Poignant day for kit-man Eddie

Kit man Eddie Gilham has been a familiar face behind the scenes at Upton Park for 27 years and a crucial part of the fabric of West Ham United. Tomorrow's match against Bolton Wanderers' will be Eddie's last home game for the Hammers before he retires at the end of the season.

"It will be a poignant moment, a sentimental day," he says. "It's been a long time, 27 years is a lifetime. I probably will be feeling quite emotional but as long as we get the three points, that's the main thing."

Eddie has seen eight managers come and go since he began his role under John Lyall.

"John offered me the job in 1988, I'd been working with the commercial department until then," he says. They had a kit man in place, Albert Walker, and then he retired after five or six years.

"When I started we had two wicker baskets, one had kit in, one had towels in. Now we take three big skips, four little ones and five boot bags plus what the medical staff bring along. The physio, Rob Jenkins, used to take along a carrier bag, and that was it.

"Eight managers I've had. Billy Bonds was my favourite and Harry was a character. We had great times. They're all got their own ways, even Lou Macari. I think if Lou had continued, he would've been a good manager for the club."

After 27 years in the job, Eddie jokes: "I don't know what made me stay! No, it's been a great life," he says. "Such a variety of things you do, places you see. It's been very good to me. I've met lots of interesting people.

"I've met some lovely people from other football clubs as well. On the staff side we've always got on well with other clubs, established good understanding with all the other kit men and everyone tries to help each other. We've all got the same problems, we all forget things every now and then and so we help each other out if we can.

"People are reliant on you but to me it's just a job that I fell in to and I've enjoyed doing it. It's only a matter of keeping things in order, knowing what you need, requirements for the games and it's fairly simple."

But don't expect to hear any dressing room secrets from Eddie, who will be taking his backroom tales with him to his new home in Devon, where he plans to enjoy his retirement.

"We're sworn to secrecy," said the 66-year-old. "John Lyall's words to me were: 'you'll see things and you'll hear things and they stay within these walls.' That's always been the code and I think it's correct. Yes, we do see things and hear things going on, but we never repeat them."