This out-of-shape leather football is closely associated with the 1961 FA Cup Final between Leicester City and Tottenham Hotspur. Matt Gillies’ City had finished sixth in the old First Division that season and Bill Nicholson’s Spurs, who had won the league title 19 days earlier, were hoping to become the first club in the 20th century to win the league and cup double.
In the event, Spurs, captained by Danny Blanchflower, won the match 2-0. There were no substitutes in those days so when Leicester’s full-back Len Chalmers was seriously injured by a bad tackle from Les Allen, they had to play for the remaining 70 minutes with only 10 effective players as Chalmers was reduced to barely being able to hobble on the left wing.
The Foxes held out for 70 minutes but in the end succumbed to late goals from Bobby Smith and Terry Dyson. This ball was not used in the game. It was signed on the day of the final by the two competing teams with a view to it being sold in a raffle.
It was donated to the Club two months ago by Jason Smith, who lives in Swadlincote. It was won by a family friend who then gave it to Jason’s uncle before it was passed on to Jason who has kindly donated it to the Club’s heritage collection.
The ball has 18 stitched leather panels, arranged into six groups of three encasing a rubber bladder. The main problem of this design was that, in wet weather, even after it had been treated with liberal amounts of dubbin, the balls would quickly become waterlogged and double in weight. The lace on the ball in wet weather could cut a player’s forehead when headed.
1961 Cup Final Rattle
One side of the rattle made by a supporter ahead of Leicester's 1961 FA Cup Final.
This ball has lost its shape because the bladder has disintegrated with age to such an extent that it is in pieces and rattles about inside. It is otherwise in very good condition.
What makes the ball unique is that it has been signed by players from both of the sides. The autographs are still clear to see. The Leicester City players who signed were Gordon Banks, Len Chalmers, Richie Norman, Frank McLintock, Ian King, Colin Appleton, Howard Riley, Jimmy Walsh, Hugh McIlmoyle, Ken Keyworth and Albert Cheesebrough.
Squad members George Meek, Derek Hines, and Ian White also signed, as did the injured winger Gordon Wills. Missing is Wales international Ken Leek, who had scored in every round of the FA Cup on the way to Wembley. He was mysteriously dropped just before the final and he never played for Leicester City again.
The double-winning Spurs players who signed the ball were household names. Nearly all of them played international football. They were Bill Brown, Peter Baker, Danny Blanchflower, Dave Mackay, Cliff Jones, John White, Bobby Smith, Les Allen and Terry Dyson. Missing from the list, even though they played in the final, were defenders Ron Henry and Maurice Norman.
The names of some of the City players also appear on this fan’s rattle (above), customised especially by a fan for the 1961 final. It must have been painted at the last minute because it contains the name of Hugh McIlmoyle, who was a surprise late replacement for the dropped Ken Leek.
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