Peter Rodrigues

Former Player Remembers: Peter Rodrigues

Peter Rodrigues is the only man to have played in an FA Cup Final for both Leicester City and Southampton, who are due to face each other in this year’s semi-final at Wembley next weekend.
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The Foxes meet the Saints at Wembley Stadium in the last-four stage on Sunday 18 April (6:30pm BST kick-off).

When Peter spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson, he recalled both finals together with the events leading up to them. He was a defeated finalist with Leicester in 1969 and was Southampton’s captain when they lifted the cup in 1976. 

City broke their transfer fee record when they paid £42,500 to Cardiff City to bring Wales international full-back Peter to Filbert Street in December 1965.  

“My Leicester debut was on New Year’s Day 1966 at Filbert Street against Stoke,” Peter explained. “I remember sitting in the Grand Hotel on New Year’s Eve, listening to the bells at midnight. On my debut against Stoke City, I crossed the ball from the Popular Side (the old East Stand) for Derek Dougan to head in the only goal of the game.”

A regular Wales international, Peter was City’s first-choice right-back for the next five years. His sliding tackles and speedy overlaps were outstanding. During his time at Leicester, Peter won 16 of his 40 Welsh caps.

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Peter Rodrigues
Peter Rodrigues

In action for Wales against England at Wembley Stadium.

At the end of his first season at Filbert Street, he played for his home country against Northern Ireland, Brazil and Chile.

“Playing against George Best and playing two games in Brazil (in May 1966) were the highlights of my international career,” Peter remembered. “In Brazil, I marked Garrincha and got his shirt! I wore it summer after summer in places like St Tropez. I eventually loaned it to the Welsh Football Museum. On the tour to Brazil, we lost 3-1 and 1-0. We came up against a player none of us had heard of. His name was Jairzinho!”

Thinking back to his time at Filbert Street, Peter continued: “The manager Matt Gillies was a softly spoken gentleman. I respected him. Whatever he said, went. I got on well with him and his coach Bert Johnson. The players when I went there were good. They included Gordon Banks, John Sjoberg, Graham Cross, Bobby Roberts, Jackie Sinclair and Derek Dougan.

“I remember Peter Shilton working on his angles with Banks. Frank Large was a big bruiser, as was Andy Lochhead. I loved playing with Andy. He would clatter the goalkeeper in the first few minutes on the grounds that you rarely got booked early on. Allan Clarke was a good player. It was an ambitious move for Leicester to break the British transfer fee to buy him in 1968. He was deft. Very deft. They called him ‘Sniffer’.”

Allan Clark had been signed from Fulham for £150,000 in December 1968. In his one season at Leicester, he was in the side which reached the FA Cup Final against Manchester City in April 1969.

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Leicester City 1969
Leicester City 1969

The Foxes side which would reach the 1969 FA Cup Final, featuring Peter Rodrigues (top row, second from left).

Reflecting on that cup campaign, Peter said: “The 1968/69 season was a turbulent season for Leicester. Gillies, who hadn’t been well, resigned in November 1968 on the day we played at Everton. He told us in the dressing room that he had resigned and said: ‘Go out and enjoy yourselves’. We lost 7-1! As a result, I never used that phrase when I was coaching!

“At that time, I had an ankle problem. For one game, I had six cortisone injections! I went to Harley Street to get it fixed. In the end, they opened up my ankle and cleaned it out. I was still struggling though, in a great deal of pain. The ligament was pulling away from the bone. Then a specialist in Coventry gave me some tablets which acted like a lubricant. It worked and I started playing again.”

Under the new manager, Frank O’Farrell, who was appointed in December 1968, City embarked on the FA Cup run which took them all the way to Wembley.

They beat Barnsley at Filbert Street after a replay, overcame Millwall at the Den and drew with Liverpool at Filbert Street, before famously defeating them at Anfield. They then enjoyed success over Mansfield Town in the quarter-finals and FA Cup holders West Bromwich Albion in the semi-final at Hillsborough.

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1969 FA Cup Final preparation
1969 FA Cup Final preparation

Preparing for the final with milk in the Leicester City dressing room.

In this cup run, the team didn’t concede a single goal after the third round.

Thinking back, Peter recalled: “Our home draw against Liverpool was in front of 42,000. The pitch was dreadful. In the replay at Anfield, Andy Lochhead headed the only goal of the game. Peter Shilton saved a penalty. I remember Shankly coming out before the game and telling us we would be playing on grass!

“In the semi-final at Hillsborough, we beat West Brom with a late Allan Clarke goal. We deserved to nick it.”

Leicester’s week leading up to the final against Manchester City was dominated by injury worries. Stringfellow was out for the season. Lochhead, Sjoberg, Glover and Gibson were also injured, with Gibson the most doubtful.

The Club took 14 players to Bisham Abbey in Buckinghamshire for the week before the final and arranged a match against Brentford to test the injured players. Only Sjoberg was declared unfit. His place was taken by Alan Woollett, with Malcolm Manley named as the only substitute.

Glover and Gibson, although deemed fit, nevertheless lacked match fitness. The team was captained by left-back David Nish, who at 21, was the youngest-ever FA Cup Final captain. 

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Peter Rodrigues
Peter Rodrigues

Peter Rodrigues watches on as Neil Young's strike beats Peter Shilton in the Leicester goal in the 1969 FA Cup Final.

