Malcolm Manley

Former Player Remembers: Malcolm Manley

In 2013, the late Malcolm Manley, who sadly passed away on 16 August, 2020, spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football.
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Malcolm made 136 appearances for Leicester City between 1968 and 1973. He played in the 1969 FA Cup Final, won a Second Division title and the Charity (Community) Shield in 1971 and then played regularly in Jimmy Bloomfield’s side on their return to the top flight. 

Malcolm was born in Renfrewshire in 1949. After captaining Scotland schoolboys as a 15 year old left-half against England (twice), Northern Ireland and Wales, he was billed as ‘Scotland’s most wanted teenage star’.

“I came to Leicester when I was 15,” Malcolm began. “I was recommended by their scout Walter McLean. Other clubs were interested, including Liverpool. I chose Leicester because of all the Scots there. I stayed with Peter Shilton and his mum and dad in Hand Avenue before I moved to digs in Kirby Road with other Scots Tom Sweenie, Bobby Roberts, and Billy McDerment. I signed professional just after my 17th birthday for £25 a week.

“The following year (in April 1968) I was Scotland’s Player of the Tournament at the UEFA International Youth Tournament in France. Later that month I made my Leicester City debut in a 4-1 victory in the old First Division at Southampton four games from the end of the season. I kept my place after that. I was playing as a sweeper. I was never very quick. I had to use my brain.”

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Malcolm Manley
Malcolm Manley

Malcolm Manley moved to the Foxes at the age of just 15, and stayed with team-mate Peter Shilton.

Reports of the game said that Malcolm ‘looked the complete defender. His cool composed tackles were timed to perfection. He was masterly in the air. He didn’t waste one ball. He had the coolness of a veteran, never putting a foot wrong’.

“In the close season,” Malcolm continied. “I went on the Club’s tour to Zambia. The next season, manager Matt Gillies resigned in November on the day that Everton beat us 7-1 at Goodison. I was up against Joe Royle who scored a hat-trick. Frank O’Farrell came in as the new manager. I got on well with him.

“That season we got to the FA Cup Final against Manchester City. The week before the game there was a doubt about Lenny Glover. He wasn’t fit and shouldn’t have played really. I found out I was on the bench on the previous night. I smoked at the time and I remember that on the day of the Final the trainer wouldn’t let me have a cigarette. That’s what I remember about the build up! The pitch was awful. They’d recently had the Horse of the Year show on it. When we went on the Wembley pitch before the game we realised that it was like a ploughed field. When I’d played there for Scotland Schoolboys in front of 85,000 it had been like a bowling green.

“We should have won. Peter Rodrigues missed a good chance. When I came on the first thing that happened was that I went into a tackle with Tony Book. We just about crippled each other. It was the first thing I remember..and almost the last!

We went ahead with a David Nish goal. Best scored. We lost 3-2. We weren’t good enough. Back in the dressing room, Davie Gibson threw a tea cup at the wall!

Malcolm Manley

“We had a post-match banquet at the Dorchester. I could never understand why we had a civic dinner and an open top bus tour when we returned to Leicester. We had lost! Crazy!’

“We had to play five games after the cup final to stay up. We beat Spurs and Sunderland, lost to Ipswich and drew with Everton. We had crowds of 40,000 at Filbert Street. We had to win the last game of the season at Old Trafford to stay up. We were up against [George] Best, [Dennis] Law and [Bobby] Charlton. We went ahead with a David Nish goal. Best scored. We lost 3-2. We weren’t good enough. Back in the dressing room, Davie Gibson threw a tea cup at the wall!

“We readjusted to life in Division Two. We kept our best players. We came very close to going straight back up in the first season. The following season we kept 23 clean sheets and went up as champions. A highlight for me was clinching the title at Bristol City.

“Back in the top Division, Jimmy Bloomfield was the manager. He was a completely different character to Frank O’Farrell. He didn’t really fancy me but I still got picked. It still came as a shock though when I moved to Portsmouth (in December 1973). Before I went we played in the Anglo-Italian Cup at Cagliari and Atalanta. We experimented with no offside. I quite enjoyed that because I didn’t have to run! I was thankful for that because it was red hot!

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Malcolm Manley
Malcolm Manley

Malcolm made 136 appearances for the Football Club between 1968 and 1973.

“One of my most difficult opponents was West Brom’s Jeff Astle. There was also Best, Law and Charlton, and [Kevin] Keegan. Most teams had great centre-forwards then. Jimmy Greaves waltzed past all of us. Ron Davies, who became a great friend of mine when we were playing in South Africa later, was a great header of the ball.”

Malcolm did not mention it, but he impressed his opponents, too. Bobby Charlton praised him as 'a young man fast making a name for himself with good skills on the floor and an ice cold temperament'.

Malcolm then talked about how, when he was 23, his top class career ended prematurely following a cruciate ligament injury whilst playing for Portsmouth, although he later played in South Africa and Australia: "That injury cut my career short. I was too young to finish top class football but I have some wonderful memories."

The Club’s thoughts are with Malcolm’s family at this sad time.

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