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Premier League

Olympic stadium won’t be fortress, says West Ham’s Bilic

The curtain will come down on Upton Park after 112 years as the Hammers prepare for their move to the Olympic Stadium with a big match against Manchester United

West Ham United will find it impossible to recreate the intense atmosphere of Upton Park and turn the Olympic Stadium into a “fortress” when they move there next season, said manager Slaven Bilic.

The Hammers play their final competitive game at the venue against Manchester United in the Premier League on Tuesday (9.45pm) before moving to the 60,000-capacity London 2012 Olympic site next season, leaving the Boleyn Ground after 112 years.

“You need to have a hostile atmosphere, be intimidating for away teams. Forget about it – no chance,” Bilic was quoted as saying by the BBC.

“You are losing something because it is impossible to make the Olympic Stadium a fortress.”

West Ham will pay 2.5 million pounds a year to rent the stadium from the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC). At least 272 million pounds has been spent to convert the stadium, with the club contributing 15 million pounds.

West Ham have sold all their season tickets for next term, more than 50,000.

Arsenal moved to the 60,000-seater Emirates Stadium in 2006 while London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea are also set to redevelop their grounds.

“When you played Arsenal at Highbury it wasn’t dangerous but you felt it,” said Bilic. “Then we played against them at the Emirates and we enjoyed it; the players were taking selfies.”

West Ham co-owner David Sullivan said on Monday the club were determined to sign a top-class striker.

“We are hopefully going to bring one or two top players in. The Olympic Stadium gives us about 12 million pounds extra revenue a year,” he told Sky Sports.

“We put in a bid today for 30 million euros for a player and other bids will be going in. We are going to make a 20 million pounds or 25 million bid for a player in England this week. So whatever happens, we’ll bring a top striker in.

“It’s a statement of intent. We’ll spend between 30 to 50 million pounds on transfers this summer but you’ve got to build it up gradually. You can’t compete with the likes of Manchester United overnight.”

British media speculated that the 30 million pounds was for Olympique Marseille forward Michy Batshuayi and that the player in England was out-of-favour Arsenal forward Theo Walcott.

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