Johnny Duncan

Leicester City In 100 Players: Johnny Duncan

The series continues with the inspirational and influential Scotland international Johnny Duncan, who captained Leicester City to promotion in 1925 and to the runners-up spot in the top flight in 1929. Twenty years later, he was the first manager to take Leicester City to an FA Cup Final.
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A magazine in the Club’s archives called Football and Sports Favourite, published in 1928, describes Duncan as ‘one of the finest half-backs in the land’. Another article in the archive, written by Don Revie after Johnny’s death in 1966, described him as ‘one of the most respected and loved personalities ever to grace British Soccer’. 

Born in Lochgelly in Fife in 1896, Duncan signed as a 16-year-old for Lochgelly United in 1912 before moving to Raith Rovers in 1916 as a right-winger, where he played alongside his brother Tom. He captained Rovers to third place in the Scottish League in 1922. 

Later that year Peter Hodge, his old Raith Rovers manager before becoming Leicester City’s manager in 1919, brought him to Filbert Street with his brother Tom for a combined fee of £1,500. 

Johnny scored twice on his debut and, a month later, he became the Club captain, quickly emerging as a key figure in developing the Scottish passing style into Leicester City’s play. 

Playing as a goalscoring inside-forward, Johnny famously scored six goals against Port Vale on Christmas Day 1924. The matchball is on display in the reception area at King Power Stadium.

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Johnny Duncan
Johnny Duncan

Johnny Duncan would later become Leicester City's manager, guiding the club to the final of the FA Cup.

Later that season, Johnny captained the Club to the Second Division title in 1925, scoring 30 goals in the process. In October 1925, he made his international debut for Scotland against Wales alongside his ex-Raith Rovers team-mate (and future Arsenal legend), Alex James. Johnny scored in the 3-0 victory. 

Playing at right-half, he captained Leicester City to third place in the top flight in 1928 and then to the runners-up spot in 1929. At the end of the season, the Sunday Express declared that City’s ‘individuality and constructive cleverness’ was due to Duncan’s insistence on ‘the expert use of the ball rather than helter-skelter methods’. 

Duncan’s playing career ended prematurely in 1930. The Club refused him permission to be a publican and effectively prevented him from playing elsewhere. He took over the Turk’s Head, which stood opposite the prison gates. It quickly became Leicester’s premier sports pub, which frequented local sportsmen, local bookies, media people and sporting celebrities. 

In March 1946, while he was still working as a publican, Leicester City appointed Johnny as manager and, in 1949, he took the Club to their first-ever FA Cup Final, which ended in a 3-1 defeat by Wolverhampton Wanderers. 

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