Billy Bonds: I owe a lot to the West Ham fans
When West Ham United supporters were asked to rank their 50 Greatest Hammers, they selected Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds and Sir Trevor Brooking as their top three.
When the East Stand is formally named the Billy Bonds Stand at the Premier League fixture with Newcastle United on Saturday 2 March, a legendary hat-trick featuring that illustrious trio will be completed.
With Moore and Brooking also honoured at London Stadium, the club’s record appearance-maker and two-time FA Cup-winning captain will follow in his great friends and teammates’ footsteps – and he could not be any prouder.
I owe a lot not just to Ron Greenwood and John Lyall because they looked after me, but I owe a lot to the fans because they gave me such great support
“You can’t get better than that, can you?” smiled the man who played 799 times in Claret and Blue between 1967-88. “They are two people who I admire, two lovely people, and two great footballers and two great friends.
“Mooro, I couldn’t believe it when I came to the club, he had just won the World Cup…
“Trevor needed looking after, he was so talented, and I was so lucky to play in midfield with someone like him because I always had a get-out ball. I’d just knock it to his back foot and sometimes he’d just let the ball run and beat somebody like that. He was a fantastic player.”
Bonds enjoyed so many unforgettable moments during his illustrious West Ham career – both as player and manager – and played alongside many of the finest players in the club’s history.
While he was up there with them all, the typically modest Bonds, now 72, still feels fortunate to have led the life and career he enjoyed in east London for 25 years.
“I think just playing football, I was so lucky,” he observed. “Anyone who can have a career as long as I did, spanning as long as mine did, and can earn a living from it, what a way to earn a living!”
Bonds unquestionably earned every penny he was paid for leading West Ham to two FA Cup triumphs, the League Cup final and a Second Division title as a player, and the semi-finals of both domestic cup competitions and promotion to the Premier League as a manager.
But he insists all of those achievements would mean nothing without the respect of the Claret and Blue Army.
“From day one, they were always great with me,” he confirmed. “I think they all loved my buccaneering ways, the way I used to go around tackling and stuff, they used to like that.
“They’re working-class people and I think, if they see you give effort, and I always gave effort, first and foremost, and that quality in you, they forgive a lot of things.
“I loved playing in front of them. They’ve always been great for me and I’ve got this stand named after me and I owe a lot not just to Ron Greenwood and John Lyall because they looked after me, but I owe a lot to the fans because they gave me such great support.
“It’s no fun if you’re not one of their favourites. I remember a few people who it could be very tough for as they could be very harsh, but if they see effort they’ll get behind you and they’ve been great to me.”