Hilts: Hard Work Ahead

The former Hammers centre half who once played against West Ham and lost 10-0 admits: 'The spotlight is always on the defenders!'

Paul Hilton, who wore a Bury shirt on October 25th, 1983, in the second leg, second round Milk Cup tie at Upton Park, became the epitome of the old adage 'if you can't beat them, join them' when John Lyall signed him for £100,000 shortly after that record win for the Hammers.

He insists, though, that the scoreline had little to do with him: "I was watching the video the other night and I reckon I only gave one ball away!"

Paul, who used to be reserve team coach at Upton Park before leaving in 1995, says: "It is just one of those things that happen and there were a couple of similar ones recently in the Worthington Cup with an 8-0 result.

"But West Ham were on top of their form that day and I was just pleased to be able to join them.

"Those results still happen but the difference in class was there for everyone to see on that particular night."

He is keeping a close eye on developments at his old club, especially the changes to the central defensive partnerships that Glenn Roeder has been making as he looks for the right combination.

"Once you start losing games the first thing you look at is defensive problems you might have and it tends to start with the centre halves," he says - and he should know.

"If they are going to turn it round I think everyone is going to have to work that little bit harder, starting from the front, and grinding results out is going to be of major importance to the club.

"As we have seen over the years the standard of the players in the Premiership has got higher; you make a mistake and you are punished.

"The concentration level has got to be high, especially at the back, and even with internationals in your team it is difficult, there is no doubt about it.

"It is a team game. Everyone takes the credit when things are going well, and everyone in the squad is going to have to knuckle down and turn it around now."

Paul was one of those players who played in the record-breaking 1985-86 season when the Hammers finished third, and he recalls: "Just to be at the club, training and playing with internationals, and enjoying the camaraderie we had day to day at the time, was fantastic.

"I enjoyed the season before - but winning loads of games that season was fantastic."

As for his current activities, he says: "At the moment I am working at Ipswich Town's academy with the under-15s and under-16s, and doing a bit of coaching at a sixth form college in Cambridge as well - so I am still enjoying my football and hopefully helping youngsters improve.

"I think, especially with the financial climate now, they are important, and Ipswich have spent a lot of money on the set up and the training ground. It is vital that clubs get these lads through."

He did cross paths with former Upton Park team mate Paul Goddard at Portman Road, and says: "When I first went to Ipswich three years ago, Sarge was working with the under-19s there, so I got to see him on two or three occasions though I didn't actually get to work alongside him.

"I have spoken to him a couple of times. He had a great opportunity coming back to West Ham after being at Ipswich for quite a few years.

"But with the ties at West Ham he obviously wanted to prove himself at a higher level.

"Anybody is coaching in the game would take such an opportunity, but I am really enjoying coaching the youngsters at the moment."

As for his old side Bury, he says: "Bury have had some lean times and I have donated a bit of money - what I have left - to them so I still have ties there.

"Having only been with two clubs in my playing career Bury and West Ham are both very dear to me."

*A print signed by all the players from the 1985/86 season, and John Lyall, is now available. Call 0870 174 1986 for further details, or to buy it.