Bonds hails 'best-ever' Hammers

Club legend Billy Bonds MBE tells journalist Hugh Southon the current West Ham United squad is the strongest he can recall in his long association with the Club...

Billy Bonds has named the current Irons squad as the strongest he can remember in his personal West Ham history.

The Club's living legend said: "We may have had better individual players like Mooro, Brooking, Dev, Hurst, Peters and all the rest but I don't believe there has been a better and stronger squad.

"Take any of the players I've mentioned out of the Hammers team and we struggled but not these days. This is a fabulous squad.

"People talk about the team of '86 but that one suffered very few injuries, whereas the manager [Slaven Bilic] has had to cope with any amount of them this season and they have all come through. Make no mistake this is a great squad. The best I can remember."

Bonds explained that he could have had no idea how good this season would become at the outset because he knew nothing about Dimi Payet, or Manu Lanzini for example.

Honest Bill always tells it as it is and how he sees it - he talks as he played - directly and with total honesty.

He believes their contribution of Payet and Lanzini has been quite amazing although adds quickly: "Every other member of the squad has stepped up brilliantly. Look at James Collins. I love that bloke. You get what it says on the tin. He defends his box, tackles with no compromise and clears into Row Z if he needs to. I love the way he plays."

With eight games to play in the Barclays Premier League, Bonds, who received a rapturous reception ahead of Monday's Mark Noble Testimonial, is aiming high.

He added: "I genuinely believe we can now finish in the top four. We are good enough with this terrific squad and I see no reason not to believe we can't reach the Champions League places. You have to congratulate the manager and owners on where they have taken us this season."

Looking a little further into the future, Bonds is also pleased we are moving on to the Olympic Stadium and the incredible demand for tickets declaring: "I don't suffer from emotionalism. Football is n a totally different place these days and we need to generate money and attract big payers. The Olympic Stadium will do that.

"It's been a done deal for a long time - we are all used to the idea and I'm looking forward to it. I really do believe this club is going places."

Saturday's visit of Crystal Palace will be themed for the Club's many overseas fans and Supporters' Clubs, and the two-time FA Cup-winning captain has always appreciated the Claret and Blue Army's loyal and vociferous following.

He concluded: "They are utterly incredible. There's none like them anywhere - very very special.

"That we should have taken 9,000 to Old Trafford shows what they are all about -West Ham fans are the best in the world for me.

"Those who have a problem with the move need to remember the game is entirely different now and we have to get the best facilities and best players as a result that we can.

"I am entirely unemotional about leaving the Boleyn. It's been wonderful and I've had fabulous times there but we move on to bigger and better things. The Club is going places ."

This interview first appeared on ClaretandHugh.