Your memories of John Lyall

Since the tragic death of John Lyall back on April 18, we have been inundated with emails and letters from supporters wishing to pay their own personal tributes to our former manager.

Hundreds of messages have been sent in, and every single one will be passed on to John's widow Yvonne and the family. It would be impossible to publish every message here, but below is a selection of those received...

John Lyall 1940-2006

II would like to pay my respects to a great manager. During John Lyall's time at the Boleyn Ground we produced some of the greatest players the club has ever seen. He was loved by players and fans alike and I don't think I ever heard a bad word said about him. My condolences go to John's family.
Trevor Armstrong-Jones

As a lifelong supporter of West Ham I was saddened to hear of the death of a true gentleman. As a West Ham supporter I have fond memories of 1975 and 1980, two days which stick in my mind and always fill me with a great sense of pride at being a West Ham supporter. I believe that John was the manager who transformed our club and brought us through the transition period when footballers became rich and famous. To say I was shocked and saddened at the loss of such a gentleman is an understatement. Noel Cantwell, Ron Greenwood and John all in one season is a huge loss. May he rest in peace.
Brian O'Flaherty, Dublin

John was one of the best and a true West Ham man. I wrote to him after he was sacked commending him on his great job for the Hammers over the years and his reply was typical of the man. He simply said "he couldn't have worked for better people than the West Ham supporters". He will be truly missed.
Clive Dyer, Battle, East Sussex

Thanks for football played the right way, the West Ham way. As a young boy in Sweden I started to like West Ham, not only for the colours of claret and blue, but for the way West Ham played football. It was always a pleasure watching the team on TV. Even if West Ham not always took all the points, it was always entertaining. And thanks for the good memories. The wins at Wembley against Fulham in 1975 and Arsenal in 1980 will always shine bright in West Ham's history.
Kenth Jönsson, Borgholm, Sweden

I remember jumping around my Nan's living room like Zebedee as Brooking headed the ball into the net. I remember screaming at the TV when Paul Allen was taken out by Willie Young. I remember the parties that went on until the early hours of the morning while us kids played footy outside the pub. I remember seeing the claret and blue skinheads line the streets when you brought the cup home. I remember having my photo taken with the FA Cup at Upton Park. All those memories, and many more, are thanks to you John Lyall. Rest in peace.
Barry Parker

I may be only 17 years old and not have been alive to watch or follow the West Ham side that Mr Lyall managed so successfully, but from all the tributes paid so far by West Ham greats past and present, it is clear to see that John was truly a great man. I would like to express my utmost condolences to all those who knew Mr Lyall.
David Newton, Enfield

To me, John Lyall, together with his mentor Ron Greenwood, epitomised everything that is good about West Ham United and the magical game of football. John was a true gentleman and an honest professional man who obviously gained the respect of all of his players, opponents and supporters alike. He led this great club of ours through some truly wonderful times and guided his young players with his experience and in depth knowledge of the game. He will truly be missed and be remembered as a true West Ham legend. My sympathies go to his family.
Steve Hubbard, Holland-on-Sea, Essex

I started supporting West Ham with John as manager and recall going to Chadwell Heath as a young fan to watch my heroes train. The players were in the ball court and John invited all the kids in to watch his session with the players. What a moment and what a man. His memory lives on.
Andy, East Tilbury

John was the 'Man in Charge' when I saw my first West Ham game in September 1976, at the age of 17. My boyfriend had just passed his driving test, had been given an old car, and loved West Ham. We drove from Enfield and I fell in love with the team and the ground. As time passed, my boyfriend and I went our separate ways, but not so my love of West Ham. I purchased a Season Ticket, and took my then five-year-old brother to many games, including the 1980 FA Cup final. Many years have passed, and I now live in the USA. My brother now has the season ticket, and is passionate about West Ham and follows them everywhere. I still watch them whenever in the UK, and most weekends on the US soccer channel. My point is, I owe it all to John. He inspired my love of the game through his efforts and his teams. I've been lucky enough to see some wonderful players pass through the ground, but my favourites will always be those from the days of 'Johnny Lyall's Claret and Blue Army.' Thank you John. You will be missed.
Lesley Craig (Ms), Chicago, Illinois, USA

