Jon Sammels

Leicester City In 100 Players: Jon Sammels

Club Historian John Hutchinson reviews the careers of 100 of the most outstanding players to represent Leicester Fosse and Leicester City in the Club’s 138-year history. The series continues with Jon Sammels, a key figure in Jimmy Bloomfield’s sides in the 1970s.

Ipswich-born Sammels was an elegant and creative midfield player who possessed a strong and accurate shot.

In July 1971, Jimmy Bloomfield, the new manager of Second Division champions City, signed him from Arsenal for £100,000. He was the first of Bloomfield’s three big-money signings that season. The others, who joined in September, were Keith Weller from Chelsea and Alan Birchenall from Crystal Palace.  

Sammels had made 270 appearances for Arsenal and scored 52 goals. He had also won seven England youth caps and nine England Under-23s caps. He joined the Gunners as an apprentice in 1961, made his first-team debut in 1963 and became established in the side in 1965/66.

He was a League Cup finalist in 1968 and 1969 and an Inter-Cities Fairs Cup winner in 1970. The following season, he was in the Arsenal side which won the league and FA Cup double but, sidelined with a bad ankle injury, he struggled to regain his place in the side and missed the 1971 FA Cup final.

After handing in a transfer request, he opted to join Leicester rather than Bobby Robson’s Ipswich Town. Over the next six and a half seasons, he made 271 league and cup appearances for the Foxes and was hugely influential both as a player and as a captain.

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Jon Sammels
Jon Sammels

Jon Sammels remains hugely popular with the Blue Army today.

On his City debut, he was in the side which defeated Liverpool to win the Charity Shield (now called the FA Community Shield).

Like his manager, Bloomfield, who had also played for Arsenal (after starting his career at Brentford) Sammels was a great believer in playing attractive football. His creative influence played a major role in establishing City as one of the most entertaining sides in England.

Such was Jon’s influence on the side that Bloomfield, for whom Sammels had great respect, even tried to play him in a Franz Beckenbauer sweeper role, in a short-lived tactical plan named after Sammels called the ‘S’ plan.

Following Bloomfield’s departure in May 1977, City’s new manager was their ex-star player Frank McLintock, who had also been the double-winning captain of Arsenal in Sammels’ time at Highbury.

The side that McLintock inherited was ageing and struggling and in January 1978, Jon joined Vancouver Whitecaps for two years, helping them to win the NASL title in 1979.

Later, he became player-coach at Nuneaton Borough and Trowbridge Town before establishing a driving school in Countesthorpe. He now lives in retirement, but his elegant play is fondly remembered by many.

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