Talking Point

Frank McAvennie and Tony Cottee are looking to become winners all over again after having a horse named after them by an Irons-crazy fan.

CotteeMcAvenniGoal has been sent to top trainer Kim Bailey where he is currently undergoing a “breaking in”  process before he hits the racecourse probably around March or April next year. The final e of SuperMac’s name has been omitted as there is a limit on the number of characters allowed in a racehorse’s name.

Hammer Simon Keane, who bought the horse, said:

“Kim Bailey is one of the few National Hunt trainers to have trained the winners of all three of the top national hunt races, The Champion Hurdle, The Gold Cup and The Grand National. He is a bit like WHU in that he has had his ups and downs but is currently back on the up and his current group of very good horses include Vindication, Red River and First Flow.” Simon got to know Kim through a man called Peter Kerr who organizes and runs syndicates for owners who do not want to purchase horses outright."

Simon approached his two favourite Hammers, Macca and TC with the help of Claret and Hugh who immediately gave him permission to use their names and were delighted to be asked.

Simon said: 

“I am absolutely convinced that WHUFC were the best team in that league in the famous 85/86 season and were only robbed of the title due to the backlog in fixtures. But my overriding memory was the terror that Tony and Frank installed in the opposition with their brilliant and deadly partnership. One thing that has always stuck in my mind was Frank coming back from international duty with Scotland from Australia on a Saturday morning and coming on to score the winner against QPR.   Make no mistake the naming of the horse is a tribute to two fantastic players in a brilliant team.”

Trainer Kim was happy to discuss the three-year-old and said: “He’s a nice looking horse but it’s very early days and is currently being broken in. He will celebrate his fourth birthday on New Year’s Day and like the guys he’s been named after looks very athletic.It’s obviously too early to think in terms of what races he will be entered for as I wouldn’t expect him to be ready for the course until around March or April next year. But his first outing will be in a bumper (a flat race for National Hunt horses) before he is sent over the hurdles, after which we will hope to see him make up into a chaser.”

When Frank McAvenie was contacted he said “I feel honoured that an out and out Hammer should have named his horse after us. I’m not into racing like I once was but this is a terrific thing for the old firm of Frankie and TC. He texted me up and asked permission and I couldn’t have been more pleased to say ‘yes..’ We will be following the horse with terrific interest when he hits the track next year. Kim Bailey is a top trainer so we all have to have high hopes for Cottemacavennigoal. I hope he wins us all a good few quid.”

We also spoke to Tony Cottee who added: "I do feel honoured, as far as I know, I have never had a horse named after me, and to have one with Frank and the aspect of a goal is special, it is a huge honour, I said to Simon keep in touch, keep me up to date and it would be nice to watch it run and maybe it will get a few wins. I do like a day out racing, I go to Cheltenham every year and my dad was a very keen horse racing man so he bought me up with gambling and horse racing.

A bit of background on Ireland based Simon and how he became a West Ham United Supporter in his own words

Simon says:

“In fairness, it is a question that I am often asked when I meet WHU supporters from England. To be honest there is no one answer but I do remember when I started Primary school on my first day my mum produced a WHU bag , how she got it here in Ireland I will never know, so I must have been supporting them then, in 1973. I think the main reason I started supporting them was at the time all my Friends supported Arsenal (Brady, Stapleton and O Leary ) or Liverpool or Man Utd and I just wanted to be different and picked WHU. I also remember when I first saw Sir Trevor Brooking and Billy Bonds play I was transfixed. Sir Trevor had such an effect on me that I remember looking forward more to England matches on TV than Ireland games because in those days it was really the only time I saw anything WHU related on tv. I consider myself extremely lucky that my three children, Sarah (15) , Charlotte (12) and Marcus (10) all support WHU as does my wife Carol who eventually caught the bug. Since starting to support WHU I think my favorite teams were the team that won the cup in 80, the team of ‘86 and the Bilic’s team of the last season at UP. If pushed I would go for the team of 86 because of the other WHU legends like Alvin Martin, Ray Stewart and Alan Devonshire hence the name of the horse had to be related to them.”

Simon’s Interest in Horses in his own words

“Since about 1995/ 1996 I have always had a share in a racehorse and until I got involved with a syndicate run by Peter Kerr these horses were trained by Michael O’ Brien in Beechcourt Stables in Ireland. The best horse I have been involved in with Michael was a horse called Commonchero. He finished second in a grade one at the Punchestown festival and won at least five races. I used to be a regular at the Cheltenham Festival , in fact, I think I attended 18 out of 19 years since 1991, the only year I missed was 1996 when I was in Australia. Those years in the 90’s coincided with a golden period for Kim Bailey and hence I was always aware of what a brillant trainer he is. Like WHU Kim has had his ups and downs and it was only when I was watching racing on tv a few years ago and saw his horse Harry Topper win a big race that I actually thought to myself “that’s nearly 30 years that Kim Bailey has been training winners”. I didn’t think at the time I would ever have a horse in training with him though.”

