The Boleyn Ground will have its moment in the spotlight on Tuesday (May 10) as Manchester Utd make it a fittingly high-value swansong.
But there’s little room for sentiment and already management and supporters are eyeing up the pros and cons of the Olympic Stadium – and how to spend upwards of £50million to buy a competitive edge.
Manager Slaven Bilic has pointed to one disadvantage – the loss of the Fortress. With its stands tight on the pitch side and a tribunal feel among the supporters, Upton Park was always an intimidating place to visit. It would be “impossible” to create such a fortress he said.
As Arsenal found out, losing that momentum of history and heritage can result in the loss of previous home advantage.
Bilic said: “You need to have a hostile atmosphere, be intimidating for away teams. Forget about it – no chance.
“When you played Arsenal at Highbury, it wasn’t dangerous but you felt it. Then we played against them at the Emirates and we enjoyed it; the players were taking selfies.
“The Upton Park stadium was a first home. No matter where you move after that – if you move to a fancy apartment, a big house or to a mansion – your favourite one is always the first.
“You are losing something because it is impossible to make the Olympic Stadium a fortress.”
His remarks might be a little off-message, especially coming on the same day as the club announced it had sold 50,000 season tickets, but there is a genuine concern that it will take a good few years before the Olympic Stadium feels properly like home.
Captain Mark Noble said: “We are leaving a place that I have been coming to for over 20 years. Every other weekend it’s going to be strange to get in my car in the morning and drive to a game, and not down a street I know so well.”
Co-chairman David Gold must know this more than most. He grew up around Green Street. As a boy, he was transfixed. “I used to come and watch the boys playing in the morning at 11 and then at 3pm the reserves. The following week it would be the first team.”
But a big signing would ease the transition. David Sullivan confirmed that the club they have a £25million kitty for a top striker. They are looking at Marseille’s hot ticket Michy Bathuayi and Lyon’s Alexandre Lacazette and, if they don’t work out, then there’s always Liverpool’s Christian Benteke.
He said: “The Olympic Stadium gives us about £12m extra revenue a year, but not £100m.
“We put in a bid today for €30m (£23.7m) for a player and other bids will be going in. We are going to make a £20million or £25million bid for a player in England this week. So whatever happens, we’ll bring a top striker in.
“It’s a statement of intent. We’ll spend between £30million-£50million on transfers this summer. But you’ve got to build it up gradually. You can’t compete with the likes of Manchester United overnight.”