West Ham hooligans or police liars?

By Martin Smith | 13 May 2016
West Ham supporters protecting a fan from being trampled on by a police horse

West Ham supporters protecting a fan from being trampled on by a police horse

West Ham United FC played its final game at the Boleyn on Tuesday night (10 May). It was supposed to be a massive party, a celebration of 112 years and 2,398 games at the ground. But before the first ball was kicked a mini riot took place.

The police and the media blamed West Ham supporters. The next morning I was shocked to see several of my friends echoing the media and the polices version of events. The report below is the piece I wrote on my Facebook the next day.

I haven’t changed it in any way (although I’ve added a few photographs), but I thought I’d put it up here so others can at least see there is an alternative explanation.

I think it was George Orwell who said, “When I see a worker and a policeman fighting, I instinctively know what side I’m on.”

That’s always been my guiding principle. So I was a bit shocked to get a raft of messages calling West Ham fans, “thugs” , “hooligans” and worse. Their crime, the media accused them of attacking the Man U team bus.

I’m the first to admit that some of our supporters are no shrinking violets, but before you condemn them, there is a different view of the events, one which I share, because I was there.

Thousands of supporters gathered from lunchtime outside the Boleyn Pub on the corner of the Barking Rd and Green Street. The mood was good natured and just like a party. But as many of us know the police hate large ‘unofficial’ gatherings of working class people.

Without warning mounted police charged into the crowd, no warning but violent intent to clear the crowd. Behind them two police riot vans forced their way through the crowd followed by the Man U coach.

We now know that the Man U coach was late, so instead of finding a new route or slowly clearing the road, the police just bludgeon led their way through the crowd.

Some people did throw stuff at the Man U coach and the police – more in anger and frustration with how they were treated.

But worse was to come. They drove their riot vans and Man U coach up Green Street into thousands of people walking to the ground. On match days the road and the pavements are full of people. The police then stopped their vans and tried to get the coach into the car park. Because they are thick, or because they don’t know the ground, they didn’t realise the coach has to reverse into the car park. It got stuck.

Meanwhile thousands of fans were getting crushed. We were caught between the police vans and lines of police blocking the road at one end and thousands of people making their way down the road from the other way.

We had to carry a young lad to safety, who was suffering from a panic attack. Some people were crying and a guy in a wheelchair was surrounded by friends in a circle trying to protect him.
Hillsborough was at the front of everyone’s minds and it was shouted at the police as they pushed the crowd.

The police have spent the last 24 hours trying to blame West Ham fans for their mess and a mess that could have had disastrous consequences.

So what was a brilliant evening, has been marred by police incompetence and prejudice, call it what you like. They will post a few mug shots of young and not so young fans in the media, drag a few more through the courts and call them ‘scum’. Stupid yes, but they were not to blame for yesterday.

On the corner of the Barking Road/ Green St before the police charge

On the corner of the Barking Road/ Green St before the police charge

Police horse charge up Romford Road to clear the street!

Police horse charge up Barking Road to clear the street!

Police start forcing Man U coach up Green Street into thousands of people walking towards the ground

Police start forcing Man U coach up Green Street into thousands of people walking towards the ground

The police make the Man United coach do a 3 point turn in Green St. People trapped and squashed by riot police in front of them and fans making their way into ground behind them.

The police make the Man United coach do a 3 point turn in Green St. People trapped and squashed by riot police in front of them and fans making their way into ground behind them.



  1. Kevin Stuart said:

    Its nothing new the police lying and then trying to shift the blame. Did they not try same thing in West Yorkshire a few years ago.

    13 May 2016 at 6:28pm
  2. Simon lewis said:

    It’s been believed for quite a while that they started the poll tax riot under the orders of Mrs thatcher

    14 May 2016 at 10:28am
  3. Michelle Gabriel said:

    Thank you for this piece, and especially for the photos.

    Just to point out a typo: the police horses are charging down Barking Road, not Romford Road.

    14 May 2016 at 5:20pm
  4. maureen connely said:

    can obviously see your point, what a pity mobiles were not available @ Hillsborough, hope you don’t have to fight for 27 years,

    14 May 2016 at 8:21pm
  5. Carol cubbin said:

    surely the police and united should both be held responsible for this. It isnt the first time theyve been late for a game!!

    14 May 2016 at 8:32pm
  6. martin said:

    Hi Maureen, I agree its an absolute tragedy there were not mobile phone camera’s back in 1989. Our job is to never forget the 96. Luckily nobody was killed on Tuesday night so in that sense we wont have to fight for justice. But we have to keep up the campaign to stop the police treating fans like animals.

    14 May 2016 at 8:39pm
  7. Peter Dyson said:

    The police and media lying…..now theres a surprise!!

    14 May 2016 at 8:52pm
  8. Therese Rice said:

    Having been at Hillsborough myself and a follower of LFC for 50 years I am sadly not surprised by your account of events. You need to get this out there with the back up of others who witnessed the same as yourself. It’s so annoying that the few who reacted so badly get all the publicity and all the reporting was just one sided. I wish you the best of luck but sadly fear the harm has already been done.
    I shall share the article with some friends of mine who are West Ham fans and also ask them to share it.

