West Ham United have had many great players down the years, but only a few can be considered as true Hammers legends.

One man who is definitely in that category is the one and only Billy Bonds MBE.

At the 2012/13 Player Awards, Bonds was honoured with the Club's first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Locke Lord. Here, Bonds speaks at length with Evening Standard correspondent Ken Dyer about his glittering career in claret and blue.

In an era where some players seek a loyalty bonus if they see out their three-year contract, no-one deserves West Ham's first Lifetime Achievement Award more than William Arthur Bonds MBE.

Bonzo honoured with Lifetime Achievement Award - Sponsored By Locke Lord

'Bonzo', as he is affectionately known, spent most of his working life at the club, first as a player between 1967-88 and then coach and manager from 1988-94.

During a playing career spanning more than two decades, Bonzo made 793 senior appearances for the Hammers, ran a million miles, launched himself into a zillion tackles - and had a few fights.

He played the game as he lives his life - straight down the line, no messing, honest and trustworthy.

If you happened to be in the Blackwall Tunnel at just after 5pm on a Saturday afternoon between the mid-1960s and the end of the 1980s you might have caught a glimpse of Bill, hair still wet from a quick shower, driving back home after a game to his first love - his family.

They are with him tonight, his wife Marilyn plus daughters Claire and Katie.

We Hammers fans were lucky to have Bill at our club for what is certainly, in football terms, 'a lifetime.' He played under four managers during a 24-year playing career.

"I played under two managers at Charlton, Frank Hill and Bob Stokoe. At West Ham, I was lucky because I had two great coaches - Ron Greenwood and John Lyall. I have them to thank for making every day such a pleasure.

"They both taught me so much. They improved players on the training ground and that was a real skill.

"They planted little ideas in your head. Ron, for example, used to say 'Your eyes are like a camera, always look around and get pictures in your head so that when that ball arrives, you know where everyone is.' It's commonplace now, I suppose but back then it was ground-breaking stuff.

"One day he said to me 'If the space isn't in front, it must be behind.' I hadn't thought about it before but he was right - if the opposition were playing a high line I could play the ball into the space behind them.

"Ron also talked about being sideways on, always being on the half-turn, either as a midfield player receiving the ball or as a defender marking.

"I wouldn't have achieved what I did without the other players either. I thank them all because, in their own way, they all played their part."

Billy Bonds

At 66, Bill still looks as though he could jog the London Marathon and then do five hundred sit-ups.

His fitness, commitment and energy are legendary, as they needed to be for someone who was still playing at the top level past his 41st birthday.

"I spent most of my working life at West Ham," he says, "and I wouldn't have changed a thing. I enjoyed every minute of it and would love to do it all again.

"This is a lovely award and a nice honour. I've never been one for too much pomp or anything like that but I really appreciate what the club have done tonight."

So what are the highlights of his playing career, his cherished memories? Bill's answer is typical.

"There's so many. Every day was special to me. I was in a job that most people would have loved to have been doing.

"I played until I was 41 but, if I had been a Sunday morning footballer, I would have probably gone on until I was 50, I loved the game so much.

"Obviously FA Cup finals still stick in the memory, as do the four League Cup ties with Stoke in the early 1970s. We also had some great European nights at Upton Park.

"I made my league debut for Charlton in 1965 and played my last game for West Ham in 1988 so I had a good run for my money."

Billy Bonds

Happy days then - but there must have been disappointments too?

"There aren't that many really. When we were relegated in 1978 was one and another was when John Lyall left the club".

There have inevitably been one or two anxieties and dramas along the way.

"Before the 1975 FA Cup final against Fulham, I was only about 70 per cent fit. I was having cortisone injections for a groin problem and as soon as the season finished I went straight into hospital for an operation.

"I honestly thought I might not play again. We were even beginning to talk about what we would do if I had to pack up so I'm thankful to the surgeon because he gave me another 13 years.

"I had another worry just before the 1980 final when, in a game against Birmingham, me and Colin Todd had a bit of a set-to. We were both sent off and I remember I was sitting in the bath when someone came in and told me that I could miss the final.

"'What have I done?' I thought. I don't know what I would have done if I had missed that final - it would have slaughtered me.

"Luckily for me Ron Greenwood, who was by then England manager, put in a good word for me, they allowed me to play in the final and we beat Arsenal."

So many more memories come flooding out.

"I've played against many other great players in those 800 games. With Liverpool, for example, I've been up against three generations of strikers - Ian St John and Roger Hunt in the '60s, Kevin Keegan and John Toshack in the '70s followed by Kenny Dalglish and Ian Rush in the '80s.

"George Best was one of the best. They tell me there's a video of me trying to tackle him in one game. I've tried to tackle him once but he's hurdled me. Then I get back to him and have another try but he gets away again. I think I have two more tries but he just keeps going!

"I played full-back, midfield and centre half but I loved playing in midfield. It suited my game. I could get amongst everything.

"Someone recently asked me what it was like being a holding midfield player but I never played in that position. Neither Ron nor John ever asked me to sit in front of the back four.

"If I wanted to run beyond Trevor Brooking - I would. I finished with 13 goals one season."

Bill stayed at the club when he eventually retired, first as a coach and then, from 1990-94, as manager.

"I enjoyed my early time as a West Ham manager," he says. "We went 25 games unbeaten early on - still a club record I believe. I remember Terry Venables ringing me and asking me how I was enjoying it. 'It's OK,' I said.

"'Come on Bill,' Terry said. 'It doesn't get any better than that.'

"He was right, it didn't. No long after that the club launched the ill-famed Bond scheme and that was the worst year of my life.

"Not only were things difficult because of that but I lost my dad and my father-in-law. It was a bad year."

Fast forward to the present day and Bonds understands the reasons for the Club's move to the Olympic Stadium.

"I have spoken with David Gold and he has explained to me why they need to move. I'll be sad like all old-timers but it's a nostalgia thing because all my fond memories are connected with Upton Park - Brooking taking Eintracht Frankfurt apart in the European Cup Winners' Cup, Bobby Moore nicking the ball off an opponent, Geoff Hurst taking a ball on his chest, Martin Peters - all great players."

Add Bonzo to that list.