Thursday, April 20, 2006


Lyall's Legacy

The weekend's FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough has taken on a new light following the sudden passing of West Ham's last FA Cup-winning manager, John Lyall, on April 18. The team will be hoping to duplicate Lyall's feat some 26 years after his achievement, and to do so would be a fitting tribute to one of West Ham's greatest managers. Condolences from all West Ham fans in Australia go out to Lyall's family.

Here are some tributes from West Ham staff and players.

(c+p TeamTalk)

Alan Pardew is determined to lead West Ham into their first FA Cup final since 1980 as a fitting tribute to the memory of John Lyall.

Lyall was the last West Ham manager to win the FA Cup when, 26 years ago and as a Second Division side, the Hammers overturned the odds to beat Arsenal.

Lyall went on to lead West Ham to their highest league placing ever of third in 1986 and is regarded, along with his predecessor Ron Greenwood who died in February, as one of the club's greatest managers.

West Ham take on Middlesbrough in the FA Cup semi-final at Villa Park this Sunday and Pardew expects it to be an emotional but suitably grand occasion.

"It would be lovely and a beautiful thing to happen for us if we could get to the FA Cup final," said Pardew.

"I am pleased we have a big game to highlight John Lyall's legacy here at West Ham. At least that can be underlined.

"We have a chance as a team and as fans to pay our respects to John in front of the whole country and that is really nice.

"To win the FA Cup twice and lead the club to its highest-ever league finish tells you just how much of an impact John Lyall made on the history of West Ham.

"His contribution will never be forgotten and I am sure our supporters will pay tribute to John's memory in a fitting manner at Villa Park on Sunday and we as a team will do the same."

Greenwood and Lyall shared a philosophy on the game - a belief it should be played in the right way and coached in the right way - which developed West Ham a reputation as the 'Academy of Football'.

Lyall, who died suddenly aged 66, spent half his life at West Ham. After working as office boy, player and coach he was manager for 15 years and his legacy remains central to the club's ethos.

"Unfortunately I only met John once," recalled Pardew.

"But I remember he gave me his opinions of modern football and told me how they used to play at West Ham. To listen to someone of his experience was a joy.

"It is another very sad day for West Ham after the loss of Ron Greenwood just two months ago and, like Ron, John did so much to build the footballing beliefs and values that this club is built on.

"What I really admire about him was that he not only looked at the club in terms of winning trophies, he looked at the club as a whole and built the club.

"They are the managers I admire and his legacy here will not be forgotten."

West Ham's kit-man Eddie Gillam and academy coach Jimmy Frith were both hired by Lyall and still work at the club's Chadwell Heath training ground.

"One of John's famous sayings was 'it's nice to be important, but it's important to be nice' and we try to keep those sentiments going at West Ham," said Frith.

"I am coaching the kids now the way John Lyall coached them 30 years ago. The players we have produced with John Lyall's methods have stood West Ham in good stead.

"John Lyall was a real gentleman, he was a great man and it would be tremendous and very fitting if we could win the FA Cup. That is why we will go out all guns blazing this weekend."

In an era where expensive overseas imports are prevalent in the Premiership, Pardew has not only built a side around young English talent but players who grew up a stone's throw from Upton Park.

Bobby Zamora and Paul Konchesky were West Ham fans as youngsters and remember watching Lyall's teams from the terraces at Upton Park.

"He is a man who has done so much for West Ham. I was only young at the time but I was a West Ham fan and it is upsetting. We are thinking of his family," said Zamora.

Anton Ferdinand is the latest in a long line of talented youngsters to graduate from West

Ham's academy and was humbled to meet Lyall at the recent funeral of groundsman Ian Jackson.

"John Lyall is a legend at West Ham and, as someone who grew up here through the youth ranks, I knew about him and what he achieved at the club," said Ferdinand.

"He came up to me and introduced himself. It was a pleasure to meet him face to face.

"He told me how pleased he was that I had come through the youth team to play in the Premiership and advised me that if I kept working hard, the rewards would come. It was nice, because he didn't have to come and say that, and it meant a lot to me.

"He was probably the greatest manager in West Ham United's history, and it would be fitting if we could win the FA Cup in his memory.

"I know the fans will be desperate for us to do that, and we will be giving it our very best on Sunday."

