Two seasons ago West Ham United finished seventh in the Premier League and qualified for Europe under the guidance of Slaven Bilic, in what was their final campaign at the infamous Upton Park.
There was a sense of optimism in and around the club during the summer of 2016 ahead of their move to the Olympic Stadium. The directors and supporters both felt that this was the beginning of a historical period for the Hammers – visioning a team containing a plethora of talent that would challenge in and around the top six.
Fast forward 24 months and Bilic has now gone – replaced by an uninspiring David Moyes, with the club languishing dangerously above the relegation places.
A lack of incomings in the January transfer window, a ever-extending list of injuries and players severely underperforming have all played a part in the team’s dismal form of late.
The Hammers have won just one of their last seven league matches, been knocked out of the FA Cup by League One side Wigan Athletic, and have conceded 11 goals in their last three outings.
So for some, yesterday’s 3-0 heavy home defeat to Burnley was the final straw.
Some dissatisfied fans ran onto the pitch, whilst others headed towards the directors box to voice their discontent. Joint chairman David Sullivan is said to have been hit by a coin thrown by an angry fan, whilst team captain Mark Noble got caught up in an unpleasant tussle on the half-way line with another.
These unsavoury actions confirmed that the atmosphere in and around West Ham has gone beyond toxic.
Whilst I understand fans wanting to voice their opinions and wanting to protest against how their club is being run, yesterday crossed a line. The havoc that occurred will have done nothing to stop the team from sleepwalking towards the trapdoor.
West Ham’s record at London Stadium since moving to their new home has been appalling to say the least, but the players need their fans to stick by them on a matchday, not riot both on and off the pitch.
You could hear it in Noble’s post-match interview that the crowd trouble had a terrible effect on them. Why would anyone want to play in claret and blue when the stadium suddenly becomes a war zone after the team concede a goal.
Credit must go to Burnley. Their staff and players allowed young home supporters to sit on their bench, away from the chaos. What were West Ham’s bench doing at that time? Twitching their thumbs and wondering how it had all come down to this.
The Football Association have condemned the crowd disturbances and have said they will be in close contact with the club to make sure that similar events never reoccur.
Could the Hammers be forced to play their home matches behind closed doors? Potentially. That would be something nobody associated with West Ham wants, and something that could further hinder any chance of them retaining their top flight status.
Moyes’ men face a crucial six-pointer against fellow strugglers Southampton in three weeks’ time at London Stadium. During these next 20 days or so, everything has to be done to make sure nothing like we saw against Burnley resurfaces.
It was a day where the home supporters had initially gathered to commemorate the life of club legend and World Cup winner Bobby Moore before kick-off. But by full-time a dark mist had quickly descended in and around the stadium.
I wonder what the late great Moore would have thought of yesterday’s events?
Dreams of playing the likes of Milan, Madrid and Lyon on big European nights are now long gone, and instead replaced by thoughts of travelling to the likes of Middlesbrough, Millwall and Barnsley in the Championship. This is quickly becoming a realistic future for West Ham United, should nothing radically change both on and off the field.