This week represents a unique landmark in the Club’s history. One hundred years ago this week, on 10 September 1912, Eric Stubbs was born. He was Leicester City’s left-winger from 1936-1939. This week, he celebrated his 100th birthday. He is the only Leicester City player ever to have reached this landmark.
I had the privilege of driving up to Chester to see Eric on his 100th birthday. I took with me a modern football signed by the first team, together with a personalised card containing photographs of his playing days at the Club. Sadly, Eric’s eyesight has failed, but his memories of his time at Leicester are undiminished.
He started off by recalling how, together with another new signing, centre-forward Jack Bowers, he transformed Leicester City from being a team near the foot of the Second Division table in October 1936 to become Second Division Champions six months later. These memories will be detailed in the ‘Former Player Interview’ feature in the Matchday Magazine for the Burnley game on 19 September.
Eric also talked about living in Leicester.
“Leicestershire is a good county. I used to like to go to Bradgate Park. Laurie Edwards, our trainer, used to take us out there for the day to walk in the fresh air. Then we went back to the Club for a big dinner. I remember the steep hill leading to Old John and the ruins in the park. I used to like to see the ducks coming into the reservoir. We used to play golf near there somewhere. We would borrow a club and a couple of balls and go out round there.
“Laurie Edwards kept us on our toes. We saw more of him than we did the manager (Frank Womack), who would have us in on the day before a match. He would talk about the referee, who to mark out, and who to watch. We’d have a discussion about how to overcome the side.
“Laurie was a sportsman himself. He used to race greyhounds. Jack Bowers and I went to his place once to see where he trained greyhounds to chase live rabbits. A chap I knew had a greyhound called Figleaf. He’d give it a pound of sausage, and half a dozen scrambled eggs in port wine before a race ands off it went like a shot out of a gun. He used to make a lot of money. Greyhound racing was a very popular sport in those days.”
After Leicester City won the Second Division title in 1937, they embarked on a tour of East Europe. The tour had originally been arranged for Wolverhampton Wanderers, but the FA prevented them from going because of their poor disciplinary record. Leicester stepped in at short notice.
When talking about this tour, Eric reeled off the countries he played in, which were Romania, Hungary, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia. He also recalled how they spent days travelling between games on trains, and how, when they travelled through Austria, comments made by the players about Hitler were definitely met with unease by the local population.
The War was still two years away, but when it broke out, league football was suspended and Eric returned to Chester, where he had been born. He told me: “When war broke out I left Leicester. I would have been due a benefit match after another year, which would have been a fair bit of money.”
He played a few wartime games for Wrexham, for whom he had made his league debut in 1934, and Chester, before signing for Chester City after the war.
Summing up his career all these years later, Eric said: “I was a fast winger who could use both feet. I was pretty good. I was privileged to be able to play. I’m fortunate enough to still be healthy. I’m always thinking about the good old days.”
I came away from Eric’s 100th birthday celebrations feeling very privileged to have heard, at first hand, his stories about playing for Leicester City. I also feel privileged to have been given the opportunity to share these memories with Foxes fans today, giving us all a vivid glimpse into the life of a Leicester City player over seven decades ago.