Spirit of Upton Park and Premier League gains will be lost in an empty Olympic Stadium, says Hammers legend Dicks
Julian Dicks believes the famous Upton Park atmosphere will be lost when West Ham move to the Olympic Stadium as ‘extortionate’ ticket prices and a poor view will mean a half-empty stadium.
The Hammers were given the green light to move to the 60,000-seater stadium this week and though club legend Dicks acknowledges the need to move on, he fears the club’s new home won’t be anywhere near as intimidating for visiting teams as Upton Park is now.
Dicks, 44, was known as ‘The Terminator’ during his two spells at West Ham for his no-nonsense approach to defending.
He made 315 appearances for the East London club over ten years, either side of a season at Liverpool, whom West Ham play in the Barclays Premier League on Sunday.
Olympic dreams: West Ham’s move to the Olympic Stadium could mean losing the intimidating atmosphere of Upton Park, according to Hammers legend Julian Dicks
New home: West Ham would collect the keys to the iconic 60,000-seater London 2012 stadium in time for the 2016-2017 season
He said: ‘I think football moves on and they can’t build at Upton Park and they have to compete with the bigger teams, so they need a bigger stadium to get more people in the ground to generate more money and get better players in.
‘But 60,000 seats?
No, they can’t fill that. The atmosphere will be lost. I know Upton Park has changed a lot since I played there but you’re still very close to the supporters and with them right behind you and on top of the opposition, it generates that special atmosphere.
‘At the Olympic Stadium, you’re behind a running track and it’s three-quarters full.
It’s extortionate money to go and watch a game too. My friends, they can’t afford to go and watch West Ham. A ticket this weekend is £52, which is disgusting. For me, for a family of four, it should be £30 and that might help fill the new stadium.’
The decision by the London 2012 Legacy Development Corporation, led by Mayor Boris Johnson, to unanimously install West Ham as preferred bidder for the stadium followed weeks of negotiations and legal wrangling – but it could be four years before the new tenants move in.
West Ham will need to ensure they’re still a Premier League club when they pick up the keys but, on the evidence of this season, that won’t be a problem.
No prisoners: Dicks, pictured here challenging with Chelsea’s Gianluca Vialli, was known for an uncompromising style of defending during his decade at West Ham
Dicks has been thoroughly impressed with his old side’s return to the top flight.
They find themselves sitting pretty in 8th following an excellent 3-1 win over Chelsea last weekend and will be hoping to inflict similar misery on Liverpool, who are down in 11th.
Dicks said: ‘I think it’s passed everybody’s expectations to be honest.
I watched a lot of the games last season [in the Championship] and, even though we were winning, it wasn’t very good to watch.
‘This year, the football has been a lot, lot better. Big Sam [Allardyce] has got some very good players in there, just look at Mohamed Diame.
I watched the game against Sunderland earlier in the season and he changed the game. He’s a big powerful lad, but he’s also got great ability on the ball.
‘Also, you’ve got Kevin Nolan scoring plenty of goals, which is obviously what you want from your attacking midfield player.
He scored important goals and regularly – I would like to see a little more work rate but if he’s scoring goals, who cares.’
Impressive: Kevin Nolan has been the stand-out man for West Ham this season, according to Dicks
Much of the attention at the start of the campaign was on Andy Carroll, the £35m front man brought in on loan from Liverpool.
Dicks made enemies of centre forwards when he played, but he has plenty of admiration for the tall frontman.
‘I think he’s a good player. He was a very good player at Newcastle and then didn’t have the best of times at Liverpool,’ he said.
‘I don’t know whether that was the transfer fee – but that wasn’t down to him, that was the two clubs.
I think he’ll deliver a bit more at West Ham. He’s an old-fashioned, big, strong centre forward and we need him scoring goals and relying less on people like Kevin Nolan.
‘I think a lot of fans thought when he Andy Carroll joined that we were just going to get the ball and smack it towards him.
But that hasn’t been the case, Big Sam has them playing some good football, especially in the home games.’
West Ham have lost just once at home this season – to Arsenal – and have won four out of eight at Upton Park.
And as someone who benefited many times from home advantage with the Hammers, Dicks believes their strength at home could even carry them into European contention.
‘At the moment, I can’t see anyone beating them at home,’ he said.
More to come: Dicks believes West Ham should expect to see a little more from Liverpool loanee Andy Carroll
On a personal note, Dicks ventured into non-league management after his playing days ended, with short spells at Wivenhoe Town and then Grays Athletic.
Though keeping busy with radio commentary and coaching commitments, it’s something he would be keen to get back in to.
‘I enjoyed my time at Grays – it is an eye-opener, non-league football. There are certain times when the players don’t get paid and it’s difficult when you’re the manager and you have to tell them there’s no money this week but they still have to play on Saturday.
‘But you soon find out who genuinely wants to play football and who is there just for the money.
You have to dig in and you do it because you want to do it.’
New challenge: Dicks on the sidelines as manager of non-league Wivenhoe Town
Such non-league roles kept Dicks in touch with the game’s grass roots and he quickly noticed there was something fundamentally wrong with youth coaching in this country – something that is turning kids off the game and will likely mean that England will never win the World Cup.
‘I watch some coaches and they make the kids run round the pitch then let them play five-a-side,’ he said.
‘Some of these players could be the next Rooney, the next Lionel Messi – but they don’t get the basics, they don’t get the coaching and they fall out of love with the game.
‘I watched one coach of ten year old kids – he made them run round the pitch seven times, then he made them run with the ball twice and then he played them play five-a-side.
You don’t have to run round a pitch now, there’s so many other things you can do.
‘Until they sort it out, we won’t win the World Cup. I lived in Spain for three years and everything is with a football – they always have a football with them.’
Julian Dicks is an ambassador for Barclays ‘Don’t pass it, ping it’ campaign. Pingit is revolutionary technology developed by Barclays which allows people to transfer money to each other using their mobile phone.
Users do not need to be a Barclays customer. For more info go to website He will also be appearing in the Barclays Photobooth at West Ham’s game with Liverpool on Sunday – fans can get their photo taken with him and get it signed before the game.