John Ogilvie

Former Player Remembers: John Ogilvie (Part 2)

In an interview which has never been published before, Scottish full-back John Ogilvie spoke at length to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career in football as a player and a scout.
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A larger than life and strong-willed character with a positive outlook on life, he fought back from a terrible injury while playing for Hibernian to become a key player in the Leicester City side which won the Second Division title in 1957.

He also scouted for the Club when Jock Wallace was manager and retained his connection with Leicester City until he sadly died, aged 91, in May 2020.

In part one of this interview, published earlier this month, John spoke about playing for the great Hibernian side in the early 1950s, his horrific injury in the 1951 Scottish FA Cup semi-final, his two-year recovery period and how his move to Leicester City came about.

He also reminisced about his team-mates at Filbert Street when he was in the team which broke six Club records on their way to winning the Second Division title in 1957. 

Over the next two seasons, John helped to establish City’s place in the top flight, but his first team place was no longer guaranteed as he was approaching the veteran stage of his career. His horrific injury several years earlier still caused him problems. 

However, he was an excellent club man and, in the next phase of his career, he was captain of the reserves. 

In those days, the reserves played in a league called the Football Combination, which was a competition for the Football League reserve teams from southern England, from parts of the Midlands and from Wales. The reserve teams from other Midlands clubs and from the north played in the Central League. 

Under John’s guidance, and for the only time in the Club’s history, the reserve team won the Combination title in 1959. 

“When we were 11 points clear at the top of the table, the back of my leg was getting sore and I was told to go to Scotland to rest and recover,” John recalled. 

“When I came back, the manager said I had to play. When he’d sent me to Scotland, he thought we were going to win the trophy, but results hadn’t gone well in my absence and now we had to get three points with three games to play to win the league.

“In the first game, we were beaten by Brighton. I’d been training with Hibs back in Scotland so I came back for the last two games when we had to get three points. The games were against Arsenal and Tottenham.

The reserves kept winning as we had players like Richie Norman, Frank McLintock and Ian White in the side and these became key players in the years to come.

John Ogilvie

“At Arsenal, although we should have been in front, we were 3-2 down with about three minutes to go and then Jackie Lornie scored with a gorgeous shot, which went into the far corner to make it 3-3. This meant we had to win the last game away at Tottenham and we beat them 2-1 to become Combination champions. 

“At that time, the first team always used to play the reserves on a Monday. The reserves kept winning as we had players like Richie Norman, Frank McLintock and Ian White in the side and these became key players in the years to come. 

“That season, I also played my last games in the first team. My leg was causing me too much of a problem. My last two first team games were away at Bolton, who had Nat Lofthouse in their side, and at home to Portsmouth.

“This was towards the end of the season when we were fighting, successfully, to avoid relegation from the First Division. We drew at Bolton and beat Portsmouth. 

“I hadn’t been playing, but they decided to play me at Bolton. We were losing 3-2 with about a minute to go. Then, we won a penalty. I’d never scored for the Club, ever. I’d taken penalties in the reserves, so I decided to take it.

“I hit the ball hard and it looked as though it had come back off the post, but it hadn’t hit the post, it had hit the back stanchion and rebounded out, so I’d scored. 

“Then the next game, at home to Portsmouth, was my last for the Club. I scored again with another penalty! It was in the 17th minute and we won 3-1. The only two goals I scored for the Club were in my last two games! 

“I never played for Leicester again. Matt Gillies (the manager) wanted me to play in the next game too, against Aston Villa, but I said I didn’t want to play as I didn’t want any more injections in my leg and that Joe Baillie ought to play instead.” 

Aston Villa’s manager at that time was Joe Mercer, a future Manchester City and England manager who had tried to persuade John to join Sheffield United, rather than Leicester City in 1956. 

“After the match at Villa, Joe Mercer told Gillies that he’d like to sign me,” John continued. 

“Gillies told him that my leg was hurt and asked why Joe wanted me, to which he replied that he had two or three players in his team who were causing a bit of trouble and weren’t prepared to go into battle. 

He said that he’d had players like this at Sheffield United and that although I’d only been at Sheffield on trial for a month, I had sorted one of them out, who was an England international who had got a bit big headed.” 

