Frank Gardner

The Managers: Frank Gardner, 1884-1892

Since 1884, Leicester Fosse and Leicester City have appointed a total of 47 permanent managers. Over the years, the role of manager has evolved almost beyond recognition from its initial function which was primarily that of a secretary.
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In this new series, Club Historian John Hutchinson highlights the careers and achievements of the key managers in the Club’s history.

Frank Gardner was a driving force behind Leicester Fosse Football Club from the very beginning. Without his efforts, the Club might not have survived.

As well as playing in the first team, he held the vital post of Secretary for the new Club’s first eight years. He was a key figure in guiding the Fossils towards establishing a permanent home at Filbert Street in 1891 and achieving Football League status in 1894. As a 19-year-old, he also helped to form the Leicestershire FA in 1886.

During his time as secretary, membership numbers increased, enabling three teams to be formed. The Club’s move to Belgrave Road in 1887 ushered in the era of gate receipts. In 1888 Frank was involved in signing the Fosse’s first professional player Harry Webb from Stafford Rangers who was paid 12 ½ pence per week. Frank was also instrumental in the Club entering the new Leicestershire Challenge Cup in 1888/89 and he played in the Fosse team which won the Leicestershire Senior Cup in 1890.

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Leicester Fosse 1891/92
Leicester Fosse 1891/92

The Fossils played in 'navy knickers and white shirts with a navy collar' during the 1891/92 campaign.

Other secretarial tasks included entering the FA Cup for the first time in 1890/91, arranging the first guaranteed match (for a £5 fee against Boston), bringing in better quality players and arranging a lucrative match in September 1891 against FA Cup Finalists Notts County.

By the time Leicester Fosse entered the Midland League in 1891, they had 12 professional players and had moved to Filbert Street.

The following year, Frank resigned his post. He then helped write, on the eve of the Fosse’s entry into the Football League in 1894, the first history of the Club, a digital copy of which is in the Club’s archives. He continued as a local league official and as a referee.

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Leicester Fosse 1889/90
Leicester Fosse 1889/90

Frank Gardner was manager of Leicester Fosse up until 1892.

Frank’s granddaughter Janet Firth has recently provided the Club with much additional information.

While acting as the Club Secretary, Frank also managed a lambswool and cashmere underwear factory at the Broughton Astley called Turner and Jarvis.

In 1899, he married Elizabeth Richardson, whose father was a partner in a Causeway Lane boot and shoe factory.

In 1906, by now the father of three children, (including Janet’s mother), Frank became a partner in his father-in-law’s business, which became known as Harvey, Richardson and Gardner. 

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Hotchkiss Gun Section with Frank Gardner, 1914/18
Hotchkiss Gun Section with Frank Gardner, 1914/18

Frank Gardner (front row, third from left) is pictured with the Hotchkiss Gun Section.

By the outbreak of the First World War, Frank’s family had moved to a house on Knighton Drive. Frank joined the Leicestershire Citizens Training League, a home defence force. By 1917 he was commanding officer of a Gun Section of the 1st Volunteer Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment, by which time his business had relocated to St. Barnabas Road in Leicester.

Frank closed the factory in 1933, moving to Dublin as Company Secretary for a wholesale boot and shoe manufacturer with Leicester connections. When he returned to Leicester, to work as a cashier, he seems to have separated from Elizabeth, living with his daughter Edith in Shirley Avenue.

Frank died, aged 77, in December 1943 in the Central Nursing Home on University Road, shortly after falling ill with heart failure.

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