Albert Cheesebrough

Former Player Remembers: Albert Cheesebrough

In 2014, at his home in Southport, Albert Cheesebrough talked to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his life as a top footballer in the 1950s and 1960s.
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Signed from Burnley for a fee of £20,000 in 1959, Albert (centre of main image), who sadly passed away on 2 September, 2020 aged 85, was a member of Leicester City’s FA Cup Final side which met the double-winning Tottenham Hotspur side in the 1961 FA Cup Final.

He made over 250 appearances in the old First Division as well as representing England at youth and at Under-23 level.

In April 1952, soon after his 17th birthday and playing for his home town club Burnley, England youth international Albert made his debut against Manchester United. He scored his first goal soon afterwards, against Chelsea.

Albert recalled: “The coach told me ‘whatever you do, do it well’. I came in for England international Billy Elliott on the left wing. He was a real tough nut and I had to fill his boots as a young lad. A highlight at Burnley was beating Leicester City 7-3 [in November 1957] and I scored a hat-trick. Burnley were a top side then.

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Albert Cheesebrough
Albert Cheesebrough

Leicester City's 1962/63 team photo is taken, with Albert pictured on the left of the front row.

“Leicester City paid a lot of money for me (£20,000) in June 1959. [Leicester manager] Matt Gillies was juggling with the side. He remembered that I’d scored that hat-trick against Leicester. Playing at inside-forward, I was top scorer in my first season at Filbert Street. I played alongside [centre-forward] Ken Leek, a brilliant player. Leicester were establishing themselves in the top division and I enjoyed playing with all of their players. I didn’t know anything about Leicester until I came here, but I soon settled in. Banksy (Gordon Banks) and myself signed at the same time. Richie Norman and Frank McLintock were breaking into the team and Howard Riley was demobbed from the army.”

Albert played an important part in the FA Cup run which led to the 1961 Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur. Following an injury to outside-left Gordon Wills in the first, drawn semi-final against Sheffield United Albert took Gordon’s place, reverting to his old position on the left wing.

“There were some tough games in that cup run," he said. "There were replays against Birmingham and Barnsley and two replays against Sheffield United in the semi-final. Sheffield had set their stall out because we were top dogs. They made it very hard for us. The first two games were goalless, even after extra time. In the second replay, Jimmy Walsh and Ken Leek scored and we were at Wembley to face Spurs.”

The programme notes for the Cup Final described Albert as ‘a good ball player with a keen eye for the half chance'.

Thinking back to the final, Albert remembered: “It was a huge thrill to play in the final against league champions Spurs. Bill Nicholson was their manager and Danny Blanchflower was their captain. In those days, cup finals were massive. Kenny [Leek], who had scored in every round, was dropped at the last minute by Matt Gillies who was a marvellous manager who acted as a go-between, between players and the board. Without a doubt, Kenny was a good player but he did something which lost him his place. The Spurs players, who we’d beaten earlier in the season, were pleased he wasn’t playing. They were a really good side. The young lad Hughie McIlmoyle came in for Kenny. It was tough for him. He wouldn’t have expected to play and Kenny was a difficult act to follow.”

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Albert Cheesebrough
Albert Cheesebrough

Albert is pictured here in training, centre on the ground, with the late Gordon Banks hopping over him.

Leicester were also a good side. The national press praised their defensive qualities, their thoughtful play and their ability to get forward quickly.

Albert continued: “That season we had finished sixth in the league. We were a good side. But [full-back] Lenny Chalmers got injured early on in the final. He had to go on the wing. There were no substitutes in those days. Frank McLintock had to drop back and so did Ken Keyworth. We held out until the last 20 minutes. The team covered for each other beautifully. They wouldn’t have scored a goal if Len hadn’t been injured. We had a good defence, but their winger, [Welsh international] Cliff Jones was able to get free with Len not there. He had a freedom that he wouldn’t have had. They also had Dave Mackay in their side and he was one of the most difficult opponents I ever came up against, along with Newcastle’s Jimmy Scouler.

“The pitch was very tiring so playing with 10 men was very hard. In those days the pitches were nothing like today’s pitches. The old Filbert Street was very muddy! I would love to have played on today’s pitches. Today’s balls are like balloons, though!

“I remember walking up the steps to get my medal from the Duke and Duchess of Kent. I’ve still got the medal. My name is engraved on it, but I don’t have the shirt anymore. It’s the only medal I got in my career, although I played many seasons at the top level.”

Because Tottenham Hotspur won the league and cup double in 1961, Leicester City, as losing finalists, qualified for the following season’s European Cup Winners’ Cup, one of the forerunners of the present Europa League. Albert played in the first round of that competition against Glenavon from Northern Ireland, and then Leicester City were drawn against the eventual winners of the competition that season, Atlético Madrid.

He recalled: “I remember when we went to Spain to play Atlético Madrid after we had drawn 1-1 with them in a night game at Filbert Street. European football was in its infancy then. It was different. They were always quicker to the ball. You had to get the ball down and move it about more. We ran them close though.”

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Albert Cheesebrough
Albert Cheesebrough

Albert is here pictured back row, first right, celebrating with his team-mates following the victory over Sheffield United in the semi-final second leg replay.

After the cup final and Europe, Albert played two more seasons at Leicester but lost his place half way through the 1962/63 season.

“It was time to move on," he said. "Port Vale wanted me. Freddy Steele was their manager. I was a couple of years there before spending two more years at Mansfield Town where I broke my leg which ended my career.

“While I was at Mansfield the chap opposite was a master butcher and he asked me to give him a hand. I then ran my own butcher’s business in Southport. It started as a room at the back of the house. I had the business for about thirty years.”

Later, Albert and his wife Shirley lived in retirement in Southport. It is not generally known that their daughter Susan represented Great Britain at the 1980 Summer Olympics as a gymnast, and was British National Champion in 1978 and 1979, or that his grandfather, also named Albert Cheesebrough, was killed in 1915 by sniper fire shortly after the Second Battle of Krithia during the Gallipoli campaign in the First World War.

It was a privilege to share Albert’s memories with him. It says a lot about Leicester City Football Club that some of his Leicester team-mates from his time at the Club, such as Richie Norman, Howard Riley, Davie Gibson, and Mike Stringfellow can often be seen at Leicester City’s home games, over half a century later.

Leicester City Football Club’s thoughts are with Albert’s family and friends at this sad time.

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