Football Englands profile of Bonzo
In the summer of 1967 Ron Greenwood, the West Ham United manager, laid out £50,000 to prize a competitive, enthusiastic full back away from Charlton Athletic.
21 years and 793 appearances later Billy Bonds could retire safe in the knowledge that the investment on him had proved value for money.
Bonds had quickly caught the eye at the Valley, standing out with his aggressive tackling and ability to get forward from full back, even though he had come into a side continually at the wrong end of the second division.
The youngster was also strong in the air and obviously blessed with a natural confidence in himself and his ability. Billy Bonds was clearly destined for the first division. It was at the end of his third season in the Charlton first team that Bonds moved to Upton Park.
West Ham's highly promising side of the early sixties was beginning to disintegrate and although Bonds was moving up a level, in many ways his situation here was very similar to the one he had been brought up in at the Valley.
Billy Bonds stepped into a West Ham side that was infuriatingly unpredictable, varying wildly between the brilliant and the amateurish, despite the presence of the majestic Bobby Moore.
The newcomer from Charlton certainly helped add steel to the West Ham defence and in his first two seasons with the Hammers they managed creditable finishes of 12th and 8th.
Bonds cut a very different figure at that time to the one he became identified with later. Fresh faced, clean shaven with short, tidy hair he looked the perfect boy to take home to mother. At worst he could have been marked down as a Mod.
The straggly haired, bearded Hells Angel/Pirate look came later and perhaps suited him better. It was certainly more in keeping with the way he played the game.
Bonds' progress at Upton Park was recognised by the award of a couple of England under 23 caps but West Ham now spent two seasons fighting desperately to preserve their first division status. They managed to do so and showed a marked improvement in the 1971-72 season, one of the major reasons for this being a tactical switch involving Bonds.
Disturbed by his increasingly lightweight midfield, Greenwood took the decision to move Bonds into midfield. Looking back this does not come across as any particular stroke of genius on Greenwood's part but several members of the squad admitted surprise at the time, either that it was considered in the first place or that Billy Bonds had proved such a success in the role.
Bonds took to his midfield commission immediately, revelling in the opportunity to get around the pitch and more than happy to provide the tackling that his colleagues seemed to conscientiously object to making. As well as helping the team it is certain that Bonds' contribution helped several of his colleagues make strides forward, most notably Trevor Brooking perhaps.
Brooking had already shown talent but his career had stalled before the switching of Bonds gave the Hammers midfield the kind of balance which allowed the ball players to flourish.
As well as climbing into a secure mid table position, West Ham embarked on an epic League Cup campaign which took them to within a whisker of Wembley, eventually losing out to Stoke City in the fourth game of their marathon semi final.
Billy Bonds continued to add bite to the Hammers midfield for the next few seasons, performing to such a standard that many onlookers began to wonder when his call up to the full England squad would arrive. This question would continue to puzzle many even into the 1980's after Bonds had moved back to centre half and was in his mid thirties.
For some reason the call never came. It remains one of footballs' mysteries.
In 1975 Billy Bonds was probably at his peak as he led the Hammers to victory in the FA Cup final against Fulham. His combative qualities and will to win were essential as West Ham won through against Q.P.R., Arsenal and Ipswich as underdogs before securing a comfortable win as favourites in the final.
On a series of heavy, demanding pitches Bonds led from the front, awesome in victory at Highbury and immense in the two semi final games against Ipswich when West Ham backs were well and truly against the wall.
The following year Billy Bonds led his team to the Cup Winners Cup final where they lost an entertaining game to the outstanding Belgian side Anderlecht 4-2.
Bonds, who had scored the vital penalty which saw the Hammers through their quarter final tie with Den Haag on away goals, was now being employed at centre half more regularly and instantly looked at home in the position.
The switch was important as it undoubtedly prolonged Bonds' shelf life as a top flight player, indeed it began to look as though the warhorse might go on indefinitely.
West Ham began to struggle after their cup final victory of 1975 and in 1978 they were relegated to the second division. Outside the top flight, however, the Hammers were able to build an excellent side and even, for once, forge a solid defence.
