While researching my latest book The Joy of Essex, featuring travels through God’s own county and a humorous look at Essex’s cultural baggage, virtually every destination had some kind of West Ham link.
Here’s some of the trivia unearthed by an exiled Essex man returning to his spiritual roots:
BARKING The great Bobby Moore was raised in Waverley Gardens off the lorry-strewn River Road in Barking. West Ham fan Billy Bragg was also born in Barking.
BASILDON Birthplace of James Tomkins. West Ham also features in the play In Basildon by David Eldridge, recently shown at the Royal Court Theatre and containing the line “Avram Grant? More like Avram Can’t!â€ After scoring against Spurs at White Hart Lane, striker Steve Jones said he went out with his mates to the Crown in Basildon and “didn’t have to buy a drink all night.â€
BRAINTREE FC Currently managed by former West Ham legend Alan Devonshire.
BRENTWOOD Both Frank Lampard Junior and Stewart Robson went to Brentwood School.
BILLERICAY Steve Jones used to work in a soap factory in Billericay while playing for Billericay FC, before signing for the Hammers in 1992. Also the home of Smithy from Gavin and Stacey, who is often spotted in a West Ham shirt.
CHIGWELL Home of the great Bobby Moore and Paolo Di Canio. Paolo used to take the tube in to central London on the Central line and would give up his seat for old ladies. It was in Chigwell that the man who fed Paolo’s piranha fish told Di Canio not to sign for Man United or he would kill them. Good work, Essex piranha man.
CHELMSFORD Mervyn Day was born in Chelmsford and the Hursts moved there when Geoffrey was eight-years-old.
DAGENHAM Paul Konchesky was born here as was Jimmy Greaves, while Steve Potts played alongside Tony Adams in the youth side Dagenham United. Martin Peters met his wife at a bowling alley in Daggers.
DAVID ESSEX The Alpari Stand regular was born in Plaistow when it was still officially in Essex, so David Cook adopted the county’s name for his stage name
GREAT WARLEY When I was growing up in this quiet village near Brentwood, Billy Jennings lived here. My mum once went to an auction with his wife. We’re not worthy, indeed. Billy’s use of hairspray was possibly an early contributor to the 1980s hole in the ozone layer.
ILFORD It was after a night out at The Room at the Top nightclub in Ilford that Geordie winger Keith Robson borrowed a team-mate’s motor while banned from driving. In the resulting court case Ron Greenwood had to argue for a non-custodial sentence on the grounds that doing bird would hamper West Ham’s relegation fight. Bobby Moore met his first wife Tina at the Ilford Palais.
INGATESTONE The legendary Christian Dailly signed for Southend before retiring last summer and is still based in Ingatestone, where presumably everyone wants curly hair too.
LATCHINGDON I interviewed Julian Dicks round at his Latchingdon gaff back in the 1990s. Julian drank a can of Fosters by the swimming pool and showed me his McCaw parrot and the collection of kennels housing his bull terriers and also said he’d experimented with being a vegetarian (it didn’t last). He later went on to run the Shepherd and Dog pub at Langham. Not the sort of pub landlord you’d argue with if he told you to drink up.
LEIGH-ON-SEA Home of West Ham fan Phill Jupitus – the man who popularized barking at ‘Mad Dog’ Martin Allen from the Chicken Run back in the 1980s, as exclusively revealed in The Joy of Essex.
ROMFORD Home of the legendary nightclub Hollywood where West Ham players went out on, erm, team bonding exercises in the 1990s. In 1998 Trevor Sinclair was fined £250 for damaging the mirror and wipers of a car in Romford following a “highspiritedâ€ players’ fancy-dress Christmas party at Secrets nightclub and then drinks at Yates’s Wine Lodge.
ROYDON West Ham uber-fan Ray Winstone has a gaff with a home bar in Roydon, where he rehearses talking in a gruff voice for bet365 ads.
SHENFIELD Catching a glimpse of Trevor Brooking washing his car on the front lawn of his Shenfield gaff was one of the highlights of my not-verymisspent youth. Martin Peters currently lives in Shenfield and it was famous for Holland’s wine bar, owned by Patsy Holland. Back in the 1980s you could also spot David ‘Psycho’ Cross drinking in the Eagle and Child pub.
STAPLEFORD TAWNEY Inadvertently swept to national fame for being the place where Freddie Piquionne, a resident of Stapleford Abbotts, was fined for fly-tipping in August 2011. It wasn’t the first time West Ham had been linked with dumping a load of old rubbish on the population of Essex.
STRATFORD West Ham players of the 1960s and 1970s used to drink in the Two Puddings, run by Eddie Johnson, dad of Matt Johnson from The The. Johnson’s new book Tales From The Two Puddings contains accounts of the celebrations after West Ham’s 1964 FA Cup win and how Harry Redknapp met his wife Sandra in a dance above the Two Puddings. In the 1980s the squad used to socialise at the Phoenix Apollo restaurant.
UPMINSTER My mate Gavin recounts: “I saw Martin Peters shopping in Roomes Department Store in the 1960 and Hursty too, plus Bobby Ferguson in the park. Jimmy Greaves also lived in Upminster as a younger man – he gave my granddad’s car a push.