1981/82 Leicester City Squad

Former Player Remembers: Peter Welsh

Club Historian John Hutchinson recently spoke with former Foxes defender Peter Welsh about his career in football, which included playing in America against George Best.
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Scotsman Peter came to Filbert Street as a youngster and made his debut at White Hart Lane as a 17-year-old.

The Lanarkshire-born defender played under Jimmy Bloomfield, Frank McLintock and Jock Wallace with the Foxes before moving north of the border to join Hibernian.

“I first came to Leicester when I was 13," he said. "Leicester had a local scout up in Glasgow who spotted me playing for my school team. He invited me down on my school holidays.

"I stayed in Linden Lodge on Aylestone Road on the corner where the geese were. There were about 10 rooms. You were paired up. The likes of Steve Sims and Tommy Williams were there.

"My school holidays from the age of 13 to 15 were spent going to different clubs. I also went to Newcastle, Sunderland and Everton. I also trained with Celtic every Tuesday night and with Hibernian every Thursday night."

"There was an article in the Daily Express not long after I left school saying that all these clubs wanted my signature.

"At the age of 15, I made the decision to join Leicester. I just loved it there.

"The Club looked after the youngsters well. Newcastle, Everton and Sunderland were not the same," he added.

"When I was a youngster at the Club there were players there like Graham Cross, Bob Lee, Malcolm Munro, Jeff Blockley, Steve Earle, Chris Garland, Steve Whitworth, Jon Sammels, and Birchy (Alan Birchenall).

"They had Keith Weller and Len Glover on the wings, Frankie [Worthington] up front and Peter Shilton in goal. Who wouldn’t want to play for a club like that?!"

"When I was 16 I signed a two-year apprenticeship," Welsh continued. "I had a fantastic start. I came down as a goal-scoring centre forward.

"When I played in the youth team to start with, on Saturday mornings at Belvoir Drive, and then in the reserves, I scored 22 goals in my first season, playing at right full-back!

"I progressed into the reserves pretty quickly and six months into my two-year apprenticeship they signed me as a professional when I was just coming up to my 17th birthday.

"Jimmy Bloomfield and his coach David Coates initially put me at right-back and then they pushed me into midfield. I became a bit of a utility player.

"In my career, I played at left-back, right-back, centre-back, midfield and up front a couple of times when [Gary] Lineker got injured. That can work for and against you.

"The way my career later developed, with the injuries I had early in my career, I was probably better in defence, because I didn’t have the mobility I used to have.

"Had I not been injured, I might have stayed as an attacking midfield player. One of my strengths was passing, and I had an eye for a goal”.

At the age of 15, I made the decision to join Leicester. I just loved it there.

Peter Welsh

In May 1977, Peter, still only 17, made his first team debut at White Hart Lane, shortly before Jimmy Bloomfield resigned. However, his progress was then severely hampered by injury, as Peter explained.

He added: “Right at the start of the next season (1977/78), I had to have a cartilage operation which was unusual for a young lad. The cartilage was torn completely. In those days it was an open operation. Leicester tried to bring me back gradually but I tried to come back too quickly. I missed most of the 1977/78 season under Frank McLintock so the Club sent me to Houston Hurricanes in the summer of 1978.

"This was unbelievable for an 18-year-old. Some of my heroes were playing in the NASL. George Best was at Los Angeles and I played against him. Bobby Lennox, one of the Lisbon Lions who had won the European Cup in 1967, was at Houston. I was playing alongside one of my family’s heroes! I have a cracking photo of me and him celebrating when he scored a goal for Houston.

“While I was in Houston, Jock Wallace was appointed as Leicester’s manager. Fortunately for me this meant that I missed the pre-season training on the sandhills at Wanlip! When I came back, I had to try to ease my way in. Jock Wallace took to me straightaway. I had some great times under him. We all did.

“There were some good young players at the Club at this time, like Tommy Williams, Gary Lineker, and David Buchanan. Tommy Williams was one of the most underrated defenders in England. He was a fantastic footballer who had a great football brain. Lineker had electric pace and was so brave in the box. He started off as a right winger. There was also John O’Neill, Larry May and Andy Peake. In addition there was also Youngy (Alan Young), Martin Henderson, Bobby Smith and Mark Wallington. 

"Most of us have kept in touch. Jock had created this camaraderie amongst the players, particularly the Scottish ones. We all used to socialise together. We didn’t just play together. 

“I was in awe of Jock Wallace. His growling voice just made you want to sit up and listen. Some of his team talks were legendary. I can’t remember who it was we were playing, but we were losing at half-time and he came into the dressing room. We all sat down. He always had a half bottle of brandy on the table for medicinal purposes. He always had a half bottle of whiskey on the table as well. He grabbed this whiskey. Then he went round everyone and said, ‘Get some of that down you. Get some fire in your bellies’. Everybody had to take a sip! Youngsters like Lineker and Buchanan didn’t take to it! That’s the kind of thing he did. He was a great motivator.”

