Shenanigans in the shires*
I guess my dad started following Leicester City shortly after we made the move from Kinlochleven in Scotland to Corby, Northamptonshire in 1957.
At the time Leicester was the only First Division team in the East Midlands. It was 25 miles by road and although we didn’t have a car, I vividly recall him taking me to a couple of games on the bus.
I don’t recall much about the first game, apart from the crush on the terraces, but the second I will never forget. It was 16 April 1963. Merseybeat was about to explode across the U.K. Gerry and the Pacemakers were leading the way with ‘How Do You Do It?’ – the first No. 1 single out of Liverpool. (The Beatles would follow with ‘From Me To You’ in May).
At Filbert Street, Leicester City’s opposition was Manchester United. Because of the fixture congestion resulting from the big winter freeze of 1962-63, the two teams had played a 2-2 draw the day before (Easter Monday) at Old Trafford. Man U had a star-studded line-up including Bobby Charlton, Denis Law, Johnny Giles, Pat Crerand and Nobby Stiles. Apart from England goalkeeper Gordon Banks and Scottish centre-half Frank McLintock, Leicester had nowhere near the same star power.
Dad and I had seats high in the stand behind one goal and despite Denis Law scoring with a spectacular bicycle kick right in front of me, Leicester won the game 4-3 and went top of Division One with five games to go. They also made the F.A. Cup Final that year. History shows they lost their last five games (including that Cup Final – to Man U) and Everton won the title.
My father was a steelworker and we left Corby (where he worked at the Stewarts & Lloyds steelworks) and emigated to Whyalla, South Australia in 1966. When I went back to Corby in 1975, I went to Filbert Street to see the Foxes battle out a 0-0 draw in an East Midlands derby with First Division champions-elect Derby County (the program is attached). After 1963, Leicester never again challenged for the title and over the years many have regarded that side as the club’s best ever. Until now.
My father passed away last year and so didn’t live to enjoy this remarkable triumph. Thinking of him today and offering my thanks to him for helping to kindle my life-passion for the beautiful game.
Butlins, Skegness, 1963
** Shenanigan: From the Irish sionnachuighim, meaning “I play the fox.”