Leicester City manager Frank O’Farrell signed 22-year-old John (front row, third from left in main image) from Wolverhampton Wanderers in October 1969. During the next four years, he won both the old Second Division title and the Charity (Community) Shield in 1971 while playing in O’Farrell’s team and then spent two seasons helping to re-establish Leicester City’s position in the top flight under Jimmy Bloomfield.
“When I went to Wolverhampton from the north-east as a 16-year-old,” John began. “I was lost. My father asked me if I wanted to go home, and I did, but I didn’t want to let my parents down so I thought: ‘I’ve got to take this chance’ and from that day on I did well'.
“I played with (the ex-Leicester City cult hero) Derek Dougan at Wolves,” John continued. “He was a one-off. He was a gentleman off the field but was a bit of a fool on it. He was a nice lad. If there was any trouble he was always there. When he came to Wolves he took the place over. The fans loved him.
“I had played about 32 games for Wolves when Frank O’Farrell and Malcolm Musgrove signed me for Leicester. They’d just been to an FA Cup Final and had also been relegated. Malcolm came from the same small mining village in Northumberland as me called Lynemouth.
John played for the Foxes from 1969 to 1973 and won both the old Second Division title and the Charity Shield in 1971.
“In my first season at Filbert Street we finished third, just missing promotion. The Second Division is a horrible place to get out of. We had some good players. Peter [Shilton] was always ambitious. He was a cracking goalkeeper. David [Nish] was absolutely superb.
“The following season we were champions. Frank brought Bobby Kellard and Willie Carlin. They’d been about a bit. They were rough and tough midfield players. Although they were small they could dish it out. They knew how to win a game. I enjoyed playing with Bobby because he was left footed and his first pass was always to me on the right. When Jon Sammels came the following season, he was right footed and he always found Lenny [Glover] on the left.
“We had a good defence and we were quick to break with me and Lenny on the wings and Ali [Brown] and Rodney [Fern] scoring goals. My speed was my strength and Lenny could take players on, weaving in and out. Rodney was a bit of a cult hero who scored goals out of nothing. They were a good bunch of lads, we all got on. Team spirit got us through. The pitch at Filbert Street though was a mess. There was more sand on it than on Blackpool beach!”
A month after his team had won the Second Division title in 1971, O’Farrell left Filbert Street to become manager of Manchester United. He was replaced by Orient’s manager, Jimmy Bloomfield.
My speed was my strength and Lenny could take players on, weaving in and out.John Farrington LCFC.com
“We hoped that Frank O’Farrell would stay with us after we won promotion,” John reflected. "But who would turn Manchester United down? Our first game to impress the new manager Jimmy Bloomfield was the Charity Shield game against Liverpool. It wasn’t at Wembley in those days. We beat Liverpool 1-0 at Filbert Street.
“Those couple of seasons were the first that I played in the top division, they were all difficult games. We were playing against the best teams in the world, it was hard. We had two or three class players, opponents had eight or nine. That’s why Jimmy Bloomfield bought in Jon Sammels, Keith Weller and Alan Birchenall quite early on, we would never have survived without them.
"Keith Weller was a great player, he had everything. He had pace, ball control and vision. He scored a lot of goals. I played with him for a couple of seasons. When he came, he played wide right and I became a right midfielder breaking wide right.
"I remember Weller’s hat-trick against Liverpool when we were 2-0 down. To me that was the match of my life! Watching Keith that night was brilliant, I was playing with him but watching him in admiration. Then Jimmy brought full-back Denis Rofe and striker Frank Worthington. What a player he was! If you are looking to be a top team, you needed these top players.
John described playing for Leicester City as 'the best time of his career'.
“I remember the Arsenal cup games in 1973. We drew at Arsenal and brought them back here. Jack Taylor, the Word Cup Final referee was refereeing the game. He had lived up the road from me in Wolverhampton. I scored but he ruled me offside. I complained but he said: 'You look at the paper tomorrow John’. But I wasn’t offside. It was on the television and I was a yard onside!
“I played quite well in cup matches, scoring a few goals. I remember beating Southampton 4-2 after extra-time in a replay. Despite the pitch I was flying that night. I didn’t carry much weight, I was 10-and-a-half stone. My strength was my fitness and speed.
“After a couple of seasons in the top division I wasn’t getting a game and O’Farrell, now at Cardiff City, came in for me. Going there was the biggest mistake of my life. When Frank went to manage Iran, I was left in the lurch."
John concluded: “My time at Leicester was the best time of my career. I played my best football there, met some nice people and was happy in myself."
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