The Ice Kings

Foxes Legends On Classic Liverpool Cup Tie

Over the years, Leicester City and Liverpool have competed in some epic cup ties – with the next instalment set to come in the quarter-finals of Carabao Cup on Wednesday evening.
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Several years ago, sat down with Howard Riley, Richie Norman, Mike Stringfellow and Bobby Roberts to reminisce about some memorable games they played against Bill Shankly’s Reds in the 1960s – specifically a hard-fought 1-0 victory in 1963.

Richie, Howard and Mike were members of the famous ‘Ice Kings’ side which was a realistic contender for the league and cup double. 

Two years later Richie, Mike and Bobby (who was City’s record signing in September 1963) played in a memorable quarter-final tie against Liverpool in the FA Cup. In 1969, Bobby also played in the victorious Foxes side which defeated Liverpool at Anfield in a fifth round FA Cup tie replay.

This result was part of the cup run which ended in City meeting Manchester City in the final of the FA Cup at Wembley. They sat down together overlooking King Power Stadium's immaculate and beautifully tended green pitch, which is a world away from the muddy pitches of Filbert Street.

These renowned ex-players soon turned their attention to the 1963 semi-final. Eleven days before the tie at Hillsborough, City had defeated Matt Busby’s struggling Manchester United side 4-3 at Filbert Street to go to the top of the old First Division table with only five games to go.

In that memorable match, Ken Keyworth had scored a six-minute hat-trick with all of his goals coming from crosses from right-winger Riley. Bill Shankly’s Liverpool was a great side in the making. They were in their first season back in the top flight and, the following year, they became champions.

Their team for the semi-final was: Tommy Lawrence, Gerry Byrne, Ronnie Moran, Gordon Milne, Ron Yeats, Willie Stevenson, Ian Callaghan, Roger Hunt, Ian St John, Chris Lawler and Kevin Lewis. Jimmy Melia, their midfield star, missed the game through injury.

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Leicester City - Ice Kings
Leicester City - Ice Kings

The iconic 'Ice Kings' side which took Leicester City so close to a First Division and FA Cup double.

City’s team was: Gordon Banks, John Sjoberg, Richie Norman, Frank McLintock, Ian King, Colin Appleton, Howard Riley, Graham Cross, Ken Keyworth, Davie Gibson and Mike Stringfellow.

With the exception of John Sjoberg taking over the right-back slot from Len Chalmers half-way through the season, this side had been virtually unchanged all season. Only 16 players were used throughout the whole campaign and that was in the days before substitutes.

City won 1-0 and the goal was scored by Stringfellow. Unusually, he had missed a couple of the previous games through injury, and his return was crucial. One press report of the game enthused: 'What a stimulus to Leicester City this dynamic Mike Stringfellow is!'

Mike’s memory of his match-winning strike is still very clear.

"We had beaten Liverpool 2-0 and then 3-0 in the league that season," he recalled. "They hadn’t scored a goal against us. In that semi-final, I scored after about 20 minutes."

Referring to an incident in which Moran handled the ball, he went on: "We got a free-kick in the first half about 25 yards from the byline on the right wing. Howard put the ball over to round about the penalty spot."

While he was talking, Mike was looking at a photograph of this goal from the Club’s archives.

"Looking at this photograph of the goal, I always thought from memory that I was behind (centre-forward) Keyworth but it shows you how memory plays tricks with you.

"Looking at this picture, I can see that I was in front of him. I headed the ball and it went right in the corner. The perfect spot actually. After that, they gave us a right battering for the rest of the game."

After the match, Shankly said that it was a disgrace the way Leicester played. We played with Graham Cross at the back so it was a back four really. Nobody else played that system at that time. Despite what he said, the next season, Shankly had Liverpool doing exactly the same thing as we had done. He played with a back four!

Mike Stringfellow

Press reports confirm this. Liverpool fought every inch of the way, but they couldn’t match their rivals’ slick approach or rock-like defence.

Waves of red shirts launched themselves against a blue defensive wall which contained all the City team apart from Keyworth. This meant that often there was nobody left upfield to collect any clearances.

The City defence did not allow Liverpool an inch of space for their players to try a shot. Shankly’s Reds fought tigerishly and all but overwhelmed Leicester, but they didn’t succeed.

A report at the time mentioned: "Graham Cross spent 99 per cent of the game in or near his own penalty area and staged some heroic rescues. Liverpool, striving to break through, were baffled by the City’s screening. Liverpool’s bid for an equaliser was a supreme effort beaten back by the close ranks of blue. Liverpool threw everything but the kitchen sink at the Leicester defence."

The result was in doubt right until the end. In the last two minutes, in the white-hot atmosphere, Banks leapt across his goal for a brilliant one-handed punching save from St John.

Right up to the last minute, Liverpool were still hammering desperately but Leicester held firm until the last exhausting second. It had been a tie which had seen huge endeavour by both sides on a pitch which had become soft on the top, made worse by the rain greasing the pitch.

Mike continued: “After the match, Shankly said that it was a disgrace the way Leicester played. We played with Graham Cross at the back so it was a back four really. Nobody else played that system at that time.

"Despite what he said, the next season, Shankly had Liverpool doing exactly the same thing as we had done. He played with a back four! It was quite revolutionary actually. They played with Tommy Smith and Ron Yeats as the two central defenders.

