Bonds on Bobby

Ken Dyer talks to Hammers legend Billy Bonds about the successful 1960's team

The Evening Standard correspondent Ken Dyer reminisces the Sixties – and FA Cup successes – with the great Billy Bonds MBE.

FIVE goals at Blackburn last Sunday – can we anticipate another goal rush today against Sunderland?

Unlikely to be fair. Sunderland, unsurprisingly, have improved recently under ‘Big Sam’ and although they remain in the bottom three, victory over Manchester United and a draw with Liverpool have given them new hope.

I hope Sam is accorded the respect he deserves for what he achieved at West Ham in the four years he was here.

Personally, I got to know him pretty well during that time and – like many at the club – have only good things to say about him, both as a manager of West Ham – and more importantly, a man.

Returning to the theme of goal fests though, I was fortunate enough to be standing on the terraces here at the Boleyn in October 1968, when Sunderland came visiting.

It was an amazing, almost surreal game, with Geoff Hurst scoring a hat-trick in either half and the other goals coming from Trevor Brooking and Bobby Moore in an 8-0 victory.

Marauding up the right flank that day was a buccaneering Billy Bonds who recalled the day – and that season – when we talked this week.

“We scored eight goals that day,” recalled Bonzo, “and I made six of them! Only joking but I was playing at right-back then and I loved to go on the overlap.

“I don’t remember that match well except I know we absolutely murdered them. They were happy days although, knowing us, we probably then went on a run of conceding 20 goals in the next four games.”

In fact, SirGeoff later admitted that he had punched the ball in for his first goal – but there was nothing wrong with his next five!

The Hammers were certainly in free-scoring form even earlier that season. In three home matches over a ten-day period they walloped Burnley 5-0, West Brom 4-0 and then Bolton 7-2 in the League Cup.

West Ham finished a very respectable eighth in the top division that season, so how then, I asked Billy, did you manage to lose 3-0 to Mansfield in the FA Cup that same season?

“That was typical,” he admitted. “We could murder teams one day and then give goals away for fun. Consistency was a big problem for us.

“I remember the Mansfield match well. They had a player who had come through the youth team at Charlton with me, Ray Keeley.

“I was about the only one from that team who made it in the top flight while Ray went to Mansfield – and scored one of the goals in that 3-0 win.

“It was a good goal as I remember and they deserved to beat us. We had Martin Peters, Geoff Hurst and Bobby Moore playing that day – three World Cup winners plus Trevor Brooking – and we still got stuffed!”

Bill, who will be at today’s match with his wife and two grand-daughters, is as encouraged as the rest of us by his old team’s current progress.

Talking about the Hammers’ quarter-final draw against Manchester United, he said: “It’s never going to be easy going to Old Trafford. Whenever you go there you know you’ve got a job on but if you want to go all the way in the FA Cup, you’re going to have games like that, tough challenges.

“In 1975 we had to play Arsenal and Ipswich, who were then a top side, on the way to the final and five years later we managed to get past Everton after a replay in the semis – and then beat Arsenal in the final.

“You are bound to have one or two of those games on your journey. This season we’ve got through one – Liverpool – and now we face another big one in Manchester United.

“I fancy us at least to get them back at our place though and if we do that, I think we’ll win.

“I was driving during our game at Blackburn last Sunday so I was listening to the game on the radio and all I could hear was our fans. We had more than 7,000 up there apparently, which was fantastic support.

“What has been very apparent to me watching the team this season, is the team spirit. We’ve had our knockbacks this season with injuries but we keep bouncing back. That shows you the squad is decent and the character is there.

“We’ve been drawn away from home a lot in the last couple of years but the way we’re playing, I don’t necessarily see that as a handicap.”

First though, there is today’s visit of Sunderland. “It won’t be easy,” says Billy. “Sam will have them well organised.

“Sam’s good at that. He gets his teams playing with some spirit. I wouldn’t say he’s turned it there around yet but he’s given them a chance.”

Finally, it was the 23rd anniversary of the great Bobby Moore’s death on Wednesday, I recall I was driving, on my way up to cover a match at Nottingham Forest for the Evening Standard when the office called me with the news.

I had to pull over for a few minutes.

As many who knew him and played with him, have said since: “Sheer class – as a player and a man.”