Brian Belton - West Ham United FC

  Brian Belton with Kris Akabusi and Cass Pennant


Brian Belton was born in the mid-1950s just a five minute walk from what was then West Ham United’s Upton Park home.  Every other Saturday, as a baby in his cradle, he was able to hear the Irons fans giving vent to the ‘Bubbles’ anthem; as such it was his childhood lullaby.  

Brian’s father, during and just after the war years played for West Ham boys and his grand-parents and great- grand-parents supported the Irons. 

Brought up and going to school in the docklands district that is the stomping ground of the ‘claret and blue’ fan army of East London’s football team, Brian is genetically, body and soul, an authentic Hammer; the club has been the midwife of his character and spirit.    

After (and as an antidote to) dancing on the cusp of childhood delinquency, Brian first practiced youth work in Canning Town, starting out at the legendary Mayflower Centre and then the historic Fairbairn House before becoming professionally qualified.  

It was whilst on a training placement in Toronto, Canada that he was first introduced to the thinking of seminal Civil Rights activists like Septima Clark and the Breakfast Schools pioneered by Black Panthers like Erica Huggins.  This was the start of a life-time of activism and the inspiration for his studies the led to him achieving a Bachelor of Science, then Masters Degrees and ultimately his doctorate.   

While working in youth work related situations around the world, including the Falkland Islands, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Zambia, South Africa, and China Brian’s interest in identity and ethnicity flourished and today he is an internationally recognised authority on identity, ethnicity and youth work, having written widely on that subject, delivering papers most recently in the USA, Malta, Greece, Sweden and Slovenia as well as all over the UK. 

Before retiring in mid-2019 Brian was Executive Director of International Education, Training and Research at at the YMCA George Williams College (under the auspicious of Canterbury Christ Church and Coventry Universities) in Canning Town, teaching under and post graduate youth work students, as they study for professional qualifications. He is now External Examiner at both the Universities of Malta and Cardiff and also supervises doctorial students. He continues to be involved in developing youth work practice all over Britain and globally.

 Brian has written prolifically, publishing close to a hundred papers, chapters and (mostly) books on youth work, ethnicity, identity, history, and biographies of sports people, many hailing from the East End of London, the place he continues to call home. However, his passion for the history of has led him producing close to 20 books associated with West Ham United, encompassing almost the entire history of the romantic, capricious, and sometimes unfathomable Irons. Not bad for a lad from the educational dust-bin of Plaistow’s Burke Secondary Modern school, a place blessed however with patient, committed and madly talented teachers who seemed intent of making useful people out of largely feral children.  As Brian says, ‘Despite all our efforts, they mostly succeeded’ although Brian is still likely in Dhaka or Pretoria to whack out a chorus of ‘Bubbles’ at an academic conference, or to the shock, horror and sometimes amusement of a lecture audience, as he provides them with an example of an expression of identity, of course finishing with the flourish of hollering, arms wide in the air; ‘CUM ON UUUU I-ONNNS!’  


JMD Media Publications: 

Albion's Rock


Other Books and Research by Brian Belton:

Hammerin’ Round (2002) Tempus 

When West Ham Went to the Dogs (2002) Tempus 

Founded on Iron (2003) Tempus 

Johnny the One (2004) Tempus 

Bluey Wilkinson (2004) Tempus 

Questioning Gypsy Identity: Ethnic Narratives in Britain and America (2005) AltaMira Press 

Gypsy and Traveller Ethnicity : The social generation of an Ethnicity (2005) Routledge  

The Men of 64 (2005) The History Press 

Fay Taylour: Queen of Speedway (2006) Panther  

The Black Hammers (2006) Pennant  

The West Ham United Miscellany (2006) Pennant 

War Hammers (2006) The History Press 

The Lads of ’23 (2006) The History Press 

Black Routes : Legacy of African Diaspora (2007) Hansib 

The Ryder Lions (2007) Pennant  

Brown Out (2007) Pennant 

British Baseball and the West Ham club McFarland (2007) (with Josh Chetwynd) 

