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Hammers ace Harewood on his journey from Haverstock School to the Premier League

Former West Ham striker recalls how England midfielder Joe Cole was 'bullied on local pitches' because he was 'so phenomenal'

06 May, 2020 — By Steve Barnett

Thomas Looney chatting online to Marlon Harewood

FORMER Premier League marksman Marlon Harewood went back to his roots this week when he joined young footballers from Camden and Islington to talk about his illustrious career.

The former Haverstock schoolboy, who grew up in Kentish Town, is best remembered for his spells at Nottingham Forest, where he scored 51 goals in 181 appearances, and West Ham, where he found the back of the net 47 times in 142 games.

However, when he joined youth football club Kentish Town FC on Tuesday for a special Q&A on Instagram, Harewood, 40, mapped out a goal-scoring journey that spanned from his NW5 postcode, via Islington, and all the way to China.

He also revealed how another young player from his neck of the woods growing up – former West Ham, Chelsea and England midfielder Joe Cole – was so good that he used to “get bullied in training” when they were playing on local pitches.

Talking about how it all started, “late bloomer” Harewood told Town’s head coach Thomas Looney: “I didn’t really get into football until I joined Haverstock, when I was about 12 years old.

“I used to play for Barnsbury Toppers near Highbury in a Sunday league. We did quite well, we won the league, and I also played in a cup final for Camden & Islington District, and I got scouted from there.

“At the time I was approached by Arsenal, but my mum and dad were happy that Forest came in for me, to get me out of London.

“There were a couple of options on the table. I had trials at Fulham and Charlton, but, at the time, Nottingham was one of the top academies to be at. And my mum and dad also thought it was the right place to be, it was amazing.”

Harewood played for a total of 13 clubs during his career, becoming somewhat of a promotion prince along the way. He won promotion with Finnish side Haka, Nottingham Forest, West Ham and even Chinese League One side Guangzhou R&F.

But it was his four-year spell with the Hammers that he describes as his “best time” in football.

During his stay in east London Harewood collected an FA Cup runners-up medal in the 2005-06 season after West Ham lost on penalties following a 3–3 draw with Liverpool. He was also the club’s top Premier League goalscorer with 14 goals that season.

He said: “I wanted to better myself, having been at Forest for over eight years, so when I heard West Ham wanted to talk to me it was one of those things you couldn’t really turn down.

“It was probably the best time of my career, playing at the highest level. You dream of doing that as a kid, and I achieved it, and had a good time doing it.

“The dressing room, the lads, the staff, the fans – it was all amazing. You hear stories about West Ham growing up as a kid, and then actually being part of that history was like a dream come true.”

Asked who the best player was when he was growing up in Kentish Town, Harewood wasted little time naming “a little kid from nearby Castlehaven”.

Joe Cole went on to win three Premier League titles, two FA Cups, the League Cup and the Champions League following a successful switch from West Ham to Chelsea, but only after earning his stripes playing on pitches across Camden and Islington.

“The top player has got to be Joe,” recalled Harewood. “He was unbelieveable. He use to get bullied every time he trained with us.

“He was a couple of years younger, and he would come and play with us. He was really tiny, and we were like ‘you can’t come and play with us’. And on the first day he was doing all skills and putting the ball on the back of his neck, and flicking it around people.

“He grew up rapidly when he came to train with us, because we weren’t going for the ball, we were going for him. He was phenomenal, absolutely unbelievable.”

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