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Lawrie made his first team debut against the Red Devils at Upton Park on Saturday August 19, 1961.
The giant 'keepers performace between the sticks gave rise to subsequent newspaper headlines such as "Leslie gives the Hammers a boost" and "Leslie can spur West Ham to greatness", giving the Hammers' fans hope that the club had at last found a goalkeeper from the same mould as the legendary Ernie Gregory.
The team against Manchester United at Upton Park:
Two months after Ron Greenwood was installed as West Ham United’s fourth-ever manager he made his first managerial signing when he snapped up goalkeeper Lawrie Leslie.
On June 21, 1961 Lawrie transferred to the Hammers from Scottish League Division One side Airdrieonians as replacement for keeper Brian Rhodes.
He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and started his junior career as a right-back before moving back to play in goal and catch the eye of Hibernian. He was in the Hibs side which reached the 1958 Scottish Cup Final only to lose 1-0 to Clyde.
Beset by injuries at Easter Road and after playing 98 matches he moved on to Airdrieonians in November 1959 for £4,475. Leslie spent two seasons at Bloomfield Park and became club captain.
His performances at Airdrie attracted scouts from England, and West Ham United won the race for his signature.
He stayed at the Boleyn Ground for two seasons making 61 claret and blue league and cup games before moving on to Stoke City where he would make 97 appearances for the Potters. After losing his number one staus he joined Millwall before ending his playing days at Southend United.
Born: Edinburgh, Scotland March 17, 1935 Lawrie died June 4, 2019 aged 84.
Early Football Career
Run over by a truck as a small boy and told he would be lucky to walk again, he confounded the doctors to reach the pinnacle of his profession. Lawrence Grant Leslie began his football career with Hawkhill Amateurs prior to turning semi-pro and signing for Newton Grange Star in the early 1950s. Leslie signed professional forms with Scottish side Hibernian in 1956 where he won a Scottish Cup runners-up medal in 1958 before moving to Airdrieonians in November 1959.
Lawrie’s popularity with the Broomfield faithful grew considerably when it became evident that their heroes had signed a keeper of rare ability who ruled his goal area with commanding authority, he took over the captains armband and went on to win five full Scottish international caps (three in World Cup preliminaries)
All five of his full caps were gained in the same year, 1961, and to that haul he was able to add a further three Scottish League XI caps. In fact, it was only a nasty and, ultimately, debilitating eye injury that prevented him from playing in 1961’s infamous 9-3 defeat to the ‘Auld Enemy’ at Wembley.
Minutes of Meeting held Tueday June 27, 1961
Ron Greenwood's First Club Signing
The courageous goalkeeper broke almost every bone in his body before arriving at Upton Park in June 1961 for a £14,000 fee. Lawrie Leslie made his West Ham United debut in the opening game of the 1961-62 campaign against Manchester United at Upton Park in a 1-1 draw on the 19 August.
First training session, Ron Greenwood, Lawrie Leslie and
League Debut against the Red Devils
Hammer of the Year
West Ham United 1961-62
Back row: Ken Brown, Geoff Hurst, Joe Kirkup, Lawrie Leslie, Brian Rhodes, John Lyall, John Bond, Bobby Moore
Seated: Andy Malcolm, Ron Brett, Ron Boyce, John Dick, Alan Sealey, Ian Crawford
Front row: Phil Woosnam, Malcolm Musgrove
Goalkeepers didn’t come much braver than Lawrie, as he proved with several injury incurring saves. During his two claret and blue seasons, he had to be replaced in goal on three occasions. Two of these occasions were in his first season and both at the Boleyn Ground.
The first on Saturday September 16, 1961 in the 2-1 win over Chelsea. Leslie suffered a serve head injury in a clash with Chelsea forward Bobby Tambling which sparked a small pitch invastion at the South Bank end. Captain Bobby Moore donned the green jersey between the sticks for the remaining 30 minutes.
Lawrie's second injury came towards the end of the season on Saturday April 21, 1962 in a 3-3 draw with Arsenal. The Hammers' custodian broke his finger which resulted in him finishing the game on the right-wing, with John Lyall going in goal. The Hammers were 3-1 down and came back to draw 3-3, and Lawrie told everyone it was all down to him!
This is how the Upton Park flare-up started.
