How Antonio’s ‘resilience’ took him to top

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September 25, 2021
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    Michail AntonioMichail Antonio celebrated with a cardboard cutout of himself against Leicester last month after breaking West Ham's Premier League goal record

    Ian Wright did it. So did Jamie Vardy. But taking the path from non-league to the Premier League is a tough task.

    West Ham's Michail Antonio, though, has not only made it, but he has also made history – last month becoming his club's record Premier League scorer.

    But for all his success, which included an international debut with Jamaica at the start of this month, the 31-year-old striker has never forgotten where it all began – in the Isthmian League with Tooting & Mitcham United.

    "The relationship between Michail and the club is ongoing," Ashley Bosah, Tooting's manager, tells BBC Sport.

    "He comes in during the off-season and does some fun activities with the youth team – and his family is closely related to the club, so they hold a fun day during the summer.

    "In the off-season, Michail hires the facilities out for his own individual programme too.

    "You can see he is a humble character because he is still able to come down and be around the guys. When he is around, you get a sense there is no ego and is someone who comes down and engages with everyone.

    "He is approachable. We try not letting the kids get too excited because he is there for his own training sessions – but when he has the time, he sits down to speak to coaches and others."

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    He had the 'resilience and drive'

    Antonio, who is set to return from suspension when West Ham visit Leeds in the Premier League on Saturday, didn't have a straightforward journey to the top.

    Having joined Tooting as a schoolboy, he spent seven years there. Rejected by a number of professional clubs during his teens, Antonio was 18 when he was signed by Championship club Reading for an undisclosed fee in 2008.

    As he learned his trade in the pro ranks with the Royals, he had five loans spells in four seasons, with stints at Cheltenham, Southampton, Colchester, Sheffield Wednesday and even a short move back to Tooting.

    During his time in League One with Southampton in 2009-10, he made an impression on manager Alan Pardew, who as a player had himself made the journey from the non-league game to the English top flight, making it with Crystal Palace, where he was a team-mate of Ian Wright.

    "He was someone I knew about very early," Pardew told the Evening Standard. "Can you imagine how many Ian Wrights I've had put to me over my time? But I was from non-league, so I have a soft spot for these players.

    "He had a chaos factor about him that is needed in a football match, otherwise it is painting by numbers. He gave us that and he still has that. You're still not quite sure how quick he is, what he's going to do.

    "I think sometimes academies can take away that rawness and freedom. That chaos factor wasn't knocked out of him."

    Antonio joined Sheffield Wednesday, in the Championship, permanently at the start of the 2012-13 season, ending the campaign as their top scorer with nine goals.

    He then moved to Nottingham Forest, where a successful campaign resulted in West Ham taking him to the Premier League in 2015. Although he ended his first season with the Hammers at right-back, he has gone on to become a major force up front.

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    "His talent was very evident from the early stages," says Bosah. "He had a number of trials before signing for Reading and there was a famous one where he got scouted by Tottenham but his mum was not too keen on him making the jump and jeopardising his education.

    "Because of his talent and ability, the opportunities still came around. Other than the fact that he was a very talented individual, he worked hard for what he achieved.

    "This level of football is not pretty – it requires a lot of resilience and determination, and he very much displayed that in his career.

    "He has that same mentality and application, so the level of football that he came from allowed and created that sense of resilience and drive to achieve bigger and better things."

    Antonio has enjoyed a strong start to this season, being named the Premier League's player of the month for August after scoring four goals and providing three assists in West Ham's first three games, then netting in their Europa League win at Dinamo Zagreb.

    "The work rate and effort is evident even today in his game," Bosah says. "That is an attribute players at this level can gain to take them to the highest level."

    Antonio 'left an imprint here'

    Antonio has become a Hammers cult hero – making history when he scored his 48th Premier League goal during last month's win over Leicester, and broke the club scoring record in the competition previously held by Paolo di Canio.

    The striker responded to his feat with an iconic celebration – hoisting a cardboard cutout of himself into the air in front of the home fans at London Stadium.

    Manager David Moyes said the celebration was "not something I'm keen on" but Antonio tweeted afterwards saying: "I love football, I love scoring goals, I love making history. I love this team and I love everyone who helped me get to where I am today."

    He has also recently made his international debut for Jamaica, having given up on his chances of an England chance after calls-ups in 2016 and 2017 came to nothing.

    That success has fed all the way back to Tooting & Mitcham – who have produced several more players for English Football League clubs, such as Sam Folarin and Isaiah Jones, who both play for Championship side Middlesbrough, and Abraham Odoh and Hady Ghandour, who went on to play for Charlton.

    Antonio's link with his non-league roots is an important one, according to Bosah.

    He says: "That link between him and Tooting & Mitcham is a legacy that is an inspiration around the club and one that has left an imprint here.

    "We continue to produce players that go on to bigger and better things. What he left behind encouraged the chairman to continue his work. Players have reached the Championship, League One and League Two.

    "There is a lot of continued development off the back of his legacy – so we're very proud to be linked to that. He seems to be an inspiration to the generation that came afterwards."

