West Ham United Joint-Chairman David Gold has led the tributes to former Hammers and Scotland goalkeeper Lawrie Leslie, who has passed away at the age of 84.
A lifelong fan, Mr Gold was born in Upton Park a year after Leslie himself was born Edinburgh, and enjoyed watching the ‘fearless’ stopper give his all for the Irons for two seasons between 1961 and 1963.
The Joint-Chairman has happy memories of Leslie, who was the first goalkeeper to be crowned Hammer of the Year at the end of the 1961/62 season, and has been left saddened by his death.
Lawrie Leslie was certainly an inspiration to the many fantastic goalkeepers that have followed him over the years at West Ham
“On behalf of everyone at West Ham United, I would like to extend our sympathy and condolences to the family of Lawrie Leslie, following the sad news of his passing,” Mr Gold told whufc.com.
“I have such fond memories of watching Lawrie play in the early ‘60s and he was a huge favourite among the Upton Park crowd thanks to his fearless bravery and commitment.
“The story of him breaking a finger in 1962 against Arsenal and then returning to the field to play on the right wing is the stuff of legend and helped to cement his reputation as a true Hammers hero, becoming the first goalkeeper to win the Hammer of the Year award that season.
“That will ensure his contribution to our history is never forgotten. Lawrie Leslie was certainly an inspiration to the many fantastic goalkeepers that have followed him over the years at West Ham.”
His warm words were echoed by one of Leslie’s former West Ham teammates Brian Dear, who paid tribute to the late goalkeeper’s outstanding talent and personality.
“It is very sad to hear that we have lost Lawrie – he was a fantastic goalkeeper and a wonderful character who was loved by all the players,” Dear confirmed.
“Lawrie was in goal when I made my debut up at Wolves in August 1962, he was always very good with the young players, encouraging and making you feel a part of the group – he just had that lovely nature about him.
“He was renowned for his bravery and fearless goalkeeping, he broke nearly every bone in his body and no one will ever forget him playing outside right against Arsenal after breaking his finger, with John Lyall going in goal. We were 3-1 down and came back to draw 3-3, and Lawrie told everyone it was all down to him!
“I remember he had a really gruesome-looking scar on his leg, about 12 inches long. I asked him one day how he’d got it and he replied: ‘I cut myself shaving’!
“It’s a shame that he had so many injuries that restricted his career to be honest – had that not been the case, who knows, we might not have signed Jim Standen and Lawrie might have been our ‘keeper in 1964 and 1965, because he was definitely good enough.
“He was a lovely man, very humble and down to earth, dedicated to his family and, despite being from Scotland, settled down here after he finished playing. It’s sad to hear that we’ve lost another good one, who gave great service to the Club back then."