West Ham news: Knollsy receives standing ovation vs Leeds after holding off hooligans | Football | Sport
The West Ham fan who held off AZ Alkmaar hooligans attempting to storm the corporate section, containing players families and friends in last week’s Europa Conference League semi-final, was given a heart-warming welcome as he took his seat on Sunday for Leeds United’s visit to the London Stadium.
After the Hammers reached the Europa Conference League final via a 3-1 aggregate win over the Dutch outfit, a swarm of AZ fans targeted the section of the stadium containing the families of West Ham players and staff.
Viral footage showed Chris Knoll, known as ‘Knollsy’, fighting off the hooded fans, during which he sustained injuries to his face. He subsequently became an overnight celebrity, and was given a rapturous welcome for the first game back at the London Stadium since the trouble unfolded.
Upon taking his seat before the clash with Leeds, Knollsy received a standing ovation from his fellow fans, who made a point to acknowledge his bravery in the Netherlands.
Speaking about the incident earlier this week, Knollsy explained: “We heard that the AZ Alkmaar ultras were intent on trouble. We could see them coming down the side of the pitch, quite a lot of them.
“They looked like little ants running towards us, all there in their black hoodies. I just realised that the best place to put up a wall of defence was at the top of the stairwell. I don’t [consider myself a hero] at all.
“There were guys that did exactly the same as me. On the next row down, a guy did exactly the same and there were people behind me as well. I’d love to go to Prague [for the final], it would almost make it all worthwhile.”
Knollsy was already a well-known figure at West Ham, with club captain Declan Rice sending him a public message of support back in 2021, when he was in poor health. “Hello Knollsy, it’s Dec here,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “Hope you’re well, mate. Just want to send you the best wishes from me and everyone at West Ham. We’re all fighting with you.”
Along with his warm welcome, Knollsy was treated to an entertaining contest as West Ham fought back to earn all three points against relegation-threatened Leeds.
Rodrigo Moreno put the visitors ahead in the first-half, but Rice, Jarrod Bowen and Manuel Lanzini responded to seal the deal for the Hammers, who have already secured their Premier League status for next campaign.