Larry May

Former Player Remembers: Larry May

When speaking to Club Historian John Hutchinson recently, fans' favourite Larry May remembers his career in the game, which included over 200 appearances for the Football Club between 1977 and 1983.
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Larry, who was born in Sutton Coldfield, began by explaining how he came to Filbert Street: “When I was playing for a local youth team in Birmingham, Leicester invited me to a trial during school half term. I stayed in digs with some other lads, and loved it so much I signed for them even though West Brom wanted me.

Jimmy Bloomfield gave me my first team debut as a 17-year-old in an old First Division match against Bristol City. I played alongside Dennis Rofe and Alan Woollett. It was a 0-0 bore, but I loved it. I was doing what I’d wanted to do all my life. I got a good write up. I remember Bloomfield singing my praises at the end of the game.

“I only played a couple of times the following season under Frank McLintock, when Leicester got relegated. I was injured. I had my cartilage out. At the end of the season, I went to get some games in America, where I ruptured my cruciate ligament. That was a big thing in those days. I had it repaired over there and was back in time for the new season but I wasn’t fit. A lot of people thought that I wouldn’t play again, but new manager Jock Wallace started playing me. My knee was still killing me but, now I was in the first team, I didn’t want to come out! I used to ice my knee and do exercises and it gradually settled down and I played the whole season alongside John O’Neill.

The last game was at Orient. We took about 10,000 fans with us. We were virtually already up but we had to win that game to win the league.

Larry May

“Jock gave a lot of youngsters their chance, like me, Gary Lineker, Tommy Williams, John O’Neill and Andy Peake. Tommy was a good player and I teamed up well with John. We had a great bunch of players. I became a professional a year before Gary and he was allocated to clean my boots! To start with, they played him wide but he was never a winger. He was quick, but he was best in the box. He didn’t want to get involved in setting stuff up.”

In Wallace’s first season, his young Leicester City side finished 17th in the Second Division, but the next season they were promoted as champions, as Larry recalled.

He said: “We struggled in that first season under Jock, but the next year we went up. In the promotion season, Jock was brilliant. He wasn’t the best coach, he had others to do that, but he was a great motivator. He made us work hard. He had great passion and determination. He gave us a great will to win. Before games he would just say to me: ‘You just play how you can play and we will be fine’. Jock’s strategy was to play a lot of lads from the youth team and we ended up having a really good run towards the end of the season.

“The last game was at Orient. We took about 10,000 fans with us. We were virtually already up but we had to win that game to win the league. We won 1-0. A free-kick was whipped in towards the back post and I somehow reached it and volleyed it in. That was fabulous! The crowd were amazing! I had always loved playing in front of Leicester fans. I never experienced anything like it at any other club I played at.”

The victory at Orient on the last day of the season secured City’s sixth old Second Division title. This was a great end to Larry’s season as he had played in every league game. The only other two players to be ever-presents were skipper Mark Wallington and striker Alan Young.

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Larry May
Larry May

May starred over 200 times for the Foxes under several managers.

“When we went up we didn’t really realise what a young team we were,” Larry continued. “We were inexperienced and we could probably have done with a few older heads. It was great to be in the top division but I think we might have got a bit intimidated by the players that were there. When Eddie Kelly left, we didn’t have an experienced person there and we needed that. We needed a couple of old heads in there in the top division and if we’d had that we might have stayed up.

“That season we were up against players like Kenny Dalglish, who was cunning, Joe Jordan, who was so good in the air, and Trevor Francis, who was so quick.

“There were some real highlights that season though. We did the double over Liverpool. That was good. We didn’t always play as well as we could in every game but to beat the Liverpool of that time twice ending their undefeated home run of 85 games was brilliant.”

“It was different league playing in the top flight,” Larry continued. “But it was great to be playing there because that’s where all footballers should aim to be. It was great playing in front of (goalkeeper) Mark Wallington. He was a funny guy.”

Back in the Second Division, although the Club didn’t get promoted that season, the team had a good run in the FA Cup before being beaten by Tottenham Hotspur in the semi-final.  

“At the start of the run, we beat Hereford 1-0 away,” Larry added. “It was a tough old game. It was a horrible pitch. It was freezing and muddy. I scored the goal and we went on from there. Then we beat Shrewsbury in the game when we needed three goalkeepers due to injuries. I scored one of the goals and we won 5-2. The atmosphere at Filbert Street that game was brilliant.

“Then there was the semi-final against Tottenham at Villa Park. It was a massive stadium and it was ram-packed. I thought we’d beat them actually, but we lost. Ian Wilson scored an own goal. He chipped it back from about 35 yards! Tommy Williams broke his leg. I remember hearing a big crack. Lineker was up front and Graham Roberts whacked him in the first five minutes and he didn’t want to know for the rest of the game! They had some very good players like Glenn Hoddle and Ossie Ardiles. We had games in hand after that semi-final and we could still have gone up but we finished eighth.”

In hindsight, I wish I’d never left Filbert Street. Leicester City was the best club I ever played at. I loved it there.

Larry May

At the end of the season, Wallace left Filbert Street to become Motherwell’s manager.

Gordon Milne came in,” Larry remembered. “I started off playing for him in the side and all was fine. Half way through the season, we’d had our first son and when he was about a month old he had trouble keeping his food down. We had to rush him into hospital on a Friday night before a game at Grimsby. Gordon persuaded me to play. I shouldn’t have played really but I’d played in every game up until then. However, my mind wasn’t right and I got sent off and we lost. I was suspended and from then on I was in and out of the side. I’d never been in that position before. It was frustrating for me although we ended up getting promotion.

“At the start of the next season, Gordon said he wasn’t going to play me. He told me that Newcastle and Barnsley were interested and that he’d accepted a bid from Barnsley. I went up to speak to Barnsley and signed. They made me feel wanted. They paid their record transfer fee for me, £150,000, which was a big fee at the time. I loved my time at Barnsley but looking back I should have bided my time and got back into the Leicester side, but although I’d played about 200 games for Leicester, I was young and naïve. I was still only about 23. In hindsight, I wish I’d never left Filbert Street. Leicester City was the best club I ever played at. I loved it there.”

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