Moose's Memories - Stan Lazaridis

Ian ‘Moose’ Abrahams chats to a man who knows West Ham United and the Club’s owners very well – Stan Lazaridis
Ian ‘Moose’ Abrahams chats to a man who knows West Ham United and the Club’s owners very well – Stan Lazaridis...

Last Thursday I was watching my daughter Amber at netball practice when the phone rang.  When I answered, the voice on the other end, said: “Moose, I have some good news for you, Mark Noble wants you to do the PA at his Testimonial.”

I was still on a high from that fantastic news when the phone rang again: “Hi Ian, it’s Stan Lazaridis!”

It was brilliant to make contact with Stan on Australia Day, and he got back to me so we could have a chat for tonight’s Moose’s Memories column.

You tend to see a lot of former players at games, be they in the Premier League or European competition, but since his departure for Birmingham and then back home to Australia, I hadn’t seen or spoken to Stan, who was great to watch as a player here and a dream to interview off the pitch.

I began my interview with Stan by asking how his move to West Ham came about, some 23 years ago.

“Well, it was unplanned,” he revealed. “West Ham came on a tour Down Under and I played in the game against them for West Adelaide. Afterwards, I got talking to Frank Lampard Snr and he and Harry Redknapp invited me to come and have a trial.

“The trial was a success and I ended up spending four good years at the Club. I was very lucky for Harry to take a chance on me and I loved playing for West Ham and didn’t want to leave in the end.”

Stan scored three goals in 87 games in Claret and Blue before swapping the Boleyn Ground for St Andrews and Birmingham City.

There, he worked under the guidance of three familiar faces for the next seven years.

“It was the current West Ham owners who bought me at Birmingham, David Gold, David Sullivan and Karren Brady, so I know the West Ham owners very well,” he continued.

“They’re a good bunch of people and as I said I was very sad to leave West Ham but had an enjoyable time at Birmingham and they were the only two clubs I played for over here.”

Nowadays it’s not unusual to see young players moving countries or continents to play, but Stan was only 23 when he moved halfway round the world to pursue his dream and, back then, the number of Australian players in Europe was far lower than it is now.

“Harry Redknapp was really good to me, the club were good to me and in particular the supporters and those in the Chicken Run took me in and loved the fact I was willing to run and was exciting at times,” Stan recalled.

“They knew I always tried. It was a great club for me to be at and I still follow West Ham today.”
Stan has particular reason for keeping tabs on West Ham and our current manager, of course.

“I played with Slaven Bilic while he was at the club and am so happy he is managing the club and doing so well and having such a good season,” he said. “So I hope the Hammers continue to have great season.”

When I first came down to Upton Park in the late 1970s, the likes of Trevor Brooking and Alan Devonshire were the wing wizards, and we have always been known for having good wide players, so Stan fitted in nicely into the traditions of the club.

“Harry had a team that include the likes of Tim Breacker, Steve Potts, John Moncur, Ian Bishop and Tony Cottee and Harry said I was something a bit different,” Stan said.

“Harry said I reminded him of the former Liverpool winger Steve Heighway and he liked that I was different. He was really supportive of me.”

Talking of support, Stan told me he certainly isn’t unique in following West Ham’s fortunes from the other side of the world.

“West Ham was a fun club and a club well-supported in Australia, particularly here in Perth. I was grateful to be given a chance to play for them and I thought when I came over, I would be with West Ham forever.

“I didn’t understand how players got bought and sold so readily and for me, as someone of loyalty, I had several changes to move on from West Ham and Birmingham, but I chose to only play for the two clubs

“I always said if I was happy, why move as the grass isn’t always greener.”
I played with Slaven Bilic while he was at the club and am so happy he is managing the club and doing so well and having such a good season
For those too young to have seen Stan play in the flesh, he was one of those players who was never afraid to run at defences and ping a cross into the middle.

In other words, he was a centre forward’s dream, and Stan says he thinks he could have made the England team of the time, had he not been Australian!

“What worked for me at West Ham was that I was different to what England had. England didn’t have a left-footed player playing in England and I was a left-footer, playing on the wing.

“I was all those things England was missing. In fact Harry said to me “Kid, I wish you were English, because if you were you’d play for England because we haven’t got any left-footers!”

“England were always missing that attacking left side player, but being that kind of player allowed me the opportunity to be given a go and preserved with at my clubs.

“I spent many good years at West Ham under Harry. We made the Intertoto Cup and Europe and Harry built a really good squad, when look back I fitted a niche at the time for Harry, who knew what he was after.”

I ended my chat with Stan by asking if he had plans to come back to these shore, or if he had any ambitions to manage a club over here?

“I’m not sure about managing, I’m too nice to be a manager!” he laughed. “I love watching football and if I come back to watch, I will put on a hat and sneak in and watch games at Upton Park.

“West Ham is the club I follow and want to do well, but I’ve got other businesses here in Australia. Football is in my heart and I’ll forever be grateful to Harry for giving me the opportunity at West Ham.

“Of course I also wish the owners David Gold and David Sullivan well. I have a strong affection for them and I wish West Ham well and especially Slaven Bilic, who is a good friend.”