Q. You’re a local lad and a West Ham fan. What was it like to play for the club?
I can’t explain how good it was in fairness. West Ham are a passion of mine. My whole family are supporters – my 2 great grandfathers went 1923 ‘White Horse’ FA Cup Final and my great Uncle was a founder member of the supporters club. So I have real history and attachment to the club – there was no other option for me. Growing up in Romford as well with its big fan base meant that as soon as I was old enough I was going to watch matches with my mates.
Q. You scored on your debut at 17. Was that a dream come true as a fan?
After being such a fan it was surreal. I went to the ’81 League Cup Final as a fan and then a few months later I was training with the first team as an apprentice. It was hard to get out of the supporter mould when you are training with your heroes – people like Billy Bonds. The only downside of being a player was not being able to be supporter any longer but to score on my debut was an amazing feeling – I won’t say my career went downhill after that but it was definitely one of the best moments of my career.
Q. How did you deal with the pressure when you coming through after your debut?
There wasn’t the same kind of media scrutiny that there is now. There wasn’t 24 hour sports news on the TV, radio or the internet so the newspapers carried more weight. I suppose I was a level headed lad and I don’t think I’ve got an ego, I’m just a typical West Ham fan who was fortunate enough to play for the club so that helped. Also my family were great at keeping my feet on the ground. I loved playing and I was in my comfort zone on the pitch. Plus I had confidence in my ability as a decent goal scorer so I just worked on the other areas of my game and just did the best I could.
Q. What do you think of Andy Carroll?
I’m a fan of Andy Carroll first and foremost. I felt he was mistreated at Liverpool and I don’t think he was given a chance this season. I think Andy is a certain type of player and when you have certain types of players you have to play to their strengths to get the best out of them. Just as when I was playing, the team wouldn’t play long balls expecting me to win headers! He needs quality service and I know the goals haven’t quite flowed but the one positive to take from the dreadful match against Tottenham was Andy’s first goal for the club. It takes that pressure off and I think he’ll come good this season.
Q. What do you make of the other striking options for West Ham this season?
Carlton’s a different player to Andy, he’s quicker and he’s a lot more mobile but he’s also a good finisher on his day. I think he just needs some confidence and I think that applies to all forwards. If you’ve got that confidence then you feel like you’re going to score every game. Maiga has done well in patches since he’s arrived at the club and looks a good buy. Vaz Te had a great season last year and it was unfortunate that he was injured so early on. We’ve got 4 or 5 good forwards including Robert Hall who is out on loan. Below that we’ve got Elliott Lee who is also shaping up well. So it’s looking good in that department we just need to ensure the service to the front men is being provided.
Q. Sam Baldock was a player that fans said reminded them of you. Were you surprised to see him go?
I was disappointed to see Sam and Nicky Maynard leave in the summer. Sam was a fan’s favourite but for whatever reason he wasn’t given a proper chance at the club. Managers have to make difficult decisions and I’m sure this was one of them. I think Sam could’ve scored goals in the Premier League but unfortunately we’re not going to see that at West Ham. We don’t play to his strengths and Big Sam has his formation and style of play and we have to respect that and you can’t argue with the results.
Q. What do you think was the best goal of your career?
Technically it was the overhead kick against Nottingham Forest – it’s very rare that it all comes together and it goes right. The most enjoyable was definitely my first for the club against Tottenham because it was my first match, of who it was against and because of being of fan. It meant so much.
Q. Finally, what’s your prediction for West Ham next season?
I said at the start of the season that I thought we’d be safe and I don’t think that has changed. I think we’ll finish between 10th and 15th and if we finish in the top half that will be a great achievement. I think it’s important to build slowly and the club needs stability. We need to be in the Premier League and remain there.
West Ham: The Inside Story by Tony Cottee is available now in all good book stores.
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