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Book review: There's Only One Stevie Bacon

After one season away from the top flight, West Ham United will be returning to the Premier League next month and a new book is coming into shops in time for the new season.

There have been many Hammers legends in the past 30 years, including Trevor Brooking, Alvin Martin, Julian Dicks, Tony Cottee, Paolo di Canio and Rio Ferdinand.

All of these have come under the microscope from Stevie Bacon, who is the popular official photographer for the Hammers.

Now, together with Kirk Blows who has written plenty of stories involving the East London side, including ‘Bring Me the Head of Trevor Brooking’ and ‘Terminator: Authorised Julian Dicks story,’ Bacon shares his experiences in his own book, titled after a popular chant within the stands at the Boleyn Ground; ‘There’s Only One Stevie Bacon.’

Cult hero

Published by Biteback Publishing, Stevie Bacon has enjoyed unlimited access behind the scenes of life at West Ham United, which has never been boring to say the least.

A West Ham boy through and through, he was originally more interested in speedway than the beautiful game of football.

After some experience with West Ham Speedway, he gradually started covering West Ham United every week with the Recorder newspaper. From there, his love for the Hammers well and truly began.

Taking photographs of new arrivals, Stevie is often the first point of contact for players who sign on at Upton Park. A regular figure on matchday, he even has his own fan chant, alongside other popular West Ham songs; ‘I’m forever blowing bubbles,’ and ‘We all follow the West Ham.’

Having stayed in hotels across the country, covering the team for home and away games, Stevie has some great stories and amusing tales to share of what really happens at one of the most popular football clubs in the land.

Having experienced the seasonal drama of what a traditional Hammers fan goes through, he reveals his stories, the moments that made him love his job and the charismatic characters he has got to know throughout his time as the club’s official photographer.

From promotion to the Premier League three times, Harry Redknapp’s stable reign in the mid-90s, the crushing relegation from the top flight in 2003, boardroom takeovers and FA Cup final anguish in Cardiff, Stevie has covered it all in this 256 page book, packed with some of his best photographs.

To the everyday football fan, he might not be the first name you think of when you think of West Ham but the passionate supporters adore him, see him as a cult hero and will love his book for sure.

Dramatic insights

In West Ham’s chartered history, there have been many goals that Stevie has captured through his camera lens alongside moments of unbridled joy and morale crushing agony.

He has seen it all and endured it all from a close perspective in his job, which is for every picture to tell its own story.

We’ve managed to get an extract from the publishers of the book, relating to West Ham’s shock 1980 FA Cup final victory over the mighty Arsenal.

“Come the big day, I made my own way to the final as I was taking members of my family to the game. It was the first time I’d had the chance to work at Wembley Stadium, so it was a new experience for me. I know West Ham deserve all the credit for upsetting the odds and beating cup holders Arsenal, given they were a Second Division side at the time, but I don’t remember the game as being a classic. Those with good memories talk about John Lyall’s tactical masterstroke of deploying David Cross as a lone striker, which apparently confused the Arsenal defence, but these things tend to go over my head.”

“Thankfully, little went over the head of Trevor Brooking, who nodded in the thirteenth-minute goal that proved to be the winner. I was behind the Arsenal goal and looking to my left when Trevor scored and fortunately I managed to get the shot. It’s always my intention to capture every goal – and I’m certainly happy that I got that one, for obvious reasons – but I always say that the best goals don’t necessarily make the best pictures. A thirty-yard screamer doesn’t make a picture, whereas a tap-in on the goal-line does. When people talk about ‘a goal for the cameras’, they generally mean the television ones because otherwise it’s just a case of man kicks ball. Simple goals make for much better pictures than stunning goals – not that I’m complaining about Trevor’s wonderful piece of instinctive finishing. But I do tend to prefer celebration pictures because of the motion and emotion they illustrate.”

“There was plenty to rejoice about after the final whistle at Wembley and it felt brilliant to see skipper Billy Bonds holding up the trophy during the presentation. The players were on a massive high as they paraded the trophy around the pitch and, although I was concentrating on getting all the celebration shots, there was still time to embrace the moment and enjoy the fact that West Ham had achieved something very special. You have to make the most of these occasions because you never know when they might come around again.”

“Later that evening, the club held their celebration dinner at Quaglino’s restaurant just off Piccadilly in London’s West End. I took my family home, quickly got myself suited and booted and caught the train back into town. When I walked into Quaglino’s there was the FA Cup, in all its splendour, sitting on a table in front of me. I had my camera with me, of course, and the first man I saw was David Cross. ‘Come here,’ he said. ‘You’ve been taking pictures of everyone else with the cup today; now it’s your turn.’ He grabbed my camera, told me to pick up the FA Cup and took a picture of me, which turned out to be rather good, as it happens. And then, it was a case of enjoying the evening. The party had been booked regardless of the result, and I think most of us had assumed before the game that it might be a rather sombre affair given that Arsenal were expected to beat us, but the fact that we won made all the difference and the players were able to let their hair down.”

Enjoying close friendships with managers Billy Bonds, Harry Redknapp and Alan Pardew to name a few and a new angle into the lives of colourful characters such as Dicks, di Canio and Frank McAvennie, this book promises a lot and is one that every football fan should read as the kick-off for a new campaign arrives.

There’s Only One Stevie Bacon: My Life Watching West Ham through a Camera Lens is released on 16 August 2012, available from £15.99. Buy the book now under a special offer of £11.99 from the official publisher’s website: www.bitebackpublishing.com/products/213

By Simon Wright – Follow me on Twitter @Siwri88

Follow Total Football on Twitter: @TotalFootball12

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