25 years after his death we gather memories of Laurie from those that knew him best
"I don't think his qualities were any less than Cristiano Ronaldo. Madrid viewed him as one of the most distinguished footballers in Europe. It was a period when there weren't many international signings and the club made a special effort financially to sign Laurie, to sign a star, because almost all the rest of us were from the youth team." – Vicente del Bosque, Spain coach.
“We didn't put any restrictions on Laurie - I just told him to get the ball at his feet and go and do damage with it. For that 1978-79 season, especially around the time when we beat Valencia in the Uefa Cup, I've never worked with a better player. I had Bryan Robson for years and at Atletico Madrid I had Paulo Futre, who was a European Footballer of the Year, but Laurie could live with any of those." Ron Atkinson, former manager.
“He was fanatical about kicking balls with his left foot against the wall underneath the stand. Every time we had a 15-minute break the rest of us would just sit down and he’d be out the back.” Tony Grealish, Orient teammate.
“Me and Laurie did the black power salute a couple of times. To be honest we didn’t properly understand the significance. All we knew was that some black American athletes had done it at the Olympics and that was good enough for us.” Bobby Fisher, Orient teammate.
“That was Laurie. He didn’t turn up at the club for a whole week once. We were in a relegation fight and every day I kept telling the manager, “He’ll be here for the match”. He didn’t turn up for that either. On the Monday, he strolled in as bold as brass and said he was resting as he felt tired. The manager asked him why he hadn’t answered the phone. “Because I was upstairs and the phone was downstairs”, was the reply.” Bobby Fisher, Orient teammate.
“No one talks about Pele as being a black player, he's just Pele, Laurie at that time just carried that single name, he was just Laurie." - Brendon Batson, West Brom teammate.
“We had one or two problems with him in the early days. There was a time when Peter Angell and I wondered if we could win Laurie over. He had to struggle in life and was the sort of youngster who was used to living on his wits. He was suspicious of people outside his own circle. He took a long time to trust other people. He often turned up late for training, the eyes flashed when we fined him, but for all that I loved the spark that made him tick.” George Petchey, former Orient manager.
“Laurie wasn’t your typical footballer. He was very creative in his thinking, was very much into his clothes and he loved going out. He was a fabulous dancer and he loved his music. I think the fact we got on so well socially was a key element as to why we got on so well on the pitch. He had pace, grace and style. He was the most watchable player ever.” Cyrille Regis, West Brom teammate.
“At some grounds you’d get 10,000 people shouting racist abuse at you – singing monkey chants, throwing bananas on the pitch. There’d be people handing out National Front leaflets in the crowd. We’d get letters through the post, death threats. But Laurie handled it like we all did. He internalised the hatred and aggression and turned it into performance.” Cyrille Regis.
“He’s got that electrifying ability to go past people. Wembley is the perfect platform for him.” Ron Greenwood, England manager.
“He was adding something that there wasn’t much of at Madrid at the time – loads of skill. You tend to relate Spanish football to skill but they were much more defensive than they are now. They didn’t have much glamour. He added that glamour.” Guillem Balague, journalist.