LONDON, March 10 (Reuters) - West Ham United skipper Mark Noble said he hoped the club’s supporters had “got it off their chests” after disgraceful scenes during a 3-0 home defeat by Burnley in the Premier League on Saturday.
A second-half capitulation meant West Ham slid to a fourth loss in five league games to leave them deep in relegation trouble with eight fixtures left.
They could also face sanctions from the Football Association after fans invaded the pitch in the second half — one of them tackled by Noble after Burnley’s opener, scored by Ashley Barnes.
In bizarre scenes, West Ham’s co-owners David Gold and David Sullivan, both targets for supporters’ anger, were forced to leave the directors’ box early, presumably for their own safety as tempers boiled.
The toxic atmosphere at the London Stadium is hardly likely to help West Ham’s fight against relegation, but one-club-man Noble defended the Hammers fans on Saturday.
“I wouldn’t say I felt in danger but you never know in this world. I’m a West Ham fan and I’ve always protected the club. If someone approaches me, I’ll protect myself,” Noble said after a defeat which left West Ham in 16th place.
Frustration has often boiled over since West Ham left Upton Park for the London Stadium in 2016 — the former Olympic Stadium which West Ham fans have found hard to love.
“It’s been like this for the past two seasons, since we moved to this stadium,” Noble said.
“Every time we lose we and the board get a lot of stick. It seemed today that the fans had had enough. They wanted to show their emotion. When fans come to the game with the hump, they know how to show their emotions.
“The atmosphere was horrible. We know a lot of it isn’t aimed at the players, but we have to be man enough to play in that atmosphere.
“I’m really hoping the fans have got it off their chest. They are a true, honest and passionate bunch of people. I’m hoping that they have had their outburst, because all that matters is staying in the Premier League.”
West Ham will be concerned about any punishment meted out by the authorities, and Noble said supporters should encourage the team because their reaction was self-defeating.
“In football winning games is all that matters, but a team like West Ham and every team apart from Man City are going to lose games,” he said.
“It’s hard for us, the fans are unhappy with the board, obviously. As soon as we go a goal down we get targeted. A lot of players haven’t played in that atmosphere before.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Christian Radnedge)