Tim Breacker: I’m immensely proud that Billy Bonds wanted me in his team
It is 30 years to the day since Tim Breacker became Billy Bonds’ first signing as West Ham United manager.
The Club’s all-time record appearance-maker, two-time FA Cup-winning captain, inspirational leader and four-time Hammer of the Year, Bonds had been promoted to the role following the departure of Lou Macari in February 1990.
Bonds guided West Ham to the FA Cup semi-finals in his first few weeks in charge, but the Irons ultimately missed out on promotion back to the First Division.
The 1990/91 season kicked-off in fine style, though, with the Hammers going unbeaten in their opening ten Second Division matches, and with a season-long promotion challenge in the offing, Bonds moved to bolster his squad.
With Ray Stewart approaching the end of his long and illustrious career in Claret and Blue, the Hammers snapped up the outstanding right-back Breacker from First Division Luton Town for a £600,000 fee.
Still just 25, Breacker had already played well over 200 matches for the Hatters, winning the Football League Cup in 1988, and his rare combination of experience and promise would add a great deal to a talented West Ham squad.
“I’ve always been tagged as Billy Bonds’ first-ever signing and I still look back with immense pride that such a great professional and a great bloke wanted me to be a part of his team,” Breacker reflected, three decades on.
“Although I was playing in the top-flight for Luton Town, it was an easy decision to drop down a division to sign for West Ham United in October 1990.
“They’d been unbeaten in their opening ten games and had just hammered Hull City 7-1.”
With Steve Potts and Julian Dicks in outstanding form, Breacker did not feature in the next Second Division match, a 1-1 draw at Bristol City.
He was on the bench alongside Frank McAvennie the following Saturday, when the Hammers travelled down the M4 again to Swindon Town. Both men were introduced with the game still goalless…
“I certainly wasn’t going to walk straight into the side but, when Julian Dicks limped off injured just before half-time, I finally came on for my debut at Swindon,” Breacker recalled. “And, on 83 minutes, my fellow substitute Frank McAvennie scored the only goal of the game to keep up an unbeaten run that would go on for 21 matches and, ultimately, see us promoted, come May.”
Four days later, Breacker’s first start came, at right-back, in a 1-0 home win over Blackburn Rovers – the first of 296 appearances in Claret and Blue over the course of the next eight-and-a-half years.
Looking back, the 55-year-old says the advice given to him by his fellow substitute McAvennie that readied him for a long and successful West Ham career.
“I settled in well and Alvin Martin and Tony Gale made me really welcome, while I quickly became good mates with Steve Potts, too,” he recalled. “But it was Frank who’d made the first real impression, when I bumped into him at the Boleyn Ground following my medical.
“Here was a goal-scoring legend – starring for a technically-brilliant West Ham United side – who’d played at the World Cup and even been on chat shows. ‘Can you tackle?’ he asked. ‘Well, I am a defender,’ I replied.
‘Take my advice,’ continued Frank. ‘Don’t worry about playing the fancy stuff, just launch someone into the Chicken Run and the West Ham fans will love ya.’”
“Welcome to the so-called Academy of Football!”