The ‘Angel of Alkmaar’, landing haymakers for club, king and country | Soccer
BUBBLES. LOTS OF BUBBLES
In the wake of West Ham’s Tin Pot semi-final win over AZ last week, one man was honoured as a hero, the very personification of all that is wholesome about the East End club who play in the famous claret and blue. Whereas last season it was Mark Noble who was hailed as a Euro legend by Hammers fans for his role in cleaning up the away dressing-room at Lyon, this year’s far more unlikely man of the hour is known as Chris “Knollsy” Knoll. Captured on camera dropping bodies like John Wick, Knollsy repelled hordes of the Dutch club’s ultras who were intent on trying to storm a stairwell in a bid to attack visiting fans seated in a section of the stand containing friends and family of West Ham’s players and backroom staff.
Keanu Reeves’ brooding assassin isn’t the only fictional character with whom Knollsy has drawn comparisons. His efforts have since been likened to those of Gandalf with the Balrog on the Bridge of Khazad-dum, Lieutenants John Chard and Gonville Bromhead fending off thousands of Zulu warriors at Rorke’s Drift, and Hodor holding the door closed against no end of undead wights. And while various West Ham staff, players and other fans deserve credit for their attempts to intervene in a bid to put a stop to AZ’s thugs, it was the 58-year-old father of four who was front, centre and making the headlines as he singlehandedly kept an army of hooligans at bay with a relentless series of haymakers landed for club, king and country.
Dubbed the “Angel of Alkmaar” in the aftermath of bravura heroics that left him exhausted but mercifully unharmed, apart from a ripped T-shirt and souvenir shiner, this one-man portcullis has since become quite the celebrity. Affectionately serenaded by fellow fans at West Ham’s win over Leeds on Sunday, Knollsy has since been immortalised in the form of an action figure which is currently up for sale on eBay. “I was inspired to make this custom-made and hand-painted figure with unique matching packaging,” wrote the opportunistic vendor. “It took approx 28hrs to complete and will look great on display. It is a complete one off.” A one-off going for £510, at the time of writing.
It has also been announced that a West Ham official, who was sitting in the territory Knollsy was defending, has arranged for him to be given a ticket to the Tin Pot final in which West Ham are playing Fiorentina, a game where tickets are in short supply given the 20,000 capacity of Prague’s Fortuna Arena. “I am at work and when I got the call, I nearly cried,” roared Knollsy. “I am so pleased, so happy. I am made up. She said she was sitting two rows behind me and saw what happened. She said I had been very courageous and that I deserved a ticket.” On the subject of his gallant daring last week, Knollsy told the Mail that he “just thought the best form of defence would be to get to the top of the stairs where they were coming up and I just stood there and tried to stop them”. If West Ham’s defence is as obdurate against their Serie A opponents, the club’s first cup final victory in 43 years is almost certainly assured.
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QUOTE OF THE DAY
“In his opinion there was not enough support within the club to continue longer. He immediately explained this to the players and staff” – a PSV club statement huffs that Ruud van Nistelrooy has done one as manager before their final game of the season, following talks about “internal affairs” at the club. It’s all go/going in the Eredivisie, what with Spurs also pondering a move for Arne Slot, whose Mrs 15% is meeting Feyenoord suits to discuss his future.
I had completely forgotten that the younger Neville brother was plying his
tiradetrade with Inter Miami (yesterday’s Getting Fizzy With It, full email edition). Maybe the long-term plan is to allow Phil to do his thing (which he seems to be doing so well) and then attract Sarina Wiegman to show him again why coaching at the top level has a lot more to do with ability than previous playing experience” – Colin Reed.
Re: the recovered Sheffield Wednesday mask (yesterday’s Football Daily letters). Somewhere around 1968, when I was a regular standee at Roots Hall, Southend United were playing Port Vale in the old Third Division. I cannot remember the score, but after the Vale centre-forward scored, he rolled down his socks. A strange celebration. He then took out one shin-pad and threw it into the net. Nowt more was thought about until, after the match, on our way out of the ground, we walked past the net and there it was … discarded and unloved, the right shin-pad of a professional footballer. It had five vertical wooden sticks covered in brown plasticised leather on the front and sweat-stained grubby white cotton on the back. A treasured possession for many a year. Oh, and it stank of ‘winter-green’ embrocation” – Barry Gilbertson.
Send your letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Colin Reed.