The Spirit Of '86

Today sees the first day of sale of a limited edition signed and framed print commemorating the achievements of the 1986 squad in finishing third - which means you can now choose the numbered print you want.

Tony Cottee oversaw the recent signing operation of the limited edition - 1,986 have been made - and admits he has had easier tasks.

"We had 17 players at Upton Park to sign the prints recently. Steve Walford had already signed them - and Greg Campbell, who claimed he had a business meeting to go to, was the worst culprit on the day," says TC, who had to then chase round the country to get the players to sign the ones they had missed out.

"But they all got signed before they were presented to the framers - I promise!

"Frankie Mac was a good boy and I didn't hear too many complaints about him - he did all his signatures in one go..."

The unique prints, which cost £375, have also been signed by the manager who nearly guided the Hammers to the title, John Lyall, and Tony adds: "When we said to John that we were doing the print, Tony Gale and Phil Parkes mentioned to him that it was going to help some of the players who aren't doing so well, he said that was a nice idea and very thoughtful - and that he would love to be part of it.

"There are a few players from the '86 squad who aren't earning too much money at the moment to be honest, and didn't earn the money what the players earn now."

There will be a select number of functions to bring the squad together again next year, and Tony says: "Fingers crossed that we can get him over to one of the golf days or functions that we are hoping to have in the new year."

John, of course, has long since left football behind, and Tony is sad that he has been lost to the game about which he is considered so knowledgeable.

"It is a travesty, it really is, but obviously John was hurt by leaving West Ham as we all know and the same thing happened to him at Ipswich," he says.

"He is still only in his early 60s and you have got the likes of Bobby Robson still managing at 69, 70, and surely John has got something to offer football - it is just a shame.

"He is living on his farm in Suffolk - and fair play to him - but I would love to see him do something in football.

"We have all tried to persuade him, but John has always been his own man, we respect him, and if he wants to be reclusive on his farm then good luck to him - but football is the loser."

Next year's events are not yet confirmed, but Tony says: "We are trying to organise the calendar now and we have got a marketing firm to help us.

"A few of the guys like myself, Alvin, and Galey are busy with other commitments - as are a lot of the players.

"But at the moment we are looking at a golf day, perhaps a Sportsman's dinner, and a football match - of some sorts!

"Whether Parkesy can go in goal again I don't know, but we would like to put on an event of some kind.

"We will sort the calendar out very soon, but our main priority has been getting the prints out.

"Then, when we get to the new year, there will be some functions - not loads and loads, but a few quality ones."

As for comparisons between the team of today and the undoubtedly talented side that finished third, he says: "Could we play the present team? We could try, but I don't know how we would get on.

"The football brains are still working but I think it is the legs that are sadly lacking and I think we would get stuffed quite comfortably.

"There was a fantastic team spirit amongst us, and let's not forget there were some fantastic players.

"But that spirit was so evident 16 years ago and when we all got in the room together recently everyone was laughing and joking, and it was nice to be with the lads.

"We all got on so well at a reunion dinner last year we thought why let that go - we were very close as a team."

Could such a bond exist in modern day football?

"That is a good point; there is such a turnover at clubs now," says Tony ruefully.

"We used 18 players in '86, and eight or nine of those players actually had testimonials at West Ham, which is a great tribute to those people.

"Nowadays, you get players in and out. A lot of the foreigners can't speak English particularly well, and I think there is a different mentality to football now.

"After a game on a Saturday we were all in the players' lounge afterwards and we had three or four pints before the wife drove you home after the match. Well, that's what should have happened, anyway!

"Now, of course, you play your game, go and have your chicken pasta or whatever, and that's it.

"Football has changed drastically - but has it changed for the better? I'm not so sure."

Tony is hopeful that the Hammers can turn round the home form after failing to get a first home win of the season against another of his former club, Everton, on Saturday.

"I do the hospitality at home and it has been very disappointing to have not won at home yet," he says.

"It is basically not good enough and I think everyone at the club accepts that. Your seasons are dictated in football by your home form.

"It has been quite awful at Upton Park really and we have got to pick up, there is no doubt about that.

"Next up it is Oldham at home before Leeds and Manchester United - it couldn't be any tougher for Glenn and the boys, what with Liverpool on Saturday as well.

"The fans are grumbling because they want to see the team win games, particularly at Upton Park, but I come in the lounge after a game and get the feedback - and they are behind Glenn.

"They want success at the club and the last thing any of us wants is relegation

"There is enough talent and good players here to get us out of trouble, but you can't afford to keep losing your home games if you are going to put a run together - and until we have done that no one can afford to relax at the club."

If you would like to order a limited edition Boys of '86 print, or for further details, call 0870 174 1986.