Chaos in Holland as West Ham PLAYERS clash with hooded rival fans (2023)

A pair of British football fans have earned widespread praise for their valiant efforts to defend the family of West Ham players from harm by fighting off a gang of Dutch hooligans last night.

West Ham's successfulEuropa Conference League semi-final clash with AK Alkmaar descended into utter chaos at the final whistle when agroup of violent Alkmaar fans, wearing hoods and clad all in black, tried to force their way into the away side's hospitality area.

But a pair of heroic Hammers fans stood their ground atop two stairwells leading up to the stands, going blow-for-blow with the oncoming horde and ultimately stopping them from reaching the players' loved ones.

Incredible footage and photos of the scene showed two fairly elderly supporters refusing to budge, soaking up the punishment dealt out by the Alkmaar ultras and forcing them back down the stairs.

One of the brave fans, nicknamed 'Knollsy', received huge plaudits on social media when one of his friends let slip he'd recently undergone a hip replacement but still rose to the defence of one West Ham player's girlfriend.

The Briton, known as 'Knollsy', can be seen holding off the Dutch hooligans at the top of a set of stairs as they attempt to flood into the seating of the family stand

He was praised on social media for springing to the defence of West Ham defender Thilo Kerher's girlfriend

A fan holds off the mob of AZ Alkmaar supporters as they tried to make their way up the steps to clash with West Ham fans after the Dutch side lost the Europa Conference League semi-final

Knollsy is seen after the confrontation still smiling and in fine fettle despite his torn shirt

Knollsy's friend wrote: 'A bit of context, we were sitting behind Thilo Kerher's girlfriend. Knollsy was worried about her and walked to the top of the stairwell, fending off the storming Alkmaar fans.

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

One impressed social media user likened Knollsy's feat to the Battle of Stamford Bridge - where a legendary Norse axeman held off an entire Saxon army, killing 40, as he blocked a narrow bridge in 1066.

He said: 'Buy that man a beer. It's like a scene from the Battle of Stamford Bridge - one dude holding back the horde.'

Others compared him to the character Hodor from Game of Thrones and the Spartans in the film 300, where the famed warriors stopped an invading army 100 times their size.

There have been calls for him to receive free tickets to the Europa Conference Leauge final, and some fans have already begun paying their tributes to Knollsy with artwork, posting paintings and drawings of his battle on social media.

A second fan wearing a green shirt pulled off a similarly miraculous defence of his idols' families, pushing and shoving at the hooded hooligans surging up the stairs towards him.

He stood immovable, swinging punches and forcing thug after thug to retreat back down the stairwell.

Michail Antonio (centre) jumped over the hoardings after violence broke out in the stans

Lucas Paqueta and Said Benrahma were also among the players to step in

Dutch security and West Ham staff hold Jarrod Bowen from leaping into the stands to protect teammates and families of the players

Bowen and Antonio are seen leaping over the barriers to dive into the stands

Seeing the fight, West Ham players Michail Antonio and Flynn Downes leapt over the hoardings and made a beeline for the stands, followed closely by teammates Lucas Paqueta and Said Benrahma.

Security teams eventually managed to force their way in and separate the crowds while other guards jumped in to hold back the furious footballers.

Once the situation was under control, David Moyes' side toasted their 3-1 aggregate win - sealed by Pablo Fornals' injury-time winner - which fired West Ham into next month's Europa Conference League final.

Dutch police said they had made no arrests but added they were trying to identify violent fans from footage.

West Ham goalkeeper Alphonse Areola said: 'I had family watching the game. We were a bit worried about them, you know? Security is the most important thing in a stadium, especially 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.'

He added that the players were justified in stepping in, saying: 'When families or fans are coming to the stadium, we don't want to see things like that. They want to enjoy the event and we want to enjoy it with them as well.'

Stewards watched as the violent scenes unfolded in the aftermath of the win

West Ham fans fended off the hooded attackers

West Ham manager David Moyes said he didn't want the violence to blight the night

There was a strong police presence outside the ground before the game

West Ham United's Pablo Fornals celebrates scoring a goal during the UEFA Europa Conference League semi-final

Lucas Paqueta of West Ham United is put under pressure by Jordy Clasie and Tijjani Reijnders of AZ Alkmaar

West Ham's Declan Rice celebrates at the end of the match

After the game, manager Mr Moyes said: 'I can't explain what happened and why it happened.

'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.'

After last week's first leg against West Ham, the family of Alkmaar manager Pascal Jansen was attacked at London Stadium.

Last night after his side's defeat, he said: 'I feel a little bit ashamed that it happened in our stadium. You have to stay in control of your emotions. A few players were worried because they had family members in the stands and I can imagine what they felt.'

Former West Ham stars Joe Cole and Carlton Cole condemned the actions.

Joe Cole told BT Sport: 'It's absurd. Ridiculous grown men, AZ Alkmaar fans attacking the fans where families were sitting, our friends and colleagues. The players tried to break it up.

'You have to look at UEFA and AZ Alkmaar with things like that. Turning up with balaclavas, throwing punches, it's just ridiculous. The players are rightfully concerned, families, friends, kids over there. Ridiculous in the modern game, pathetic.

'People talk about hooliganism in England. We don't see things like that, we haven't for a long time. We get a reputation for it. It's other clubs in Europe, it's pathetic.

Ultimately it was a night of celebration for the Hammers supporters who made the trip

Pablo Fornals netted the only goal of the game as West Ham secured a victory over AZ Alkmaar

The semi-final win sees them progress into the UEFA Conference League final

West Ham broke off from the unsavory incident and had time to celebrate on the pitch

'We have friends sitting there. In the modern game, with the cameras in these places, find out who these people are and ban them for life. We were talking about bringing our kids to the final, now you second guess when you see things like that.'

Carlton Cole continued:'There was no need for it. West Ham came, did their job, didn't disrespect them. When a goal like that goes in you're elated, happy, you can't suppress feelings.

'Your family is over there with the fans. You have to understand that. What is that about? It's the same men that were outside the player's hotels, setting off fireworks. What are they doing? Chill out.'

AZ Alkmaar legend Robin Van Persie also criticised the scenes, saying:'From the point of view of West Ham, they are allowed to be happy and celebrate together.

'This should not happen. It's a big shame. Everyone is here, there's a winning and losing team. That's part of it.'

Moyes said: 'We need to wait for the dust to settle. The biggest problem was the area players have friends and families in.

'The players were angry they couldn't see if they were okay. We need to wait and ask the officials what happened.'

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