In the summer of 1982, Jock Wallace walked out on Leicester City to manage Motherwell. Wallace’s departure had major effect on Peter’s own career, as he explained.

He said: “Just before Jock left, I was about 22. I was having the best run I’d had in the team and I was scoring a few goals. I was back to full fitness and buzzing. Then, out of the blue, when I had a year-and-a-half left to run on my contract, Jock called me into his office and he told me he was giving me a free transfer! He then said: ‘This will be circulated round the clubs all over England and Scotland. Don’t do a thing until you hear from me’.

“My whole life fell apart. I was devastated. The first thing I did was phone my dad when I came out of his office.

“I have always had it in the back of my mind, and it has annoyed me since, that I was being used as a pawn. Jock knew that he was going to Motherwell. He came round my house after this meeting and told me: ‘You’re coming to Motherwell with me’. He didn't ask! What he had done was put me on a free transfer because unknown to me, Bertie Auld, who was the manager of Hibernian, had offered £60,000 for me three months earlier and Leicester City had turned it down. Because he had put me on a free transfer, he wouldn’t have to pay a transfer fee for me.

“As soon as Leicester City heard I was going to sign for Motherwell, they tried to stop the transfer. They knew what was happening. The PFA got involved. They said that there was nothing Leicester could do about this. I was a free agent. I’d had a fantastic offer from Motherwell but then Hibernian came back with a better offer of personal terms because they now didn’t have to pay a thing for me. So I ended up signing for Hibs.

We also used to have Birchy’s ‘All Stars’ team and play charity matches every Sunday with great players like Davie Gibson playing in midfield. I think it is a great thing that the Club recognise the ex-players and that they still come to matches.

Peter Welsh

“In hindsight, when Leicester tried to stop the move, I should have gone back to Alan Bennett (the Club Secretary) and asked him to keep me. I had a year-and-a-half on my contract left. I didn’t have to go despite the offers from Hibs and Motherwell. That was the disadvantage of being young, inexperienced and not having an agent. 

“I feel sometimes angry. Jock left for personal reasons and I ended up in Scottish football where I didn’t want to play. He had forced the issue by giving me a free transfer so that he could get me for nothing.”

The move to Scotland did not work out for Peter: “I made my debut for Hibs against Rangers, playing at centre-back but I couldn’t settle at Hibernian so I rang Jock Wallace. I said: ‘Look gaffer, I can’t stay here. Will you take me back on? I’ll come to Motherwell and then try to get back down south’. They tried but it didn’t happen. Then I had another cartilage operation on my other knee not long after I joined Hibs."

Unable to settle in Scottish football Peter returned to base himself in Leicester: “I was in my mid-20s. Frank Worthington had just taken over at Tranmere Rovers. I got on ever so well with Frank. I phoned him up and told him that I couldn’t settle in Scotland, that I’d had a few injuries and that I was hoping to get back into football in England. So he took me on. I stayed for about a month. He made me an offer, but I would have been better off financially playing part time.

“I came back to Leicester. Graham Carr who was at Nuneaton and then went to Northampton as manager recommended me to Northampton. I played in a night game in a friendly against Brentford and I tore the ligaments in my right knee. That more or less finished me. I was about 27. I had a really good game that night. The injury happened late on in the match. Northampton wanted to sign me and have me playing in the next league match on the Saturday. They didn’t realise how bad the injury was.”

Peter then took the decision to become involved in local football while at the same time of finding employment in Leicester.

“I enjoyed local football," he explained. "I love training. I had played under several coaches and I kept these in my mind and brought their ideas onto the local scene. For example, Bloomfield and Wallace were totally different. Bloomfield’s type of football was a passing game. He went from the back, through midfield to the front. Jock was more gung-ho, with long balls in the channel. There was nothing wrong with that because he shaped his team around the pace of Lineker up front and a good target man like Youngy who was great in the air.  I prefer to watch a side like Jimmy Bloomfield’s. I prefer to play in side like Jock Wallace’s, because it was ‘get up and at ‘em’. There was no room for patience, or for playing it through a player like Jon Sammels in midfield. That would kill big Jock. Jon didn’t stay long after Jock arrived!

“I loved the different parts of training. I had a reputation in local football of being quite a good coach. As player-manager, I took a little village side, Houghton-on-the-Hill to the Senior League. I was also at Lutterworth Town, the Leicester YMCA and at Narborough as player-coach. I always tried to put my boots on. I put myself up front again and scored 30 goals a season. I couldn’t run then, but I could play football!

“I also found employment with Norman and Underwood. I am now in my 31st year there. They looked after me wonderfully and I’m now a director. That is an achievement that I am proud of.”

Peter is still supports Leicester City and is a regular attender at the all of the home games at King Power Stadium.

He concluded by saying: “For a period of time, towards the end of Filbert Street and when the new stadium opened, I was doing corporate stuff on matchdays. We also used to have Birchy’s ‘All Stars’ team and play charity matches every Sunday with great players like Davie Gibson playing in midfield. I think it is a great thing that the Club recognise the ex-players and that they still come to matches.”

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