A West Ham fan has been celebrated for fighting back a horde of hooded AZ Alkmaar thugs attacking supporters last night.
The brave Briton, known to fellow supporters as ‘Knollsy’, can be seen holding off the Dutch hooligans at the top of a set of stairs as they attempt to flood into the seating of the family stand.
The chaotic scenes came at West Ham’s Europa Conference League semi-final win over AZ Alkmaar, which descended into carnage with players climbing into the crowd after Dutch supporters attacked a section of visiting supporters – where many of the athletes’ loved ones were sitting.
Footage shows the heroic Hammer bravely standing at the top of a set of stairs holding back the crowd. Swinging punches, he stands against the crowd as dozens of hooded thugs attempt to flood the stand.
De ongeregeldheden tussen de groep Engelsen (waarschijnlijk familieleden van de spelers van West Ham United) en AZ gefilmd vanuit een andere hoek. De mobiele eenheid heeft na de vechtpartijen ingegrepen met charges in het stadion. #AZWHU pic.twitter.com/9TxQ6kPVTb
— Voetbal Ultras (@VoetbalUltras) May 18, 2023
The brave Briton, known to fellow supporters as ‘Knollsy’, can be seen holding off the Dutch hooligans at the top of a set of stairs as they attempt to flood into the seating of the family stand
Michael Antonio (centre) jumped over the advertising hoardings after violence broke out
A fan holds off the mob of AZ Alkmaar supporters as they tried to make their way up the steps to clash with West Ham fans after the Dutch side lost the Europa Conference League semi-final
A brave Briton can be seen holding off the Dutch hooligans at the top of a set of stairs as they attempt to flood into the seating
Pablo Fornals’ injury-time winner ensured David Moyes’ side are into next month’s final but the visitors’ celebrations were cut short when Alkmaar fans – dressed in black, hoods up – raced around the ground to spark violence.
Punches were thrown and players jumped in to try and defend their friends and families, who were gathered behind the away dugout.
Michail Antonio and Flynn Downes both leapt over the hoardings, while others were held back, as the violence threatened to turn really nasty.
Lucas Paqueta and Said Benrahma were among the other stars seen clambering desperately over the advertising hoardings to intervene and attempt to break up the melee.
One fan compared the supporter standing at the top of the stairs to a hero of the Battle of Stamford Bridge – where a legendry Norse axeman held off an entire Saxon army, killing 40, as he blocked a narrow bridge in 1066.
He said: ‘Buy that Man a beer. It’s like a scene from the Battle of Stamford Bridge – one dude holding back the horde.’
Lucas Paqueta (right)and Said Benrahma (left) were also among the players to step in
Fortunately, order was restored after a few minutes and Declan Rice’s side could head over to the away end to toast their 3-1 aggregate win.
Another, called Rich Smith, added: ‘Two blokes took on Holland and won.’
And a third – Stephen Carter – said: ‘The spirit of the English, nice work big lad.’
Others compared the supporter on the stairs to Hodor from Game of Thrones and the Spartans in the film 300, where the famed warriors stopped an invading army 100 times their size.
Others posted pictures of Ian McKellen as Gandalf with the famous line: ‘You shall not pass!’
Irons superfan Freddie Bonfanti – who has published a book about the club – hailed one have-a-go-hero fighting back the Dutch thugs as a ‘legend’, calling for the club to give him a ticket for the ECL final in recognition of his efforts.
The photographer claimed a fan – known only as ‘Knollsy’ – stepped up after becoming worried about German defender Thilo Kehrer’s girlfriend, who was sitting infront of him.
Pictured looking battered but triumphant in a ripped top, fans hailed him as a ‘Spartan’ after the game.
In a series of Tweets he hailed: ‘Knollsy the legend. Stopped the home fans from getting to the players’ families. Give him a ticket for the final.
‘We were sitting behind Thilo Kerher’s girlfriend. Knollsy was worried about her and walked to the top of the stairwell, fending off the storming Alkmaar fans.
Hooded fans attacked rival supporters in the crowd in gruesome scenes in Alkmaar – but one bravely holds them off
There were grim scenes in Holland and West Ham’s players stepped in to stop the violence. Pictured: one fan takes a knock as he protects fans
‘He’s a lovely bloke and did what he felt was right at the time. He stopped those fans.
‘The man is West Ham through and through and would have done anything to protect our fans tonight.’
