Exclusives Interviews 17 June 2022

GRM Exclusive: West Ham’s Michail Antonio Talks New Dr. Martens Collection, Self-Belief, Playing For Jamaica & More

17 June 2022

Humble beginnings can shape the most successful stars but maintaining that success is all about consistency, mindset and resilience – something Michail Antonio knows all about.

Starting off in the depths of non-league football, Antonio saw what the end goal could be and grasped his chance with both hands (or should we say feet). Fourteen years on from the birth of his footballing career with Tooting & Mitcham, Antonio is a mainstay in the game and holds the title of West Ham United’s record top scorer in the Premier League.

This is one of many career highlights which also include being the main marksman for his home country of Jamaica. The Reggae Boyz will be pleased with such a prolific, high-profile player in their ranks and with Michail visiting his homeland regularly since a young boy, it was only right he embraced his West Indian background for international football.

He’s now teamed up with Dr. Martens – who established one of the most iconic club partnerships in PL history when they became West Ham’s primary shirt sponsor twenty-four years ago – to launch their new Tarik collection.

As Michail Antonio completes his current footwear campaign with Dr. Martens for the new SS22 Tarik collection, we spoke to the West Ham star about football, self-belief in his abilities, music and much more!

How has the experience been shooting the Dr. Martens campaign?

It was quality to be fair! I managed to go back to some old areas I used to roll in, going back to my school. It was a great experience for me.

What do you think of the latest Dr. Martens Tarik style?

I really like them! They’re boot style but they’re quite light, quite comfortable. It’s definitely something I would wear and after the shoot I did ask for a couple pairs.

Dr Martens sponsored West Ham from 1998 to 2004, and was also worn by the legendary Ian Wright. How does it feel for this to go full circle with you being a West Ham player, who’s now endorsing the brand decades later?

Ian Wright was one of my idols growing up. He broke into the league quite late at 24, I broke into the league at 18 – at the time that was something that was not really heard of. He played for Tooting & Mitcham and I also played for them. So for me to follow him on the Dr. Martens side of things as well, it’s just quality. I’d like to follow him in any way possible, even maybe doing the presenting stuff.

You started out at non-league Tooting & Mitcham and had loan spells elsewhere. Did you ever envision the success you have now as a regular Premier League starter?

I always took things step by step. When I was non-league I wanted to be pro. I didn’t care what league it was, I just wanted to be pro. Once I became pro, I wanted to be in the first team and then from there, I always looked up. I never tried to jump three or four steps, it was always that extra step I wanted to get to. So when I got into Reading in and around the reserves, I wanted to get into the first team and because I couldn’t get into there, I went on loan to get into a first team so people could see me. 

Once I broke into the Premier League and I got into West Ham I always believed in myself and always believed I could be that PL starter. I didn’t have that belief when I was at Tooting & Mitcham. I always looked for that next step and that’s where I’ve got to now.

You became West Ham’s top scorer this season. Did you ever imagine this when you were playing in different positions when you joined the club?

No, not at all! I didn’t even know what the top scorer was on, I didn’t pay any attention to that because I didn’t think I would’ve been close to getting there. It wasn’t until I got to 33 goals and people told me the amount, I said ‘I’m going to beat that’. I actually knew I would. Now I’ve managed to achieve it, I’m trying to hit a target where nobody can reach mine – I wanna be up there for a very long time. If someone does beat it, it needs to be hard enough for them to struggle to beat. 

When did being a striker become your preferred position?

I’d say the last couple of years. I’ve always liked being on the wing, I like taking people on and getting the ball on the side so I face the defender when I get the ball. I didn’t really like getting the ball with a centre half coming to the back of me, everything’s a fight up there. Most attacking players love to play football to score goals so as much as you get the fight and hustle and bustle of things, you also get the opportunity of scoring goals.

From The Matrix to Saturday Night Fever, what makes you think of these iconic goal celebrations?

Honestly, I can’t tell you! Random things literally pop into my mind. I’ll see something, watch TV or on Instagram and certain things I come across and I’m like ‘yeah, I’m gonna do that’.

A second successful season qualifying for Europe. How has the dynamic and belief at West Ham changed in the past few years?

One thing with the gaffer, he believes we can go out and beat anybody. That’s one thing he’s instilled in us, it’s that belief that wherever we go we’re going for three points and if we can’t get three we’re settling for one. He will not accept no points anywhere.

Europa League – great achievement! What’s your most memorable moment from the tournament?

I’d say the highlight would have to be Seville at home. The win, the atmosphere, the fans – it was unbelievable. It was up there with one of the best games I’ve ever played.

You previously appeared on The Rap Game UK and have an ear for music. What creates such a bond between music artists and athletes?

Music is a state of mind, it gets you into a type of zone. It pulls you away from all the madness so that’s what I believe music brings to athletes. When you’re sat there and you’ve got your headphones in, you get yourself prepared for the game and you’re blocking out all the noise.

Who are your three current go-to artists to listen to?

Kano – I have to listen to him – and Tion Wayne and Dave.

Who handles the music in the changing room and what do you lock into before a game?

Declan Rice plays the music in the changing room and it’s a mixture of everything to be fair. He’s a south London boy so he’s got a good mix of everything.

Playing for Jamaica, how have you found the international experience so far?

I’ve really enjoyed it. My mum used to bring me to Jamaica a lot when I was younger, we used to go there for six weeks every summer holiday from when I was born until I was 14. As I became pro, I didn’t go as much so it gives me a great opportunity to go back there. The football I really enjoy. I’ve scored three goals in six games so hopefully I can go back and keep this going.

Should more elite-level players be representing their West Indian backgrounds?

I believe so. You’re seeing it happen more now. People are starting to realise that there are great opportunities. Unless England win the World Cup or win the Euros, people are not going to be happy.

One of the reasons why I went back to Jamaica was because Jamaica didn’t get into the World Cup from 1998 and they managed to get seven or eight decent players from England, quality native players as well so I thought it’s a great opportunity for us to get into the World Cup. Sadly we didn’t manage to make it but I feel they’re definitely building on something so there will be a time when Jamaica’s back in the World Cup.

With the likes of yourself, Leon Bailey and Ravel Morrison, is the next World Cup possible?

Yeah definitely! Paul Hall’s trying to build a squad and he’s trying to give Jamaica a philosophy. The only problem with Jamaican football is not the players, it’s the people running it. It’s how it’s being run it’s not how the players are playing. If we can get it running properly with the proper support behind the team, then maybe the team can be better.

Michail wears the brand-new Tarik, the latest evolution in AirWair footwear by Dr. Martens. Lightweight, hardwearing and set on a newly designed utilitarian outsole, the Tarik provides sneaker-levels of comfort and practicality across both the Low Shoe and Toe Guard Boot. Shop the Tarik alongside all featured footwear at Dr. Martens.