The changing face of football was bought home to me last month with the sad passing of former West Ham defender John Bond, who I was lucky enough to meet last season in the Legends Lounge here at Upton Park at the home game with Bristol City.
John joined West Ham in March 1950 from Colchester Casuals. He'd been spotted playing by West Ham assistant manager Ted Fenton when he was manager with Colchester United and he convinced Hammers manager Charlie Paynter to offer Bond a contract and he duly turned professional in March 1950
John was a popular figure with the Upton Park fans and was nicknamed 'Muffin' because of his ability to kick like a mule. While here, John won the old Division Two title in 1958, the FA Cup in 1964 and played his part in the successful run to the European Cup Winners' Cup final at Wembley the following season.
I am lucky enough to know John's son Kevin - a successful player and coach just like his Dad - and he has paid a glowing tribute to his father.
"From when I was born we lived in Vaughan Road, which was around 200 yards from Upton Park, and we stayed there all the time that my father played for played for West Ham. I was born in 1957 and remember being in such close proximity to the stadium and of course the 1964 FA Cup final at Wembley.
"That day I remember my sister and my mum sat in stands with me and being so pleased and delighted with West Ham's win. I was only seven at the time and, being so young, the day passed me by but it was a fantastic day for all of us. What I do remember are the celebrations on the open-top bus which went around east London and how crazy it all was with all the streets lined with so many supporters.
"Probably my biggest memory with regards to my father's time at West Ham is that whenever we spoke when we spent time together, he told me how much he adored the club and how much he adored his time at the club.
"It was different to how it is today and that's not being critical of how things are today, it's just the nature of how things are. In my father's day so many of the players knew each other and came from the same culture. These days many come from different parts of the world, but that's just the way it is.
"His team-mates were his friends and until the day he died they remained his friends. He stayed in touch with lots of them I still speak to Peter Brabrook as he did. He spoke to Kenny Brown and Martin Peters for 50 or 60 years and he knew them all.
"He loved West Ham as a club and he adored Ron Greenwood, who he said taught him so much about football. He had magnificent times at the club and I don't believe he would've swapped his time at West Ham for a dozen medals playing for anyone else. He just loved it at West Ham being around the people I've mentioned and more, including the likes of Noel Cantwell."
As Kevin alluded to, his father played during a very different era when players staying ten or 15 years at a single club was not uncommon. John himself was at Upton Park 16 years.
"I remember him saying once that Ron Greenwood came up to him and said that QPR wanted to sign him. I don't know if he was having a difficult time at the club, but QPR wanted him. Anyway my father told Ron he didn't want to leave, even when Ron told him he may not get a game.
"My father told Ron it was his decision and it's a good thing he did stay because he went on to win the FA Cup. There was never any question of him leaving. He was happy there and always happy there. It was only when he wasn't good enough anymore for West Ham, at the end of his career, that he had two fantastic years with a few of his old West Ham mates down at Torquay. But he never had any desire to leave West Ham, he never thought about leaving West Ham or moving anywhere else, he loved it at West Ham."
John Bond went into management and was successful at many clubs. It was during this period that he helped Kevin on his way into the game. Kevin started his career as a trainee at Bournemouth under his father and when John moved to Norwich he took Kevin with him, handing him his league debut came at Leicester City in April 1976.
"I had to work hard to earn my place in my Dad's team and to get a living out of the game. I'd be the first to accept this and many who worked with my Dad thought I'd struggle to be a footballer. As the manager, though, he had the opportunity to give me a chance and he did. No-one else thought I'd become a footballer, but I repaid his faith in me as I became a player in my own right."
John's management style came as result of his upbringing at the Academy of Football.
"Having come out of West Ham it was clear to him how he wanted the game to be played. He knew what he wanted and knew how to get the best out of people. He was comfortable on the training ground, but said it how it was. If he upset people, it wasn't in a nasty or aggressive way. It was just that he said it as saw it or felt it. I don't think you'll see that breed of manager anymore."
It is clear from speaking to Kevin that John had a very special relationship with West Ham and the fans and that is why I know there will be a real sense of loss around Upton Park today.
"He was comfortable at West Ham and with the fans. He didn't necessarily have any more of a special rapport with the fans than anybody else, but I think if you speak to any of the players at the time they will say the same the fans were great and they all seemed to get on amazingly well with supporters.
"I remember he told me that one day somebody in the Chicken Run had a moan at him during the game. He walked up to him in the stand and said 'If you don't like it, why don't you go home?'!
"There was an association between the players and supporters, more than there is today. It's well-documented the players and fans used to meet in the cafe's round the corner from the ground.
"My dad lived 200 yards from the ground, he related to the fans and they related to him. He adored his 16 years at West Ham United."Follow Ian Abrahams on twitter @BroadcastMoose