1969 FA Cup Final vs. Man City

Ten 1969 Finalists & Manager O’Farrell Recall City's Last FA Cup Showpiece

On Saturday, Leicester City will compete in their fifth final in the Emirates FA Cup hoping to lift the world-famous trophy for the first time.

The Club's last appearance in the historic competition's showpiece came in 1969. Over the years, Club Historian John Hutchinson has spoken to 10 of the players who appeared in the Foxes' line-up that day, as well as manager Frank O’Farrell

Everyone involved all have clear recollections of that memorable Wembley occasion 52 years ago. O’Farrell had only been in post at Filbert Street for four months, but during that time he masterminded the whole of the City’s FA Cup run to Wembley.

Thinking back, Frank remembered: “The players worked very hard and responded well. When we got in this cup run, we got behind with our league fixtures due to the poor state of the Filbert Street pitch. This was a problem for us later in the season. 

“When we were drawn at home against Liverpool in the sixth round, the pitch was in a bad state and the tie had to be postponed several times before it was eventually played. We drew 0-0 on a very heavy pitch and we beat them 1-0 in the replay at Anfield. 

“Eventually, we got to Wembley against Manchester City and that was a wonderful occasion. It was a very tight game and we could have won. We had a few chances and it took a great shot by Neil Young to beat Peter [Shilton]. It was a disappointment to lose but I enjoyed the experience of being there. 

“We had to play five games after the cup final and we needed seven points (at a time when there were two points for a win) to avoid relegation. It all depended on winning the last game of the season at Old Trafford, but we lost and were relegated.

“It was a double whammy, losing the cup final and getting relegated. The gods were cruel to us.”  

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Frank O’Farrell & Joe Mercer
Frank O’Farrell & Joe Mercer

Leicester City manager Frank O’Farrell alongside Manchester City counterpart Joe Mercer.

Long before his record-breaking exploits for the England national team, Leicester-born Peter Shilton, who was 19 at the time, was an ever-present in the run to Wembley. He had recently replaced Gordon Banks in goal for the Foxes, but had already proven himself to the Club's supporters.

Thinking back, he recalled: “I vividly remember the fifth round tie against Liverpool. We drew 0-0 at Filbert Street. Nobody gave us a chance when we went to Anfield. I saved a penalty in the first half in front of the Kop. Andy Lochhead scored with a header with 10 minutes to go. It was our only chance of the day!

“We got to the final by winning most of our games 1-0, including the goal three minutes from the end of semi-final at Hillsborough against West Brom. Then we lost 1-0 at Wembley. We probably had the better chances on the day in a close game. It was absolutely devastating to lose.

“I really wanted to win the FA Cup. It was the only trophy I never won!”

Wales international full-back Peter Rodrigues, on the other hand, also mentioned the win at Anfield: “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 [Bill] Shankly coming out before the game and telling us we would be playing on grass this time! In the semi-final at Hillsborough we beat West Brom with a late Allan Clarke goal. We deserved to nick it.

The next round was against Liverpool. It was 0-0 at Filbert Street and we won 1-0 at Anfield. It was bedlam up there. Shilton saved a penalty. When they took World Cup winner Roger Hunt off, he didn’t want to go and we had to say: ‘Roger you’ve got to go off mate!’

Bobby Roberts

“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.

“We lost 1-0 but I couldn’t believe how many supporters came out to welcome us when we got back to Leicester for our open top bus tour.”

Right-half Bobby Roberts added: “In the third round at Barnsley, I hit the stanchion and the ball came out.  The goal was disallowed but I knew it was a goal because Clarkey (Allan Clarke) was running in and he just turned away instead of automatically knocking it into the back of the net. 

“We beat Barnsley after a replay, then we beat Millwall 1-0 at the Den. Keith Weller was playing for them. It was the easiest 1-0 I ever played in. Lenny [Glover] scored the goal and we coasted from there. 

