Ted Jelly

From The Archive: Ted Jelly

Football history is very well documented in print, film and on the internet. The past is also brought to life through the personal reminiscences of the people centrally involved at the time.
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Over the years, Club Historian John Hutchinson has built up an extensive oral archive by speaking to nearly 200 ex-players, managers, directors, family members and fans.

The memories contained in this archive cover every decade since the 1920s. They also contain insights and anecdotes that otherwise might one day have been lost to history. 

The career of Ted Jelly is a case in point. 

Ted was Leicester City’s right-back in the 1949 FA Cup Final against Wolverhampton Wanderers.

It is a matter of record that he was born in Leicester in 1921 and that he played for the Navy during the Second World War.

In May 1946, he was signed by City by the recently-appointed manager, Johnny Duncan, in time for the first season of league football after a seven-season break during the Second World War.

In January 1949, he established his place in the first team, which was struggling in the Second Division.

He replaced the injured Billy Frame and was an ever-present in Leicester City’s unlikely run to the FA Cup Final.

The memories of his wife Doreen, shared in conversations held in 2002 and in 2011, add real texture and depth to these bald facts. 

She explained that Ted had stood on the Filbert Street terraces as a boy and that he initially signed as an amateur for Leicester City in 1944, when he was in the Navy. 

“At the time, Ted was based in Portsmouth,” Doreen recalled. “They arranged leave passes for him to play in Leicester.

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Ted Jelly
Ted Jelly

Life at home for Ted and his family.

“One weekend, when he was away from Portsmouth, it was badly bombed, so playing for Leicester might have saved his life. During the war, he fought in the Battle of Crete and went to Ceylon.

“He played football for the Navy and was also a good mile runner and high jumper.”

Ted signed a professional contract in Leicester in May 1946. 

Doreen remembered: “When we first got married we lived with my aunt in Gwendolen Road, because there was a housing shortage after the war.

“On matchdays, pushing the pram, I walked from there, across Spinney Hill Park, to Swain Street, to Belvoir Street and then towards the ground via Ted’s mum’s house in Clarendon Street, near the infirmary.

“I’d often hear the Post Horn Gallop as I neared the ground. We would wait for Ted after the match. We’d have tea and then push the pram all the way home. It was too big to get on a bus.

“The players weren’t allowed to have a car, although for some reason (centre-forward) Ken Chisholm had one as he was allowed to get away with anything!” 

In the run to the 1949 cup final, there could have been a problem with Ted keeping his place in the side.

Doreen explained that the manager, Duncan, believed that if a player’s wife was pregnant, the player would lose his sense of timing, which in turn meant that he would be dropped from the side.

Because of this, when Ted got into the first team in the January of the cup final season, he had to keep his wife’s pregnancy a secret.

This secret was kept right up until the cup final. Doreen had to wear her mother’s corset to conceal the pregnancy. Only Sep Smith, Ted’s veteran team-mate, knew about this. 

Doreen then recalled that in one of the games, Ted had a groin injury. He went to the infirmary before the game. He was given a cocaine injection.

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1949 FA Cup run dinner
1949 FA Cup run dinner

Leicester's dinner toasting their run to the 1949 FA Cup Final.

He recounted afterwards how the number of daffodils on the table seemed to treble. He then walked to Filbert Street for the game, joining the spectators, who were also on their way to the ground.

On the way, he slipped down a kerb. As he did so, he cheerily waved to people. The word went around that he was drunk. He still played. In fact he was given another cocaine injection at half-time.

The side selected for the cup final was not without its controversy. In the build up to the final, there were injuries to two key players.

Goalkeeper Ian McGraw was injured a week after the semi-final in a vital league game against Grimsby Town. The injury was so serious that eventually he lost a finger.

Three weeks after that, Don Revie, who had been the star of the semi-final, suffered a serious nose injury. The bleeding was so severe that it was nearly fatal. He was barred from even travelling to Wembley. 

These injuries could have left the way open for Smith to play in the final.

Sep himself, talking in 2002, held the view that full-back Jimmy Harrison shouldn’t have been played at centre-forward, with Jack Lee moving to inside-forward.

Sep approached Duncan about this selection, telling him in no uncertain terms that he must be joking if he was going to play Harrison as centre-forward.

He also approached the chairman, Len Shipman, asking him whether the selection had anything to do with the fact that Harrison was in a relationship with his daughter.

