West Ham fan hero 'Knollsy' given standing ovation after he fought off AZ Alkmaar thugs attacking players' families

22 May 2023, 10:51 | Updated: 22 May 2023, 10:55

'Knollsy' was given a standing ovation by the home fans on Sunday
'Knollsy' was given a standing ovation by the home fans on Sunday. Picture: Twitter

By Kit Heren

A West Ham fan who fought off a mob of opposition fans attacking players' families was given a standing ovation at the club's next game on Sunday.

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Chris Knoll, known as "Knollsy", stood his ground as the AZ Alkmaar fans tried to storm the friends and families area in their Europa Conference League semi-final clash on Thursday night.

Viral footage shows Mr Knoll standing at the top of a set of stairs blocking the violent home fans as they tried to get through at the end of the game, which saw West Ham progress to the final.

Mr Knoll, sporting a black eye, made his return to the London stadium on Sunday for West Ham's game against Leeds, and was given a rapturous reception by his fellow fans.

A West Ham fan took a picture with Mr Knoll on the Tube on the way to the game, and urged fellow fans to "buy the geezer a pint".

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West Ham fan Freddie Bonfanti was in the crowd on Thursday night and took to social media to post: "Knollsy the legend. Stopped the home fans from getting to the players’ families.

"We were stormed by AZ’s supporters. Knollsy has recently had a hip replacement and simply could not run.

"He is also a proud man and he was genuinely concerned about the players’ partners and ex-West Ham players sitting all around us.

West Ham players confront AZ Alkmaar fans who attacked family stand

"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.

Read more: West Ham fans including players’ families attacked by AZ Alkmaar thugs after Europa Conference League win

Read more: Moment West Ham fan single-handedly holds back group of AZ Alkmaar ‘ultra’ football hooligans

"We were sitting behind [West Ham defender] Thilo Kehrer’s girlfriend. Knollsy was worried about her and walked to the top of the stairwell, fending off the storming Alkmaar fans.

"He is a lovely bloke and did what he felt was right at the time. He stopped those fans."

Alkmaar manager Pascal Jansen said he was "ashamed" of his fans' behaviour.

West Ham manager David Moyes said his father was caught up in the attacks.

The West Ham boss said: "I can’t explain what happened and why it happened. The players were involved because it was the family section. That was probably the reason for the reaction.

"I don’t want that in any way to blight the night because the West Ham fans weren’t looking for trouble. Hopefully they’ll look into it.

"My family were there and I had friends in that section. You’re hoping they would try and get themselves away from it. I didn’t recognise it because I was too happy.

"Security wanted to take me inside but I had to make sure my players weren’t involved."

Several players, including Michail Antonio, Lucas Paqueta and Aaron Cresswell tried to intervene in the action to defend their loved ones.

Goalkeeper Alphonse Areola said: “Security is the most important thing in a stadiums specially in this kind of event and we were worried about our families.

“We were very worried about our families. It’s just about security and it was a bit too open for the opposing fans. At the end, they managed to stop them.”