‘Keeper Leslie and Chelsea’s Tambling go for the ball – a split second later Tambling’s boot accidentally cracked Leslie’s head open
The fallen Leslie is watched by team mates before being carried off... As he lay there the West Ham fans staged a wild demonstration
Lawrie’s excellent form for the Hammers caught the eye of the Scottish selectors, and in September he was selected for Scotland’s World Cup party to prepare for their World Cup qualifying tie against Czechoslovakia on September 26, 1961. Unfortunately, the serious injury incurred against Chelsea 10 days earlier ruled out another international cap.
And the injury he sustained from the Arsenal game was reported as almost certainly robbed him of a place in Scotland’s side for the Hampden Park international against Uruguay in May 1962.
Recalled to Scotland’s World Cup Squad
Great goalkeepers and West Ham United go glove in glove. From Phil Parkes to Ludek Miklosko, Shaka Hislop to Robert Green and now Lukasz Fabianski, the Hammers have benefitted from a roll-call of great shot-stoppers. The Hammer of the Year awards given to those five legendary names stand testament to their achievements.
However, by the end of his first season at Upton Park, Lawrie Leslie had preceded them all in being named the club's player of the year by picking up the coveted supporters' choice in 1962. A remarkable feat given the high-class talent throughout the highly-regarded side assembled by Ron Greenwood.
Lawrie proudly holds the Hammer of the Year trophy as his wife Janette, and runners-up John Dick and Bobby Moore look on
The injury incurred during the Arsenal match meant he missed the season’s concluding three league games but he recovered in time to join West Ham’s party for their June Africa Tour. Back in 1962 this was an adventurous trip by any standards as the Hammers visited several African countries to play six games in 19 days. Lawrie played in five of these friendlies, conceding just two goals.
Africa Tour – June 1962
This was the tournament which marked the start of West Ham United’s golden period of the 1960s. Sharing goalkeeping duties with Jim Standen, Lawrie was the man standing between the sticks in the first game against Kilmarnock (Scotland) which resulted in a 3-3 draw. His other game came against Deportivo Oro (Mexico) in a 3-1 win.
His 2nd season started brightly as he played in the first 16 league games. But this all ended on Saturday November 3, 1962 when facing Bolton Wanderers he suffered another serious injury, a broken leg after a clash with Warwick Rimmer, which necessitated being replaced by an outfield player. This time it was Martin Peters who put on the gloves and green jersey.
But for Lawrie this leg break had serious repercussions as manager, Ron Greenwood, dipped into the transfer market to sign Jim Standen from Luton Town in what was intended to be a short term replacement.
As it turned out, Jim Standen exceeded expectations to become the established first choice goalkeeper. Though Lawrie did return to first team duties for the season’s concluding four league games and started as first choice in the post season USA International Tournament.
His last league appearance was the memorable 6-1 home win over Manchester City.
Billy Lansdowne (on ground) toe-pokes the ball goalwards as Lawrie watches. The ball eludes both keeper Jack Kelsey and Ted Magill No.2
Kelsey rants at his defenders as Lawrie and scorer Billy Lansdowne embrace
1962 Supporters Club
'Hammer of the Year' Trophy
USA Soccer International Tournament
With Jim Standen, Ron Greenwood’s favoured choice, Lawrie was pushed into the reseves' Combination side. Understandably, wanting first team action, Lawrie went on the transfer list and on October 30, 1963 Stoke City quickly signed him for £14,000.
Lawrie’s last game in a West Ham shirt turned out to be the London Challenge Cup 2nd round tie against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane on October 21, 1963.
Last West Ham Game in October 1963
After three successful seasons at the Victoria Ground and clocking nearly 100 appearances, Lawrie returned to the East End with Millwall in the summer of 1966. With The Lions he made 74 league and cup appearances over two seasons before finishing his playing career with Southend United. After hanging up his gloves, Leslie coached at Southend and went on to a role as trainer-coach with Millwall before coaching in schools football.
Lawrie recuperates from his latest setback with a little help from physio Bill Jenkins
Stoke City, Millwall & Southend United
Date of Birth:
March 17, 1935
June 21, 1961
57 Football League
1 FA Cup
3 League Cup
'theyflysohigh' would like to pass on our condolences to Lawrie's friends and family at this sad time.
Support material courtesy of 'Ex Magazine' and Richard Miller