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20th May 2023

West Ham fan ‘Knollsy’ hailed a hero for fighting off dozens of hooligans on his own

Steve Hopkins

‘Their ultras got beaten by an old bloke with a hip replacement’

A West Ham fan is being hailed a hero and a “legend” after stopping AZ Alkmaar hooligans from getting to players’ families during violent scenes on Thursday.

Dutch fans reacted angrily to the Hammers’ 1-0 win in the Europa Conference League and attempted to storm the stands.

The hooligans, dressed in black and wearing balaclavas, attempted to get to a group of travelling friends and family of the Hammers’ players and coaching staff sat behind the dugout.

According to earlier reports, several West Ham players, including sporting director Mark Noble, rushed to try and protect them.

Since then, another fan known to many as ‘Knollsy’ has been praised for stopping home fans from reaching the West Ham section.

Video shared on social media shows ‘Knollsy’ seemingly, single-handedly, holding off a number of Dutch ultras, leaving him with a torn-shirt.

Another man in the crowd, Freddie Bonfanti, hailed ‘Knolly’s’ efforts, labelling him a “legend”, and suggesting he should be given a ticket for the final.

He continued in a series of tweets that went viral: “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 ‘Knollsy’, 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.”

Even 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 Knollsy 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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