As a Hammer for over 40 years I have fond memories of the Lyall years, his teams played with a style and flair that have remained our trademark. I will never forget the cup triumphs and those wonderful European nights as we chanted his name in admiration. I will remember John for his great dignity in both victory and defeat and also for the great style and zest his teams played with. Thank you John, gone but never forgotten.
Steve Piper, Brighton

I lived in Devon and had been nagging my Dad to take me to see West Ham for at least a year. Eventually in April 1977, a very excited 10-year-old made their way with his Dad on the Underground to Upton Park for a match with Everton. My Dad was not a football man but had made arrangements to collect some tickets for the West Stand. Whilst we waited for the said tickets in the lobby area - I had pressured my dad to get there early, it was probably 1.30pm - John Lyall walked by and asked if we were being looked after, to which my Dad nodded. Without another word, he asked my Dad whether I would like to pop down to the dressing room with him to meet the players. Absolutely flabbergasted, I nodded eagerly. My Dad quickly got his ink pen out and Mr Lyall ushered us around the whole of the dressing room - I remember being totally in awe - players such as Alan Devonshire, Frank Lampard, Mervyn Day, Alan Curbishley and best of all came at the end. I remember my idol Trevor Brooking with his trademark slanting signature! This was such a grand gesture and I can honestly say I will never ever forget it - it is remarkable how many similar gestures of kindness I have seen on the messageboards. You can imagine after that I was hooked and my Dad always commented on how much of a gentleman John Lyall was, even though in all honesty he had no interest in football and just wanted to take his eager son along. I no longer travel from Devon to the odd game each season - for the last seven years, myself and my daughters have travelled from near York as season ticket holders - and I have no doubt that a large part of the reason is that spontaneous gesture made by John Lyall that very first day I visited West Ham. When John Lyall left football, it lost a man who understood how much pleasure he and West Ham could give the ordinary public. Thank you for that John.
Richard Bridge, Snaith

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I never met John, I'm not even old enough to have seen him manage West Ham, but that doesn't stop me knowing what a man he was. My condolences go out to all of John's family, its a sad time for West Ham United and I can only imagine how his family must be feeling.
Tom, Billericay

John Lyall was the manager when I started to support West Ham as a kid. The thing that always struck me was that he came across to me as the ultimate nice guy, quiet, unassuming but West Ham through and through, just like I was. It was his brand of football that left me excited and never really disappointed. Two FA Cup victories is some achievement and the best and most successful times were had in his reign. A true West Ham legend and he will never be forgotten along, of course, with his mentor Ron.
Mark Webber, Ilfracombe

I and my son Danny are season ticket holders and, along with all other West Ham United fans, found John's sudden death a great shock. I will miss his infectious smile, which he always seemed to have no matter what the situation. The only time I can honestly say I saw John really angry was at Wembley in the 1981 League Cup Final against Liverpool, when he confronted a certain Mr Thomas over Liverpool's goal. The fact that he was never charged by the FA spoke volumes for his character. I last saw John in the Autumn of 1989, when he was signing copies of his autobiography in the Bookshop in the Barking Road He didn't just sign my copy of his book, but had time to ask how far I travelled to watch my beloved West Ham, and when I told John that I travelled from Portsmouth for every home game and some away games, he asked what time I left home and how I travelled to the game. John's passing away is a very sad lost for West Ham United and the football world.
Paul and Danny Brier, Southsea Hammers