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Matt Gillies
Matt Gillies

Matt Gillies was at the helm of Leicester City for a decade, and is regarded as one of the Club's greatest managers.

"Yet Shankly had said that when we played that way it was a disgrace!"

Howard, recalling his free kick which led to the goal, remembered: “The free kick was just outside the penalty box near the touchline. I remember crossing it and Mike who, like Ken Keyworth, was very good in the air, timed his jump perfectly and got the angle just right.

"This was impressive especially when you realise that Liverpool had people in their defence like Ron Yeats, who was about 6ft 6in! In the second half, I don’t remember getting much service. We didn’t get out of our half much.

"The instruction to me in those days from manager Matt Gillies was that if I didn’t get the ball, I had to get back and mark their winger, so I spent a lot of the time doing this. Their winger never really got into the game.

"As Mike said, that season, we had beaten them three times, but we were under a lot of pressure in that game and Gordon made some fabulous saves."

One of Leicester City’s heroic defenders that day was left full-back Norman, who recollected: "I remember the goal obviously. Up until then, it had been an ordinary game, but after that, Liverpool had nothing to lose. It was wave after wave of attack.

"In the second half, it was backs against the wall. Howard was back marking the winger to help me out. He never helped me out very much though... he was always going forward!"

This prompted Howard to protest: “I remember (right-back) John Sjoberg complaining to me once in a match at Filbert Street that he had got nothing to do as I was coming so far back to mark their winger!"

In the photo, Ian St John had his head down as he was walking off. It looks as though we were all laughing at him. But we weren’t. We were laughing because we were through to the final.

Richie Norman

Mike joined in: "Talking about marking wingers, they got me on that once. It was earlier that season against Blackpool at home. I will never forget it. We drew 0-0. I finished up running from Jimmy Armfield (Blackpool’s England full-back) to their right winger.

"Then Howard got away three times in the second half but because I was back marking, I was just coming over the half-way line. Howard was wondering where I was! After the game, I got a right rollicking off the coach, Bert Johnson, who wanted to know where I was when Howard put his crosses in!"

Returning to the semi-final FA Cup victory which booked City’s place in the 1963 final, against relegation-fighting Manchester United, Richie remembered an unfortunate incident after the final whistle.

"There is a photograph somewhere which was taken at the end of the game. It shows Frank McLintock, Gordon Banks and Davie Gibson laughing as we were walking off the pitch.

"I was off camera, coming over to them. In the photo, Ian St John had his head down as he was walking off. It looks as though we were all laughing at him. But we weren’t. We were laughing because we were through to the final.

"Unfortunately, the Liverpool papers made a big thing of this. They said that there was no need for this. But it was nothing like that!"

Bobby Roberts then turned the conversation to memories of some of the personalities in the Liverpool teams of the 1960s. He began by talking about their legendary manager, Bill Shankly.

"The story I like best about Bill Shankly came from Ian St John, who I played with at Motherwell," he explained. "He said that once, when Liverpool were about to play against Manchester United, Shankly went through the United team with the Liverpool players.

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Bill Shankly
Bill Shankly

Bill Shankly was Liverpool's manager for many of their cup battles with Leicester.

"He said: 'Goalkeeper, not very good, right-back, not very good, left-back, not very good and so on. He said this about eight of their players'. One of the Liverpool players asked him: ‘What about the other three, Best, Law and Charlton?’ Shankly said: ‘Well, if you 'cannae beat three players…!”

Howard added an anecdote about Liverpool’s giant centre-half, Ron Yeats: “I remember our physio, Alex Dowdells, saying to me: ‘Howard, you need to score a few more goals. Get into the middle more, into the penalty box'.

"He said this before the Liverpool match, but when I saw this centre-half, Ron Yeats, I thought: ‘Look at the size of him!’ I told him I was quite happy out on the wing. I’ll leave it to Mike and Ken to get into the box. They will sort it out!"

Howard had with him an edition of the Liverpool Echo, which previewed the semi-final. On the front page, under the banner headline ‘Wembley is the prize’ there is a colour picture of the City and Liverpool teams.

Inside, there is a full-page feature which has the title ‘blue of Leicester City’. It describes Howard as a ‘Leicester-born fast, clever outside-right who has twice played for England Under-23 sides. He has a terrific shot'.

On the same page, Mike is described as ‘the tallest winger in the game. He is considered by many to be the best outside-left in England today’. The feature also mentions that his left-wing partnership with the ‘brilliant ball player inside-left Davie Gibson’ is ‘possibly the greatest strength of the Leicester side'.

Looking at the picture of the two teams, Howard added: "I remember most of that Liverpool side. You can go through them. There was Tommy Lawrence the goalkeeper, Roger Hunt, Ian Callaghan, Willie Stevenson, Jimmy Melia, Ron Yeats, Gordon Milne (the future Leicester City manager) and Ian St John.

To the amusement of Mike, Howard and Bobby, Richie continued: "Blowing my own trumpet, I still don’t think Callaghan ever got past me. I loved playing against him though. I knew exactly what he was going to do. He would go this way and then come back again, but I didn’t fall for that one!"




Leicester City Crest





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