Keen: John the greatest influence on my career

Kevin Keen has added his own glowing tribute to John Lyall following the tragic loss of his legendary former manager.

Our reserve team coach is the only member of the current Upton Park coaching staff to have played under John, and admits the man who signed him as a 14-year-old schoolboy was the greatest influence on his career.

"It was sad and tragic news, and such a shock," says Kevin. "I can't speak highly enough of John Lyall and the influence he had, not only on me, but on so many other players who progressed through the youth ranks at Upton Park.

"I remember the day I signed schoolboy forms for West Ham United, way back in 1983. John came to my house with Eddie Baily in his gleaming Jag, and I was just getting home from school when he turned up. I had been chased by a few clubs at the time, but it was that personal touch that made me decide to choose West Ham. John went out of his way to make you feel wanted and, for a 14-year-old, that was just something else.

"The way he handled young players was simply magnificent. He would always have time to stop and talk to you about your game, what you were doing well, what you needed to improve on, and his knowledge of the game was fantastic.

"He gave me my league debut in 1986 and, without doubt, was the greatest influence on my playing career. He would always be testing and challenging me - 'are you gonna get 10 goals this year Kev?' or 'are you gonna get on them weights and build yourself up?' and I pushed myself because I wanted to please him.

"He had a knack of getting across his point in a way that made it easy for you to understand, and it's no coincidence that so many of his players went on to become coaches. We were all taught to think about the game, and I can say without doubt that he was the greatest influence on my career.

"It's a very sad occasion for West Ham United, and for football in general. John was a great, great man and will be sorely missed."