goodbye to the place I knew as home.
Yet, recalling how I felt it provides an insight into how I feel about the proposals for the new Olympic Stadium to be used as a new home for West Ham United FC.
Sure, it will have better facilities, improved transport links, and will provide a fresh start, yet it will never be ‘home’. In the same way our old flat in Balfron Tower, Poplar was an emotional treasure trove of memories, experiences – both good and bad, and a sense of belonging, | have the same connection with West Ham’s ground at Upton Park.
Even though my mum and dad lived in the new house in Bow for 30 years, it never felt like home to me.
Yes, I may be guilty of being sentimental, but sentiment is a powerful asset that should be revered as much as dismissed.
My alternative to the Olympic Stadium move, for redeveloping the existing ground, replacing Upton Park’s old East Stand should be considered. (You can tell when you are a certain age, and you remember your club’s ‘old’ stand being built!)
I am also rationally not keen on a football stadium which contains a running track. And West Ham in my wildest dreams will not get crowds of 60,000, leading to a potentially soulless atmosphere
And if the new Olympic Stadium is to be used for professional football I, rather unusually, would actually favour a ground share option with Tottenham Hotspur: sure, we the West Ham contingent would have to put some Vim, or other cleansing aid on our shoes, before going to a game after Spurs play there!
Objectively, I think is a crazy misuse of public resource and infrastructure to have a proliferation of stadia around the Capital. Italian football teams have equally fierce local rivalries but share grounds in Rome, Milan ad Turin.
But, returning to my main objection.
No matter how good the new Olympic Stadium will be, I just feel, it won’t feel like home.
I wonder what decision will be made.(They have postponed the date for the decision from this Friday).
Sadly, I am pretty sure however, that the sentiment of lifelong fans like me, of ‘Home Sweet Home;’ will be one factor not taken into consideration.
I just hope the authorities do a better job than my dear old mum, God bless her, in letting people know if and when they decide to move!