West Ham legend 'Knollsy' fights back tears as he's greeted by fans in Prague for final
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West Ham fan ‘Knollsy’ fought back tears after receiving a hero’s welcome to Prague ahead of his beloved Irons’ Europa Conference League final tonight.
The Hammers will face Italian giants Fiorentina in tonight’s showpiece event, and Knollsy was lucky enough to get a free ticket from the club after his heroic actions at the semi-final against AZ Alkmaar.
The 58-year-old – real name Chris Knoll – shot to viral fame after he stepped in to fight off loads of the Dutch club’s fans as they tried to break their way into a section of the stadium that held West Ham players’ families and supporters.
He stood at the top of a staircase trading blows with the Alkmaar ultras, receiving a number of heavy blows and a black eye for his troubles.
Still, he managed to protect the wives and girlfriends of the players from harm.
So, the club rewarded him with a free ticket for tonight’s game, which is probably the East London club’s biggest, and represents a chance for their first major trophy in 43 years.
Now, after becoming something of a minor celebrity in recent times, Knollsy just wants to get back to being an ‘ordinary football supporter’.
However, he does hope that there’s no trouble tonight, as he admits ‘I might have to do it again’.
The father of four told MailOnline: “I am actually here, and it feels incredible.
“I just got mobbed by West Ham fans as I came off the train, and that means more to me than anything.
“I have to say it again, but I only did what would've been expected.
“There were women and children and they could've been attacked.
“I acted instinctively, although I had a feeling there was something bad in the air before.”
A video showed the fans giving Knollsy a welcome befitting of a West Ham legend as he alighted the train, and he admitted that he ‘nearly cried’ when he was awarded the ticket for the game.
Tickets for tonight are limited, too.
That’s because the stadium in Prague doesn’t have a massive capacity, so many will have been disappointed, though few would begrudge Knollsy his place.
He continued: “I want West Ham to win the cup, the fans to have a great time and for it all to be peaceful and for us to take the trophy home tomorrow night.
“I have been a West Ham fan all my life, and I used to be attacked mainly by Chelsea fans when I was eight or nine years old.
“So I know how bad football hooliganism can be and I don't condone it at all.
“Our country is called Great Britain because it is great.”
Wiping back a tear, he added: “I get emotional when I think of fans being attacked for following the clubs that they love, particularly people of colour.
“Football should be for everyone and is.
“I am not a hero or gladiator as I have been called.
“I am somebody who just loves football and West Ham United.”