Len Glover and Pelé

Former Player Remembers: Len Glover, Part Two

Len Glover, once described as ‘the best uncapped winger in the world’, spent nearly 10 years at Leicester City between 1967 and 1976.
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He recently spent an afternoon in Whitstable with Club Historian John Hutchinson talking about his career. His reminiscences up until 1969 were featured in part one of this interview. 

In Part Two, he turns his attention to the Bloomfield years and to captaining Tampa Bay Rowdies, where he played with and against world class players, including Pelé and Franz Beckenbauer.

Sipping a glass of champagne, Len turned his attention to the aftermath of the 1969 FA Cup Final which saw Leicester City relegated for the first time in 12 years from the old First Division.

“The manager Frank [O’Farrell] knew exactly what we had to do to get us promoted back to the First Division. He bought midfielder Bobby Kellard. He was only little but he was a winner. Like me, he said what he thought. He could tackle! His legs were thicker than my thighs! He’s not got an ounce of fat on him. He’s one of my best mates now. Frank also bought Willie Carlin to go in midfield. He took little pigeon steps.

“Frank looked at the players we had. If we had played open football we would have been beaten. He left me upfront to break with Rodney [Fern]. It wasn’t good for the fans to watch. When we went up [in 1971] we kept winning 1-0, 1-0, 1-0.”

In June 1971, with Leicester City promoted back to the First Division, Frank O’Farrell left Filbert Street to manage Manchester United. He was replaced by Jimmy Bloomfield.

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Leicester City 1970/71
Leicester City 1970/71

The 1970/71 Leicester City team pictured with the Division Two trophy. Len Glover is pictured second from right on the front row.

“Jimmy was not a disciplinarian like Frank,” Len continued. “He brought players who could play, like [Jon] Sammels, [Keith] Weller, [Frank] Worthington and (laughing) Birch, who came as a centre-forward! Soon after Birch signed we were both injured but Jimmy said one of us had to play at Arsenal. I said I couldn’t play but Birch said, ‘Nor can I. They have just paid £100,000 for me and I don’t want to show myself up!’ He persuaded me to play. I couldn’t turn properly and did nothing. If I had known what Birch was going to play like when he did play he might as well have played and we wouldn’t have noticed the difference! But he is the funniest guy!

“One pre-season (1973) we went to Sweden and Jimmy decided to change the system and put Birch in midfield. Frank Worthington, who I got on so well with, on and off the pitch, looked at me and joked, ‘He can’t trap a ball!’ The star midfielder at that time was the Brazilian Gerson, and Birch started calling himself Gerson! However Birch had the best season he ever had. We were fantastic and could beat anybody. That was the season we got to the 1974 FA Cup Semi-Final.

“In that cup run, we murdered Luton even though everyone said this was going to be a real hard game. Birch was injured for the quarter-final at QPR and his replacement the young Joe Waters scored twice. On the bus I said to Birch that Joey had played so well that I didn’t think Jimmy could change the team. He disagreed with me in no uncertain terms!

“I was injured before our semi-final against Liverpool at Old Trafford which ended 0-0. I played but I would have benefitted from having had a game under my belt. I was good for the replay at Villa Park though. We missed the injured Birch, but don’t tell him that!”

Recalling Leicester City’s 3-1 defeat in the replay at Villa Park four days later, Len continued: “When I scored to make it 1-1, no ifs and buts, they were down. If [Peter] Shilton hadn’t been wearing an all-white kit, Keegan wouldn’t have scored their second goal, because he wouldn’t have picked out Shilton’s position under the floodlights so easily.

If I had known what Birch was going to play like when he did play he might as well have played and we wouldn’t have noticed the difference! But he is the funniest guy!

Len Glover LCFC.com

“With Weller, Frank, Stevie Earle, Birch, myself, Jon Sammels and the two quickest full-backs in the League, Dennis [Rofe] and Steve [Whitworth] we had such a good team that would have been made for Wembley, but Jimmy should have broken the bank and added a couple of defenders. 

“Jimmy loved Keith Weller and that was a big problem. Keith would be in Jimmy’s office after training and you can’t have that. There was the time when Keith wouldn’t come out in the second half in the match against Ipswich (December 1974) because the crowd were getting at him. Jimmy should have told him to get out there instead of letting him get into the bath! Mike (Stringfellow) was the sub, all wrapped up in his jumpers on a freezing night. Birch said, ‘Mike, don’t you think you should get your gear on?’ and Stringy just went, ‘oh, yeah, okay’.”

This memory prompted Len to talk about Mike Stringfellow.

“Mike was the bravest of players. When he and Davie Gibson were in their prime in the 1960s, they had it off pat. He made bad balls into good ones. Calling for the ball is a big part of the game, but Mike never did this. But I knew exactly where he was. He was such a good player. Every morning he would go straight to the toilets for a cigarette. No one was supposed to know, but Birch used to shout, ‘You all right in their Mike? There’s a bit of smoke coming out of there!’

“We had a great team spirit. Birch was the biggest part of that. I love dogs and was always out with my red setter. Birch called me ‘Fido’. Before every game, Frank would be on the ball, Birch would be in midfield, I’d be out on the wing, and we had the same patter every game. Birch, in his big booming voice would shout, ‘Elvis, get it back here, Fido go to the corner flag and the ball will be there’. I never got it once! The crowd could hear this and they loved it. 

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1971 pre-season training
1971 pre-season training

The Club's stars limber up for a pre-season training session in 1971 at Bradgate Park.

