Dev speaks of 'absolute honour'

Former midfield maestro Alan Devonshire is the latest big name to pay tribute to the late John Lyall - and claimed he will forever be in the former manager's debt.

Devonshire said Lyall, who has been honoured  this week with a Heritage Foundation blue plaque at the Boleyn Ground, allowed him to "blossom" and enjoy his football. "John helped me in my career and to enjoy my football, he said. "I loved playing for him, his favourite saying to me was, 'when you get the ball, just do you what you do naturally'. I blossomed under him being able to do that."

Devonshire - who made 446 league and cup appearances for West Ham United, scoring 32 goals, between 1976 and 1990 - said Lyall should have gone on to become part of the England set-up. "John could have done a great job for England, it was a shame there was never an opportunity for him to become involved in the backroom, but he never got the chance. They say football is much faster now, but I am convinced John could still have an imprint, that was how good a coach and manager he was."

Paying tribute to his former boss is simply something Devonshire said he had to do. "I am just so pleased to be able to show what he done for me and my career. It's just very sad that he is no longer here, he was taken too soon from us. West Ham will always be his club, not because of what he achieved here, but it was simply just part of him and always will be. I was lucky to know him for 14 years and it was an absolute honour."

Devonshire is now a manager himself at non-league Hampton and Richmond, who are looking for promotion to the Conference, and recently took young Academy striker Jack Jeffery, who featured for the reserves on Wednesday night, on loan. "I had seen Jack play a few times, including against Arsenal in the reserves and was impressed. I had a word with Kevin [Keen] and we decided that the experience would be good for him.

"Jack has got goals in him and that's what we want to bring out of him more. He's young, only 18, but he did well for us while he was here and I would like to think he learnt a bit while he was with us and he can go on from here."

Devonshire still looks out for his former team and said playing in midfield has changed a bit from his day. "Matty Etherington is probably the closest to the position I used to play, although he is now classed as a winger, where I wasn't. We have some good players in the squad and hopefully we can keep pushing on for the rest of the season and finish well."