    14 May 2016 at 10:45pm
  9. martin said:

    Therese – thanks for your comments and thanks for passing the post onto your friends…

    14 May 2016 at 11:00pm
  10. Claire said:

    I was there and this is exactly what happened!!! I was in that crowd and it was awful! So glad my 7 year old son didn’t come with me!!! He would have been petrified!!! The Man Utd coach should have arrived a lot sooner than 7o/c! There was no traffic getting to the ground, just thousands of people around it which surly they would have realised!!! Shocking from the Man Utd team and the police!!!! No excuse for “vandalising” the coach but can understand the panic from people who were in that crowd! The real West Ham fans showed who they were when they finally managed to get inside the stadium!!!! COYI ⚒⚒⚒⚒

    14 May 2016 at 11:59pm
  11. David Ocuneff said:

    But surely we can, I was there and didn’t see any police or crowd control whatsoever, then the police just charging crowds without warning, surely if the public make complaints re the police and the actions are lack of actions to ensure crowd safety this could be looked into?

    15 May 2016 at 9:18am
  12. Paul Weston said:

    As always the loyal fan go to the game in high spirits and because off the incompetence off the police and no forward planning this is the outcome WEST HAM UNITED fans being called all the names under the sun from hooligans to scum and thuggery or just drunk.

    Why is it that the police never get the BLAME when they fuck up its always the loyal fans.

    15 May 2016 at 10:18am
  13. Dave said:

    So Emmon Holmes was right there was a link to Hillsborough with this incident but once again a cover up for Police mistakes not the fans!

    15 May 2016 at 10:23am
  14. Mel said:

    I was also there that night and got caught between a police van and the bus, inching it’s way up Green Street.
    The police seemed to think that it was fine to block the road at one end, whilst fans continued to pour out of the station at the other.
    It was only down to a few fans, who climbed up to see what was going on, that we then realised what had happened and we all began to pass the message on to others and disperse the crowd ourselves. At no point were we instructed by police, until they steamed in with their horses, when we were told to “get out of the way”.
    I would never condone the actions of the few throwing bottles at the coach, but the police also need to learn how to deal with large crowds safely.

    15 May 2016 at 11:08am
  15. Richard North said:

    My Son and I arrived at 15.30 and I said to him wow, look at it already ! We met up with some friends and had a couple of drinks in the Queens , the atmosphere was fantastic there was a real buz about the place .
    At about 18.30 we made our way round to the Booby Moore end at this point the West Ham coach had arrived , the Police again started to try and move people shouting for people to move as the coach had to reverse in to the gates !
    But the driver and the players made the decision to exit the coach where it was !
    In my mind who ever was in charge should have made the decision to either change the Man U route as the crowds were swelling all the time.
    So, yes I am in total agreement that the throwing of stuff at the coach was wrong .
    But the likes of Adrian Durham are nothing but two bob second rate journalists who should not be allowed to open his mouth on a public service .
    Commentators and a like are supposed to be unbiased , if it had been the last ever game at Anfield or Old Trafford , he would be saying let’s not let a tiny minority spoil this great occasion , the man is a joke !!
    West Ham have had enough muck thrown at them over the years and the club now find them selves on the threshold of a bright future and the likes of Mr Durham don’t like it , well shame on you and shame on the police for underestimating this occasion do the maths people 35k 52k sold for new ground + probably about another easy 20k on waiting list .
    So to sum up, it was a epic night not marred by a riot outside the ground , there was a disturbance that could have been avoided if better policed and if Man U were not so not arrogant .
    And one final point Mr Rooney before you join in with the mud slingers, why don’t you have a little look on U Tube of your angelic fans trashing the Man City bus out side Old Trafford !!!

    15 May 2016 at 11:12am
  16. Simon said:

    Met Police put on Twitter four people they wanted to speak to, I ask what there charges was, To no reply, then 4hrs later I put a video up, the video was of about 8 horses charging at supporters for about 200 meters past the Bolyn Pub on the Barking Road, No coach was to be seen,, SURPRISE SURPRISE the Met Police have Deleted the Tread,,, mmmmmmmm wonder why,,

    15 May 2016 at 11:18am
  17. Mike said:

    Police turning the blame onto the fans and covering up their mess again,never?When will they learn?Interesting read.JFT96.YNWA

    15 May 2016 at 11:36am
  18. Peter jones said:

    Well said cass known you for years & you have allways say it as it is it was obvious that we would get the blame be cause of our reputation you know full well that the real version will never come out

    15 May 2016 at 12:04pm
  19. Stewart Hunter said:

    I went to take some pictures of the ground in green street it was packed never seen so many people got there just as the West Ham coach was trying to leave it was surrounded by police so I asked a copper don’t you think you should have shut he road he said we anticipate the amount of supporters that would be there

    15 May 2016 at 2:03pm
  20. Debra williams said:

    I was right there at the time there was no trouble the crowd were happy exactly nothing happened

    15 May 2016 at 3:41pm
  21. Jason said:

    There is so much truth in two sides to every story, is any one really surprised that the police caused this incident.