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    250 commentsShowLatestOldestHighest RatedMost Replied

    • E

      Comment posted by Eddguy , at 11:04 24 Sep

      Not a West Ham fan but I’m always happy when Antonio does well. Plays the game with a smile on his face and seems a genuinely decent guy 🙂971

      • 9

        Reply posted by 9ja_scorpion, at 14:55 24 Sep

        "Not a West Ham fan but I’m always happy when Antonio does well. Plays the game with a smile on his face and seems a genuinely decent guy 🙂"9ja_scorpion replied: Same here.

        Love his work ethics, his drive and the passion with which he plays the game.

        And he’s always seeking to continually improve himself.

        A lovely chap to have in any team.

        West Ham are quite lucky to have him.

        Wish I had someone similar in my team :(280

    • S

      Comment posted by samsc, at 10:49 24 Sep

      Blessed to have a man like him in our team. Plays with a smile and boosts everyone around him.771

      • T

        Reply posted by The Spin Doctor, at 13:53 24 Sep

        "Blessed to have a man like him in our team. Plays with a smile and boosts everyone around him."The Spin Doctor replied: What a nice story, made me a little teary eyed.
        Well done Antonio, hope there is more to come.312

      More replies (1)

    • G

      Comment posted by gary 07, at 11:04 24 Sep

      Sums up this country with negative comments when he is a positive role model in what he has achieved not like some778

      • I

        Reply posted by Irish Setter vs Third Dragoon Guards, at 14:18 24 Sep

        "Sums up this country with negative comments when he is a positive role model in what he has achieved not like some"Irish Setter vs Third Dragoon Guards replied: It’s surprising some even bother to get out of bed, isn’t it? Or maybe they haven’t.194

    • R

      Comment posted by Raedwulf, at 11:02 24 Sep

      He’s a top player. And the best bit? Unlike some, he always looks like he’s having fun!642

      • M

        Reply posted by margaret, at 15:39 24 Sep

        "He’s a top player. And the best bit? Unlike some, he always looks like he’s having fun!"margaret replied: Bulked up in all the wrong places, no wonder he is crocked so often.344

      More replies (5)

    • G

      Comment posted by Good Kind Crake, at 10:57 24 Sep

      Just a quick reminder to BBC journalists that football didn’t start in 1992, and that being a club’s record Premier League goal scorer is not really the achievement you think it is.5810

      • Z

        Reply posted by Zola25, at 11:01 24 Sep

        "Just a quick reminder to BBC journalists that football didn’t start in 1992, and that being a club’s record Premier League goal scorer is not really the achievement you think it is."Zola25 replied: Totally agree, don’t think he’s even in the top 25 West Ham scorers list with 50. Meaningless stat. If we look only at the PL era, Frank Lampard is still in their top 10 and he left at 21284

      More replies (7)

    • L

      Comment posted by Largewomble, at 11:28 24 Sep

      Can’t stand anything West Ham normally but this guy is what more modern pros should be like, driven, humble and plays with a smile on his face. Great footballer452

      • R

        Reply posted by Red23, at 14:42 24 Sep

        "Can’t stand anything West Ham normally but this guy is what more modern pros should be like, driven, humble and plays with a smile on his face. Great footballer"Red23 replied: I’m confused as to why you can’t stand them tbh. West Ham play good football, don’t have any players that dive or play act, and have been through testing times. Very strange.285

      More replies (13)

    • S

      Comment posted by ShropshireRunner, at 11:11 24 Sep

      Great player, yes, but Geoff Hurst, Tony Cottee or Trevor Brooking would have good reason to be annoyed with anyone calling Michail Antonio West Ham’s record goalscorer! Just adding ‘Premier League’ in front of the record doesn’t make it clear that there were other, far more prolific, goalscorers for West Ham.415

      • W

        Reply posted by westham, at 11:29 24 Sep

        "Great player, yes, but Geoff Hurst, Tony Cottee or Trevor Brooking would have good reason to be annoyed with anyone calling Michail Antonio West Ham’s record goalscorer! Just adding ‘Premier League’ in front of the record doesn’t make it clear that there were other, far more prolific, goalscorers for West Ham."westham replied: Yes but he hasn’t finished clocking up the goals yet still a lot more to come yet.63

      More replies (8)

    • O

      Comment posted by okokok, at 11:00 24 Sep

      What I’ve seen of his performances on MOTD I’m sure there will be a lot of supporters of other clubs who would be delighted to have him at their club. Congratulations to him and West Ham for going with him. All the best for the future.351

      • L

        Reply posted by LondonsFinestClub, at 16:42 24 Sep

        "What I’ve seen of his performances on MOTD I’m sure there will be a lot of supporters of other clubs who would be delighted to have him at their club. Congratulations to him and West Ham for going with him. All the best for the future."LondonsFinestClub replied: I’m a Chelsea supporter but I really like him. He’s honest, fast strong and fairly clinical. Doesn’t overthink an opportunity just drills it and reads the breakdown and messy ball so well. Good man, hard work and smart with it.221

