Leicester City 1967/68

Former Player Remembers: Alan Tewley

When Alan Tewley, Leicester City’s first apprentice professional, met Club Historian John Hutchinson, he reflected on his nine years with the Foxes in the 1960s when he played against some of the biggest names in football.
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“I left Linwood School soon after my 15th birthday,” Alan began. “I’d played for Leicester and Leicestershire Boys and was invited to training on Tuesday and Thursday nights at Filbert Street. Frank McLintock, a first team star, also used to turn up as he was only part-time then because he worked as a painter and decorator. 

“After I scored in a trial match against the youth team, the manager, Matt Gillies, and the coach, Bert Johnson, came round to our council house off Southfields Drive in a big car to see my parents. Afterwards, my dad told me I was joining Leicester City. I said: ‘Thanks for making the decision for me!’

“My parents bought me a pair of new boots but on my first day, I was told that I was a professional now and the Club would buy my boots for me. They paid my dad back. 

“We were called ground staff then. After training in the morning, we scrubbed the bath, cleaned the dressing room and swept the terraces. Then the maximum wage was abolished and clubs had to release some players to pay for this. They kept me and Terry Heath but released a lot of others. 

“Then, the Football League replaced ground staff with apprentice professionals, and I’m pretty sure that I was the first apprentice professional to sign for Leicester.

“In my first season, when I was only 15, I played about 12 games for the reserves. When I was a regular in the reserves, we won the Combination Cup, sharing it with Spurs, who had Keith Weller in their side. What a player he was!” 

The rain was bucketing down. Stringy (Mike Stringfellow) equalised and then I scored. We won 5-1. [Peter] Shilton scored the last goal with a massive kick right at the end of the game which hit the water on the pitch and went over the keeper’s head.

Alan Tewley

It wouldn't be long before Alan stepped up into senior football and he made an immediate impact for Leicester.

He recalled: “In May 1967, I made my debut as a sub against Newcastle. In the summer I was in the first team squad which toured Malaysia and Singapore.

“I made my full debut at Southampton in October 1967. On the Saturday morning, Davie Gibson, who had been injured but was now fit, and I were told to travel by train to join the team in Southampton. All the way down, Davie kept telling me that I would be playing because otherwise they wouldn’t have sent for me.

“I was picked at outside-left. The defender who was marking me told me he was going to break my leg, but nobody frightened me! They scored first. The rain was bucketing down. Stringy (Mike Stringfellow) equalised and then I scored. We won 5-1. [Peter] Shilton scored the last goal with a massive kick right at the end of the game which hit the water on the pitch and went over the keeper’s head.” 

More success was to come as Alan netted against Tottenham Hotspur, ending a long unbeaten run for the north London side at White Hart Lane, while also scoring against Manchester United. 

“My best season was 1967/68,” he added. “I remember scoring the winner against Spurs at White Hart Lane. They hadn’t been beaten there for 18 months and we were about sixth from the bottom. After we kicked off we were under a lot of pressure.

"I got the ball on the right and crossed it to Lenny Glover, who sprinted down the line. He was quick. He beat the full back and crossed it. Frank Large, who was a very brave player, went in for a header with one of their defenders.

“It spun behind them to where I was. I had an easy chance from five yards and smashed it in. It was raining. Frank hit the wet turf and skidded into the upright, splitting his head open. He went off for stitches. He came back on with a big bandage and asked me: ‘What’s happened?’ I said to him: ‘You’ve had stitches Frank and I’ve scored!’

“Later in the game, I accidentally smashed into Dave Mackay, the renowned Spurs hard man, and he went off for stitches in his head too!

“The next game, I scored against Manchester United at Filbert Street. We were losing 2-1 and I scored the equaliser at the Filbert Street end. Their forward line contained [George] Best, [Denis] Law and [Bobby] Charlton. Later that season, they became European champions.

When manager Matt Gillies resigned (after 10 years), we were playing Everton at Goodison. We lost 7-1. After the game, Matt was genuinely upset. On the way back we heard that he had resigned. He was a true gentleman.

Alan Tewley

“I must mention full-back Peter Rodrigues. When I played in front of him, it was a joy. He was so quick. We made a good team. 

“Davie Gibson was also a joy to play with. The better players you played with, the easier it became. It was easier in the first team than in the reserves. Gibbo always gave you the ball where you wanted it.” 

Changes were yet to come at Filbert Street, specifically in the dugout, and eventually Alan would move elsewhere after nine years at the Club.

He explained: “When manager Matt Gillies resigned (after 10 years), we were playing Everton at Goodison. We lost 7-1. After the game, Matt was genuinely upset. On the way back we heard that he had resigned. He was a true gentleman. 

Frank O’Farrell came in as manager. Like every other manager, he wanted to bring his own players in. At the end of that season I was retained but put up for sale. I nearly went to Grimsby but Bradford Park Avenue made such a good offer, together with a house, I went there.

“Later, I went to Crewe Alexandra. They had fantastic training pitches. I remember my first training session. There was this kid with long hair down to his shoulders. He glided past people. He really stood out. I thought: ‘Nobody is that good!’ It was Stan Bowles. He had been sacked by Manchester City. What a player he was! Nobody would touch him, but Crewe took a chance on him. He went on to play for QPR and England.

“Thinking back, and thinking about playing at Highbury, White Hart Lane and Old Trafford, I can’t believe it all happened!” 

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