“One close season, we went to Barbados. Jimmy had asked us where we would like to go and Birch suggested Barbados where he had been with Chelsea. Jimmy got back to us and said there was a tournament on Barbados, involving Ipswich and the Barbadian national side. They wanted us out there because we were a flair team.

“We were in Barbados for three weeks, staying in the Paradise Beach Hotel. We had a coach called Bill Dodgin. We loved him. We did no real training out there, but one day we were playing five-a-side on the nearby tennis courts. It as baking hot and we were just wearing shorts. We were short of a goal post and Jimmy asked Bill to be a goal post. At first Bill thought Jimmy was joking. When we got back from the trip, Bill resigned!

“His replacement was Mike Everitt. He had been Northampton’s right-back. When I was 17 I had played against him for Charlton. He had massive thighs, and had his sleeves rolled up. In the first five minutes he had kicked me when the ball was nowhere near, and now he was our coach!

“He was just the same when he was our coach. When he started he gathered us round at the training ground. His opening gambit was, ‘You don’t know me, and I don’t know you but we will soon change that!’ Then he noticed Frank [Worthington] who was not with the group but was with the apprentices who were crossing the ball for him to volley like they did every morning. He went, ‘oi, get over here!’ Frank went, ‘yeah, in a minute’. Instead of saying, ‘over here, now!’ Everitt just went, ‘well, hurry up then’.

“Before Everitt left (in 1977) we went to Leeds and we got stuffed 3-0. After the game Birch was doing his hair with his hair dryer. Win or lose he would always do his hair. Mike Everitt came in and said, ‘it’s a pity you’re not as good with the ball as you are with that hair dryer!’ Birch replied, ‘if I was as good with the ball as I am with the hair dryer, I wouldn’t be playing for Leicester!’ “

The Bloomfield years were the best. Fans loved coming down to watch that team whether we won or lost. They would see something, even if we got stuffed.

Len Glover LCFC.com

After playing over 300 games for Leicester City, and scoring nearly 50 goals, Len then explained why he reluctantly left Filbert Street in April 1976.

"The Bloomfield years were the best. Fans loved coming down to watch that team whether we won or lost. They would see something, even if we got stuffed. In 1975 I had an Achilles heel operation and Jimmy brought Brian Alderson for £100.000.  When I was fit towards the end of the (1975/76) season, the crowd were baying for me to come on for Alderson. Frank (Worthington) was also missing me on the pitch.

“Then my old Charlton manager Eddie Firmani who was managing Tampa Bay Rowdies, asked me to play for him on loan that summer to get fit again, but Jimmy told him he could buy me! I had a testimonial coming up in six months and I only wanted a loan! Jimmy didn’t agree so I walked out and signed for Tampa. I didn’t have an agent and I didn’t get my testimonial but Tampa did buy my house in Leicester for me.”

Len has very fond memories of his time in Tampa.

“I had a good time in Tampa. My children still both live there,” he said.

“When I went out there, my wife couldn’t come with me because my children were at school. They were only five and two. She was going to come three months later. They put me in this fantastic hotel called the Bay Harbour Hotel.

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Filbert Street
Filbert Street

Leicester City's players take part in a resuscitation demo at Filbert Street in 1974.

“I was captain and in the team were Rodney Marsh (Manchester City and England), loads of Brazilian players, Clyde Best from West Ham and Liverpool’s Tommy Smith who had just signed on loan for the summer. He had recently scored the winner for Liverpool to win the European Cup. The first thing he did when he arrived in Tampa at midnight was to knock on my door.

“After three weeks I agreed to move into Rodney Marsh’s two-bedroomed house as he was living on his own but soon afterwards, Malcolm Allison, who had been Rodney’s manager at Manchester City, moved in, and Rodney and I now had to share a room. Every morning Malcolm would say to Rodney, ‘super player! Your breakfast is ready’. I couldn’t stand it and moved back to the Bay Harbour. 

“I realised that Rodney always had to be the centre of attention. For example, he’d be last to the airport if, say, we were going away for back-to-back games against San Diego and Los Angeles, where George Best was playing. That was his nature.

“On the other hand I got on brilliantly with Tommy Smith. He was a comedian.  We got on great. I didn’t know him before he came out to Tampa, except when I’d played against him when he was kicking me!

When I came back from America, the registration rules meant that I couldn’t sign for anybody. The ex-Leicester City star Derek Dougan, who was Kettering’s manager, asked me to play for him to keep fit, and then I went back to America.

Len Glover LCFC.com

“The difference out there was after you finish training you didn’t just go home. They allocate a part of the beach for you to work with the young kids so that you were promoting the game all the time. I did this as the captain and Tommy came with me. We went to Clearwater Beach, which the best beach. We would be on the beach with the kids for about an hour and then we would be sitting in a beach bar with the music.

“New York Cosmos was our biggest match. They had Pelé and Beckenbauer playing for them. I had dinner with Pelé when I went to New York because I was captain. He was a gentleman. The greatest player in the world. I have signed pictures of me with them.

“When I came back from America, the registration rules meant that I couldn’t sign for anybody. The ex-Leicester City star Derek Dougan, who was Kettering’s manager, asked me to play for him to keep fit, and then I went back to America.  

“Later, I had a pub in the village where I lived in Smeeton Westerby. I was there for 11 years. It was lovely because I was also working in the shoe industry, the same as Birch. The pub was like a relaxation. I never opened until seven at night.”

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