Interview With: TONY STOKES

TH: You came through the West Ham academy and were reserve team captain, how do you rate your time at West Ham?

TH: You came through the West Ham academy and were reserve team captain, how do you rate your time at West Ham?

TS: I loved my time at West Ham; I was there from the age of nine to 22 so I was there a long time. Being captain was an honour because I captained some good players that are in the fi rst team now like James Tomkins and Jack Collison.

TH: You had a few loans spells at Brighton, Rushden and at Stevenage Borough with Peter Taylor. Do you think they helped you progress as a footballer?

TS: Going out on loan did make me a better player because there is nothing like playing first team football. Playing in front of crowds week in week out and the fans Interview With: TONY STOKES chanting your name. Plus there are points up for grabs so you want to win so much more which gives you that winning mentality

TH: What’s your best memory of your time at the Boleyn Ground?

TS: My best memory has got to be when I made my debut against Sheffi eld Wednesday. I was 18 at Hillsborough in front of 30, 000 people and I came on for Tomas Repka for the last ten minutes. I will never forget that feeling.

TH: Who was the best player you played with and against? TS: The best player I’ve played with has got to be Scott Parker, he made the game look so easy. When I played in the middle with him, he just talked you through the whole game. The best player I played against was probably Jack Wilshere; he turned up to a reserve game in his school uniform and whipped two goals in the top corner.

TH: Do you think there’s a pressure on West Ham youth players being part of the Academy of Football etc.

TS: Yeah I do think there is a bit of pressure on the young lads coming through because West Ham are known for the academy. As well because of the foreign talent, you know the club could go out and buy another player your age, whenever they wanted and then you don’t get a look in.

TH: Do you still keep in touch with any of the lads from your West Ham days?

TS: Freddie Sears – Searsy is the one I keep in contact with the most, got him on BBM and we’re always seeing how each other are getting on.

TH: You have the distinction of being one of small band of English players that have played in the Hungarian league. How did that come about?

TS: I was playing in the West Ham reserves and the Ujpest directors came to watch a game and wanted to take me on loan. So I went out there for a week to see what it was like and enjoyed it so I stayed there for rest of the season and then decided to sign permanently once we made the Europa League.

TH: How did you get on out there? Was it a culture shock?

TS: I did really enjoy my time out there and I met some great people that I will never forget. In terms of the culture – the language was too hard to get my head around so it was lucky when everyone spoke enough English to get by on!

TH: Do you have any regrets about your time at FC Ujpest being cut short?

TS: No I don’t have any regrets; it was a great experience for me at that stage of my career. If it weren’t for Ujpest, I would never have played in the Europa League.

TH: You’re now playing for Concord Rangers and have been made captain this season. How it’s going for you at CRFC?

TS: I’ve never been happier playing my football, all the lads are great and it’s an honour to be captaining the side. It was a complete shock for me but hopefully I can lead us to some glory again this season.

TH: You were known as a midfielder at West Ham but you’ve moved to a forward position now. Is that a more natural position for you?

TS: From the age of nine to 17 I played as a striker at West Ham and loved scoring goals then I got moved back into midfi eld because Alan Pardew saw something else in me and that’s when I started the midfield role. But now I’m back playing in the position I enjoy the most, affecting the game by either scoring or making assists.

TH: You seem to have done a lot of both over the last few seasons (54 in 88 appearances) and you’ve top scored for the Beachboys for the last two seasons. There must have been a lot of clubs interested in you?

TS: Yeah over the last two seasons I’ve had interest from league clubs and from the conference but nothing was ever followed through. Plus I’ve loved every minute playing for Concord and hope it continues.

TH: So do you have long term ambitions to get back to league football?

TS: At the minute I’m just concentrating leading the boys out for every game and trying to win as much as possible. You never know what the future holds, so until that day comes, I’m more than happy being Concord’s captain and putting the shirt on every week.

TH: A footballer’s career is shorter than most, have you got any plans post retirement?

TS: I haven’t really thought about life after football yet but I’d love to still be apart of it because it’s been my life. I started playing when I was three and was at West Ham from nine so I haven’t known anything else. I can’t see my life without a bit of football in it.

TH: Do you still keep an eye for the West Ham scores? Any predictions for West Ham this season?

TS: Yeah I always check the score every weekend, it’s hard not to when they were such a big part of my life. In terms of this season – I think they’ll stay up, especially if they can keep hold of Andy Carroll because he fi ts in perfectly with the way Allardyce wants to play and the system they use.

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