Len Glover

Former Player Remembers: Len Glover

Last month, prompted by thoughts about Leicester City's match against Roma, left winger Len Glover, who starred for the Foxes between 1967 and 1968, spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about playing in the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1972.
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This in turn prompted him to remember some other occasions when he played against teams from around the world. City's UEFA Europa Conference League tie against Roma is the Club's 39th match in European competition, having competed in the European Cup Winners’ Cup (1961/62), the UEFA Cup (1997/98 and 2000/01), the UEFA Champions League (2016/17), the UEFA Europa League (2020/21 and 2021/22) and the UEFA Europa Conference League (2022). 

Over the years, Leicester have also played against overseas opposition on numerous occasions in friendly matches. Glover featured in many of these matches. In his time at Filbert Street, he played against teams from Zambia, Italy, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Greece, Barbados, Sweden and Gibraltar.

He also spent two seasons playing in the USA. Speaking in April, Len recalled some of these occasions, including the time when he played in the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1972. This was when Jimmy Bloomfield’s side narrowly failed to reach the final of the tournament, where they would have faced Roma at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome. 

The competition format saw six Italian clubs and six English clubs arranged into three groups, each containing two clubs from each country. As well as two points for a win and one for a draw, a point was also awarded for each goal scored.

The teams from each country who accumulated the most points met in the final. One of the Italian teams in City’s group was Atalanta and the other was the Sardinian side Cagliari, whose team included Italian internationals Luigi Riva, Angelo Domenghini and Enrico Albertos.

Len started by recalling his memories of the team’s trip to Sardinia to play Cagliari.

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Len Glover

In action for the Foxes in the 1969 FA Cup Final.

“We had a great time when we went to Sardinia for three weeks,” Len remembered. “All we had to do was play the one game against Cagliari after we’d had two weeks’ holiday there. We stayed in a hotel, which had everything. And we went to a nightclub nearly every night.

“While we were there, Jimmy [Bloomfield] all of a sudden told us he had to go back to England. He went back with a view to signing Frank [Worthington]. That signing was to be the icing on the cake for us. When we played Cagliari, their pitch was like a snooker table. It was like Wembley.

“Their fans were fanatical about football.”

City lost 1-0 to Cagliari in the luxurious Estadio Sant’Elia. The inspired goalkeeping of Albertosi kept the Foxes at bay after a Jon Sammels own goal had given the Italians the lead. Three days later, Atalanta defeated Leicester City 5-3. 

Back in England, City beat Cagliari 2-1 and, despite overcoming Atalanta 6-0 at Filbert Street, with Len scoring one of the six goals, they just fell short of qualifying for the final against Roma, which took place in front of a crowd of 40,000. 

Len then spoke about the first overseas trip he went on with the Foxes. This was the Club’s tour to Zambia in the summer of 1968, at the end of his first season at Filbert Street. 

He recalled: “When we played the Zambian national side at Ndola we were told to get off the plane before we took off because there was no fuel in the plane! Also, the political situation in the country was very tense. We were there at the wrong time really. 

“In that game, I was on the wing and all of a sudden, a brick flew past my head! Later, Frank Large, who would run through a brick wall for you, clashed with their goalkeeper and the crowd went berserk. The referee was one of the worst referees ever.

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Len Glover

Glover chases down the ball in a clash with Manchester United.

“After the game, we had to wait for the crowd to be dispersed before we could leave. However, the most wonderful thing on the trip, without a doubt, were the Victoria Falls. We checked in to a hotel nearby. It was like a massive log cabin. All of the lights were red. It looked fantastic.

“We went to the Falls first in the daytime, but we also went at night. I found it a little bit intimidating, walking on the ledges. I’m not one for history but when David Livingstone walked through the clearing and saw the Falls, it must have been amazing! I’ve got to be honest, the Falls were absolutely fantastic! 

“We also went down a copper mine. That was fantastic too, although you go so far down and get a little bit claustrophobic. I was thinking: ’If anything happens down here, what chance have we got?” 

Len also enjoyed the Club’s trip to Barbados in the summer of 1973. 

“At the end of the season, Jimmy said: ‘Right boys. We’ve had a good season. Where do you want to go for the end of season tour?’ Birch (Alan Birchenall) suggested Barbados, where he’d gone when he was at Chelsea.

