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In Review: When Football Was Football: West Ham

Filed: Tuesday, 18th October 2011
By: Staff Writer

Iain Dale
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"This book isn't about the modern era of football..."

When Football Was Football: West Ham is a nostalgic look back at the first one hundred years of West Ham United Football Club, from its humble beginnings in 1895 right through to the mid 1990s when Billy Bonds was in the managerial hotseat.

To all intents and purposes a pictorial record - with commentary added to each picture by the author - WFWF:WH is the result of one man's foray into the vast Daily Mirror image archive and, to the author's credit, contains several previously unseen (or long forgotten) photographs - even if the majority are standard stock fare - as you would expect in a retrospective collection of this nature.

Indeed, the more interesting images included here - from this reviewer's perspective, at least - are not those on the field of play (most of which have been seen in other collections) but rather those off it, which perfectly encapsulate the era being discussed - be that the wives and girlfriends of the 1964 Cup Final team or those of supporters mourning the death of Bobby Moore almost 30 years later.

The book is divided into chapters representing the eras of each of the seven managers at the club prior to the instalment of Harry Redknapp in 1994. So once the foreward and brief chapter on the Thames Iron Works is concluded we travel through the reigns of King, Paynter, Fenton, Greenwood, Lyall, Macari - who gets but two pages out of a total of 200+! - and Bonds.

Each chapter follows its particular era in chronological order and is punctuated with legendary figures from the club - although quite whether anyone but the author would consider the likes of George Kay, Jackie Morton, Pop Robson and David Cross to be club legends - solid performers though they were - is debatable.

On the bright side, those bona-fide club legends such as Watson, Gregory, Moore, Brooking and Bonds are all included so it's a minor quibble. Though as we're talking quibbles, the information regarding the club colours of the Thames Iron Works is slightly inaccurate and contradictory. But again, it's a minor point.

Overall, WFWF:WH is a fascinating pictorial record of the club's first one hundred years, beautifully designed and ideal for your coffee table - even if the older supporter will have seen a great many of the pictures included here elsewhere.

In hardback and priced at nearly twenty quid it's not cheap, but if you're looking for a Christmas present for a devoted Hammer you could do a lot worse.

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