It was 26 August, 1967, and Matt Gillies sat in the dug-out at Old Trafford with his head in his hands. Leicester City were merely three games into the season when their worst nightmare came true. In the 80th minute, with the scores level at 1-1 against champions Manchester United, City’s ‘keeper, 17-year-old Peter Shilton, left the field on a stretcher. He was replaced by midfielder Bobby Roberts, who donned the jersey for the last breaths of the game.
The Foxes valiantly saw out the draw, but there would be no sigh of relief upon the final whistle. Shilton had suffered an injury that would keep him sidelined for three weeks, and while this would be an inconvenience for any team, it was a devastating blow for City.
After the sale of Gordon Banks in the summer of 1967, Shilton was the only professional goalkeeper in the Club’s books. They had nobody to turn to.
To add insult to injury, Gillies had just four days to remedy the situation. They faced Sheffield Wednesday next, and the Club would have to look to sign their first-ever loan player.
The appearance of a non-contracted player in a team’s squad became a regular sight in the Second World War, but aside from these seven years, the on-loan system we know today didn’t exist. Players were bound to their contracted club, and that was the end of it.
But luckily for City, and in a 'startling' move, the Football League scrapped their belief in 1966 in favour of a ‘temporary transfer’ system. The system would allow clubs to temporarily own a player on condition that they were contracted for no less than a three-month period.
Its introduction, merely a year before Shilton’s injury, saved Gillies in his time of crisis, and he was able to seek a temporary replacement in the 11th hour.
It was easier said than done. Gillies faced an uphill battle to convince a goalkeeper to sign at Filbert Street at the last minute.
Manchester United’s David Gaskell was first on the Club’s list, but he failed to agree terms. Instead, our first-ever ‘borrowed’ player came from Nottingham Forest, in an experienced ‘keeper named Brian Williamson.
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