Slaven Bilic insists West Ham United’s move to the London Stadium will be a big success as long as his team keep winning.
Bilic’s side celebrated the first Premier League fixture in their new home with a 1-0 victory over 10-man Bournemouth on Sunday thanks to Michail Antonio’s 85th minute header.
Having spent 112 years playing just a few miles down the road at Upton Park, a storied venue renowned for its hostile atmosphere, West Ham’s decision to rent the rather soulless Olympic Stadium, which hosted athletics in the 2012 Games, risks damaging their home advantage and draining the club of some its character.
A cavernous arena with a large running track separating the crowd from the pitch, the stadium doesn’t lend itself to the kind of intimate atmosphere that made Upton Park such a daunting place to visit.
A near-capacity 56 000 crowd packed into the London Stadium on Sunday, but they were subdued for long periods and used most of their vocal energy to protest about the club and local council’s strict guidelines to stay seated at all times.
Despite the sterile experience, Hammers boss Bilic claimed he enjoyed the atmosphere and said the stadium would be rocking like the Upton Park glory days if his players can repeat or improve on last season’s impressive Premier League form.
“I’m not paid to say I like the new stadium if I don’t like it, but I thought the atmosphere was brilliant,” Bilic said.
“I’m a big fan of the old stadium, I like those freezing cold stadiums, but I felt it was proper loud today and the fans helped us big time.
“It’s up to us. As long as we are winning and they are going home happy they are going to pack this stadium. If it’s packed it will be a great atmosphere.”