He became a huge crowd favourite, playing over 300 games for the Club, including an FA Cup Final against Manchester City.
Recently, Club Historian John Hutchinson met Len in Whitstable to listen to him reminisce about his career.
Len started by explaining how he went to Charlton Athletic as a youngster.
He told John: “My brother was two years older than me and could have signed for Chelsea but he didn’t want to go training! He played for a man’s team in Stockwell where we lived and one day they were short of a player so they put me on the wing. I was only little. I kept going round this big guy who was marking me. A Charlton scout was in the team and he said he would take me there!
“I was 13. He took me to see Charlton’s assistant manager, George Robinson. I could see all these players walking past the door. They looked colossal, so when he asked me my position, because I was small, I said inside-forward even though I played centre-half for the school!
I signed for Charlton when I was 17. I was earning £35-per-week working at the Convent Garden Flower Market, getting up at 5am in the morning. I got £13-per-week when I signed for Charlton, but I wasn’t worried. All I wanted to be was a professional footballer.Len Glover
“My dad made me go to training every Tuesday and Thursday even when I didn’t fancy it. He’d just say: ‘get in the car!’ He couldn’t have said that to my brother who wasn’t frightened of him. Dad had a hard upbringing, eating apple cores out of the kerb!
“I signed for Charlton when I was 17. I was earning £35-per-week working at the Convent Garden Flower Market, getting up at 5am in the morning. I got £13-per-week when I signed for Charlton, but I wasn’t worried. All I wanted to be was a professional footballer.”
Len, who played nearly 200 games for Charlton between 1962 and 1967, continued: “They introduced me to the first team gradually. I remember a League Cup game at Filbert Street which we drew 4-4 after being 4-0 down. We won the replay and I scored the winner. To be honest, I think Roy Matthews scored it. We both kicked the ball together in a melee. Because I was a young player he told everybody I’d scored it.”
The last thing that Len expected was a move to Leicester City in November 1967.
He explained: “I’d asked for a transfer and Chelsea and Tottenham were interested in signing me. Whilst this was going on, Charlton’s game at Bolton was called off because of a waterlogged pitch. Our manager, Eddie Firmani, arranged for us to watch Manchester City play Leicester at Maine Road instead. Gordon Banks had not long gone and Leicester had this young boy Peter Shilton in goal.
“The following Monday, Eddie Firmani told me that a Club wanted to speak to me at St Pancras Station. When he told me it was Leicester I thought it was a joke!
“What had happened was that Charlton’s chairman, Michael Gliksten, was on the FA Committee with Leicester’s Len Shipman. I was only 23. I didn’t have an agent so I went to St Pancras on my own to meet Leicester’s manager and chairman, Matt Gillies and Alf Pallett.
Leicester City 1967 team picture
The 1967 Leicester City squad photo, featuring Len, far left.
“Before I went, Charlton’s ex-Leicester player Ian King, a bit of a prankster, told me to speak to Matt Gillies on his own and tell him what money I wanted. So I did this. Alf Pallett was surprised but he went along with this. I wasn’t interested in going to Leicester. I knew I was going to either Tottenham or Chelsea, but I thought I might as well ask Matt Gillies about the money, even though I was embarrassed. He told me I would get five per cent of the £80,000 fee which was a record fee for a winger at that time. Alf Pallett came back in and asked me what I thought. I said it was a big decision and that I’d like to think about it. When they suggested that I visited Leicester, I said I had to speak to my girlfriend... I didn’t have a girlfriend! This was reported on the evening news! My dad asked me what on earth I was doing! I had to ask a friend to pretend to be my girlfriend!
“She agreed, and we went up to Leicester the next day. Matt Gillies met me at the station with (midfielder) Davie Gibson who was supposed to show me around Leicester and then take me to Filbert Street.
“Davie had read in the papers that I was going to either Tottenham or Chelsea and, when I told him that I was, he asked me back to his home to have a cup of tea with him and Mavis his wife. I never saw Leicester! Back at Filbert Street I told Matt that it was a big decision and that I wanted to talk to Chelsea and Tottenham. He told me to speak to Eddie Firmani.