“The next round was against Liverpool. It was 0-0 at Filbert Street and we won 1-0 at Anfield. It was bedlam up there. Shilton saved a penalty. When they took World Cup winner Roger Hunt off, he didn’t want to go and we had to say: ‘Roger you’ve got to go off mate!’

“He threw his shirt into the dugout and kept walking. We won when Andy Lochhead scored with a header. Mansfield in the next round was a real tough battle on a bad pitch. Rodney [Fern] scored with a far post goal off his head and shoulder.

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1969 FA Cup Final vs. Man City
1969 FA Cup Final vs. Man City

Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal addresses the Leicester City squad ahead of kick-off at Wembley Stadium.

“In the last 10 minutes Nick Sharkey (an ex-Leicester City teammate) skimmed the bar from just inside the box and that was their last chance. We got another clean sheet in the semi-final against West Brom. Clarkey scored late on. The 'keeper should have saved it, but suddenly we were at Wembley.

“I couldn’t believe it! I’d scored at Hampden against Rangers in a Scottish Cup semi-final but, as a youngster, you also wanted to play at Wembley.

“We lost 1-0. They probably passed the ball better than we did, but we did have some good chances. Peter [Rodrigues], Andy [Lochhead] and Clarkey could have scored. These things happen.”

Defender Graham Cross, who had also played in Leicester City’s 1963 cup final against Manchester United, highlighted the contribution of the coaching as a main factor in reaching Wembley in 1969: “I got on ever so well with Frank. For me, he was the best manager. An absolute gentleman.

“Frank and his coach Malcolm Musgrove were absolutely fantastic. As a pair, they were tremendous. I had total respect for both of them. They were brilliant. Malcolm was a terrific coach. Tremendous. He must be the best we ever had.”

Graham’s defensive partner, John Sjoberg, who had also played in the 1963 showpiece, was injured for the final and locally-born Alan Woollett, who had starred in over 30 games at full-back that season, took his place.

Thinking back to that final, Alan recalled, “The one thing I wanted to do was play in a cup final at Wembley. It was unfortunate for John Sjoberg that he was injured. He was a tremendous centre-half. He was brilliant in the air. The week before the final, we had a game against Brentford at Bisham Abbey to see who’d be fit and John broke down. When O’Farrell told me I’d be playing it was a tremendous moment.

On the day of the match, it was in the papers that my old headmaster at Ashby Grammar School had written in a report that I must get down to some serious work at school because I’d never make my living at football!

Rodney Fern

“I don’t remember a lot about the day. We were very disappointed to lose. Lochhead and Rodrigues missed great chances. The game didn’t go for us, but we didn’t get hammered as everyone expected.”

Another local player in the 1969 final side was 20-year-old forward Rodney Fern, who sadly died in 2018.

Speaking in 2013, he recalled: “The FA Cup Final against Manchester City was the biggest game I ever played in. On the way to Wembley, we had beaten Liverpool in a replay at Anfield when Andy Lochhead scored. I scored the goal that beat Mansfield Town in the next round when I hurt my shoulder.

“I also got concussed. Allan Clarke, a brilliant player, scored the winner in the semi-final at Hillsborough against West Brom. He mis-kicked the ball didn’t he! It was great knowing that we were going to Wembley to play Manchester City. We trained at Bisham Abbey for the week before.

“John Sjoberg and Mike Stringfellow had to concede that they weren’t fit. On the day of the match, it was in the papers that my old headmaster at Ashby Grammar School had written in a report that I must get down to some serious work at school because I’d never make my living at football!

“We should have won that final. We had the chances. I remember Peter Rodrigues swivelling to try to score himself. If he had pushed it to me, I’m pretty sure I would have scored. We lost 1-0. I don’t remember going up the Wembley steps for my medal, but I recently saw the match on a DVD.

“It was the first time I ever watched the game again. I do remember the open top bus tour through the city when we came back to Leicester.”

