West Ham fan ‘Knollsy’ given standing ovation by home crowd after fighting off thugs
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New West Ham legend Chris Knoll was given a standing ovation by the home crowd after fighting off dozens of AZ Alkmaar ultras on Thursday night.
The 58-year-old Hammers supporter, known as 'Knollsy', has been praised after being part of a handful of people who fended off an entire group of AZ Alkmaar fans, amid worrying scenes at the end of the game.
A West Ham win took them to the Europa Conference League final.
After winning 3-1 on aggregate over two legs to reach the final in Prague, scenes turned sour at the AFAS Stadium in Alkmaar as a group of hooded AZ football fans attempted to storm into the area reserved for friends and family behind the dugout.
Players including Michail Antonio, Said Benrahma, Aaron Cresswell and Flynn Downes climbed over the advertising hoardings in a bid to stop the trouble.
However, electrician Chris has taken home most of the plaudits after bravely fending off the violent group.
"I’m not a hero. I just did what I had to do. There was another guy who was fending them off. I don’t like bullies and just had to try and stop them," he told MailOnline.
"I just thought the best form of defence was to attack. You could see they were intent on causing trouble and I did not want them to get to those behind us.”
"They were the ultras, you could see that from what they were wearing. I just decided I wasn’t going to let them come up," he added.
“I know they were swinging punches and I just did my best to stand there and take it.”
And earlier today (Sunday, 21 March), before West Ham picked up a 3-1 win at home vs Leeds United, a fan who was sitting near Knollsy revealed that the crowd gave him a standing ovation.
One fan tweeted: "Turns out Knollsy sits behind me, he just took his seat and the whole stand applauded him."
A second added: "Knollsy has just received a standing ovation on his way to his seat to the right of the press box."
A third posted: "West Ham supporters in the upper tier of the west end applaud Knollsy as he takes his seat."
AZ Alkmaar has since apologised for the violence via a statement, which read: “While everyone hoped for a historic European match, it turned into a pitch-black evening due to the events occurring at the referee’s final whistle. It turned into a night to reflect on with shame.
“Not because of the football game played, but because of the behaviour of some attending. Unfortunately, we cannot use the word ‘supporters’ for these people.
“What happened is beyond all bounds. The club again sincerely apologises to West Ham and the thousands of well-minded AZ supporters who have also been inconvenienced by the misconduct.
“In the coming period AZ will – together with the police, Public Prosecution Service, and Alkmaar’s municipality – evaluate exactly what happened, how it could have happened and what needs to be improved from now on. It is clear that things need to be improved.
“Part of the evaluation is a thorough review of all available footage so that appropriate consequences may follow for those responsible for this outrageous behaviour.
“AZ is a civilised club where sportsmanship and norms and values are paramount. The club will do everything possible, together with the authorities involved, to identify these persons and to take appropriate measures.”
UEFA is expected to launch an investigation into what happened.