I was deeply saddened by the tragic news that West Ham's greatest manager John Lyall had died at the age of 66, a great, genuine, honest, and a West Ham man through and through. I am proud to say that I had the privilege a couple of years ago of meeting John whilst out shopping with my wife. I went over to him and shook his hand and introduced myself, and we spent the next 30-40 minutes talking about West Ham and football in general. He still cared about West Ham and football with a passion that was clearly evident, and it meant so much to me that he was happy to pass the time of day with me. I will never forget that meeting or the man himself. He carried on from Ron Greenwood ensuring that West Ham played football in the right way and that the academy continued producing footballers we could all be proud of. My sincere condolences and best wishes go to John's family, the world is a less better place without him in it. He will never be forgotten.
Brian Lawrance, Ipswich

I had the good fortune to meet John twice, once at a book signing and previously in his office on a West Ham open day following our 1975 FA Cup final success against Fulham. They say that John was a gentlemen and my experience in meeting him certainly confirmed this as he had time aplenty for the ordinary supporter and during our first meeting, put me at ease as soon as we met. There were no airs and graces, just an honest, decent and knowledgeable man doing a job which he obviously loved and which allowed him frequently to keep in touch with the ordinary fan. Rest in peace John; as much a part of West Ham's history as anyone, and a loss not only to his beloved West ham, but to football generally.
Clive Heasman, Rayleigh

I'd just like to pay tribute to John Lyall who, together with Ron Greenwood, made West Ham play the way we all love them to play. John was not just a legendary manager but always a true gentleman. My condolences and best wishes go to his family and close friends. Heaven has now got a great management team
Graham Parker, Devon

John will be sadly missed by all who knew him and the fans who believed in him.
A true gent who was warm and genuine, he believed highly in honesty, trust and respect. He carried on the West Ham traditions and left a legacy that is still in place and going strong even now. West Ham and football in general has lost another one of its greats.
Richard Smith, Basildon, Essex

I always thought that John Lyall was the sort of man we would all aspire to be. Admired by everyone for the way he conducted himself in good times and bad. Born in 1967 I grew up supporting the Hammers with John at the helm and to me, he will always be THE West Ham manager. I do not mind admitting I shed a tear when I heard the sad news of his death. I went to the bookshelf and got out my copy of 'Just Like My Dreams' and looked at John's signature inside. I feel like I have lost a friend even though, like most Hammers fans, I never met the great man. My sincere sympathy goes to all Johns family and friends.
Mitch Barnes, Canterbury, Kent

I was very sorry to hear that John had passed away. I'm only a 12-year-old kid but my whole family are West Ham fans and they never stop telling me that he was a great West Ham manager, one of the best. John is now one of my heroes and I hope my dad and grandad will always keep telling me of the stories when they used to stand in the terraces and cheer and sing his name.
Joe Ling, Wickford, Essex

Quite simply, John Lyall epitomises what West Ham United Football Club aspires to stand for. A truly honourable, honest and respectful man who will live in the memories of West Ham fans forever. Ron Greenwood and John have made West Ham what they are today. They will be sadly missed, but never forgotten. Sympathies to all John's family and friends.
Dean Drury, Devon

I first started going to West Ham games in 1975, and those first 11-12 years remain the best years I've ever had as a West Ham fan. John Lyall always looked immaculate with the thick black hair and long coat, and was always the gentleman when interviewed by the press on TV. Whether the team was successful or not, West Ham were always a joy to watch under John Lyall. His passing is a great loss to football. It can be no coincidence that, before I sent this email, my spell-check tried to change 'Lyall' to 'Loyal'!
Billy Green, Romford

I was so saddened to hear of John's death as he was a wonderful person. Back in the 1980s I used to run a statisticians group and issue monthly newsletters. John was pleased to receive these and continued to write praising the group and its members. I asked him if he could give me an article on a typical week of his. Within days a seven-page handwritten letter from him arrived, detailing all his weekly activities. A wonderful gesture from a busy manager to spend the time to write. As you can imagine, I will always treasure his letters, which I have kept. I also had a book on the club published in 1987 and asked John if he would like a copy. He immediately invited me down to Chadwell Heath where I spent an enjoyable hour in his company. Whilst there he asked the club photographer Steve Bacon to take a photo of the two of us which takes pride of place in my photo album. So thanks for the memories John. He was not only a great manager but a kind warm person who had everyone at heart. My sincere condolences to his family, who have lost a legend.
John Northcutt, Chelmsford, Essex