Anfield Rising (2008) Pennant 

Birth of the Blues (2008) Pennant 

East End Heroes, Stateside Kings (2008) John Blake 

Lewis Hamilton: A Dream Comes True (2008) Pennant  

Red Dawn (2008) Pennant 

The Battle of Montevideo (2008) The History Press 

The First Gunners (2008) Pennant 

The Queens Park Rangers Miscellany (2008) Pennant 

The Scottish International Football Miscellany (2008) Pennant 

The West Ham United Miscellany (2008) Pennant 

Developing Critical Youth Work Theory (2009) Sense 

Radical Youth Work: Developing Critical Perspectives and Professional Judgement (2009) Russell House 

Olympic Gold Run: Britain's Great Bobsleigh Victory! (2010) Pennant 

All Change!: Romani Studies Through Romani Eyes (2010) University of Hertfordshire Press (with Damian Le Bas, Thomas Acton) 

Differentiated Teaching and Learning in Youth Work (2010) Sense (with Simon Frost) 

Supervision – Praxis and Purpose: a critical reassessment of reflective practice in work with young people (2011) Russell House (with Justin Hill, John Peaper and Tina Salter) 

Youth Work and Islam (2011) Sense (with Sadek Hamid) 

Youth Work and Islam: A Growing Tradition (2012) Continuum in Muslim Youth Challenges, Opportunities and Expectations (edited by Mohammad Siddique Seddon and Fauzia Ahmad) 

 Establishing a Professional Youth Worker Association: A 12-Step Guide (2012) Commonwealth Youth Programme, Asia Centre, Youth Work Education & Training Unit, Chandigarh, India Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House: London, UK 

Professional Youth Work: a concept and strategies (2012) Commonwealth Youth Programme, Asia Centre, Youth Work Education & Training Unit, Chandigarh, India, Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House: London, UK 

'Li Sobindoy - Roma in Action (2015) London: JMD 

Cadjan/Kiduhu; GlobalPerspectives on Youth Work (2014) Rotterdam: Sense 

‘Tackling Marginalisation and Xenophobia – Roma Support Group, UK’  in Roma Youth Participation in Action: Roma youth participation: good practices, from the local to the European level . Nik Paddison & Mara Georgescu (eds) (2015). Strasbourg Cedex – France : Council of Europe, European Youth Centre Strasbourg  

Commowealth Youth Programme - Youth Workers Creating Paths to Peace A Discussion Guide November 2015, Commonwealth Secretariat, Marlborough House: London, UK 

The Thames Ironworks: A History of East London Industrial and Sporting Heritage (2015)Stroud: The History Press 

Questioning Muslim Youth in Youth Work: Histories, Policy and Contexts Graham Bright (ed) 2015 Palgrave 

Professional Journal Writing in youth work: A counter-ethical tradition (2016) London:BHD 

Developing Detached Youth Work in Malta and Romania: The Third Space (2016) Valletta, Malta:Aġenzija Żgħażagħ 

Questioning Social Pedagogy: Progressive Intervention or Cultural Colonialism?  (2016) London:BHD 

Roma youth participation: A Guide for Practice and Approach (2016) London:BHD 

Questioning the premise: a personal counter-reflection on community work in South and South East Asia in Oxford University Press and Community Development Journal. Volume 52, Issue 1 Celebrating 50 years, International forum special issue January 2017 Gary Craig (ed) 

Moving On: A Curriculum for NEETs (ed) (2017) London: BHD 

Golden Len Goulden: The Life and Times of a West Ham Legend (2017) 

Fonthill MediaThey Nearly Reached the Sky: West Ham United in Europe (2017) Fonthill Media

 ‘Questioning the premise: a personal counter-reflection on community work in South and South East Asia’ in Race’,Ethnicity and Community DevelopmentGary Craig (ed) (2017) Policy Press 

‘Roma youth and global youth work’ in The SAGE Handbook of Youth Work Practice. (2018) Pam Alldred, Fin Cullen, Kathy Edwards, Dana Fusco (eds) Sage