West Ham want to prove doubters wrong with stadium show

West Ham United Women managing director Jack Sullivan with his mother, Eve Vorley before last season's Women's FA Cup final at Wembley

League tables are never judged on attendance figures but West Ham are determined to prove big guns Arsenal wrong this weekend, writes Ella Jerman.

The Hammers become the latest FA Barclays Women's Super League team to play in their club's men's stadium when they welcome rivals Tottenham Hotspur to Stratford on Sunday.

West Ham are expecting 20,000 fans to attend Sunday’s game at the London Stadium and if they pull it off, such a turnout will be the third-highest in the WSL era.

Manchester City and Chelsea drew crowds of 31,213 and 24,564 to matches on the opening weekend of WSL fixtures but Arsenal boss Joe Montemurro has questioned the merits of a mid-table side like West Ham bringing in respectable numbers.

However, Jack Sullivan, the 20-year old son of West Ham co-owner David, who is the managing director of the women's team, is in no mood to be written off.

"I think Joe Montemurro is wrong," he said. "Hopefully we can fill the best part of 20,000 for the game.

"We are proud to provide affordable family football here. I think the numbers we are generating prove people are interested in the mid-table teams.

"Last year was our first year, and we already have 1500 people coming through the doors regularly – that's the fifth biggest attendance in the league."

There were plenty of arched eyebrows when Sullivan - who is younger than most of Matt Beard's team - was appointed as a teenager, having first asked his parents to buy him a club as a 14-year old.

According to figures, Britain’s youngest football boss is worth more money than Sergio Aguero, the richest Premier League player aged 30 or under, with an estimated fortune of £58m.

But for Sullivan, the battle for respect means more than cash. West Ham have combined methods of giving away and selling tickets for the game at the London Stadium, the most expensive being just £2, all to ensure the legacy of this one-off fixture lives on.

“I don’t want this to only be about the game at the London Stadium. It’s important for the football club that we attract attention to all our games, not just this one,” added Sullivan.

“We don’t want fans to come just because the match is at the London Stadium, we want them to come because they enjoy women’s football.

“It’s something completely new to the whole football club. It’s going to be an amazing occasion for us, and we want to be filling the lower bowl.

“But we play 25 games a season, not just one. I think the numbers we are generating prove people are interested in the mid-table WSL teams, but we still have a lot more to do. We are far off where we need to be.”

Sullivan has clearly inherited the gift of the gab from his billionaire father. He's chatty and likeable and is bang-on in his vision for the women’s team.

Just two years ago they played in the third division of women’s football but last season, their first as a full-time professional side, West Ham reached the FA Cup final, losing to Manchester City in front of 43,264 at Wembley – a statement of intent about the coming campaign.

“We wanted to say look, you are part of West Ham, not just the women’s team,” added Sullivan.

“We are one of the few clubs in the WSL that I feel the men’s team is backing to the hilt. If you have a men’s Premiership football team backing you, you will see the rewards.

“My biggest challenge was convincing players to come on our journey last summer. This year I told them, you took the gamble, but it paid off – we got to Wembley. They really are a part of something.

“They are the very first professional West Ham women’s team. They will always be the originals. That is really special to me and I’m lucky to have had such a great team, on and off the pitch, to make it happen.”

To follow the action, buy tickets and sign-up for The FA Player’s live Barclays FA Women’s Super League coverage visit womenscompetitions.thefa.com