Tim Holland speaks to exWest Ham midfielder Mark Ward about the ‘86 season, his time in prison, playing in Iceland and shooting Barry Horne

Looking back at your West Ham career, what was the highlight

Looking back at your West Ham career, what was the highlight?

It has to be my first season at the club, the ’86 season. It couldn’t have gone better for me. John Lyall bought me in and after a difficult debut, I managed to establish myself in a great team for a great season that saw us get the club’s highest ever league placing.

Who was the best person you played with and against?

The best player I played with was Alan Devonshire. He had such skill on the ball and not only was he a great footballer but he was great bloke. I was young when I came to the club and he helped me a lot. Overall the best player I played against was probably Stuart Pearce, on my day I thought I could give any full back a run for their money but Stuart was very strong and was difficult to play against.

Towards the end of your career you played in Hong Kong and in Iceland for Valur. How did these moves come about and how did they go?

When you’re nearing the end of your career you have to consider all your options and you try to cling on to your football as it’s all you know. My dad was stationed out in Hong Kong in the services years ago and always said if I got the chance then head out there. So when the offer came in I jumped at the opportunity. I was supposed to be out there for three months but it didn’t go according to plan and I didn’t last that long.

It became clear that the club started moving the goalposts and I started to worry when I turned up to training and the goalkeeper was as tall as me! But overall I enjoyed it and it was a good experience. I hadn’t played for nearly a year when the offer from Iceland came via an agency and my first thought was that it was a shelf stacking job! I went to a team that was bottom of the league and on my debut we won our first match and it felt like we’d won the league. I remember learning the hard way though how expensive everything is out there when I bought a round for some of the team and blew half my week’s wages!

How has your time in prison changed you? Do you still want to get back into football?

I think prison changes everyone and it changed me for the better. I’m a better person now. I held my hands up for what I had done and while my crime may not have of had a victim, the real victims were my family for what I put them through. Fortunately I kept fit and wrote a book –“From Right wing to B wing” and that got me through. When I was inside I realised wouldn’t be able to get into football in the same way as before. People don’t want to give you chance when you’ve been imprisoned and you can understand why people turn to reoffending – it turns into a cycle. Fortunately for me I had the book to fall back on and also the support of some of the lads I played with at West Ham.

Who stands out in the current West Ham squad?

I like Mark Noble; he has passion and gives everything to the team, a bit like I used to do. He’s neat on the ball and can be a joy to watch at times. Matt Jarvis is a good wide man with the ability to provide a great cross. I think he needs to have a better understanding with the strikers especially Andy Carroll. No one player stands out for me at the club – there’s no Suarez, Bale or Van Persie – it’s more of a team ethos.

What do you make of Sam Allardyce?

Last season Sam did what was asked of him and got us out of the Championship and you don’t mind if the football wasn’t great because of the end result. I’ve been to 5 or so games this season and overall I don’t think we’ve played as well I think we can. If we stay up I think we really need to add to the squad. I like Mark Noble; he has passion and gives everything to the team, a bit like I used to do. He’s neat on the ball and can be a joy to watch at times. Matt Jarvis is a good wide man with the ability to provide a great cross. I think he needs to have a better understanding with the strikers especially Andy Carroll. No one player stands out for me at the club – there’s no Suarez, Bale or Van Persie – it’s more of a team ethos.

Where do you stand on the Olympic stadium?

I know David Sullivan from my Birmingham days so I’ve spoken to him about the plans and he reassured me that end result will good for the club and fans. My worry was that the fans would be too far away from the pitch but I think this will be rectified when the plans are unveiled. I suppose you have to move with the times but for me it will be difficult to leave Upton Park – it has such a great atmosphere especially under the floodlights.

Do you think we’ll stay up?

I think we’ve got a tough run in and in reality that last relegation spot is up for grabs. I think we should be fine and our home form will save us but I still think we need a couple more wins.

Finally did you really shoot Barry Horne who was dressed as the Pope, at close range, in the chest, with a real gun?

Yeah it was a fancy dress and someone said ‘Shoot the Pope’ so I did! I didn’t realise that the gun was loaded fortunately with a blank, but it knocked him off his feet and someone had to chuck a pint on him as he was on fire!

Mark Ward’s book ‘From Right Wing to B-Wing’ is available to buy from all good book shops (and some bad ones)

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