Willie Carlin

Willie Carlin: 1940-2024

Leicester City Football Club is very saddened to learn that Willie Carlin, a key member of the Foxes side which won the old Second Division title in 1971, died on 10 June, 2024, aged 83.

Willie, who was only 5 ft 4 in tall, was a tenacious, combative and energetic central midfield player. He joined Frank O’Farrell’s Leicester City, for a fee of £35,000, in October 1970.

Prior to arriving at Filbert Street, Liverpool-born Willie had been capped for England at schoolboy and youth level, before joining Liverpool as a 16-year-old in 1956. He signed professional forms at Anfield in 1958, making his debut five months later. He then played for Halifax Town between 1962 and 1964 before moving to Carlisle United, where he played with future Leicester City cult hero Frank Large. In 1967, he switched to Sheffield United, where he was briefly a team-mate of Alan Birchenall and, two years later, he was a key member of Brian Clough’s Derby County side which won the old Second Division title in 1969 and which finished fourth in the top flight in 1970.

When Willie signed for Leicester City, the Foxes had just missed promotion back to the top flight at the first attempt, finishing third. O’Farrell told us in 2011 that although he had some very good players at Leicester, he felt that the side lacked nastiness and that, in order to add aggression and competitiveness to the team, he not only signed Willie but also, a couple of months earlier, he had secured another combative midfielder, Bobby Kellard. 

The Carlin and Kellard combination in midfield provided the essential element to a skillful team. Leicester City fans who remember seeing Willie play still recall the energetic and motivational impact that he had on the side which won the Second Division title at the end of his first season at Filbert Street.  

Following promotion, O’Farrell left Filbert Street to become Manchester United’s new manager. His replacement at Leicester was Jimmy Bloomfield, whose style of play resulted in both Carlin and Kellard leaving Filbert Street soon after his arrival, with Jon Sammels, Keith Weller and Alan Birchenall arriving to become central to Bloomfield’s developing side. 

Willie’s next stop was Meadow Lane, where he helped Jimmy Sirrel’s Notts County to promotion from the Third Division in 1973. He then rejoined O’Farrell at Cardiff City, but soon afterwards, when the Irishman went to manage Iran in 1974, Willie retired from playing.

He then returned to Derbyshire, worked as a newsagent and then opened a bar in Majorca where he spent the next 15 years. He then returned to Derbyshire, again working as a newsagent, before retiring for good.

The thoughts of everyone at Leicester City Football Club are with the family and friends of Willie at this sad time.

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