Ex-football photographer publishes book of unseen West Ham United pictures after encouragement from Sir Geoff Hurst
PUBLISHED: 07:00 18 November 2020
West Ham and England legend Sir Geoff Hurst helped to inspire a former football photographer to publish previously unseen snaps of the Hammers in action during the 1960s and 70s.
Alan Shubrook’s images fill a new book, West Ham United 1965-1973, in which more than 100 games from the period are captured.
The Ongar resident began working on Hammers matches when he was just a teenager and his pictures appeared in the Recorder series.
Alan recalled how he and former West Ham reporter Trevor Smith would travel back from matches as a guest of the club’s then manager Ron Greenwood, mixing with legends including Sir Geoff and Bobby Moore.
“It was a great adventure for me as a young lad,” he said. “Travelling from away matches with the team, as a guest in their first class dining car, was a special treat and very much the icing on the cake for me.”
Among his favourite memories are hanging his films out of the train window to dry on the way back to London from matches and, on one particular occasion, letting go of a film near Watford Gap in Northamptonshire.
He also remembered going into the West Ham dressing room and taking photos of players who had suffered injuries.
Alan, who grew up in East Ham and moved to Barking as a teenager, stopped covering the Hammers in 1973 after he got married.
More than 40 years later, in 2017, he discovered more than 6,000 black and white negatives sitting in his loft.
Alan said: “I thought it would be nice for my young grandchildren to see what their grandad had achieved.
“Ninety-five per cent of all the photographs I took had never been seen by anyone, so I set about the monumental task of scanning every one of my negatives into digital format and retouching all the dust and scratches that had accumulated on them over the past 50 years.”
The challenge took Alan, who lives with his wife Bridget, more than two years to complete and he selected 1,700 of the shots to go into a single picture book for his grandchildren.
After being “amazed” by how well the book had looked, he contacted Sir Geoff about it and met the 1966 World Cup winner a few months ago after he asked to see the work.
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Alan, who once opened his own advertising agency in Ilford and is now retired, said: “He loved the book and was amazed to see his life with West Ham captured on such a weekly basis, with all the highs and lows included.
“He persuaded me to publish the book so that all the West Ham fans could also take this unique trip down Hammers memory lane.”
In the book, Alan discusses how football photography has changed since his time capturing Hammers matches.
He writes: “Usually I would sit on the grass next to the goal of my choice. When I say ‘next to the goal’, I mean exactly that.
“I could be so near to the goalpost that it was even possible to talk to the goalkeeper during the match.
“The moment I sat down on the grass I immediately blocked the view of some of the spectators, many of whom had been waiting for hours for the game to start.
“You can imagine how unpopular I then became, often even having objects thrown at me in an effort to get me to move to a new position.”
Alan’s latest work is not his first foray into the book writing world though.
He spent four years working at Century 21 Film Studios, making models for the iconic 1960s television series Thunderbirds among around 100 other children’s programmes he was involved in.
He explained: “While I was working there I took hundreds of behind the scenes pictures of filming all the special effects for the programmes.
“Then nearly 40 years later my two sons found all the negatives I had and convinced me to put them into a book relating to everything I did with the Gerry Anderson company.”
Century 21 FX: Unseen Untold was published in 2007 and sold out “within weeks”, Alan added.
“I just couldn’t believe it. All the Thunderbirds fans kept asking if I still had any copies.”
Alan’s book about his West Ham photos is available to buy at westhambook.com
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