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20th May 2023

West Ham fan ‘Knollsy’ breaks silence after fighting off hooligans

Steve Hopkins

‘I’m no hero’

The West Ham fan labelled a “legend” for fighting off Dutch ultras trying to get to players’ wives and families on Thursday has spoken out, saying “I’m no hero”.

Chris Knolls, known as ‘Knolls’, was hailed a hero after video circulated on social media of him appearing to hold off crowds of AZ Alkmaar hooligans after the team’s 1-0 loss to the Hammers on Thursday night.

The 58-year-old, who was still recovering from a hip replacement, is said to have bee “genuinely concerned” for the welfare of others. Another man in the crowd, Freddie Bonfanti, wrote on Twitter that Knolls was a “lovely bloke who did what he felt was right at the time”.

Bonfanti added: “I am proud to call him a mate and glad he stopped what could have been a much worse incident.”

Players were so concerned about the unrest they stopped their celebrations to rush to help, as a swam of ultras, dressed all in black and wearing balaclavas, tried to get to the West Ham section.

Knoll, an electrician, told the Mirror that he doesn’t like “bullies” and that it was obvious the hooligans were “intent on causing trouble and I did not want them to get to those behind us”.

He added: “I know what they were intent on doing and was not going to let it happen.”

Knoll told the publication he “just decided I wasn’t going to let them come up”.

He continued: “I just thought the best form of defence would be to get to the top of the stairs where they were coming up and just stood there and tried to stop them. I know they were swinging punches and I just did my best to stand there and take it.”

Knoll said his wife Karen was “not surprised” he had stood up to protect women and children as she “knows what I am like”.

Bonfanti, in a string of tweets, called for Knoll to get a ticket to the final.

Explaining what had happened, he wrote: “A bit of context: 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. He’s a lovely bloke and did what he felt was right at the time. He stopped those fans.”

Bonfanti, for “context”, added that Knoll, had recently had a hip replacement and “simply could not run”.

“He’s also a proud man and he was genuinely concerned about the players’ partners and ex-West Ham players sitting all around us. He did what he had to do. I am proud to call him a mate and glad he stopped what could have been a much worse incident.”

Dutch fan @kochhardy hailed ‘Knollsy’ a ‘hero’, whilst also lamenting the Alkmaar ultras.

“Knollsy is a hero,” he tweeted.

“I feel ashamed about the intolerable aggressive unsporting behaviour of the Dutch supporters of AZ (Alkmaar). It’s disgusting what they did.”

Another fan wrote: “Hats off to Knollsy for protecting the English women and children at #AZAlkmaar. Their ‘ultras’ got beaten by an old bloke with a hip replacement. They are now a laughing stock.”

The esteem with which Knoll is held at the London Stadium was evident back in 2021, when he was struggling with ill-health.

It prompted West Ham star Declan Rice to post a social media video, where he addressed him personally and said: “I just want to send you the best of wishes from me and everyone at West Ham and we’re all fighting for you mate.”

Amid the unrest Thursday, a number of West Ham’s players looked to get involved, with the likes of Flynn Downes and Michail Antonio among those evidently concerned for family and friends, the Mirror reported.

Uefa has said they are awaiting full reports before taking disciplinary action against AZ and their supporters.

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