Boleyn People

Head of Elite Performance and Sports Medicine at the Academy Tom Smith has enjoyed a unique insight behind the scenes at the Boleyn Ground
Having worked at West Ham United for ten years, the final season at the Boleyn Ground is especially poignant for Hammers fan and Head of Elite Performance and Sports Medicine at the Academy Tom Smith.

During his time studying physiotherapy at the University of Hertfordshire, Smith enjoyed a student placement with West Ham United in the summer preceding his final year.

Having clearly impressed his senior colleagues in the Club’s medical department, he was offered part-time work at the Academy of Football.

It was not long before Smith was offered a full-time position in December 2005 as Head Academy Physiotherapist.

Ten years on, Smith’s passion and commitment to the job and to the Club remain plainly evident.

“I enjoy every minute of it,” says the Essex-based Smith. “It is hard work and time consuming, but it’s what you commit to. I always knew this is what I want to do.

“You have to go wholeheartedly into it, but I’m fortunate enough to do something I really enjoy, at the Club I’ve always supported.”

After two years working in the Academy, Smith became increasingly more involved in working with the first-team squad as a physiotherapist.

After working in the role for just under five years, and several different managers, Smith returned to the Academy as Head of Elite Performance and Sports Medicine.

Reflecting on his differing roles, Smith said: “One of the most positive things is that I’ve worked with players at every level. I’ve worked with everyone from Under-9s who are just starting out to the first team to working with international players who are worth millions of pounds.

“To have worked with players like Carlos Tevez who have gone on to be massive at international level and across Europe is special. That variety is one of the biggest positives; to have worked across a broad spectrum at West Ham is a real standout memory.”

Another highlight for Smith, and everyone connected to the Academy, is being part of the development and progression of highly-rated youngsters into first-team professional players.  

“It’s one of the things that motivates me most, and is the reason why I’m doing the job I do. I take a huge amount of pride seeing an Academy player make their way into the first team.

“Every time an Academy player makes their debut and goes on to be involved more frequently is special, and I feel like I’ve contributed to that success. You get a real feeling of reward every time they play.

“It’s an exciting time at the moment, with the likes of Burke, Oxford, Cullen, Lee, and Page.”
With the Club’s future generation in good hands, Smith reflected on his favourite memories at the Hammers’ place of worship, the Boleyn Ground.  

“I remember coming to my first game in 1991. We played Barnsley and we won 3-2. Colin Foster, Frank McAvennie and Iain Dowie scored,” he recalled.

“Another personal highlight includes doing the matchday ‘run-on’ for the first team on a couple of occasions.

“I have a lot of fond memories, some classic games, play-offs, relegations, debuts. And that’s just in terms of what I’ve seen as a spectator. Then there’s all the fond memories I have from behind the scenes.”

Last weekend's win over Chelsea was the Irons’ fifth home league fixture of the season, and with potentially only 14 games remaining, the countdown to the final home game, against Swansea City on Saturday 7 May has well and truly begun.

“It’s an honour to be working for the Club during the final year at the Boleyn Ground. As a fan and a staff member, 25 years is a massive chunk of my life to have been coming here, and to think that is going to come to an end in May is going to be emotional.

“I’ve thought a lot about the last game here. I’m hoping to bring my daughter Sienna and son Oscar to a game before the move.

“We need to enjoy this season, and savour it. But also we need to remember what we’re moving onto. It’s a new era in the Club’s great history, and we’ll be playing in another amazing stadium, one of the best in England, if not Europe.”