(c+p Times Online)

John Lyall
February 24, 1940 - April 18, 2006

One of West Ham United's most successful managers and loyal servants

JOHN LYALL was not only one of West Ham's most loyal servants, enjoying a 34-year-long association with the club, but he was also one of the East London side's most successful managers.

He helped the Hammers to win the FA Cup twice, took them to the brink of European glory and guided them to their highest ever league position. He would later go on to manage Ipswich Town, leading them from the second division to the Premier League.

Of all his achievements, perhaps the most memorable was West Ham's win over the mighty Arsenal in the Cup Final of 1980, when the second division side outsmarted their London rivals in a 1-0 victory. This remains the last time a team from outside the top tier has lifted the FA Cup.

A native of East London, John Lyall joined West Ham as a groundstaff boy in 1955. He showed promise as a reliable left-back and appeared in the 1957 FA Youth Cup final and in February 1960 he made his senior debut against Chelsea.

His playing career was cut short after three years by persistent knee injuries, and after a spell working at the Upton Park offices, he joined the West Ham coaching staff. He was taken under the wing of the side's manager Ron Greenwood (obituary, February 10), who not only gave him great guidance and assistance, but at an early stage assigned him managerial responsibilities, such as sorting out transfers and contracts.

Lyall was appointed assistant manager in 1971 and three years later, with Greenwood taking up the England job, he was appointed head coach, with Mick McGiven as his assistant.

His first full season in charge brought immediate silverware. After beating Ipswich in a contentious encounter in the semi-final, West Ham overcame Fulham in the "Cockney final" of 1975 by two goals to nil. A year later, despite a tenacious performance against Anderlecht in the European Cup Winners' Cup final, the Hammers lost 4-2 to the Belgians.

The team's fortunes thereafter took a downward turn, and in 1978 they were relegated to the second tier. They bounced back in thunderous fashion in 1981, with a tally of 66 points, a joint record for the division (this was the last season in which two points were awarded for a win). Before doing so they staged one of the great FA Cup upsets when they overcame Arsenal, the holders, in the 1980 final.

Arsenal had come to the final exhausted after requiring three replays to dispatch Liverpool in the semi-final. Those four games had also given Lyall plenty of time to study his opponents, and his decision to play David Cross as a lone striker, pulling Stuart Pearson back to bolster the midfield, effected the desired result. After a rare header by Trevor Brooking in the 13th minute, the Hammers employed the tactic of contain-and-counter-attack which completely shut out the Gunners.

Under Lyall's tutelage, West Ham went from strength to strength throughout the 1980s, and in 1985-86 they finished third, the side's highest ever position. They did it in style, too, with the impish partnership of Tony Cottee and Frank McAvennie particularly delighting. Had English teams not been banned from European competitions after the Heysel disaster in 1985, West Ham would have qualified for the Uefa Cup.

In May 1989, after a series of stuttering campaigns, West Ham were relegated after a 5-1 thrashing by Liverpool at Anfield. Lyall, the longest serving manager in the first division, was sacked in June. Many fans and commentators thought the decision ill-judged, hasty and even cruel, given the years he had dedicated to the Hammers, the silverware he had brought to a club that only two years beforehand would have been playing European football.

A year later he took the helm at Ipswich Town. Resuming his partnership with McGiven, he once more displayed his managerial acumen. In particular, his decision to retain the services of the ageing Ipswich legend John Wark was a bold one, but it proved to be shrewd. He lifted the struggling and unfancied outfit to the second division title, earning them a place in the inaugural Premier League in 1992.

Although they did not play the most attractive brand of football, Ipswich did punch well above their weight. By January 1993 Ipswich were in fourth place, pushing for Europe, and to their more optimistic fans, for the title itself. Yet they lacked stamina, and after poor results they drifted down the table, finally ending in 16th.

The 1993-94 campaign witnessed an even more dramatic plummet, with Ipswich narrowly avoiding relegation. By December 1994, with Ipswich rooted at the bottom of the table and doomed to relegation (a fate that was duly realised), Lyall and the club departed company.

Lyall commanded respect and was widely held in affection by the players he worked with. The old-fashioned virtues of politeness, honesty and loyalty came naturally to him.

"Respect and good manners, Ron Greenwood used to tell me, was all that you can ask of anyone," he said. "You don't need education for that or wealth."

He is survived by his wife Yvonne and a son.

John Lyall, football manager, was born on February 24, 1940. He died of a heart attack on April 18, 2006, aged 66.

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