West Ham: Martin Tyler shares his memories of London Stadium

At a time when football grounds have closed their doors, we’ve asked Martin Tyler to share some of his favourite facts and memories of the homes of the 20 Premier League clubs.

In part 19 of the series, Sky Sports’ Voice of Football takes us on a virtual visit to West Ham’s London Stadium and reflects on some of the difficulties of working at a ground that wasn’t designed for football.

Watch The Football Show on Sky Sports News or head to @SkySportsPL for some special Tyler’s Teasers from Martin. Today’s question is all about non-capped Englishmen at West Ham.

London Stadium: How I get there

Sometimes by car. There is quite a quick after-match route out through the Blackwall Tunnell if, like me, you are going south.

Sometimes by public transport. South Western Railway to London Waterloo. Underground Jubilee Line to Canary Wharf, where you have to change stations to join the DLR. Getting off at Pudding Mill Lane drops you a short walk from the side of the ground where the television trucks are parked.

What’s it like to commentate there

It is by far the most challenging commentary assignment in the Premier League because this is not a purpose-built football ground. The broadcast position is almost as far from the near touchline as it is from the far in most English stadia.

In practice it is ok, but there is an extra element of satisfaction at the final whistle if you have called the action acceptably.

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Did you know?

The stadium was actually built on an island between rivers and tributaries including the Old River Lea and parts of the Bow Back rivers and St Thomas Creek. It will always be remembered as the focal point of the very successfully staged London 2012 Olympics.

My memories of London Stadium

For West Ham fans the fixtures against Spurs are the ones ringed in red when a season’s schedule is announced. May 5th 2017 saw the first such clash at the London Stadium, which for a while had looked as if it might become Tottenham’s home. The two clubs competed for it initially when the leasing possibilities became clear.

West Ham were coming to the end of their first season since leaving the Boleyn Ground, Upton Park and it had not been a smooth ride. The teething troubles associated with any move had threatened to get out of hand. Good results which would have smoothed out most wrinkles were few and far between.

At this point, the Hammers had won only six of their 17 Premier League games in the London Stadium and home defeats had seen their exit from Europe and the FA Cup. With fears of relegation, there was pressure on the manager, the popular Slaven Bilic.

Tottenham, on the other hand, were near the top of the tree, chasing Chelsea for the title, just as they had pursued Leicester a year earlier. On this Friday night, they faltered fatally in a London derby again; it had been Chelsea away in 2016. West Ham’s supporters put aside their grievances over the ground and concentrated on backing their team and the team responded.

One goal was enough because of a lot of diligent defending. In the 65th minute they did get numbers forward. An Aaron Cresswell cross was kept alive in the box and eventually Manuel Lanzini drove the ball home from close range. It produced arguably the loudest London Stadium roar in the short history of the stadium and it was matched at the final whistle.

Tottenham trudged off, fearing the worst about their title hopes, and by the time they played again when they were saying goodbye to their old ground, Chelsea were confirmed as champions.

West Ham went on to finish in a very respectable 11th place.

What I like about London Stadium

As a sporting venue, it is splendid. I was lucky enough to get tickets for my son and myself for a track-and-field evening at the Olympics. It was a brilliant experience.

From West Ham’s point of view, I do understand the economics, but for those of us with a long history of working and watching at Upton Park, the contrast will always be in the negative. A running track hinders the view of anyone who attends a football match in such a multi-purpose stadium, not just broadcasters.

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