'He knew what made players tick' - The Evening Standard's Ken Dyer pays tribute to Glenn Roeder
The Evening Standard's long-standing West Ham United correspondent Ken Dyer shares his personal memories of former Hammers manager Glenn Roeder, who sadly passed away on Sunday at the age of 65...
I first encountered Glenn Roeder when, working for the local newspaper, I covered District Schools’ football.
Roeder played for Havering Schools and their home matches were played at Westlands, in Romford, just a long free-kick away from West Ham’s training ground at Chadwell Heath.
More than three decades later I met him again in the summer of 2001, this time on the other side of the fence and just as he was beginning his new job as manager of West Ham United.
I was there to interview Roeder for the Evening Standard and it was clear he knew his appointment, following the departure of Harry Redknapp, had not been met with universal approval. Yes, he was on West Ham’s coaching staff and the club had opted for continuity but the fans wanted a bigger name.
Alan Curbishley had been in the frame but decided to stay at Charlton while Steve McClaren had also been tipped for the job but instead went to Middlesbrough.
Roeder knew he faced a real challenge to win over those fans but approached it with an honesty, enthusiasm and directness which impressed.
He had enjoyed a terrific career as a player, most notably six seasons at Newcastle where he had been captain – and good enough to have earned seven England B caps.
He knew what made players tick, especially after taking the irrepressible Paul Gascoigne under his wing while they were at Newcastle together.
He had also played for Leyton Orient, QPR, Watford and Gillingham and I well remember his famous ‘Roeder shuffle’, an audacious step over which seemed invariably to flummox the opposition.
Roeder knew he had to pull a few more rabbits out of the hat though, to persuade many that he was the man for the West Ham job but revelled in the challenge.
“I understand why some supporters would be puzzled and like a bigger name,” he said, “but I have landed the job and I hope people will give me a chance. I promise I will give them one hundred per cent.”
He fulfilled that pledge impressively when, in his first season, 2001/02, the Hammers finished seventh in the Premier League.
The following season though, was much more difficult and – by the spring of 2003, relegation looked likely and some of the criticism had descended into something far more serious.
After a defeat by Bolton a bottle had been thrown at his house and the following Saturday, 21 April 2003, after West Ham had beaten Middlesbrough 1-0 to give their fans some faint hope of survival, Roeder collapsed.
Goalkeeper coach Ludek Miklosko, coach Roger Cross – and I – were also in Roeder’s office at the time. Fortunately the club doctor, Ges Steinbergs, was quickly summoned and Roeder was soon on his way to hospital.
A brain tumour was diagnosed and just three weeks after an operation, we met again at a local fishing lake, where Roeder agreed to talk about his illness for the first time.
I recall he joked about bruises, caused by my well-meaning but misguided attempt to thump his chest thinking he had suffered a heart attack.
He said he was determined to return to his job at West Ham – and did for a short time, before leaving the Club in August 2003.
We lost touch after that, as can happen – but Roeder did return as a manager at Newcastle in 2005 and Norwich two years later.
I still recall that lakeside interview with him, when he was so eager to return to the game he loved.
“I’ve a lot to look forward to now,” he smiled. “The skill of the doctors has given me plenty more years hopefully.
“I have two sons and a daughter and I need to be around to see them all into adulthood.”
Yet another promise he kept.