I Remember You - Mark Ward

Mark Ward joined West Ham United on the eve of the 1985-86 season for a fee of £225,000 from Oldham Athletic. He was an ever-present in that record-breaking campaign that saw the Hammers finish third in the First Division - their highest ever placing in the top flight. A diminutive right-winger with an eye for goal and a bite in the tackle, 'Wardie' established himself as a firm favourite among Hammers fans and made a total of 203 league and cup appearances for the club before joining Manchester City in December 1989 after falling out with manager Lou Macari - the successor to John Lyall. He later enjoyed spells at Everton - the club that rejected him as a young professional and Birmingham City and is currently under a players contract at non-league Altrincham after ending his spell there as manager.

Mark Ward says the team of '86 is superior to the current crop. It is a fascinating debate: for, while the side that made third place can simply point to the league table, it could also be argued that messrs. Cole and co. would still give Wardie and his mates a good run for their money.

League tables aside, the top flight has changed immeasurably from 15 years ago as well, so simply comparing league positions does not tell the whole story.

But Mark is in no doubt about what's what and he says 'his' side were better:

"Without a doubt: you look at the side of '86 and the players we had out there.

"We missed the championship I think on the last day of the season.

"This side has got some great players but over the course of a season when a side finishes third, just a few points short of the title, that's the sign of a good team."

He does, at least, concede that some of the current side would have made John Lyall's team...

"Oh yeah, I'd say so, but I think Harry has had an up and down season; early on it looked as if West Ham would be up in the top six.

"I'm sure he will rebuild for next season and there are already some very good players.

"Kanoute has done very well and Di Canio is a law unto himself.

"Joe Cole, Lampard... it's like the side that I played in, you had your Devonshires and your flair players.

"Di Canio and Cole are my type of players and you have to build a side around those sort of people.

"Moncs provides a bit of experience in the midfield - I've had a few battles with him in the past, and he puts himself about."

Mark thinks and hopes that West ham will bounce back next season and adds:

"I think if Harry invests again for next summer West Ham could be a force next season."

Just what didn't happen after the Hammers finished third?

"Exactly - looking back John just kept the same squad of players, when he could have invested in a few more players.

"With a stronger squad I'm sure we could have gone on and been a force."

Mark is featured in a book about that season called 'Boys Of '86' which comes out at the start of next season and will feature exclusive interviews with all the members of the squad that record-breaking squad, including crowd favourite Frank McAvennie, pictured above with Mark on the day before the start of the 1985-86 season - the only two players signed by John Lyall that summer.

A reunion dinner for that squad will be held at the end of May.

Mark is currently on a playing contract with Altrincham and says: "I've just had a knee operation - I will give it one more season and I think I'll call it a day."