“Although moving to Leicester was the best thing I ever did, I hated it to start with. The Club put me up at the Belmont Hotel. After six weeks I thought, ‘I can’t live here!’ so every day I caught the 2pm train back to London with Peter Shilton’s understudy, Colin Mackleworth, who was in digs in Leicester. We came back on the 6pm train the next morning, slept on the journey and then jogged to Filbert Street.
“When we started the new season (1968/69) I still didn’t want to be at Leicester. In November, we were beaten 7-1 at Everton. When we walked into the dressing room afterwards, Rodney (Fern), a nice guy said: ‘there are no sandwiches!’ We had lost 7-1 and he was worried about sandwiches! Matt Gillies cried and said: ‘I’m leaving’ and he resigned.”
Frank O’Farrell was appointed manager of Leicester City the following month.
It was too tense for me to watch the game so I got into the bath. Whenever there was a cheer I wondered if we had scored. Then I heard the sound of clattering studs coming back to the dressing room. We had done it!Len Glover
Len recalled: “Frank was a disciplinarian. After about five games he took me into his office and said: ‘Len, the Club has paid a record fee for you, £80,000. When are you going to start playing for Leicester City? I know you travel to London every day. That is not going to happen. We will have a deal. You are going to live in the Belmont for six months, and if after that you are still not happy you can go back to London.’ I thought that was fair enough.
“Although hotel life was lovely, and I got to know the owner’s family and the chef, I was lonely, so when I had the chance to rent an apartment nearby on New Walk I took it. Colin Mackleworth came out of his digs to share the apartment. Mr Pallett couldn’t wait to get me out of the hotel. It must have been costing the Club a fortune.
“That was the turning point for me. Things got better. We started the FA Cup run which got us to the Final against Manchester City. In the Third Round, I scored in a 1-1 draw at Barnsley and scored again when we won the replay at Filbert Street. We had signed Allan Clarke (for a British record transfer fee of £150,000). I scored the winner against Milwall in the Fourth Round. Then we beat Liverpool at Anfield in a Fifth Round Replay, after a 0-0 draw at Filbert Street. Before the Replay, whilst we were having our steaks at the Adelphi Hotel, the Liverpool evening papers arrived and the headline on the front page said: ‘A mere formality’. We won 1-0! I beat (Liverpool full-back) Chris Lawler and crossed for Andy (Lochhead), who was good in the air, to score. Then Shilton saved a penalty. The Liverpool crowd clapped us off.
However, Len’s participation in the Semi-Final against West Bromwich Albion at Hillsborough was in doubt due to injury.
“I got a groin strain in the Quarter-Final against Mansfield. In the lead up to the Semi-Final, Frank didn’t tell the papers about this. He wanted West Brom to put two men on to mark me. I played, but my groin went and I came off with about 20 minutes to go. It was too tense for me to watch the game so I got into the bath. Whenever there was a cheer I wondered if we had scored. Then I heard the sound of clattering studs coming back to the dressing room. We had done it! Clarkey had scored the goal. Getting to a Wembley FA Cup Final in those days was the pinnacle.
“I was still injured in the lead up to Wembley. All my family had tickets, even my mum, who I would never let watch a game because I didn’t want her to hear my dad criticise me! But I knew I wasn’t right.
“Before the Final, we went to Bisham Abbey for training and I told my dad that I wouldn’t be fit. What had happened was that in the weeks leading up to the Final, George Preston was giving me treatment morning and afternoon and I could feel the groin getting better. His idea was to build up gradually. He wouldn’t even let me jog.
“But I got an injury in training which put me back three weeks. The next morning my leg was black and blue.
“Frank still wanted me to play in the Final against Manchester City. But within 10 minutes, I went to kick a ball and it went again. I should have come off at half-time but I stayed on until about 15 minutes from the end. We lost 1-0. Allan Clarke wrote in his book that if I had been fit, we would have won that game, but this happens, doesn’t it?”
Three weeks later, Leicester City were relegated after 12 seasons the top-flight. In Part Two of this interview, Len will talk about the promotion back to the First Division, the entertaining Bloomfield years which followed and playing against Franz Beckenbauer and Pelé in the USA.
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