Tag Archives: Soccer

Leicester City – Premier League Champions!

Ivan Vardy

Football was always important to my dad and from about the time I was old enough he to take me to Filbert Street to watch Leicester City.  The first game I saw was against Blackburn Rovers in April 1965 and Leicester won 2-0.   The team photo below is from around about that time and is one of many in the Scrap Book.

I think I can remember them all: Back Row: Riley, Norman, Cross, Banks, McLintock. Front Row: King, Appleton, Gibson, Stringfellow and squatting down  Sjoberg.

I can recall quite clearly going to the matches in my blue and white hand knitted scarf and bobble hat because this always involved a long walk of about three miles there and three miles back.  Very close to my grandparents house there was a bus stop with a direct service into the city but dad rather cunningly always started out for the match at a time that was certain not to coincide with the bus timetable.  I never caught on to this little trick of course and he had a very brisk walking pace that required me to run along side him just to keep up as he strode out ahead.   It turns out that dad just didn’t like paying bus fares which he considered to be an unnecessary expense.

Foxes in the Derby Pen

In the past dad must have seen some football ups and downs because Leicester were always a club who were not quite good enough to stay in the first division (the Premiership) and just a bit too good for the second division (the Championship) so they were up and down like a yo-yo.  The year that I was born, 1954, was a good year, he must have been happy when City were promoted as second division champions in May just beating Everton to the title by .3 on goal difference.  Their biggest win was 9-2 against Lincoln and their biggest crowd was 51,811, against Everton, I wonder if he was there in the crowd that day cheering them on?

The FA cup was always disappointing and I can remember 1961 when  Leicester reached the FA cup final for the second time and were beaten 2-0 by Tottenham Hotspur who did the league and cup double that year.  Full back Len Chalmers broke his leg early on and they had to play most of the match with ten men because they didn’t have substitutes in those days.  They reached the cup final again in 1963 and lost to Manchester United and again in 1969 and lost to Manchester City.  They had been there before in 1949 and lost to Wolves and this means that they have the unenviable record of being the only team to reach four FA cup finals and lose them all.

There were some good times though, especially when they won the League Cup twice in the 1990s and the best moment of all when they beat Derby County at Wembley in 1994 with two Steve Walsh goals to get promotion to the Premiership.  We had tickets and went to Wembley for the match and he was really happy that day.

My granddad Ted, wearing Blue of course – another lifelong City Fan…

Ted Petcher c1974

Football grounds were totally different to the all seater stadiums that we are used to now and were predominantly standing affairs.  I was only a little lad so it was important to go early to get a good spot on the wall just behind and to the left of the goal with room to swing my heavy wooden rattle.  This required an early arrival and although matches didn’t start until three o’clock dad used to get us there for the opening of the gates at about one.

This must have required great patience on his part because two hours is a long time to wait for a football match to start standing on cold concrete terracing and I really didn’t appreciate at the time that all of this was done just for me.  In the 1960s of course it was common to have pre-match entertainment when local marching bands would give a thirty minute medley of tunes up until kick off time so at least there was something to watch.

In 2002 Leicester City replaced the Filbert Street ground with a modern new ground close by and called it the Walkers Stadium after the club sponsers.  The last time that I watched Leicester City play with my dad was sometime in the Spring of 2003 when we went to the new ground to see a match.  I don’t remember the opponents or the score and I haven’t been since because he died in October that year and going to football matches without him would just never seem the same.

Rugby and the World Cup

School Rugby

The 2015 Rugby World Cup statrts today!

When I was a boy I used to like playing sport, especially football and cricket even though I was never especially outstanding at either.  At school, when we were lined up against the wall and team captains made their selections I suppose, generally speaking,  I would be in the second wave of call ups in between those who were considered to be the best (those who everyone wanted on their team) and those who were completely hopeless and were avoided like the plague.  I suppose you would describe me as average, as with everything else in life.

School sport at Hillmorton County Junior School was really just about having a bit of fun, P.E. in the playground, a gentle game of rounders and French cricket at the nearby recreation ground and the annual Sports Day at the end of each Summer Term.