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The only tribute that can be paid is that I grew up knowing and truly believing that John was the best manager we had ever had and made me so proud to be a Hammer. Just thinking of the good times he gave us supporters brings tears to your eyes.
Colin Martin

Having been born in 1972 near Upton Park, the early 80s were the time that I remembered with joy being a West Ham supporter. My first real memory was the 1980 FA Cup and feeling proud at what John Lyall and the team had achieved in winning the cup against Arsenal and seeing them parade it through Newham to East Ham Town hall. That statred the passion for me, though my family have always been Hammers supporters. I was lucky enough to meet John Lyall at a Junior Hammers open day at the training ground, he was very kind and more than happy to talk to us about the team, his views and visions and, most of all, sign autographs and have pictures taken. I treasure the picture of me with this genius of a manager, he brought a lot of joy to my life through West Ham and I know from speaking to lots of West Ham fans he will be sorely missed. John Lyall was West Ham through and through - my dad always said if you cut him in half he would have West Ham United written through the middle like a stick of rock. Rest in peace John and thank you for all those wonderful memories that you and your teams provided me with. My thoughts are with your family.
Nick Richards, Hornchurch

My sincere condolences to the family and friends of John Lyall. I had the honour of watching West Ham on many occasions when he was manager and what happy memories they were. He was truly a great manager and a real gentleman, a very rare occurrence in the football world.
Helen High

Having been a West ham fan for over 40 years, I was so shocked and saddened by the tragic death of John Lyall. John gave his all for the club and during his time there established the high standards of quality football and behaviour that are the hallmark of West Ham United. Looking at the pictures of John, they say it all - he was an honest, genuine guy and a real gentleman. You'll be missed greatly John but never forgotten.
John Howard, Sawbridgeworth, Herts.

My personal favourite memory of John must surely be the 1980 FA Cup Final, where he pulled off a tactical master-stroke in playing striker Stuart Pearson in a much deeper role than usual, leaving David Cross as the sole man up front. Arsenal just had no answer to that on the day - indeed, the papers the following day reported that some of the Arsenal defenders were constantly looking towards the bench in total bewilderment, complaining that they had no one to mark! Such a tactic showed just how much John had learned from his mentor Ron Greenwood, and played a major part in West Ham's triumph that day. John will be sadly missed, not just by those who knew and worked with him, but by all Hammers fans worldwide. Even though he's no longer here to read them, my closing words are directed to John himself. They are simply: Rest in peace, John ... and thank you.
Keith Stock, Stratford, London

One quote I can remember from John very clearly which I think he made on the radio during one of West Ham's cup winning runs - probably in 1975 - was: "Attacking and creativity is the name of our game." I am sure that is almost verbatim what he said and it has stayed with me for more than 30 years. Those nine words sum up for me what was West Ham's football philosophy then, what it is now and what I hope it will always be.
Simon Deane, Hong Kong

Back in the late 80s myself and a friend had taken our yearly team photos to the training ground in Chadwell Heath to get them signed by the team. We had waited in the cold for ages and managed to get every single player as he left for home after training. The only signature that was missing was that of our great manager. So not wanting to leave without the final signature we asked one of the staff if Mr Lyall was still at the ground or if we had missed him. We were told he was a very busy man and he would probably be in meetings, etc for quite a while, but we decided to stay on anyway. After a few hours, Mr Lyall came out and saw us both waiting, he asked us why we were still here, explaining all the players had left hours ago. We told him we were waiting for him as he was the last signature we needed on our team photo. On hearing this John looked horrified that none of the staff had told him two boys were waiting for him outside in the cold, then ushered us into the canteen for hot chocolate and biscuits so we could warm up before giving both my friend and I a lift home in his car. For me, this story epitomises the kind of man that John Lyall was, he brought many great days to West Ham United, he brought trophies, success and was one of the main reasons West Ham United play football the way they still do. But above all, John Lyall was an honest, down to earth, kind man who loved football, loved West Ham United and appreciated the fans, and believe me the supporters appreciated and loved him too!
Obviously our sense of loss as fans cannot compare to that which is being felt by his family, loved ones and close friends, but our hearts and thoughts go out to you at this difficult time and we will never forget John Lyall, a true legend, and one of my heroes.
Paul Ledwith