John was still at Filbert Street at the start of the next season (1959/60), but he signed for Third Division Mansfield Town in January 1960, whose manager until the end of that season was the England legend Raich Carter. John stayed at Mansfield until the end of the following season.

Ian King, Len Chalmers, Colin Appleton and Ken Keyworth came to see me. They were the key men. They said Leekie had to play because he was the man who’d got them to the final, and as I was no longer at the Club, but could talk to Gillies, could I get them to shake hands so Leek could play?

John Ogilvie

One of the talented youngsters at the club was the future Leicester City star, left winger Mike Stringfellow. Mike today remembers how the experienced and battle-hardened John always looked out for him on the pitch, making sure that as a youngster he wasn’t harshly dealt with by the opposition. 

Although he was playing at Field Mill during the 1960/61 season, John still kept his connections with Leicester City, who by now had become an established top flight side, finishing sixth in the First Division that season and reaching the FA Cup Final against Tottenham Hotspur. 

On the eve of the FA Cup Final, Leicester City’s top scorer, the Wales international centre-forward Ken Leek, was sensationally dropped, despite having scored in every round on the way to Wembley. 

Many theories have been put forward about why this happened. John, who was receiving treatment at Filbert Street for his leg between matches for Mansfield, explained what happened as he saw it. 

“I was invited to Leicester for treatment to my leg because I didn’t want to have any more injections,” John explained. 

“Leekie was in the treatment room too. He’d taken a kick to the knee. It hadn’t damaged any ligaments though, but it was tender and he’d missed a few games. The trainer, Alex Dowdells, came in and said they wanted him to play in the next match.

“Ken said he’d rather not play because if he got a knock again it could turn serious. With the final coming up, he didn’t want to take that chance. I thought that sounded reasonable enough. Dowdells phoned Gillies to tell him. 

“Gillies was already aware that there’d been some talk about Leekie being involved in a car crash. I’d already told Gillies that I’d been in the car and that the guy in the other car had run into the back of our car and that there’d been hardly any damage. 

“Anyway, Gillies came down to the treatment room. There was an argument and Gillies told Leek that if he wasn’t going to play, he couldn’t guarantee that he’d be playing in the final. 

“Afterwards, Ian King, Len Chalmers, Colin Appleton and Ken Keyworth came to see me. They were the key men. They said Leekie had to play because he was the man who’d got them to the final, and as I was no longer at the Club, but could talk to Gillies, could I get them to shake hands so Leek could play? 

“I knew, though, that Gillies had something against Leekie and that Leek wouldn’t apologise for what he’d said, even though I’d told him he would regret it for the rest of his life if he didn’t play in the final. If Ken had apologised, he would have had to have played because Gillies would have trouble on his hands otherwise. He didn’t apologise, he didn’t play and he did regret it! 

“When young Hugh McIlmoyle found out that he was playing in the final, he wasn’t happy about taking Leek’s place as he had learnt so much about the game from him, but I told him that he had to play, and he did. 

“The final itself was a tragedy. Len Chalmers was badly injured early on with the worst foul I’ve ever seen in my life. There were no substitutes at that time and although we lost, we didn’t do too badly with only 10 fit men.” 

When John left Mansfield Town in 1962, he returned to Leicester and still maintained his connections with the Club. 

Among other things, he helped manage Alan Birchenall’s charity supporting team of ex-players in the 1970s and 1980s. He also enjoyed working as a scout for Jock Wallace when Leicester City won the old Second Division title in 1980, although he did disagree with Wallace about letting the experienced Eddie Kelly go to Notts County in July 1980. 

In October 2018, John celebrated his 90th birthday. At that time, he and his wife Doreen still came to every home match and to mark the occasion, his birthday was featured on the big screen before the game.

In addition, the Birch presented John with a signed Leicester City shirt before the match in the Weller Lounge as an acknowledgement of John’s varied contributions to the Club over many years. On the back of the shirt were the words, ‘Ogilvie 90’. 

Sadly, John died in May 2020. Since then, his presence at the Club has been much missed. 

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