I first encountered Glenn Roeder when I covered District Schools’ football working for the local newspaper.
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 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 the 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 he 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 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 in April, a bottle had been thrown at his house and the following Saturday, after West Ham had beaten Middlesbrough 1-0 to give their fans some faint hope of survival, Roeder collapsed.
Coaches Ludek Miklosko and Roger Cross — and I — were in Roeder’s office at the time. 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 his operation, I met Roeder again, at a local fishing lake, where he 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 he did for a short time, before leaving the club in August 2003.
We lost touch after that, as can happen, but Roeder did return to football to become Newcastle’s manager in 2006, while he took over the reins at Norwich a year 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.