Stewart reflects on Lyall impact

West Ham United great Ray Stewart has described the late John Lyall as being like "a father figure" to him when he made the move from his native Scotland.

Speaking after attending the special service that saw a commemorative plaque unveiled outside the front of the Boleyn Ground in memory of the former manager, the former full-back talked about the man he knew and the coach that inspired him to follow in his footsteps. "Both as a manager and a person, he was simply different class," said Stewart. "He did everything he could for his players.

"John helped me improve my game no end and I can honestly say he made me the player I became. After I stopped playing, he was again an inspiration to me when I decided I would go into the coaching and managing side of things."

Stewart made 431 league and cup appearances for the Hammers between 1979 and 1990, scoring 84 goals. He said Lyall had a unique way of getting his point across. "He was a strong, determined person and he used those qualities in getting what he wanted you to do, across to you. It was his way yes, but he was simply a very, very good coach and knew how to man-manage players."

He added: "He gave you confidence and also looked out for you as a person. I remember it being no trouble at all for him to take you home or help you out in any way in your life generally. Bearing in mind my family were back in Scotland, if I needed to talk, then John would be the person I knew I could go and nine times out of ten, the problem would be solved."

The former Scottish international also said that Lyall met all of his family and in later years when Stewart was coaching, made regular visits up to see the teams where he was based. "Over the last few years, before he died, John made a trip up to see me and always made time to catch up with any of my family who were there.

"I smile when I think of how a lot of things are done now in football, agents and deals and such like, as I don't think John would have liked it, because it was all different in his day!" Stewart said the service and the plaque unveiling would last as a great reminder to what Lyall did for the club, but said the biggest tribute was seeing all the people who attended on the day - including Sir Geoff Hurst, Billy Bonds and Sir Trevor Brooking.

"It speaks volumes for what everyone, players and colleagues alike thought of John. There was even people who could not make it, but sent their apologies - for me that is a testament to John's influence. "I still keep in touch with John's family, he was a big part of my life in both my career and personally, he is much missed."

Stewart said he keeps in touch with how West Ham United are doing these days and hopes the team continue to climb the league table. "We are doing well. Alan Curbishley has had it tough with so many players being out this season, but everyone has got on with it and we are getting results. As long as we keep getting the points, that's the most important thing. I would love to be out there with them!"