But in 1965 when I left the Junior School and went to secondary education at Dunsmore (now Ashlawn School) all of this changed and the whole thing took on a new dimension and became altogether more competitive and serious.  Dunsmore was a school that was proud of its sporting pedigree and achievements and expected all of the pupils to play a full and active part.  Because I was going to school in Rugby this meant Rugby Football and this was a whole new terrifying experience for me.

Before turning up on day one in September some during the summer holiday I had to be kitted out with the new school uniform and all of the appropriate new sports kit from the school outfitters, J M Squires at their shop in Sheep Street in the town.  The claret and blue reversible rugby shirt was made of a heavy cotton, the navy blue shorts were baggy and voluminous and the socks were too big and itchy.  To complete the kit there was a big pair of old fashioned ankle length boots made of stiff leather with nasty cork studs nailed into the sole. As well as the winter sports kit we had to have P.E. kit of sky blue doublet, white shorts, ankle socks and white plimsols.

First year sports afternoon was on Friday and so at the end of the first week I packed all of my kit into my duffel bag and looked forward to being on the playing field.  Naturally I was a bit apprehensive because although I had never played rugby before, or ‘rugger’ as people used to call it (presumably to differentiate it from the place) I knew that it had a reputation for being a bit rough and some of the other boys were considerably bigger than me.

The changing rooms were at the back of the playground and smelt permanently of stale sweat and carbolic soap.  They were functional and stark with rows of pegs for our clothes and wire baskets for our shoes, no lockers in those days and any valuables had to be handed in for safe keeping.  As soon as we were changed and ready we were required to line up for a kit inspection before being released through the blue double swing doors and out onto the playing field.

For the very first lesson we were given some basic instructions about the rules of the game and the general principles involved.  Not all the rules of course because there are a lot of them and they are quite complicated and then the games master, Wyn Morris, split us up according to size and his judgment on whether we would make rugby players or not.  Morris was a rugby fanatic and walked and talked with an arrogant swagger that struck fear into us boys.  It must have been obvious to him that I was most unsuitable for the scrum and with little spindly legs he probably didn’t think I had the pace for the wings so I was in the group of potential scrum halves, that’s the poor chap who puts the ball in the scrum and then gets jumped on by all the big boys the minute it comes back out again.

After about thirty seconds I knew that rugby football wasn’t my thing but for the entire first term until Christmas every Friday afternoon was a miserable two hours of being bellowed at by Wynn Morris and being tried in a succession of different positions to see if we could find one that was suitable for my non existent talent for the game.

I hated it and as the winter wore on it got colder and wetter and muddier and when it got colder and wetter and muddier the kit quadrupled in weight and I barely had the strength to lug it around the field without the added burden of picking up an odd shaped ball and running with it.  Finally however, after what seemed an eternity, the whistle would thankfully blow and it was all over and there was a mad undignified dash for the warmth of the changing room and the communal hot shower.

When we returned to school in January 1966 we all changed and trooped out as normal but today there was a surprise because Morris called all the first years together and amazed us with the question, ‘right, hands up all the boys who want to play soccer?’ (it works best if you can do this with a thick Welsh accent and say the word ‘soccer’ with a distinct sneer of disapproval for such a pansy game); of course a forest of arms went up into the air and he looked scornfully at us all and said, ‘right, all the boys who want to play soccer, go and stand over there’ and he dispatched us contemptuously to the touch line.

There was real exhilaration and anticipation about this development because at least it seemed certain that we would be playing our preferred choice of Association Football.  This excitement started to wither away however as we were kept waiting on the touch line while Morris spent half an hour or so with the rugby boys as he prepared them for the afternoon’s sport.  This was completely deliberate of course because it was cold and wet and we just stood around getting damp and miserable.  It was obviously a well rehearsed routine that he would stage every year and I bet all of the other teachers knew about it and were probably watching from the staff room window and pissing themselves laughing.

Finally the rugby match got under way and Morris strutted over to us with an evil leer on his face and things were about to go from bad to worse. ‘Right’, he said, he always started a sentence that way ‘all you boys who want to play soccer (pause for effect) you’re going on a cross country run…’