“So, Jimmy came back later to tell us we were going to a tournament in Barbados, which would involve us playing against Ipswich and against the Barbados national team. 

“We all went: ’Oh, fantastic!’ There was some debate as to whether our wives would go with us. Some players, and probably Jimmy too, would have preferred that, but they were outvoted and Jimmy said: ‘Okay, we’ll scrap that idea’. 

“One of our players was Joe Jopling. He was a lovely guy, but Jimmy never played him. Just before we went to Barbados, Joe got married but Jimmy picked him for the trip even though he never played him. When we played Ipswich out there, Joe was the sub and Birch, with a pulled muscle, didn’t come out for the second half. Even then, Jimmy didn’t play Joe. Instead, he got changed and came on himself! 

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Len Glover

Len's signed photograph with Franz Beckenbauer and Pelé.

“While we were there we stayed in a hotel called Paradise Beach and (Hollywood film star) Omar Sharif was staying nearby. He was making a film with Julie Andrews. One of the actors was Bryan Marshall, who was a big Chelsea supporter, where Birch had played.

“So, he invited Birchy, me and Frank [Worthington] to go and meet Omar. We went and we met Omar by the pool, where he was sat with three girls and had a bottle of champagne in a bucket. He was very polite and offered us a drink. We stayed for about 10 minutes. It was lovely.”

Len then moved on to talk about playing in the Texaco Cup and the Anglo Scottish Cup in the 1970s. These tournaments involved flights to Scotland, one of which was a bit disconcerting. 

He added: “On one occasion on a trip to play in Scotland, we were in a four-propeller plane. I was sitting at a table facing a German couple on the other side of the table. The plane took off. I was right next to the window and after about 10 minutes I saw that one of the propellers had stopped.

“Then, the German guy opposite noticed it too. He stood up and told the air hostess and then we noticed another propeller had stopped too, which panicked him more. She told the captain, who came over the blower and said we’d have to go back. Jimmy was sick in a bag.

“And we landed the wrong way around on the runway, where fire engines were waiting. 

“Later, after the match, Birch said: ‘No way am I going home by plane. I’m going to get a train.’ Jimmy said: ‘Birch. We’re all staying together.’ That was the end of it. We got on the same plane and everything was good.” 

In 1976, Len expanded his experiences of playing teams from overseas when he signed for Tampa Bay Rowdies. 

“I loved America,” Len continued. “I was there for two seasons. I’d have gone back for a third season, but I did my cartilage two weeks before I was due to go back. Each team could only have four foreign players then and Gordon Jago, the manager, couldn’t take the chance on me because we didn’t know how long it would take to get over the cartilage injury. I was a bit upset, but what could you do? 

“I was captain of Tampa Bay Rowdies and the highlight was playing New York Cosmos, whose captain was Pelé. Franz Beckenbauer was also playing for them. It was the biggest game of the season. There was a big crowd and it was televised.

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Len Glover

Glover spoke to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his Leicester City career.

“New York Cosmos came a couple of days before the game to settle in and I had lunch with Pelé. He was such a lovely guy. There are pictures of me with Pelé and Beckenbauer, which they both signed, but I don’t have them on show. I’m not bothered about that. I know what happened. Meeting Pelé was a highlight. 

“Playing in America meant there was a lot of travelling. When I arrived at Tampa, they booked us into a beautiful hotel on the Bay and the next day we flew out to San Diego, just for a friendly! It was a five-hour flight. The ex-Liverpool player Tommy Smith was in our side. He was brilliant. I loved it out there.” 

Len concluded by reflecting on his time at Leicester City: “I think the dream life came for me when Frank Worthington came to the Club and we had those years with the likes of Keith Weller and Birch. If Jimmy had signed another couple of players, we would have won something.

“We came close in 1974 when we met Liverpool in the FA Cup Semi-Final, but in the replay at Villa Park, we didn’t fire on all cylinders. I remember on the way to the semi-final, we played Luton and beat them comfortably (4-0).

“I remember Peter Shilton threw the ball to Birch and he started juggling with it outside the box. We were well on top at that stage, but I still thought it was outrageous!”

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