Ian King: 1937-2016

It is with great sadness that the Football Club recently learned of the news that Ian King, one of Leicester City’s legendary players, passed away on July 24, 2016.
Between 1957 and 1965, centre-half Ian King played 244 games for Leicester. All of his league games for the Club were in the top flight. He also played in two FA Cup Finals, two League Cup Finals and had a campaign in the European Cup Winners’ Cup. 

He was a key member of the famous ‘Ice Kings’ team which came close to winning the League and FA Cup Double in 1963. 

In October 2011, Ian talked to Club Historian John Hutchinson about his career. We are publishing part of this interview as a tribute to Ian. 

Ian King

“We didn’t have coaches at school. We just played. Games lasted five hours non-stop. You picked things up. You copied and you practiced. I was captain of the Scottish schoolboys and remember playing against the great Duncan Edwards. As a boy I was with Hearts who farmed you out to junior sides. Scottish junior football was a good standard with a mixture of youngsters and ‘reinstated’ experienced players. I played with Alex Young and Dave Mackay. 

“Matt Gillies saw me in a Scottish Junior Cup final in 1957. The following week I signed for Leicester manager David Halliday in Edinburgh’s North British Hotel in Princes Street. There was a big playing staff at Leicester. I had two or three ‘A’ team games, a reserve game against Aldershot and then I was in the first team against Sheffield Wednesday in September 1957, playing with experienced players like Morris, Froggatt Rowley and Hogg. Johnny Morris told me ‘if you’re in trouble just give me the ball’. He was a character. He even got sent off in a pre-season match playing the reserves! 

“The next season I was badly injured at Blackburn. Roy Vernon caught me late. I lost a few weeks but I came back quickly, helped by running up and down the steps of the big stand with weights. At that time there was a lot of change. Morris Froggatt and Gardner were gone. Matt Gillies became manager. They bought Banksy (Gordon Banks) from Chesterfield. They worked hard on Banksy. Crosses weren’t his strong point and (trainer) David Jones brought the kids back in the afternoon to try to beat him. They couldn’t beat him at all. He came on in leaps and bounds. 

“Matt bought in Bert Johnson, a very nice man, as coach, which was very forward thinking in those days. He had a difficult job. The team (myself included) thought we didn’t need coaching but Matt persevered. We started to practice and spend time on corner kicks, dead ball situations, heading and defending shots from outside the box. Nobody wanted to go in the wall particularly on wet days with a heavy wet ball. 

“The 1961 FA Cup Final against Spurs flew by. We’d beaten Spurs twice that year and were confident, but Len (Chalmers) got badly injured. In those days injured players either went to centre-forward to create a nuisance or out onto the wing. But their big players played a bit! Dave Mackay was superb. 

“I knew Mackay well from when we were youngsters at Hearts. I was also in the same class at school as Alex Young (star of Everton’s 1963 Championship side) and we started our mining apprenticeships at the same time in Scotland. We were up ladders in freezing cold weather cutting wire and lagging pipes with asbestos. When I signed for Leicester, for my National Service, the club sent me to Desford Pit. They were all daft about football there so they wouldn’t let me do anything! I wandered about the mine trying to find work. It was boring. They sent Albert Cheesebrough there (a team mate in the 1961 FA Cup Final) when he came down from Burnley. We’d say, ‘What shall we do today?’ When National Service stopped we became full time at Leicester”. 

Ian recalled how Leicester’s realistic hopes for a League and Cup Double in1963 faded after beating Liverpool in the FA Cup semi-final. 

“We beat Manchester United 4-3 on Easter Monday and went to the top of the table. Law scored with an overhead kick. I was marking him. He caught a cross on his left thigh, woofed it into the air and overhead kicked it. Banksy was caught off his line. Then, after beating Liverpool in the semi-final, we didn’t play well. There was uncertainty in defence as the manager now wanted the back four out up to the half way line and we were never happy with that. Also some players in the team felt that the way we played meant that they had too much ground to cover. It was sad we didn’t win the Cup or League. 

"We thought our salaries were quite good but we didn’t know from one season to the next if we’d be retained. We only had annual contracts. Also we lived in club houses which we’d lose if the Club got rid of you. But then I think ‘What did I expect when I came into the game?’ Nothing can take away what we did have. It was good.”

In March 1966, Ian signed for Charlton Athletic, where he played alongside his old Leicester City captain Colin Appleton. Two years later he became player-manager at Burton Albion. After spells at Ibstock Penistone Rovers and Enderby Town, Ian spent time coaching in Saudi Arabia and Canada, as well as a brief spell at Thringstone. He also had a successful business career.” 

Ian was very highly regarded by his fellow professionals and by football fans alike. First and foremost though, he was a great family man. He was a loving husband, father and grandfather. The Club expresses deep condolences to Ian’s family at this sad time. 

Ian’s funeral is at 11am on Thursday 18 August at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Gooding Avenue, Leicester LE5 1JS.


Header: When Ian was pictured before this game at Upton Park against West Ham in April 1963, Leicester were top of the old First Division with only a month of the season to go. 

Pic 01: Ian is fourth in line behind manager Matt Gillies, captain Colin Appleton and goalkeeper Gordon Banks as he walks out at Wembley before the 1963 FA Cup Final. 

Pic 02: Ian (five) looks on dejectedly with team-mates Richie Norman (left) and Gordon Banks as Denis Law (10) and Bobby Charlton (11) celebrate Manchester United’s second goal

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