Tim Breacker v Arsenal

My West Ham Scrapbook - Tim Breacker

Former West Ham United defender Tim Breacker, who made 296 appearances for the Club between 1990-1999, celebrates his 58th birthday on Sunday 2 July. 

The right-back recalls his favourite memories in Claret and Blue...


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.

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 10 games and had just hammered Hull City 7-1. 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 Town. 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.

I settled in well and Alvin Martin and Tony Gale made me really welcome, while I quickly became good mates with Steve Potts, too. 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!

Tim Breacker joins West Ham


Going into January 1991, we were five points clear at the top of the table and our FA Cup run would be a welcome distraction from the pressures of the promotion race. It took a replay to see off fourth-tier Aldershot in the third round before we faced my old club Luton Town. Three months on, it was surreal returning to Kenilworth Road, where I’d made many friends down the years.

Once again, it took a replay to get through to the fifth round where we beat Crewe Alexandra before playing Everton in the quarter-finals. Floodlit matches at Upton Park were always brilliant but the atmosphere that night was the best I ever experienced. On 33 minutes, my cross enabled Colin Foster to volley us ahead and then Stuart Slater – who was unplayable all evening – doubled the lead after an hour. Dave Watson pulled one back but it was too late for Howard Kendall’s top-flight side.

I’d been struggling with a niggly knee injury and underwent a minor operation fully expecting to be back for the semi-final against Nottingham Forest. Sadly, things didn’t go as planned and I didn’t recover in time. I was devastated to miss out but I still went up to Villa Park and sat in the stands with our fans.

We were holding our own until Galey was controversially sent off and, as everyone knows, although Forest went on to win 4-0, those brilliant Hammers supporters stuck with their team, chanting ‘Billy Bonds Claret & Blue Army’ all the way through to the final whistle. We were gutted to go out of the Cup but our fans were just different class. 

Red Card versus Forest


One pre-season game will always stick in my mind. Having just been promoted, the 1991/92 campaign was always going to be a tough one and the writing was probably already on the wall in the Makita Tournament at Highbury, where we lost 1-6 to Sampdoria.

We had a few injuries and I had to move across to centre-half to face Attilio Lombardo and Silas, who had played for Brazil at the 1990 World Cup. Despite the score, I didn’t think that I did too badly but who knows what would’ve happened if Gianluca Vialli and Roberto Mancini had also been fit!

The following season, we found ourselves playing in the Anglo-Italian Cup and our home matches against AC Reggiana and Pisa were really physical, niggly affairs. But it was the two away ties that stick in my memory. In November 1992, we went to Cremonese on a Wednesday afternoon expecting a massive crowd but there were only a few hundred Italians in the tiny attendance of 1,639 that was mainly made up of coach-loads of noisy West Ham supporters, who had incredibly made the long trek and, even though we lost 0-2, they comfortably out-sang those home fans.

One month later, we flew out to Cosenza, where the rain had been bucketing down all day - we had to wade through the tunnel just to get onto the pitch, which was six inches under water. I don’t know how they allowed that match to be played in such impossible conditions but, in the end, with just 850 saturated supporters looking on, Clive Allen somehow managed to receive the ball off the ground and net the winner with a brilliant volley.

Consenza West Ham United 1990


I scored eight goals during my 298 appearances for West Ham United including one against my former club Luton Town in December 1992 and another against Queens Park Rangers, who I would join after eventually leaving the Hammers in 1999.

Back in March 1992, I was coming back from injury and found myself sitting on the Boleyn Ground bench as QPR took a 2-1 lead through Bradley Allen. With 70 minutes now on the clock, Billy Bonds decided to substitute Kevin Keen. “Tim, get yourself on, make some tackles and get us going,” he said.

Sure enough, I wasted no time getting in my first challenge, accidentally catching Ray Wilkins on the head. Apologising, I bent down and patted him without realising that I’d inadvertently touched the actual wound. I’m sure that Ray – who sadly is no longer with us - must have taken some spiteful challenges while playing for the likes of England, Manchester United and AC Milan but there was no absolutely malice in my tackle or that tap on the head.

Ray angrily reared up and suddenly it dawned on me that somehow I’d managed to upset the nicest man in football! While I got booked for my troubles, insult was then added to injury for poor Ray, when – with just a quarter-hour remaining – Bradley’s cousin Martin unleashed a low shot, which crashed back off the far post and I tapped-in give us a 2-2 draw. It had certainly been a busy five minutes.

Tim breacker booked


My most memorable goal came at Everton on New Year’s Day 1994. West Ham hadn’t won at Goodison Park since 1983 and, on my last appearance up there, I’d been sent off for fouls on Andy Hinchcliffe and then Peter Beagrie, who’d always make the most of any tackle.

Beagrie was a nightmare for any defender because he’d jump out of the way and then roll around on the floor but, equally, he was a very funny lad, too, and there was always good banter whenever we played against each other.

Returning to Merseyside two seasons later, there were just six minutes on the clock when I charged into the Everton area. Catching him by surprise, Beagrie had failed to track back with me and I nodded Mike Marsh’s chip beyond Neville Southall into the net. Not only did that header give us a rare 1-0 victory but I’d also scored the very first Premier League goal of 1994.

All of my wife’s family are Everton fans and just to wind them up, I’ve got a photograph of the goal on the wall in our Leicestershire home. Big Nev and Beagrie are just sitting there on the pitch staring at each other. After my harsh sending off two seasons earlier, I just tell Karen’s family that it was total Karma for me to score that winner at Goodison Park.

Breacker v Everton


Kenny Brown had famously stopped Manchester United from winning the league back in 1992 and, just three years later, we again threw a spanner in the works for Sir Alex Ferguson, who maintains that it’s the one game of his managerial career that he’d love to change.

After finding ourselves in relegation trouble going into Easter 1995, we thankfully found some form and had beaten eventual champions Blackburn Rovers (2-1) and Liverpool (3-0) in our previous two home matches, leaving us safe heading into the final Sunday afternoon of the 1994/95 season.

Manchester United arrived at the Boleyn Ground knowing that only a win could give them any hope of pipping Rovers to the Premier League title but, in an unbelievable atmosphere, Ludo Miklosko had an absolute blinder in goal, while we defended for our lives to hold out for the 1-1 draw that meant Blackburn were crowned champions. Towards the end of the game, I went up for a challenge with Steve Bruce, who forced my hand onto the ball in our consequent tangling of arms.

United were screaming at Gerald Ashby that it should’ve been a penalty and some of their players came running up to me demanding that I tell the referee that I’d hand-balled it. It’d clearly been accidental and I certainly wasn’t going to admit to something like that in those circumstances.

Nearly 25 years on, I’m Chief Scout at Bolton Wanderers but just a dozen miles down the road in Manchester, Sir Alex Ferguson still claims that as well as having 20 goals that afternoon, they should’ve had that penalty, too!


Pride Month