THEY sing it up and down the land and they sing it as the highest form of praise.
“He’s one of our own… ”
West Ham fans salute former defender Billy Bonds as a stand at the London Stadium is named after the legend, who spent 21 years at Upton Park
They started singing it at Tottenham about Harry Kane four years ago and it signified the rarity of a local hero in the ‘World League’.
Now they sing it about Sean Longstaff at Newcastle, Ryan Sessegnon at Fulham, Morgan Gibbs-White at Wolves and several others elsewhere.
They don’t sing that actual song about Callum Hudson-Odoi at Chelsea, because we’re discussing tribalism here and Chelsea certainly don’t sing Spurs songs.
But Chelsea supporters are desperate for youth-team graduate Hudson-Odoi, 18, to play regular first-team football and one of their biggest beefs with Maurizio Sarri is the Italian’s apparent lack of trust in this effervescent young talent.
Football fans love nothing more than a home-grown talent coming good – with Billy Bonds, who is now 72, an iconic example
West Ham 2-0 Newcastle – Declan Rice and a Mark Noble penalty down Rafa Benitez’s Toon side
All of this must make Frank Lampard chuckle because there was a time, in the Premier League’s early days, when being ‘one of our own’ wasn’t necessarily praiseworthy.
Lampard Junior, as he was then known, was ‘one of our own’ at West Ham and it was completely to his detriment.
The son of assistant manager Frank Senior was supposedly only in West Ham’s first team because of nepotism, he was derided as ‘fat Frank’ and never made to feel welcome.
So he moved to Chelsea, made the Ballon d’Or podium, lifted every major club trophy, won 106 caps for England and became one of Chelsea’s own instead.
PA:Empics Sport Frank Lampard found a home at Stamford Bridge after coming through the Hammers youth academy
West Ham supporters have since learned the hard way to value their sense of community, family and identity.
Having lost their spiritual home of Upton Park and having had their loyalty mocked by mercenaries like Dimitri Payet and Marko Arnautovic, roots and soul are back in fashion.
And so on Saturday, they honoured Billy Bonds by naming a stand after him. Bonds made a mighty 799 West Ham appearances in an era when they kept things so real they didn’t even round it off with a token 800th.
Getty – Contributor Local lad Billy Bonds is one of the most famous defenders in West Ham’s history
And irrespective of there being no actual individual stands at the London Stadium, this was an occasion of genuine emotion, brilliantly carried out by a club which has botched similar commemorations in the past.
“Six foot two, eyes of blue, Billy Bonds is after you,” they always sang.
But on Saturday teatime, West Ham’s legendary hardman must have got something in those famous blue eyes, because they were watering.
The snapshot of Bonds welling up seemed to capture a welcome trend in this Premier League season — a movement towards healing the disconnect between clubs and fans.
It’s obvious, but too often forgotten, that the overwhelming majority of football clubs are named after the towns and cities in which they play.
That’s because, at their best, football clubs represent community — a concept now fading in wider life.
Getty – Contributor London Stadium will surely feel more at home for West Ham now that a legend has been so obviously remembered
And while families move apart in an increasingly mobile world, loyalty towards a football club often binds generations.
So these clubs really matter — even when they become part of a worldwide league, peopled by billionaire owners and multi-million pound players from across the globe.
That’s why those rare players and managers who properly understand a club are cherished.
It’s why they loved it at West Ham when one-club man Mark Noble scored on Bonzo’s special day.
It’s why the emergence of Longstaff has transformed Newcastle’s season.
Reuters Now-sacked Claudio Ranieri lost rapport with the Fulham support when he axed local hero Ryan Sessegnon
It’s why Claudio Ranieri was driven out of Fulham for ditching Sessegnon and why the caretaker appointment of former player Scott Parker has lifted spirits even at a club doomed to relegation.
It’s why, for all their wealth and success, Manchester City are desperate for Phil Foden to flourish. And it’s why Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is nailed-on to become Manchester United’s permanent boss.
Because this idea of belonging — of ‘us’, of ‘one of our own’ — isn’t a little Englander thing.
It’s not necessarily about local heroes. It’s about anyone in touch with the soul of a club.
Getty – Contributor Ole Gunnar Solskjaer is nailed on for the permanent Man Utd job because supporters know and appreciate his long history with and love for the club
As United and Southampton played out their own private Goal of the Season competition on Saturday, the feeling of joy sweeping around Old Trafford made it clearer than ever that the Solskjaer experiment is no short-term nostalgia kick.
Logic would dictate that if United could hire Mauricio Pochettino for less than the price of £52million Fred, then the Tottenham boss should still get the gig.
But to hell with logic, when there are feelings being felt.
And why risk losing the footballing authenticity the Norwegian has conjured up at a corporate monolith such as United?Which brings us back to Lampard.
Getty – Contributor Fans know Billy Bonds has the same connection with West Ham that they have
At Fulham on Sunday, Chelsea’s supporters started singing Lampard’s name in the second minute and they sang it several times after that.
Their anti-Sarri campaign has been put on the back-burner by a couple of recent wins but many would dearly love Lampard as boss.
With fellow Chelsea old boy Jody Morris as his assistant, with Petr Cech as goalkeeping coach, and why not get the band back together with John Terry and Didier Drogba too?
So what if Lampard has had only one season at Derby, that he has taken them marginally backwards and was gubbed 4-0 at Aston Villa on Saturday?
Solskjaer was hopeless at Cardiff, but it hasn’t stopped him succeeding where he belongs.
And that idea of belonging has never seemed to matter more.
PLENTY TO FULL BACK ON
WHEN Gareth Southgate names his squad next week for England’s Euro 2020 qualifiers against Czech Republic and Montenegro, some excellent full-backs will miss out.
The emergence of Crystal Palace right-back Aaron Wan-Bissaka, who has won more tackles than any player in a major European league, has been so impressive that he almost demands inclusion.
Yet he has three first-choice Champions League starters in his way — Trent Alexander-Arnold, Kyle Walker and Kieran Trippier.
Getty Images – Getty Crystal Palace’s england hopeful Aaron Wan-Bissaka has won more tackles than any player in a leading European league
Leicester’s Ben Chilwell, holding England’s left-back shirt, has been so good he is wanted by Manchester City and Barcelona.
But Luke Shaw is a contender to be Manchester United’s player of the season and Danny Rose remains a full-back of rare dynamism.
While English participation rates in the Premier League struggle to get above 30 per cent, the cream can still rise.
Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino saved Arsenal hot-head Lucas Torreira from lengthy ban by stopping him confronting ref in the tunnel
REF IS A PLUS
I’M sure your heart sinks when you notice certain referees will take charge of a match.
Yet if you see Andre Marriner’s name, you can safely assume he will improve the spectacle by refusing to be conned and allowing the game to flow.
Marriner’s excellence has been increasingly noticeable to me, most recently at last week’s Chelsea v Tottenham game. And when you check the stats it’s true.
Of the ten most regular Premier League refs, Marriner awards the fewest fouls per match, fouls per tackle, yellow cards and penalties.
Occasionally, he gets it wrong but he’ll always err on the side of tolerance and football is all the better for less fussiness.
Tottenham 1-1 Arsenal – Harry Kane salvages point from spot as Aubameyang misses last minute penalty
ODI ONE OUT
ENGLAND’S one-day cricket team are world ranked No 1.
Yet, approximately once every five games, they play like Ragged-Arse Rangers 5th XI.
As when they were bowled out for 113 and spanked by West Indies in St Lucia on Saturday.
A World Cup on home soil starts at the end of May.
Let’s hope England don’t have one of those spectacular off-days in the semi or final.