In part one of our exclusive interview with Hammers legend Ian Bishop, we speak to the former midfielder about what life was truly like at West Ham in his day.
Ian Bishop arrived at Upton Park in 1989, after impressive spells at Manchester City, Bournemouth, Crewe Alexandra and Carlisle United. The elegant midfielder quickly made a name for himself in Claret and Blue, playing a key role in our promotion back to The Top Flight in the 1990/1991 season. The Scouser was also made club captain by fellow legend and manager of the time Billy Bonds. Bishop continued to grace the hallowed turf of Upton Park throughout the 90’s and was instrumental during the early Premier League era. The cult hero went on to make over 250 Hammers appearances, scoring 26 goals in that time and etching his name into West Ham United folklore.
The Everton Academy graduate also had the pleasure of playing under three different managers at The Boleyn Ground, these included Lou Macari, Harry Redknapp and Billy Bonds, but who was his favourite manager to play under?
“Harry would let me do my own thing on the field which I loved him for”. Bish exclaimed. “But for sheer passion and love for the club, I really admired and was proud to have played, and captained the club, under Billy Bonds. Mr. West Ham”.
Bishop was best known during his time at Upton Park for his fantastic through balls and stunning goals, but if there was one vital moment that the Legend could have changed, what would it be?
“The penalty away at Oldham that I sort of gave away. Those points cost us the title. Complete dive but still hurts”.
The game in question occurred in the 1990/1991 season in a 1-1 draw at Boundary Park, as we embarked on a title race with The Latics. Bish gave away a key penalty which could have been accredited with costing us The Division Two title to Oldham, but we were still promoted in Billy Bonds’ first full-season in charge. In that same season, we went on a magnificent F.A Cup run reaching the semi-final against Nottingham Forest, even though we lost that day, the encounter made the list of Bishop’s fondest memories from his time in Claret and Blue.
“The Bond scheme. The promotions, the relegations, the semi-final at Villa Park, the midweek games under the lights we were invincible, the atmosphere, but most of all the people. From the fans through to the ground staff, it was a family”.
The comments from the legend about his time at Upton Park reflect a period of time where West Ham United was one big family, a feeling that some fans feel has been lost since our move to Stratford. The love and affection shown towards the Football Club from Bishop is made even more powerful due to the fact that he would usually be an outsider to West Ham United, as he was born in Liverpool. The attack-minded midfielder also recounts one of his fondest memories from his 9-year stint with us being simply playing at the famous Boleyn Ground. Here’s what he had to say when we asked him what it was like to play at Upton Park in it’s heyday:
“Scary!” exclaimed Bish, “Mainly for the opposition, but also for the timid who wore the claret and blue. I embraced the fire and the challenge and didn’t warm up at home because I didn’t want to dilute that sound, and feeling of running out to a packed Upton Park. It was my haven away from real life and where I felt at home”.
It is clear to see that for many former Hammers, the memory of that fortress still lives on, even if it does lay in ruin nowadays. Another feature of Bish’s Hammers career was the calibre of teammates that he played with under Bonds, Redknapp and Macari, these included the likes of Frank McAvennie, Julian Dicks, Ludek Miklosko and Steve Potts to name a few. But did he have a favourite Hammers teammate? Or was there just too many to choose from?
“To honestly say I had a favourite team mate would not be right. I had a lot of great friends in my time, but also people who I trusted in battle. We had a special dressing room environment, some managers would say too special at times, but there was genuine respect for each other on and off the field. We spent time together, ask all of the local landlords!”
The spirit of the dressing room was more than alive in the 90’s at West Ham United, it is crystal-clear to see, but that is another thing said to be lost in Modern Football. The days of players socialising in Pubs may be over, but for Bishop and many others, it was an incredible era to play Football in.
Catch part two of our exclusive interview with the Claret and Blue legend next week, as we chat to Bish about the current situation at West Ham United, what the future may bring for him, The Stadium move and much more.