Posted: 25th November 2014
The Event – Book signing for John Lyall: A Life in Football by Dr Phil Stevens (Apex Publishing Ltd 2014)
The Time – Saturday 29th November, 1.30pm onwards.
The Place – The Newham Bookshop,745-747 Barking Road, London E13 9ER.
My old Liverpool University football team mate, Dr Phil Stevens has been at it again.
Phil’s 5th book has just been published.
This new one is about a man who for most of his football career was a loyal Hammer: John Lyall.
John Lyall: A Life in Football is a must read for fans of West Ham United, especially those linked in any way to the club’s fortunes in the late 1950’s through to the end of the 1980’s. Also Ipswich Town fans of the early 1990’s can re-live how Lyall took them from the old 2nd Division into the newly formed FA Premier League.
Sadly, John Lyall died relatively young in 2006 at the age of 66. So to put this book together, Phil has had to rely on extensive interviews with many of the well known people who knew and worked with Lyall, including the Lyall family and well know figures like Terry Venables, former Hammers players Sir Trevor Brooking, David Cross, Phil Parkes and Patsy Holland and members of staff at both West Ham United and Ipswich Town.
The book is an extended version of a short biography of Lyall which Phil Stevens wrote in 2011.
The chapters take us through John Lyall’s life which was often about making the most out of adversity. Although his childhood was not a bad one, Lyall’s parents did not have much money. However, they did everything they could to support their boys including John’s fierce devotion to football.
I especially like all the stories of how John grew up in post war East London where he and his brothers would make such choices as whether to go by bus both ways to watch West Ham or to walk one way, a decision which would allow them to buy a programme at the ground.
A programme or the bus? Of course we are in a different time now. But how many kids would be faced with such choices today when going to football?
But after working his way through schools football into West Ham’s youth team and then into the reserves and 1st team alongside such up and coming stars like Bobby Moore, John had to retire early at the age of 23 when his knee, which and always been a problem, gave out one too many times; it just could not take the demands of the professional game.
In a way that would be unheard of today, West Ham had nurtured John in an office job while he had been working his way through the ranks at the Boleyn and after retirement, not only did the club retain him in this role but manager Ron Greenwood offered John the job of Youth team coach.
The book takes us through the successful mid 1960’s years when the Hammers won both the F.A. Cup and the European Cup Winners’ Cup when Lyall was learning his trade as a coach under Ron Greenwood’s watchful eye.
Greenwood had made John his assistant manager and when England came calling and Ron left the Boleyn, it was the obvious choice for the West Ham board to offer John the job, a position he held until 1989, a sign of a different time when compared to today when most managers barely last 2 years in their jobs on average.
Lyall was highly respected at both the club and in the football world in general and even though results on the pitch were not always up to expectation after the highs of the mid 1960’s, the board, players and fans all stayed loyal to John, until, that is, 1989 when he was sacked unceremoniously.
In his time as the Hammers’ manager, Lyall had taken them to their highest finish in the top division, won the FA Cup twice and reached the final of the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
Back in work quite quickly, John was Ipswich Town’s manager taking them into the newly formed F.A. Premier League. But with limited resources, success at the top level was difficult and after some bad fan and press reaction, John resigned and walked away from football into the retirement he’d always promised his wife Yvonne.
One of the striking aspects of the book for me were the quotes from all those people who worked with John Lyall, many almost reverential in their praise of him.
The comments from John’s family members and the interviews with the likes of Terry Venables, Sir Trevor Brooking and David Cross, amongst others are especially insightful about Lyall, especially the coaching concepts he used with players to help them improve their game.
Also, Phil Stevens provides plenty of detail about the top matches in Lyall’s career including the Cup Finals and big games, especially the ones at the Boleyn. West Ham fans will no doubt enjoy the memories of these achievements and memorable matches.
Lyall comes across as a special individual and a fundamentally good person.
Having read the book, I wish I’d met him. What a joy it would have been to be coached by him.
Phil Stevens’ book is a fine testament to a much loved and much missed football man.
If you’d like a signed copy of the book, get along to the Newham Bookshop before the match against Newcastle United this coming Saturday 29th November at 1.30pm where you can meet author, Dr. Phil Stevens;
A link to the book on Amazon; http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/1910295469/ref=cm_cr_mts_prod_img
A link to the Newham Bookshop; http://www.newhambooks.co.uk/johnlyall.php
Category: Football - Editorial