    15 May 2016 at 8:40pm
  22. Tam Drain said:

    During the miners strike, there was a collection for the miners families at Celtic park on the Saturday, the police tried to arrest the people collecting money.celtic supporters came to there aid, and a bit of a skirmish took place. The following Wednesday Celtic played sevco, the zombie club formerly known as rangers.After the game mounted police charged up janefeild street, were the majority of the Celtic support left the ground, there was no warning, thus insued the janefeild st riot, a totally believe your version of events.

    16 May 2016 at 10:02am
  23. Natasha Weldon said:

    Again, I was there..I was standing on Barking Rd by Newham Bookshop as the West Ham bus arrived. Nothing but a huge crowd of happy people, determined to have a party…
    We decided at about 18.30 to move round to the turnstiles in Castle Street to get into the ground as I was with my dad who’s having difficulty walking and frankly, it was becoming umcomfortable, it was at this point we saw the mounted police turning up and trying to control the crowd that way. Frankly the crowd didn’t need controlling, however the first mistake was to try and get the Man a United coach through – although I’m not sure how they could have rerouted it. Police advice should have been for both clubs to be in the stadium by 5pm. We tried to make our way to the turnstiles – about 100 metres, this took 15 minutes of struggling against the sheer weight of people, when we got to the turnstiles however they were still shut. So there was a huge weigh of people building up there too. Presumably this had either been requested by or approved by The Met. There were people all around us saying it was ridiculous, minute by minute there were more and more people and by that point I have to admit I was getting, if not scared, then certainly really unconpmfortable – it wouldn’t have taken much for a disaster to occur & I heard several people panicking and mentioning Hillsborough…Castle Street is a bottle neck, especially if you take into account turnstiles for over 1/4 of the stadium’s capacity are along that stretch…
    The police were a disgrace…sorry, but they were.
    I’m not in anyway condoning the thrown objects, but I feel it was more fear & frustration than anything else….but labelling West Ham fans scum is not on. There were over 45,000 people in those streets and this was the actions of what? 20 or 30 people?

    16 May 2016 at 1:16pm
  24. teddybard said:

    Simon why not repost your video on you tube,The police have a lot to answer

    16 May 2016 at 3:02pm
  25. Spring Healed Jack said:

    Here is some footage of the police and their horses charging at us on Barking Road on Tuesday

    16 May 2016 at 3:46pm
  26. John Ford said:

    Many years ago, (early seventies) I was at a home international match at Wembely and witnessed a similar police horse line charge down Wembley way which knocked over an innocent supporter who just could not get out of the way in time. He smashed his head against the kerb and was seriously injured. The horse charge carried on as though nothing had happened.

    17 May 2016 at 12:19am
  27. Nick percival said:

    I am so pleased that the other side of the story has been put.
    A manure supporting friend of mine thinks the FA should make us play our next ten games behind closed doors! Tool!

    17 May 2016 at 12:07pm
  28. Michelle Gabriel said:

    I have written a blog post about how this might have looked to an inquest jury had the worst happened:


    Thank you again for your piece and photos, which prove how bad it was.

    18 May 2016 at 6:59pm
  29. colm nolan said:

    I was also in green street at 6.30 – it took me 20 minutes to get from the main gates to past the church due to 2 police vans being parked in green street along with a refuse truck. green street should have been closed to traffic on the day. the police on horse back were a disgrace, all they did was push hundreds of people against railings – I also witnessed a chap in a wheelchair who was petrified , asked the police to help but was totally ignored

    19 May 2016 at 10:55am
  30. summercoat said:

    I was there, and with 50,000 on the streets in the general area, the police are looking for 4 (FOUR) people, which says it all really.

    A big story, unmentioned in all the mudslinging, is it was us horrible West Ham fans who stood in a line, shoulder to shoulder, protecting the old bill, so no more bottles would be thrown at them. There is a video on youtube that shows this, and it’s a story that should be spread.

    For all these criticisms of the police, most of them were good sports and kept good humour for most of the afternoon. They were then put in a very difficult situation having to deal with the man u coach turning up so late, on this of all evenings. They’d be told to best turn up early. No excusing the bottling of the bus, but that tiny handful who did that shouldn’t detract from what was, on the whole, an impeccable night of West Ham support from the fans, in and outside the stadium.

    19 May 2016 at 10:04pm
  31. Lewis Ashworth said:

    I was at this game and was part of the big crowd on barking road and this is exactly what happened. We always having a right laugh and a good old drink to say goodbye to the famous old ground. The police started to charge at us all because they couldn’t get the United coach through thr big crowd. All this could of been avoided if man Utd turned up before the crowd started to gather. They was only in a hotel at canning town so their is no excuses but we get the bad publicity. This happened because of the police and man Utd.

    Brilliant night out it was

    2 March 2017 at 3:51pm

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