City’s centre-forward at Wembley was Andy Lochhead, who had arrived at Filbert Street from Burnley six months earlier.

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1969 FA Cup Final vs. Man City
1969 FA Cup Final vs. Man City

The Foxes had chances in the game but missed out on the Club's first FA Cup prize.

“I scored the winner in an FA Cup replay at Anfield,” Andy recalled. “It was at the Kop end. It was 0-0 and getting late on and I managed to pop this one in. It was absolutely terrific. That season I played alongside Rodney Fern and Allan Clarke. When we got to the FA Cup Final we had a players’ pool.

“Any money earned by the players from the press went into the pot to be shared out among us all. Going to Wembley was great. It was every player’s dream in those days. Neil Young scored the only goal and Manchester City beat us 1-0. We had a couple of chances we didn’t stick away.

“It was very disappointing to lose but I was happy to play in the final. The family were there and the fans. It was great!”

Another player from the 1963 final side was Scotland international inside-left Davie Gibson, who recalled: “I’ve played at Hampden Park, the Olympic Stadium in Rome and the Bernabéu in Madrid, but it’s every young footballer’s dream to play at Wembley.

“I fulfilled this dream by playing twice at Wembley for Leicester and lost both times! Two special memories from the 1969 cup run are Peter Shilton’s wonderful save from a Tommy Smith penalty at Anfield and Andy Lochhead’s magnificent header to win that game 1-0.

“The only game I missed in the cup run was when I was injured for the semi-final against West Brom. As for the final, I remember Peter Rodrigues missing a chance when, probably for the first time in his career, he got into the six yard box!

“Also big Andy [Lochhead] missed one near the end when Allan Clarke nodded the ball down to him and he blasted it over the bar.”

Left-winger Lenny Glover played in the final but he wasn’t fully fit: “In the third round, I scored in a 1-1 draw at Barnsley and scored again when we won the replay at Filbert Street. We’d signed Allan Clarke that season (for a British record transfer fee of £150,000).

“He was at loggerheads with Andy Lochhead all the time, but me and him got on. I scored the winner against Millwall in the fourth round. Then we beat Liverpool at Anfield in a fifth round replay after a 0-0 draw at Filbert Street.

“Before the replay, Liverpool evening papers said the result would be ‘a mere formality’. We won 1-0! I beat Chris Lawler and crossed for Andy [Lochhead], who was good in the air, to score. Then Shilton saved a penalty. The Liverpool crowd clapped us off. 

“I got a groin strain in the quarter-final against Mansfield. In the lead up to the semi-final, Frank didn’t tell the papers about this. He wanted West Brom to put two men on to mark me. I played, but my groin went and I came off with about 20 minutes to go.

“It was too tense for me to watch the game so I got into the bath. Whenever there was a cheer, I wondered if we had scored. Then I heard the sound of clattering studs coming back to the dressing room. We had done it! Clarkey had scored the goal. Getting to a final in those days was the pinnacle. 

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.

Malcom Manley

“I was still injured in the lead up to Wembley. All my family had tickets for the final, even my mum, who I would never let watch a game because I didn’t want her to hear my dad criticise me! But I knew I wasn’t right.

“The week before the final, I told my dad that I wouldn’t be fit. The physio George Preston did fantastically well and got me about half right. When we went to Bisham Abbey, Frank wanted me to have a full game against Brentford behind closed doors. I played into the second half and my groin went again!

“Frank still wanted me to play in the final. I had six injections in my groin before I went out, but within 10 minutes, I went to kick a ball and it went again. I should have come off at half-time but I stayed on until about 15 minutes from the end. We lost 1-0.

“Allan Clarke wrote in his book that if I’d been fit, we would have won that game, but this happens, doesn’t it?”

When Lenny left the field at Wembley, he was replaced by 19-year-old substitute Malcolm Manley, who sadly died in 2020.

Speaking in 2013, he remembered: “The week before the game, there was a doubt about Lenny Glover. He 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 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!”

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