Laurie On Leaving

Young former defender Steve Laurie is backing fellow Aussie Richard Garcia to break through into the first team at Upton Park - after giving up on doing so himself.

Steve has just signed for Peterborough United after his contract came to an end at West Ham, and he leaves behind Richard Garcia and Michael Ferrante from the Australian academy scheme.

He hopes they both show the scheme was worthwhile and says he is amazed at how Richard has come back from the cruciate injury he sustained while on loan at Leyton Orient early last season.

"I hope Richard makes it because he is one bloke who has worked real hard, "says Steve, "and for him to come back from that injury that he had so soon is amazing.

"I know players that have had that injury, not in football but in AFL, that have had to quit because they couldn't make the comeback, so if Richie becomes the next Harry Kewell in the Premiership it is only because of his own hard work.

"He is brilliant off the field and he has got a real charisma about him when he is on it; in simple terms he is a top bloke.

"I reckon with the style of football Richie plays he will all soccer fans, not just West Ham fans; he has got a love for the game and he will excite any neutral."

But making it, as Steve knows, is far from easy at a top club, and he says:

"There are not many teams in the Premiership and there are only 11 places in the team amongst 30 pros - and that tells you how hard it is."

Steve is just delighted to have found a new home for his boots in this country, and he says:

"It is very important because I didn't want to go cold turkey and not be able to get another club; I love playing football, that's what I want to do."

He follows the path of Tom Williams and Jimmy Bullard - both taken by West Ham out of non-league football - to Peterborough, and he says:

"They are both top lads and when I was on trial I stayed with Tommy, and he made it a lot easier because he showed me the ropes and gave me a bit of inside information which I used to my advantage.

"I won't give Barry Fry any heart attacks with any OGs or anything!

"They are all taking time to make me a better player, which is what I want; I have not signed for money or any other reason other than to make myself a better player down here.

"It definitely does give you a bit of confidence and Barry told me in the meeting 'you are going to be one hell of a player', and from a man that has got that much respect in the game gives you a real boost.

"I have said goodbye to the boys but I will definitely be popping in to see them - people like Shaun Byrne, Mick Carrick, Michael Ferrante, Richard Garcia...they are always ringing me up."

He admits that he had to pick himself up after being told he was surplus to requirements at Upton Park, though.

He was given a six month deal in the summer as he was continuing to come back from injury but in the end a parting of the ways was considered the best course of action.

"It definitely was a blow," he admits, "I was a bit down in the dumps with the injury and people are saying 'you got released because of that,' but deep down you do question yourself when you have been released, whether you do like to admit it or not.

"But you have got to listen to people that are close to you that have been there and done it, and I have managed to pick my head up and find another club.

"If you get one or two seasons under your belt you never know what could happen."

He is hoping to emulate another Aussie centre half, Luton's Chris Coyne, making a living in the lower leagues, and he says:

"Chris is doing really well; I bumped into his girlfriend in Romford about a month ago and she told me.

"He is older than me and he helped me when I was there, and all the Aussie boys have been brilliant."

Steve says he fully understands the position of the club in letting him go, and concludes:

"I have no hard feelings whatsoever - I hope Glenn does well and all the coaching staff and the teams do well there.

"I learnt a lot when I was there and I still have a lot of good friends there."

MEGASALE - Visit the Premier Suite at the Stadium on Saturday 19th January between 10am and 4pm for Great Bargains. Personal callers only