Mr Bonfati said die-hard Knollsy had been helped through hard times by the club – posting a kind message from Declan Rice he said had been sent to him in the years before.
He added: ‘He could either run away or stand his ground. Proud of him.’
One fan, called Shane Pereira, said: ‘Unbelievable that. Seen all the footage. What a legend and what a performance from him. Single handedly stopping the lot of them.’
Another posted: ‘Well done mate Forest fan here. If we stay up and get to play you next season there’s a pint waiting for you in Nottingham.’
And a third, called Ron, added: ‘An absolute disgrace to attack family and players so Knollsy did a great job.’
West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola was among the players hugely concerned about their loved ones.
‘I had family watching the game,’ he said. ‘They were a bit far from the incident. We were a bit worried about them, you know? Security is the most important thing in a stadiums specially in this kind of event and we were worried about our families.
Stewards watched on as the violent scenes unfolded in the aftermath of the win
West Ham fans fended off the hooded attackers in scuffles before it was broken up
‘We were very worried about our families. It’s just about security and it was a bit too open for the opposing fans. At the end, they managed to stop them.
He added that the players were justified in stepping in, before saying: ‘When families or fans are coming to the stadium we don’t want to see things like that. They want to enjoy the event and we want to enjoy it with them as well.’
After the game, manager David Moyes said: ‘I can’t explain what happened and why it happened.
‘Players were involved because it was the family section… that was probably the reason for the reaction.
‘I don’t want that in anyway to blight the night because the West Ham fans weren’t looking for trouble. Hopefully they’ll (UEFA) look into it.
‘My family were there and I had friends in that section. You’re hoping they would try and get themselves away from it… I didn’t recognise it because I was too happy.
‘Security wanted to take me inside but I had to make sure my players weren’t involved.’
West Ham manager David Moyes said he didn’t want the violence to blight the night
Dutch supporters attacked a section of visiting supporters where the player’s families sat
There was a strong police presence outside the ground before the gamer too
After last week’s first leg, the family of Alkmaar manager Pascal Jansen was attacked at the London Stadium.
On Thursday after his side’s defeat, he reflected: ‘I feel a little bit ashamed that it happened in our stadium. You have to stay in control of your emotions. A few players were worried because they had family members in the stands and I can imagine what they felt.’
Former West Ham stars Joe Cole and Carlton Cole condemned the actions, with the pair speaking to BT Sport.
Joe Cole called for action from UEFA, as he said: ‘It’s absurd. Ridiculous grown men, AZ Alkmaar fans attacking the fans where families were sitting, our friends and colleagues. The players tried to break it up.
‘You have to look at UEFA and AZ Alkmaar with things like that. Turning up with balaclavas throwing punches, it’s just ridiculous. The players are rightfully concerned, families, friends, kids over there. Ridiculous in teh modren game, pathetic.’
‘People talk about hooliganism in England. We don’t’ see things like that, we haven’t for a long time. We get a reputation for it. It’s other clubs in Europe, it’s pathetic.’
Ultimately it was a night of celebration for the Hammers supporters who made the trip
Pablo Fornals netted the only goal of the game as West Ham secured a victory over AZ Alkmaar
‘We have friends sitting there. In the modern game, with the cameras in these places, find out who these people are and ban them for life. We were talking about bringing our kids to the final now you second guess when you see things like that.’
Carlton Cole continued: ‘There was no need for it. West Ham came, did their job, didn’t disrespect them. When a goal like that goes in you’re elated, happy, you can’t suppress feelings.
‘Your family is over there with the fans. You have to understand that. What is that about? It’s the same men that were outside the player’s hotels, setting off fireworks. What are they doing? Chill out.’
AZ Alkmaar legend Robin Van Persie added to the criticism, sticking up for West Ham fans as he continued: ‘From the point of view of West Ham, they are allowed to be happy and celebrate together.
The semi-final win sees them progress into the UEFA Conference League final
West Ham broke off from the unsavory incident and had time to celebrate on the pitch
‘This should not happen. It’s a big shame. Everyone is here, there’s a winning and losing team. That’s part of it.’
West Ham boss David Moyes added to the conversation, revealing that his player’s were concerned for their friends and family in the away end.
‘We need to wait for the dust to settle,’ he said. ‘The biggest problem was the area players have friends and families in.
‘The players were angry they couldn’t see if they were okay. We need to wait and ask the officials what happened.’