Chris Knoll, AKA ‘Knollsy’ also as the ‘Angel of Alkmaar’ in some quarters, hasn't had to buy a drink for himself since he and others battled Alkmaar ultras who tried to invade the hospitality area containing Hammers friends and families at the end of the club's winning semi final against AZ Alkmaar.
It took the near 60 year old an age to make his way round the London Stadium after the final game against Leeds such was the enthusiasm of people who wanted to shake his hand or buy him a bevvy! His actions hadn't gone unnoticed by boxing fanatic Hammers majority shareholder DAVID SULLIVAN either, because Knollsy has been rewarded with the hottest ticket in town, entry for the Irons first European final in 47 years.
The Hammers 'Hooky Hero', said he was nearly reduced to tears when he heard the news, which followed requests by thousands of fans and a multitude of media outlets to West Ham United. The Battle of Alkmaar sounds like a tale from a T.E.Lawrence exploit or an American Bank siege, but a battle it was!
With the phrase battle in mind, don't fans have the entitlement to ask the authorities to re-think the hosting of the final? UEFA have stated that their choice of venue was decided over a year ago and is part of their 'all-inclusive' concept of 'rolling out' finals all over4 Europe, but what about the fans themselves?
It is absolutely ludicrous to have two massively supported teams like Fiorentina and West Ham play a prestigious final in a Stadium that only has a 20,000 capacity, as if that wasn't bad enough both teams will receive a ticket allocation that is less than FIVE THOUSAND each! The remaining 15,000 tickets will go to UEFA officials and 'corporate partners'!
This is a recipe for disaster, according to local authorities 10,000 police officers will be drafted into Prague from all over the Czech Republic next month, fears of trouble having been magnified by the attack on West Ham fans by AZ Alkmaar hooligans at last week’s semi-final 2nd leg in Holland.
UEFA have also called an emergency meeting for this Friday involving Britain's National Police Chiefs' Council, Scotland Yard, Italian and Prague police, but will it be a case of too little too late? Why not switch to a bigger venue? There are plenty of Stadia that will be empty and could more than likely do with the extra funding the game could bring in, or are UEFA completely blind?
Oh well, at least Knollsy will be in attendance to keep the players families and friends safe heh!- Ed