Legendary BBC commentator John Motson looks forward to Saturday’s Brooking and Bonds themed visit of Arsenal by recalling the career of the great Billy Bonds MBE...
I sat next to Billy Bonds at lunch ahead of West Ham United’s opening home Premier League game of this season against Bournemouth and I just couldn’t believe the shape he had kept himself in.
He was always the fittest man on the pitch when he was playing, certainly the fittest man in the West Ham team and probably the fittest man in the league. He oozed fitness and he still looked immaculate when I met him and his family in the Directors’ Box.
What a fantastic character he is – Billy was what he was on the pitch, off the pitch. He was 100 per cent genuine.
Aside from a short spell at Charlton at the start of his career, he really was Mr. West Ham – it was almost a contest between Bonds and Brooking who you should give that title to. The Hammers were so lucky to have both in the same period.
I should add that he was an inspiration to his teammates and everybody who he came into contact with.
They used to say that, after the game was over, he was first in the shower and first on his way home – he had no time for all the socialising and all that, but was instead very much a home-bird and was straight in the car.
I think I would be prepared to say, and there are one or two other contenders for this, that he was the best uncapped English player of all-time.
People talk about Howard Kendall and others you would put in a similar category. He played 799 games for West Ham and it would have been fitting if the 800th had been for England. He would be fit enough to go out there and play it!