    • D

      Comment posted by DellBoy, at 12:46 24 Sep

      He was liked at Saints and I think we tried to sign him permanently. Now, when he plays against Saints he usually runs us ragged. Gratitude eh? 👍It goes to show how determination brings just rewards. It’s good to see he’s doing so well.
      Just like to add another name to the list above. Our own Rickie Lambert who went from beetroot factory to England centre forward.300

      • D

        Reply posted by Damory45, at 13:03 24 Sep

        "He was liked at Saints and I think we tried to sign him permanently. Now, when he plays against Saints he usually runs us ragged. Gratitude eh? 👍It goes to show how determination brings just rewards. It’s good to see he’s doing so well.Just like to add another name to the list above. Our own Rickie Lambert who went from beetroot factory to England centre forward."Damory45 replied: My understanding is we did try to sign him but Reading wouldn’t release him. He made very few appearances for them the following season. He played for us in the Johnson Paint Trophy final, scoring and assisting in the victory. I’m sure that had we been able to sign him, he would have been part of the squad that won successive promotions.20

      More replies (1)

    • F

      Comment posted by footnote, at 11:07 24 Sep

      Congrats Michail , great to see a player work his way up from non league footie . Great attitude and seems a good bloke .291

      • M

        Reply posted by margaret, at 15:47 24 Sep

        "Congrats Michail , great to see a player work his way up from non league footie . Great attitude and seems a good bloke ."margaret replied: England ? He wouldn’t even get in the Scotland team.132

      More replies (7)

    • C

      Comment posted by Chesterfield Chris, at 11:33 24 Sep

      More PL record guff. Football wasn’t invented in 1992. Meaningless and ridiculous stats/records.337

      • T

        Reply posted by Tony, at 12:00 24 Sep

        "More PL record guff. Football wasn’t invented in 1992. Meaningless and ridiculous stats/records."Tony replied: Agreed, under this one eyed view players like Jimmy Greaves don’t hold any sort of record which are actually far superior to this selective view. Under their narrow thinking we would now have to scrap all Olympic achievements that were done prior to them allowing professionals and all tennis records prior to the open era etc etc162

    • I

      Comment posted by Irons45, at 12:09 24 Sep

      A great example of a player who has not forgotten his roots and appreciates what he has now.
      He put the hard work in and deserves his success
      He is the sort of role model we need the kids to look up to212

      • L

        Reply posted by Liverpool Red, at 12:45 24 Sep

        "A great example of a player who has not forgotten his roots and appreciates what he has now. He put the hard work in and deserves his success He is the sort of role model we need the kids to look up to"Liverpool Red replied: Do you think he will stay after this season or get a chance at a top club?523

      More replies (2)

    • Y

      Comment posted by Yeahbaby, at 12:01 24 Sep

      Fact is he is not West Ham’s record goal scorer.
      His record is decent and he is a good player no doubt, appears to have got better with age, but that is about it. Will never be remembered as a great of the game, and there is nothing wrong with that. He is another great example to lower league players or young players that hard work can pay off.171

      • I

        Reply posted by Irons45, at 12:12 24 Sep

        "Fact is he is not West Ham’s record goal scorer.His record is decent and he is a good player no doubt, appears to have got better with age, but that is about it. Will never be remembered as a great of the game, and there is nothing wrong with that. He is another great example to lower league players or young players that hard work can pay off."Irons45 replied: I agree mainly with what you said but think if he has 3 or 4 really good seasons he could be remembered as a player that worked hard to become great43

      More replies (5)

    • X

      Comment posted by Xsoulent, at 10:34 24 Sep

      If he stays fit you have every chance of a high finish in the premier league182

    • F

      Comment posted by fairplay2u, at 12:36 24 Sep

      A great role model for all young kids to keep going when you face initial rejection ! Massive respect for Antonio !162

      • L

        Reply posted by LondonsFinestClub, at 21:09 24 Sep

        "A great role model for all young kids to keep going when you face initial rejection ! Massive respect for Antonio !"LondonsFinestClub replied: Agreed! academy football is like University, 50 per cent have careers, the rest are University students in factories. Non league promises nothing but delivers solid lads with no expectations. Still a lot to be gained from the wild untamed football fields30

    • J

      Comment posted by jack the hitman , at 12:00 24 Sep

      great to see he has not forgotten were he came from fair play140

    • S

      Comment posted by Skip Bail, at 11:29 24 Sep

      Outstanding individual and outstanding player140

    • D

      Comment posted by DaveM, at 11:06 24 Sep

      Would love to have him back at Tooting when his pro career is finished..140

    • S

      Comment posted by ste, at 16:56 24 Sep

      Empty seats google maps 😂121

      • S

        Reply posted by ste, at 17:49 24 Sep

        "Empty seats google maps 😂"ste replied: You have to see to believe it 😂111

      More replies (1)

    • D

      Comment posted by Doors_of_perception, at 14:33 24 Sep

      Fond memories as a NFFC fan, he was a relative nobody before he joined us, but then he stood out in a poor Forest side, often having to hold the ball up isolated or simply make something out of nothing, he was a nightmare for championship defences. Works hard, deserves to be where he is, a role model for success.110

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