Billy Bonds and Frank Lampard provided experience alongside the capable stopper Alvin Martin and the reliable Scot, Ray Stewart. Behind them was the imposing keeper Phil Parkes.
It was astonishing that it took this team three attempts to regain first division status although the Hammers became a little distracted in 1980 by an FA Cup run which took them all the way to Wembley and a famous 1-0 win over Arsenal, Bonds collecting the famous old trophy for the second time.
The following year not even a run to the League Cup final and defeat in a replay against Liverpool could stop West Ham from returning to the top flight after running away with the second division championship.
Billy Bonds was one of eight West Ham players voted into the Division Two team of the season by the players of that division, (Parkes, Stewart, Martin, Bonds, Ray O'Brien (Notts Co), Tony Currie (QPR), Brooking, Devonshire, Teerry Curran (Sheff. Wed.), Cross and Goddard) and the grizzly Hammers skipper also came in fourth in the vote to find the Footballer of the Year, beaten only by a trio of Ipswich Town players.
Even at 35 there were calls for Bonds to gain international recognition as his partnership with the eager Martin continued to impress in the first division but instead it was the younger man who gained selection.
Billy Bonds was left to see out his considerable time giving everything he had to the West Ham cause.
Bonds originally called it a day in 1985 but came out of retirement a year later to give the ailing Hammers two more years of service, eventually hanging up his boots for good in 1988, his last appearance coming at the age of 41 years and 225 days, a club record.
By that time Bonds had clocked up 663 league appearances for West Ham, another club record, as well as turning out in an astonishing 130 cup ties.
Billy Bonds returned to Upton Park as manager in 1990 to pick up the pieces as Lou Macari resigned to fight allegations of misconduct during his previous post at Swindon Town. Under his control West Ham went up, down then up again in successive seasons and then secured a safe mid table position in the Premiership before Bonds left in mysterious circumstances.
Billy Bonds had brought Harry Redknapp to Upton Park from Bournemouth as his assistant. Apparently Bournemouth subsequently asked Redknapp to return to them as manager and after a meeting with the West Ham board Bonds left and Redknapp was promoted to manager at Upton Park.
Surely this was by mutual consent. Harry Redknapp wouldn't do anything underhand to further his own interests, would he? Hopefully Bonds did not leave West Ham with too bitter a taste in his mouth, considering his unparalleled service to the club as a player.
His contribution to football was recognised by the award of an MBE, I wonder how that compares to the award of an England cap, and it is hard to imagine his name ever being scrubbed from the Upton Park annals as the proud holder of the clubs' appearance record.
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Simply the Best
Brilliant Billy Bonds Player and Gentleman
Greatest Ever Hammer
My favorite West Ham player of all time. Not rated yet
House "Endeavour" Eltham Green School Not rated yet
Bonds - best player West Ham ever had Not rated yet
Billy Bonds A True Legend of West Ham Not rated yet
Bonzo The Great Not rated yet
Bonzo, a real leader Not rated yet
only one billy bonds Not rated yet
Bonds a living legend Not rated yet
Bonzo was the best !!!! Not rated yet
legend Not rated yet
Brilliant Billy Bonds Not rated yet
The best defender England never had. Bonzo to succeed Grant! Not rated yet
Steel to Trevor's silk (appreciation of Billy Bonds) Not rated yet
Warrior Not rated yet
They do not make them like him anymore !!!! Not rated yet
not the most gifted but my favorite Not rated yet
Stalwart Not rated yet
dave from eastbourne Not rated yet
loyal clubman Not rated yet
billy bonds.the gladiator of west ham united. Not rated yet
Back to Black & White Football Not rated yet
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a legend Not rated yet
Bonzo - All Time Favourite Not rated yet
WILLIAM ARTHUR BONDS Not rated yet
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Upton Park legend Not rated yet
A real hero Not rated yet
bonzo mr consistency Not rated yet
Man of Steel - Billy Bonds Not rated yet
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A Man who did not like losing Not rated yet