Sep remembers that Shipman’s response was to walk away. Sep did however feel sorry for Harrison, as he knew he would not be able to do much in the position he had been selected for.

Doreen also believed that goalkeeper Gordon Bradley was surprised to be picked for the 1949 final when McGraw was injured. Even he felt that Les Major should have been picked.

On the day, the coach carrying the players’ wives to Wembley stopped for lunch and they nearly missed the kick-off. They did miss the community singing.

They took their places as the players came onto the pitch. After the match, Doreen went down to where the players came out.

Ted was chatting to a couple of friends from the Navy and she only had time to say hello before the wives were marched off to the coach. They were taken straight back to Leicester.

A fan nearly stole her commemorative silk headscarf. The women did not go to the post-cup final banquet, but they did go to the reception at the Lord Mayor’s Chambers in Leicester the following Monday.

Following the cup final, which Leicester City lost 3-1, the team had seven days in which to play their final three games of the season.

Doreen remembered that these three games were absolutely vital to the Club, which was in serious danger of being relegated to the Third Division for the first time in its history.

They were also in danger of being the only club in history to have reached a cup final and then be relegated to the third tier.

Ted played in the first two of these games. The first match was on the Wednesday at Bury. The goalkeeper, Bradley, and makeshift centre-forward, Harrison, were missing.

They were replaced by Major and Jim Johnstone. Lee and Mal Griffiths scored in a vital 2-1 win.

Twenty-four hours later, Leicester had a home game against promotion-chasing West Bromwich Albion, who had to win to ensure their promotion to the top division.

The same City side that had won at Bury played in front of a crowd of 34,500 at Filbert Street. The result was a 3-0 defeat.

This meant that two days later, Leicester had to gain at least a point against Cardiff City at Ninian Park.

If they did not get this point and Nottingham Forest won their game against Bury, it would be Leicester who would be relegated to the Third Division. 

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1949 FA Cup Final
1949 FA Cup Final

Norman Plummer and Johnny Duncan lead the Foxes out at Wembley.

The side that City put together for this vital last match bore little resemblance to the side that had turned out at Wembley seven days previously.

Bradley was back in goal, and Harrison also returned, playing in his correct position at full-back. Ted, Sandy Scott, Walter Harrison, Norman Plummer and (eventually) Ken Chisholm did not play.

Tom McArthur, Tom Paterson and Jim Garvey, all of whom had spent most of the season in the reserves, came into the side.

Long-serving right-back Billy Frame was recalled to the side for only the third time since his injury in December to play his 459th and final game in all competitions for Leicester.

Also recalled for the first time since the previous December was Smith; to play in his 586th game in all competitions for Leicester City.

He took over Plummer’s position at centre-half. It was the last time he played for the Club, 20 years after he had made his debut.

Lee scored a 77th-minute equaliser for City in somewhat suspicious circumstances. This secured a 1-1 draw and relegation was avoided.

In the season after the cup final, Duncan departed, Norman Bullock became the manager and Ted moved to Plymouth Argyle, along with McArthur and Major.

Doreen remembered that Ted’s speciality was the sliding tackle. His career was finished when he damaged a cartilage and eventually a cruciate ligament.

He was offered a player-coaching job but felt that he would not be able to do it properly. He got £500 compensation. Some 25 per cent of this went on the deposit on a house. He later got another £750.

Doreen then recalled that after his football career ended at Plymouth, the family returned to Leicester.

Ted got a job as a progress chaser with an engineering firm. He couldn’t stand it. He’d never been in a factory and had never been tied down, so he left.

His next job was a Hoover salesman, knocking on doors. Women couldn’t sign hire purchase agreements in those days, so he’d return in the evening to see the 'man of the house'.

He’d be recognised, they would talk about football and he’d conclude the sale. He became a Hoover area manager but then he opened an electrical shop called ‘PJ Electrics’ in Needham Street with a partner.

Over the next few years they made it into a really thriving business. Being well known as a footballer certainly helped. 

Ted’s next job was selling Saab cars. His business ‘Thurspeed Cars’, with its associated driving school, was on the ground floor of what later became Granny’s nightclub.

Intriguingly, it is said he was the first man in Leicester to own a Saab hatchback. 

Ted died in January 2000, but not before he had undertaken a part-time role leading guided tours of Filbert Street in the 1990s. 

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