West Ham legend John ‘Muffin’ Bond - a personal tribute by the man who was there
Veteran former Recorder West Ham correspondent Trevor Smith looks back at the Hammers career of one of the great thinkers of the game, John Bond, who died last week
The first close contact I had with John Bond came in his early West Ham days.
Following an Upton Park game that ensured a win bonus, the Hammers dressing room was a noisy, cheerful one.
Then, a sudden discordant note cut across the levity as a loud Essex accent dolefully imparted: “Oi do wish they wouldn’t call oi Muffin!”
“They” were the old Chicken-run jokers, who’d not taken long before greeting the young right back’s mighty first-time kick-it-up-their-end vollied clearances by branding him Muffin after tv’s Muffin the Mule.
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John’s wish was gratified long before the end of his years with West Ham, the fans appreciated what a good player he’s worked at becoming.
It has become club folklore how he joined up with Malcolm Allison and Noel Cantwell in establishing the coterie of Hammers who argued many afternoons away talking football tactics in Cassetari’s Barking Road cafe.
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There, I suspect, John was very much his own man regardless, if a couple of other insights are anything to go by.
It was still relatively early in his Hammers time when I ran into him coming out of Upton Park at a rare lick. As he strode past I said, “is the manager in John?”
Over a shoulder came an angry, “yes - the biggest, know-nothing bastard there is in the game!”
A few minutes later, an equally furious Ron Greenwood was grating to me, “John Bond will never put on a West Ham shirt for me again”.
It must have been a helluva barney!
John was later among the players who coached in the local schools. One day, en route from school to field, he was hit on the back of the neck with an apple core.
His response was to march the lot of them straight back to school, football afternoon over.
I heard of this, not from him, but from a mate who was a teacher at the school - and who lamented how badly they could do with John’s brand of discipline.
That mule-like kick gave John some impressive strikes, such as the blistering direct free kick against Liverpool which sealed promotion in the last home game of 1957/58. It also set up the pressure-free win at Middlesbrough the next week that sent Hammers up as champions.
After West Ham of course, John went into management. He was Norwich chief the night when, following a West Ham evening game, he, his assistant Kenny Brown and myself stood outside Upton Park talking football till well past midnight.
Accent apart, there was nothing much left of the callow lad they once dubbed as muffin.
God rest him.