Billy Bonds: will there ever be another?

1967-1988: these are the years we saw the amazing Billy Bonds wearing the famous colours of claret and blue. Ron Greenwood was the manager to sign Bonds in a deal costing the club £50,000. Bonds made 95 league appearances, scoring one goal whilst playing for Charlton between 1964-1967.

During his time at Charlton he built up a reputation as a 'hard man'. Bonds was known for his physical strength and fitness, there were few players who were willing to go 'all in' for a tackle against him as they knew he wasn’t the type to shy away.

The thing that made Bonds stand out from other defenders was the fact that when he won the ball he didn’t simply punt it up field in the hope someone latched on to the end of it. Bonds was a very intelligent player, he knew exactly what he could do with the ball at his feet, much the same as the players who played against him did.

Billy Bonds was a true professional (as were many players who played in the same era as he did). In his first three season at West Ham (1967-1970) he played at right back and made a total of 134 appearances. This included a run of 124 consecutive league appearances which was only ended by injury (not like nowadays where they’re all too tired to play or have headaches…).

When Bonds returned for the start of the 1970/71 season, Greenwood viewed his passion to get the ball at his feet and make driving runs forward as something he could do better from midfield. Bonds was making an impression in the midfield and was said to be the instigator of many attacking movements made, especially in the early 1970s.

Bonds was praised for his input during the 1971/72 season League Cup run; unfortunately West Ham were beaten by Stoke in a replay in the quarter finals. Bonds was still learning his trade in midfield but in the 1973-74 season, had by far his best goal scoring season. Making a total of 43 appearances, Bonds scored 13 goals including a hat-trick against Chelsea.

Trophy hero

1974 was the year Bobby Moore made his move, taking on the defensive duties at Fulham FC. Bonds was given the vacant skipper's role and was to hold the captaincy for 10 years.

During his time as captain, Bonds led the club to some memorable moments. Despite a miserable league campaign in 1974-75 West Ham found themselves in the FA Cup final against Fulham, who had also endured a poor season.

The Final was a game of two halves; the first half showed both players being cautious and tentative with the ball, rarely seeing the ball in the penalty area, other than when the defenders passed back to their goalkeepers. Yet after the break West Ham looked to increase the pressure, finally making the breakthrough on the hour mark.

Alan Taylor found himself six yards from goal with a rebounding ball coming his way, his decision was to smash it into the back of the net. 1-0. Four minutes after this Taylor scored an almost identical goal. The game was won by the Hammers 2-0 and was played in front of 100,000 people. This was Bonds' first real achievement since taking over the captaincy from Moore.

I'm forever blowing bubbles!

Shortly before the end of the 1976/77 season, John Lyall pushed Bonds back into the back four as a centre half playing alongside Tommy Taylor. Bonds showed he hadn’t lost his touch in defence, constantly taking the ball from attackers and playing it out calmly.

West Ham won the FA Cup in 1980, this time against First Division club Arsenal (West Ham were in Division Two). Trevor Brooking scored the only goal in the game on 13 minutes, scoring from a mis-hit shot from Stuart Pearson which flew across the goal mouth where Brooking was waiting to score with a header.

Arsenal then tried all they could to unlock the West Ham defence - and had most of the possession for the rest of the game - yet West Ham withstood their attacks to claim a priceless victory.

After the game finished Bonds collected the trophy from the Duchess of Kent. Doing so he turned towards the West Ham fans and raised the trophy above his head to a roar of cheers. Shortly after the anthem that speaks to my heart every time I hear it, 'I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles', was bellowed out by every West Ham fan in the stadium.

Bonds went on to play a total of 793 games for the Hammers, scoring 48 goals, and spent 27 years with them as player and manager. He was a proven hit with the fans, winning Hammer of the Year four times (1971, 1974, 1975 and 1987).

We need to find ourselves a new Billy Bonds, someone who don’t care what position he is playing. A player who doesn’t shy away from tackles and fear an injury, a player who will show the opposition he is going to run the game his way and if you want to change that, then you will have to stand up and will be counted.

Here’s hoping that, one day, we find another player of Billy Bonds' calibre and passion.

* Dean can also be found lurking on Twitter at @Knuckles5683

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