Book Review

NOTE FROM IAIN: The Predictor League for Aston Villa on Monday is open HERE. Entries can be submitted until 6pm on Monday.

If you’re like me and wondering what on earth to ask for for Christmas or what to buy a Hammers fan for a present, then look no further than Alan Shubrooks’ beautifully produced book of photographs taken over an 8 year period of West Ham United’s home and away games.

A pictorial record featuring more than 1700 unseen photographs from 100 classic matches

As a young boy, Alans’ father would take him to see the Hammers play at Upton Park and when he became interested in photography and purchased his first single lens reflex camera, Alan decided to take photos of the matches from the stands. Caught amongst the push and shove of the packed terraces, Alan would try to capture the game, but it was not so easy and he desperately wanted to get closer to the action and join the press photographers near the pitch.

Bold enough to take an opportunity at the start of a home game, Alan walked over to where the press photographers were perched as the referee blew his whistle and eyes were fixed on the game, and embarked on an incredible journey that took him all over the country with the team to capture the highs and lows of top flight football. After this first match taking pictures near the goal, Alan went home to develop his film, anxious to find out if he had captured the game, and printed out a selection of photographs and the following morning post them to his local newspaper.

To Alan’s surprise, the photos he had taken were printed and so his journey began where Alan’s photographs that captured some of the most memorable games for the following years would be regularly printed both in the newspapers alongside match reviews and also used for the home match day programmes.

Throughout this journey Alan had a unique opportunity to capture some candid photos of the players, recording action both on the pitch but also behind the scenes, such as Frank Lampard in the ambulance after having broken his leg against Sheffield Utd on 27th April 1968. Alan, a young man full of confidence, stepped straight into the ambulance and took several shots of Lampard waiting to be taken to hospital. Following the team for 150 matches, Alan’s photos provide a detailed record of some of the most memorable games West Ham played, such as the 3-1 victory over Chelsea to move to 6th in the league on 27th January 1973. Or Ron Boyces’ testimonial on 13th November 1972. And Trevor Brookings’ hat trick against Newcastle on 6th April 1968.

Ipswich Town v West Ham United 23rd November 1968

There’s one match in the book where the action shots are amazing and stand out for me and that’s when West Ham played Ipswich Town away on 23rd November 1968. The shots show the physical nature of the game but demonstrate Alans craft where he managed to capture some fantastic in action shots. Hursts penalty from behind the goal, Miller leaping in the air after being brought down by Jefferson – these shots in particular looked fantastic in the newspapers after the game. The shots of Hancock, the Ipswich goal keeper, as he punches the ball illustrate the skill of Alan’s photography that help to make this book such a must have for any Hammers fan.

In the book Alan explains how he got to take these amazing photos, but also how different it was then for a photographer to record the matches, often with poor light and being limited to how many frames he could shoot. There was also the technical issue of developing the film and getting the prints sent off in time to be included in the newspaper match reviews. Alan found a very unique solution that meant he was able to travel back with the team on the train from places like Manchester and develop his film on the move. A far cry from how photographers images are now digitally uploaded during the game to be sent around the world!

Alan has scanned in 6000 images, editing them all to reveal an incredible record of the matches West Ham played, and also found some newspaper articles that were printed with his photographs from the time. Alan has researched each match to include the date and attendance figures as well as some key information and personal observations that bring the photographs to life and provide such a memorable record of West Ham United that feature legendary players such as Geoff Hurst, Trevor Brooking, Bobby Moore, Billy Bonds and many more such as Clyde Best, Frank Lampard, Martin Peters and John Sissons.

Alan agreed to be interviewed by me and spent time explaining how he took his photographs and put the book together as well as sharing some of his best memories of his time following the team and documenting their matches at both home and away games. Alan’s passion for the game, his photography and dedication to bringing these images together, encouraged by Geoff Hurst, has created a valuable record of some of the most memorable players of that time in action.

To order your copy, go to https://www.westhambook.com I chose the collectors set which includes a signed copy of the book with a dedicated personal message handwritten by Alan. You also get set of 5 10×8 inch glossy photos from classic 1960’s and 1970’s matches. A beautiful gold foiled presentation collectors box. A numbered certificate of authentication of the limited edition. I highly recommend this to any Hammers fan, young and old, as a wonderful trip down memory lane or as an incredible record of a particular time in the history of the club.

Special Limited Edition Box Set