Harry Fitzpatrick > It is a year on Sunday since a capacity crowd watched West Ham play. On the 7th of March 2020 we lost 1-0 at the Emirates, with Lacazette scoring the only goal of the game. The only game since that has had fans in attendance is the 3-1 home defeat to Manchester United, where 2,000 lucky ballot winners were able to go to the London Stadium and see how clearly Henderson’s clearance crossed the line from close up.

Since Lockdown, the broadcasters agreed to show every game live across BT Sport, Sky Sports, Amazon Prime and the odd fixture shown on the BBC. For fans across the country unable to make regular home games, it has been a nice treat to be able to see first-hand how the team are doing. Usually, the only games we could watch are the matches against the big six or a relegation six-pointer, which I would watch from behind the sofa anyway. Personally, I manage to get to 2/3 games a season with work commitments and the cost of travel, hotel and the build up in a nearby pub beforehand. As much as I love my rare forays to East London, being able to watch every minute of every game has been brilliant compared to the 5-minute highlights scraped together on Match of The Day.

Despite this benefit, nothing replicates the emotion of actually attending a game, the excitement of the walk to the ground and the limbs when we score a goal from myself and the other 60,000 inside the ground. I cannot wait to be able to return in the new season, ideally against a European side on a Wednesday night.

It also has to be said how the absence of fans has truly shown that they make football. For years I could have sat down and enjoyed almost any game but nowadays a match without claret and blue interest seems like the dullest thing in the world. The crowd urging their team forward for a last-minute winner brings so much more to the occasion whereas it currently feels like teams don’t have any pressure to force a result and are content with a point. Just look at some of the supposedly biggest games in the Premier League calendar ending in anti-climactic 0-0 draws.

Fans at games also carry a brilliant social aspect. So many people use football as an escape from reality for 90 minutes a week. For some veteran fans it may be the only social interaction they get every week. When everybody is singing together in the pub beforehand or in the ground, it creates a real togetherness between everyone sharing those moments. Whether it’s the humorous chants or added hostility of a derby day, everyone feels connected in claret and blue.

Overall, even with the added benefits for those such as myself being able to watch and enjoy every game, I really cannot wait for fans to return to stadiums. There are so many more memorable moments made with the roar of a crowd behind it. Just think of the noise that should have been created after Yarmolenko’s last-minute winner against Chelsea at the back end of last year, or at the full-time whistle two weeks ago against Spurs. Not to mention the scenes that would have occurred in the away end when that Lanzini screamer went in at the end of the reverse fixture. 

Football without fans is not the same, and the past twelve months has proved it.