“About this time last year my wife and I decided to once again have a share in a racehorse and because Irish Racing is currently dominated by Gigginstown ( owned by Michael o Leary of Ryanair fame) and trainer Willie Mullins and it is virtually impossible for a small owner to have a winner we decided to buy a share in a horse that would be trained in England. Kim being the brilliant trainer that he is was always top of the list of English trainers so I looked up his website and this is where Peter Kerr came in. I emailed Peter Kerr, who runs Kim’s ownership syndicates, late one evening looking for information on shares in horses that would be trained by Kim that were available. I honestly thought I would hear back in a day or two but despite it being late at night Peter came back with a detailed response about twenty minutes later. From the first time I spoke to Peter I knew I could trust him and we knew we would have a share in one of his syndicates. Hence we also have a share in a very exciting young horse called Pond Road. While he has never run before I think Kim and Peter like him, but time will tell!”

“Fast forward to March this year and Gold Cup morning and I visited Kim Bailey’s yard in Andoversford to meet with Kim & Peter Kerr and also see Pond Road. I brought along a good friend of mine, Paddy Ryan, who breeds his own horses. As I am not involved in racehorses on a day to day basis I have to rely on the expertise of people I trust. Walking away from our visit Paddy was massively impressed with Kim’s yard and how the horses were not only trained but how well they were looked after. It was driving back to where I was staying that week that I made the decision to try to convince my wife Carol that we should take the plunge and put a horse in training with Kim. I think it is only right to point out that despite only knowing Kim and Peter for about a year I absolutely trust them 100% also which is very important for people like us who want to get into ownership but have no idea of the type of horses to get involved in”

“Luckily it took very little to convince Carol, who lives by the mantra “you only live once” to buy a racehorse. Initially my idea was to buy a racehorse currently in training with another trainer and move him to Kim. Peter Kerr was a great help and in fairness the horses he had picked out have since won but also got withdrawn from the sales so I never had the chance to bid for them. A great friend of mine, Mark MacRedmond , who is a partner in a very large veterinary practice on the Curragh put me in touch with William Flood of Broadsmill Stud who had a three-year-old for sale. For people interested in horse racing William’s stud farm stands brillant stallions Kalanisi ( who sired CotteeMcAvennigoal)Court Cave and Mount Nelson among others. Both my daughter and I spent a wonderful Saturday morning in William’s stud farm about six weeks ago and we came to an agreement re “ The Kalanisi gelding”. Funnily the guy, who I think is John, who led the horse around that morning and my daughter Charlotte talked about potential names and they settled on Wilshere as he was an Arsenal fan and Charlotte is a hammer. I thought to myself “ I will do better than that”

“Now I am a great believer if you’re going to do something you have to do it properly. I asked Kim who would be the best man to break the horse in and do the pre-training and hence CotteeMcAvennigoal is now with a man called Martin Jones. He has been with Martin for about a month now and I would expect that he will remain there for the next 4-6 weeks before going over to Kim’s yard. It’s early days but the reports from Martin to date are positive so the dream lives on, no sign that it is yet a case of “ fade and die”

Approaching Tony and Frank re the name in Simon’s own words

“I wanted to contact both Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie to in reality get permission to use their names for the horse and tbh I did not even know where to start. This is where the West Ham family kicked in. Last Sunday morning I emailed Nigel to explain what I was trying to do and did he have any ideas on how I would get in contact with Tony and Frank. Ten minutes later Nigel had emailed me back saying he had forwarded my mail to Sean to see what could be done. In another ten mins Sean had emailed me back with both Tony and Franks mobile numbers and within an hour of wondering how I would contact the guys, I had sent a what’s app message to both.”

The Response from Tony and Frank

“Things may not be going well for our current bunch of players on the pitch but from my small interaction with Tony and Frank I can assure you we WHU fans have every right to be extremely proud of the team of 86 if these two great guys are anything to go by. Again within twenty minutes, Tony had responded that he loved the idea and that anything that provided a bit of fun for WHU supporters these days he was fully behind. His only condition was that we kept him up to date of the horses progress and where he would run Lol. Tony said that through his father he had a great interest in racing. He also mentioned that as Frank was at the Celtic Rangers match I might not hear from him until Monday!. But incredibly Frank did come back and gave the idea a massive thumbs up. Again both Tony and Frank were 100% behind the idea of an article on the horse which I personally believe is incredibly generous of them considering that they have never met me or my family.”

The Team of 86 and Naming the Horse

“I am absolutely convinced that WHU were the best team in that league that year and were only robbed of the title due to the backlog in fixtures but my overriding memory was the terror that Tony and Frank installed in the opposition with their brilliant and deadly partnership. One thing that has always stuck in my mind was Frank coming back from International duty with Scotland from Australia on a Sat morning and coming on to score the winner against QPR I think. You might ask him about that when you speak to him. Make no mistake the naming of the horse is a tribute to two fantastic players in a brilliant team.”

“The name was quite simple. When the Kids were growing up during the better weather we would go out to the back garden to play football in the evening. Usually it ended up me and Charlotte versus Marcus and Sarah. Marcus was always his favorite players, Payet or Lanzini, Sarah started as Tomkins but moved to Andy Carroll and We would be either Sir Trevor and Billy Bonds or Cottee and McAvennie. On the evenings we were Tony and Frank I found myself continually repeating CotteeMcAvennieGoal as I scored time and time again against my ten-year-old daughter and five-year-old son!”

As a footnote Tony Cottee messaged Simon saying he’d been playing golf with Tony Gale today and Galey was wondering if Simon could name the next horse GaleMartincleansheets after his and Alvin’s great defensive partnership!