George no stranger to stadium move

If any player knows the benefits of moving to a bigger, state-of-the-art stadium, it is West Ham United defender George McCartney.

McCartney was just 16 when he travelled over from his native Northern Ireland for a trial with Sunderland in May 1997, during which he attended a farewell match against Liverpool at the Black Cats' Roker Park stadium.

The trial was successful and the defender signed on as a trainee. Two years later, he turned professional and moved into his first home - a flat on the estate constructed on the site vacated by Roker Park.

In September 2000, McCartney made his first-team debut for Sunderland at the Stadium of Light before going on to captain the Black Cats to promotion to the Premier League five years later.

Now 32, the Northern Irishman says the club's move to their 49,000-seater new home played a big part in the success Sunderland have enjoyed over the past 15 seasons - eleven of which have been spent in the Premier League.

West Ham are now a little more than two years away from moving to the Olympic Stadium, with the announcement that the Boleyn Ground will be re-developed for new homes, retail and leisure facilities for local people, as well as the development of a central landscaped garden, which would be named the Bobby Moore Memorial Garden.

McCartney believes the Hammers, like Sunderland, will also benefit from their big move.

"The first-ever time I went across to Sunderland when I was 16, I went to the last match at Roker Park against Liverpool," said McCartney. "it is hard to believe that stadium has been transformed from a football stadium into apartments and that's where my first house was!

"I was there for the last game at Roker Park, then they moved into the new stadium. When you look at Sunderland now, they have a great stadium, a great training ground and they have everything in place to be a top club.

"From what I remember, Roker Park didn't hold that many people - not even half as many as the Stadium of Light does - so to go from having 15 or 20,000 every week to having 45,000 every week made a big difference, and it can do for West Ham too."

Apprentices

George and James lend a hand to apprentices George and Mohamed

McCartney joined team-mate James Tomkins and apprentices George Skuce and Mohamed Mohamed from technology specialists Imtech at the Olympic Stadium, where they helped the two east London-born electricians with their work on redeveloping West Ham's new home.

The visit formed part of National Apprenticeship Week, which is co-ordinated by the National Apprenticeship Service and designed to celebrate Apprenticeships and the positive impact they have on individuals, businesses and the wider economy.

"It does look a bit different now," said the No3. "Back in August, there was a bit of grass on the pitch and the roof structure was still on, but now we've come back and it actually looks a lot bigger than it did a few months ago.

"Now they have taken the running track out and the roof off, it is a big open space, but I can see they are in the process of getting everything ready to transform it into a football stadium.

"Nowadays, football clubs need a big amount of revenue to run at Premier League level in a competitive way. Obviously Upton Park is a great stadium with a lot of history behind it, but for West Ham to move to the next level, they need a stadium like this.

"I'm sure, when all the supporters start coming along every weekend and supporting the team, they'll realise what sort of stadium the Club has got here and they'll be happy in the long run.

"For the Club itself, the money and interest it will generate and the new players it will attract, West Ham need this. It's not much to look at now, but in a year or two's time it is going to be a great stadium to be part of."