Bill West speaks exclusively with ex-Hammer George Parris about his West Ham career, the Olympic Stadium, gambling and the ‘86 season

What was the highlight of your West Ham career

What was the highlight of your West Ham career?

From a team point of view, it would obviously be the 1985/86 season where we finished third. On a personal level, it would be when I was Hammer of the Year runner-up in 1991.

Who was the best player you played with?

There were many outstanding players that I played with but if I had to choose one it would be Alan Devonshire. He was such a class player.

How did it feel playing for a team that was challenging for the title in 1986?

At the time, there was no talk about the title, we just went out and played with the feeling that we wouldn’t get beat, even in games where we didn’t particularly play well. It obviously would have been great to have won it. There were two very good sides in Liverpool and Everton that season, but we certainly gave them a run for their money.

Are you still in contact with the players from that era?

Yes, we still meet up reasonably regularly. I’m still close friends with Alan Dickens and Tony Cottee. We all got on very well together, so we all keep in touch.

Why is the percentage of black managers in England so small?

It’s not just black managers; it applies to young managers as well. Maybe some owners are not willing to take a chance on people and I think that’s the main issue. There aren’t too many black football managers in the Football League at the moment and hopefully in time that will change.

It’s well-documented that you had a gambling addiction, how did it all start?

I’m not sure exactly when it started but we always used to play cards on the coach and it seemed to go on from there. Most of the other lads didn’t have a problem playing on the coach or going into the bookmakers. But I wasn’t one of those people. I ended up doing silly things that I wouldn’t normally do, so that’s obviously the addiction part of it.

How did you overcome your addiction?

It’s an on-going thing and is a daily process to be honest. I haven’t had a bet for nearly eight years and I still have to think about the consequences of what you do and don’t do, so it’s always going to be an on-going process.

What have you done since retirement?

I’ve done my coaching badges and I’m now a UEFA ‘A’ Licence holder which is level four, so I can coach anywhere in Europe or up to the Championship in England. I’m a coach educator as well which is about coaching the coaches and I primarily do that in Sussex. Recently, I’ve been working with the Brighton and Hove Albion Girls Centre of Excellence where I’m a Technical Director.

West Ham has been named the preferred candidate to move into the Olympic stadium, is this a good move?

If it’s a move that has to be done, then we have to embrace it with open arms. I would imagine if you spoke to the majority of supporters, they would want to stay at the Boleyn Ground. But football moves on and if we have to move, then let’s see what happens. I’m sure whatever the decision, everyone will get behind it.

Are you looking for a managerial job?

I wouldn’t rule it out but it’s often very difficult to get your foot on the ladder. You never know, one day I might get the opportunity and if I’m around and something comes along, I’ll give it my best shot but that might be a little way off at the moment

Do you think the new St George’s Park facility will make a difference to the English National Team?

You’d hope so but it might take a while to see the benefits of it. I think it’s a move in the right direction and hopefully within five to ten years we’ll start reaping the rewards of it.

Do you think youth players have it too easy nowadays?

It’s a tricky one because football has moved on from when I played. Obviously the introduction of Sky TV has introduced the big wages which you see today. If clubs are willing to offer massive money to youth players, then of course they are going to take it.

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