Ten years ago to this very day, Michail Gregory Antonio was preparing for an FA Trophy Third Round Replay against Chipstead with his Tooting & Mitcham United side.

Today, we map the progress of Antonio from the Isthmian League Division 1 South to the Premier League in just eight years and explain why he is such an integral part of Slaven Bilic’s starting Xl.

Having featured for Tooting until the end of October 2008, another year, the winger was picked up by Reading and loaned back to his club of origin, then to Cheltenham Town and Southampton.

It was with the Saints, playing alongside current Hammers teammate Jose Fonte, that he tasted his first silverware, scoring in the final of the Football League Trophy on his 20th birthday.

During the 2010/2011 campaign, Antonio was beginning to get more First-Team football under Brian McDermott.
But, after largely failing to impress in Berkshire, loans with Colchester United and Sheffield Wednesday ate up most of the following season.

However, Antonio managed to help Wednesday to League One promotion and it was in doing so that he caught the eye of manager of Dave Jones enough to sign him on a permanent basis in summer 2012.

A successive spell in Sheffield would be promptly followed by a £1.7 million move to Nottingham Forest where he would enjoy the season of his career.

Joining in the summer of 2014, Antonio would net 15 times in all competitions that season, sharing Top Goal Scorer with Britt Assombalonga and winning Forest’s Player of the Season as they finished in mid-table.

Following the conclusion of the 2014/2015 season, rumours started to flow of West Ham United scouts watching the attacker and Slaven Bilic being very keen indeed on him.

However, he started the season as normal at the City Ground, but after scoring four goals in August, Bilic decided to move for Antonio on Deadline Day and bring him to East London for around £7 million.

The winger was delighted at the time, stating: “It’s a dream come true”, he made his debut in a 1-2 away victory over Manchester City, but struggled to get into the team for the first few months.

Antonio’s first start finally came at home to Stoke City in a 0-0 draw in December 2015, he would not look back from there.

The speedy winger would go on to play a major role in our clinching of Europa League football and agonizing Champions League race, netting and assisting for the first time in a win against former club Southampton to finish a winless run.

 

The former Reading man went on to score vital goals against the likes of Liverpool in both the Premier League and FA Cup, Aston Villa, Sunderland and the final game at Upton Park against the Red Devils, amongst others.

However, perhaps his standout performance came in the Derby Day win over Spurs, where he scored the early winner with a bullet header and celebrated with an audacious dance in front of the travelling fans.

His funky celebrations, featuring such dances as “The Macarena”, a Hammer “Hakka” and Homer Simpson’s floor run from The Simpson’s Episode “Last Exit To Springfield”, would become his iconic trademark.

One would feel that if it hadn’t have been a Dimitri Payet sweep at that season’s Player Awards, Antonio would have lifted a couple of accolades.

But, that would all come the season after as we made our move to the London Stadium and Antonio proved a shining light in the dark.

Starting the season with disappointment as we crashed out of Europe and Antonio being used in an unfamiliar right-back position, fans began to turn on the wide man.

Despite this, he was soon switched back to attack and scored the historic first league goal at the London Stadium, a last-minute winner against Eddie Howe’s Bournemouth.

He then notched four in his next three Premier League games, being called up to the England squad under Sam Allardyce for the first time.

Antonio would go on to be called for a further three Three Lions Squads last season but is yet to be capped, despite not quite reaching the same heights consistently of the course of the campaign.

Antonio was crowned Hammer of the Year as we finished in mid-table, fighting off fierce competition from Manuel Lanzini and having missed the end of the season with a hamstring injury.

The knock also kept him out of the start of this campaign, but he is now back and getting fitter as the weeks progress and one would feel that it won’t be long before he is back on form and in Gareth Southgate’s England squad.

So, now that you have been told the full inspiring and incredible story of Michail Antonio’s rise to Claret & Blue greatness, what could possibly be the next step for our barnstorming winger, a first World Cup? Or, perhaps something even better in Claret & Blue?

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