Here’s a question, what will happen soonest? Leicester City will feature on the front cover of the Radio Times again, or the World will end…
Earlier this year The FOX interviewed City’s captain in that 1961 FA Cup Final, Jimmy Walsh…
FOX: You established yourself in the first team under Matt Gillies and you played alongside Arthur Rowley…
JW: Yes I did. How to describe Arthur Rowley? I have never seen anybody who could hit the ball harder. That was number one. If he got the ball anywhere near the box then it was a goal. If he got it in the middle of the field then he would maybe fall over it! He was a powerful chap but he could turn on a sixpence and ‘BANG’ the ball was in the net. He was very accurate with his shooting. Deadly accurate, again I’ve never seen anyone who could hit the target like Arthur.
There’s no one today who could hit the ball like him, and that was with the heavy ball. They were like cannonballs then and they flashed into the net.
FOX: What were your strengths as a striker?
JW: I would say I was quite quick and I could nip onto chances. If there was a loose ball I would get there first. I should have scored more goals than I did and I blame my eyesight for that. I did score quite a few goals. I had more shots on goal than anybody else. But it was only near the end of my career that they found out that my eyesight was bad. It had always been bad, even when I played for Celtic, but I didn’t know it. I thought everybody was the same. Someone would say ‘Is that the number 14 bus?’ and I would say ‘What bus?’
FOX: You were one of the first players to experiment with contact lenses…
JW: . They tried out these contact lenses on me that I could wear to play in but they were nothing like the ones they have today. These were hard, and the size of your whole eye! After you’d been running around for a bit you’d get fluid on them and you wouldn’t be able to see at all. It was a disaster. I played about three or four games in them but it was worse than my bad eyesight. There was an Irish bloke once who played in glasses but everybody laughed at him, so that wasn’t an option!
At least he could see the ball, I couldn’t.
Contact lenses now are very good, but they were a new idea back then and the ones I had to try you wouldn’t believe.
FOX: Once Matt Gillies started to do his magic Leicester City became a feared and respected side…
JW: Matt was very popular and well respected as a manager. If you think of the ‘big four’ now then Leicester were in that for a while. And he was a very clever guy… well he told me he was!
FOX: Did you get on okay with him?
JW: Oh yes, fine. And he made me captain didn’t he? So he must have liked me.
FOX: City made it to the FA Cup Final in 1961 and you led them out at Wembley, how did that feel?
JW: It was a bit of a strange day because we were a bit bemused by Matt’s team selection. I still don’t understand it to this day. He dropped Ken Leek, who had scored in every round. I don’t know why he did it. Ken and I had played together for three years and I thought it was a reasonable success. We’d got to a Cup Final so we can’t have been that bad. All of a sudden he just dropped him. That’s something I could never quite forgive Matt for because I think it cost us the Cup. Every time we had played against Spurs Leek and I had always scored goals. So they were quite happy when they found out Leek wasn’t playing.
I felt sorry for Hugh McIlmoyle who took his place. He’d done nothing wrong but he was on a hiding to nothing. None of the players wanted Leek to be dropped and Hughie knew that, but what do you do?
FOX: Did you still enjoy it?
JW: Well, that sickened it a bit. Something about that Cup Final was never right.
We had a banquet at night and I think people were happy that we had given it our best shot, even though we’d lost.
FOX: There was talk that it was for disciplinary reasons…
JW: As far as I know Ken didn’t do anything wrong. Having thought hard about it the only little thing I could come up with is that Ken could be a bit daft sometimes. When we got to the Final Ken said: “Right, I’m only going to play in FA Cup Finals and international matches for the rest of the season!”
Perhaps a director or someone overheard him and took it the wrong way?
Whether that was it I don’t know but I can’t think it was disciplinary action because he just behaved the way he always behaved.
FOX: You weren’t helped when Len Chalmers was injured early on, in the days before substitutes…
JW: Yes, it was a pretty poor challenge from Les Allen, which would probably have got him sent off today.
That finished us I think. Playing with ten men at Wembley against the League Champions.
FOX: What was the atmosphere like after the game?
JW: Well, it’s hard to describe how you feel after you have lost an FA Cup Final. They were over the moon of course, having done the Double. They came in our dressing room with the Cup. I don’t know if they were rubbing it in, or just being sociable! Danny Blanchflower brought it in.
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