I will never forget the letter John Lyall sent me after his dismissal. I wrote thanking him for the many great memories he had given me while he was West Ham manager. I received, which I still have to this day, a hand written letter from Mr Lyall thanking me for taking the time to write to him! Considering the thousands of letters he would have received, to take the time and write back personally is testament to the type of man he was.
Russell Hailstone, Teignmouth, Devon

I have to say first that I'm not a West Ham United supporter. However, I would very much appreciate the opportunity to show my respects after the sad passing of Mr Lyall. When I was about 12 (in 1983) I played for the Theydon Bois Juniors (a small Sunday morning team in Essex). Our manager contacted West Ham United to try to ask if anyone was available for a presentation evening. It was with great pleasure that it was John himself took the time to visit us! It was an extremely memorable night and we were in awe of the great man and his achievements. Here in our village hall was a legend, taking the time to speak to us individually and collectively about West Ham's past, present and future prospects. When you are young, you don't always appreciate the events as they unfold in front of you, but John Lyall taking the time and trouble to spend a few hours at a small junior football team was a mark of the man - and one of those memories that will always stay with me. I'd like to pass on my respects to John's family.
Kevin Jackman

I started to follow my beloved West Ham back in 1980. Growing up in South London to Dutch parents, I wanted to support a London team with a difference. From the very first moment I stepped on to the North Bank I was hooked, and part of that reason was you. 34 years you stayed with us and still no one has a bad word to say about you. That is some legacy. Thank you for providing me with so many fantastic memories and making our Club that bit more special from the rest. I am sure you, Bobby and Ron have some serious catching up to do!
Arnold Nederpel, Amsterdam

John Lyall was the epitome of what I believe West Ham United did and should continue to stand for. Love of the game, respect for others and honesty. Simple things that brought success. A truly wonderful role model during a golden era for the club. My sincere condolences to his family for their loss.
Andy Clare

I was lucky enough to meet Mr Lyall at the recent 1975/80 reunion, shake his hand and tell him what a pleasure it was to have that opportunity. While all of the speakers that night got the respect they deserved, a special hush fell over the place when Mr Lyall rose to his feet and every single person in the place listened intently to what he had to say, without interruption. That kind of respect is only reserved for very special people and Mr Lyall was one of those. What shone through also was the respect that all of the former players had for him and their standing ovation when he entered and sat down, after his talk, spoke volumes. My condolences go to the family and friends of Mr Lyall.
Stephen Bull, Orsett, Essex

My lasting memory of John Lyall is of him on the pitch at Wembley in 1980 just after we'd won the FA Cup against Arsenal. He was standing there, looking over at the West Ham fans with the biggest smile on his face. The camera stayed on him for ages and it always gives me goosebumps when I think of it. He loved West Ham and that moment summed it up.
Siobhan McManus, Manor Park E12

For me, John Lyall was West Ham United, he was a legend. I saw my very first game at Upton Park when he was manager and, under him, the team produced some of the greatest football I have ever seen. He is one of the greatest managers this country has ever produced, and will always be remembered as part of West Ham's rich history.
Gary Oldmeadow, Billingshurst, West Sussex

To me, and I believe to thousands of other Hammers fans, John Lyall represented everything that makes one proud to stand up and say "I support West Ham United". RIP John.
Simon Davies, Basildon