As for the game itself, Peter continued: “Initially, my memories of the final against Manchester City were that we were well beaten but years later a friend showed me a DVD of the match and then I realised that the game was really close. Even the chance that I missed was nothing like I remembered it.”

Leicester lost the final 1-0 to a 23rd minute goal from Neil Young, who hit a tremendous left-footed shot that gave Shilton no chance. Clarke was the Man of the Match, having what was unquestionably his finest game for Leicester City.

“We lost 1-0 but I couldn’t believe how many supporters came out to welcome us when we got back to Leicester,” Peter recalled, referring to the open top bus tour which carried the players and management from Leicester Station to the Town Hall via the Clock Tower, with the bus being surrounded by dozens of youngsters who ran every inch of the route.

In the three weeks after the final, Leicester had to play five games in three weeks and gain seven points (at a time when two points were awarded for a win) in order to avoid relegation. Home victories against Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland, an away defeat at Ipswich and a home draw against Everton meant that the team had to win the last game at Manchester United. 

“I remember that game at Old Trafford,” Peter continued. “Nishy (David Nish) scored first as I recall. Basically, Bestie (George Best) and Bobby Charlton pulled us apart. They both scored and we lost 3-2. At full time, Charlton came up to me and said: ‘Sorry Pete. You know that it’s Matt Busby’s last game and we wanted to go out on a win.’”

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Queen Elizabeth II & Peter Rodrigues
Queen Elizabeth II & Peter Rodrigues

Peter Rodrigues is presented with the FA Cup trophy by Her Majesty The Queen.

The following season, when City narrowly missed promotion back to the top flight, was effectively Peter’s last at Filbert Street: “Going down isn’t much fun. That season, I clashed with O’Farrell and requested a transfer. I moved to Sheffield Wednesday (in October 1970), where I played for five years. However, I really missed Leicester. It took me a long while to eventually drift away. I missed Leicester for years.

“After five years at Sheffield Wednesday, I was nearly 32. I’m a realist. It was time to go on a free transfer. I wanted to get into the pub trade, but in the meantime, Lawrie McMenemy offered me a two-year contract at Southampton as a short-term replacement for his promising young full-back Steve Mills, who had been injured in a car crash but he didn’t make it back into the first team.

“Later, when Lawrie fell out with Mick Channon, he made me captain because I had played 450 league games and won 40 caps.”

This led to Peter becoming an FA Cup-winning captain when his Second Division Southampton team beat Tommy Docherty’s Manchester United in the 1976 final. He was presented with the trophy by Her Majesty The Queen at Wembley Stadium.

Describing the cup run, Peter said: “We played Villa in the first game at the Dell, where the pitch was as bad as the one at Filbert Street. We drew 1-1 and then went to Villa on the Tuesday and beat them 2-1. We beat Blackpool 3-1 in the fourth round.

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Peter Rodrigues
Peter Rodrigues

Although unable to win the cup with Leicester, Peter Rodrigues toasted success with Southampton.

“The next game was at West Brom. We had three players down with sickness. We drew 1-1 but we won the replay 4-0 at the Dell. We went to Bradford for the next game and nicked it 1-0 and then met Third Division side Crystal Palace in the semi-final.

“They were managed by Malcolm Allison with his big fedora hat. They thought they would win it. They had a good side but we won 2-0. After the game, I popped my head round their dressing room door. They were really gutted.

“The final was against Manchester United. We had a week away at Selsdon Park with golf, photographs, light training and stuff like that. On the morning of the game, we saw Manchester United players being interviewed on the TV and we noticed they looked really nervous.

“Driving to Wembley, just as we were about to go underneath the stadium, a fella stepped off the kerb and the bus hit him. In the dressing room, we were really concerned if he was injured, but (manager) Lawrie McMenemy checked and he was okay.

“In the dressing room, I was encouraging the young lads a little bit. Everybody had their pre-match routines. I took about an hour to get ready. Mike Channon took about 10 minutes!

“Then we were down the tunnel and onto the pitch. I felt proud, waving to my daughters. I shook hands with their captain Martin Buchan and noticed his legs were shaking. I turned to Ossie (Peter Osgood) and said: ‘He’s shaking like a leaf!’ He was a Scottish international!  

Receiving the cup from the Queen was magnificent, but even better than receiving the cup was turning half a metre and raising it to the supporters. Showing them the cup made it the greatest day of my life!

Peter Rodrigues

“We knew that we were going to get an onslaught for 10 to 15 minutes, which certainly happened. We survived that and started to play a bit and I did say to myself: ‘Okay, we need to score a goal, but we’re going to win this!’.

“With six or seven minutes to go, Bobby Stokes scored the goal. Then I did what I’d always wanted to do! I ran 40 yards wearing our yellow shirt and blue shorts, just like the Brazilians, and launched myself on top of everybody!

“Then it was going up the steps for the cup and getting mauled all over the place. The Queen presented the cup to me and said: ‘Congratulations. Did you enjoy it?’ I said: ‘Yes, ma’am.’ As a kid, I’d sit and watch players getting the cup thinking that must be awesome, and it was.

“There have only been about a 120 people who have been presented with the cup and I was one of them!

“Receiving the cup from the Queen was magnificent, but even better than receiving the cup was turning half a metre and raising it to the supporters. Showing them the cup made it the greatest day of my life!” 

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