February 2022

WELCOME to issue one of THE LEAGUE MONTHLY, your regular round-up of news and articles from the world of retro-football.

In this month’s issue you’ll find tributes to three greats who have recently sadly passed away along with what will becomes regular features including a look back at a memorable match from the past and a flick through some old programmes along with book reviews. Future issues will also include player profiles, feature on long gone club and ground and some interesting, lovely, funny and even somewhat bizarre photos from the game’s long and colourful history.

We hope you enjoy THE LEAGUE MONTHLY and if there is anything you want to comment on please drop us a line at

RAY KENNEDY 1951-2021

It was been a tough year for the loss of footballing superstars and the latest to pass away was former Arsenal, Liverpool and England star Ray Kennedy who finally succumbed after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease.

Raymond Kennedy was born in Seaton Delavel, Northumberland on the 28th of July 1951.

Ray’s first club was Port Vale who he was persuaded to join by then-manager Sir Stanley Matthews.

But Matthews eventually decided he was too slow to make it and the club let him go.

Returning to the North East, Kennedy played for local team New Hartley Juniors where he quickly earned a reputation as a goalscorer.  Arsenal had sent a scout North to watch his strike partner Ian Watts, but it was the 17-year-old Kennedy who impressed and he moved south to join the Londoners.

As he moved up through the ranks at Highbury his weight moved up as well and he even thought of quitting the game for a while. “I was thinking of chucking the game in altogether”, he later recalled. “It all seemed so pointless. 

“A constant battle against getting overweight and another fight to get some sort of form in the reserves”.

Kennedy found himself behind the recognised front pair John Radford and Charlie George. He made occasional first-team appearances including a crucial one off the bench in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup final first leg away to Anderlecht.

With the Gunners three down Kennedy replaced George with a little under 15 minutes remaining and scored a vital away goal to reduce the deficit and give his team hope for the return.

Although he failed to get on the pitch in the return, Arsenal secured a 3-0 win, and the trophy.

As is often the case one man’s misfortune in football is another’s opening and the broken ankle suffered by Charlie George in a 1970-71 early season clash with Everton opened the door for Kennedy.

After appearing in the goalless draw with West Ham, he scored the winner against Huddersfield Town and quickly formed a lethal strike partnership with Radford.

Kennedy finished the season as Arsenal’s top scorer with 19 league goals and 26 in all competitions as Bertie Mee’s men completed the double of League and FA Cup. The tally included the crucial winner at White Hart Lane which brought the title to Highbury.

The following campaign proved less successful for the team although Kennedy again finished as top scorer despite further weight problems and this was followed by a 14-goal tally in 1972-73 as the Gunners finished runners-up to Liverpool.

1973-74 saw Kennedy find the net 13 times but Arsenal slumped to 10th in the table.

In July 1974 Bill Shankly resigned as manager of Liverpool. His last act as the Anfield club’s manager was paying Arsenal £200,000 for Kennedy. He said of the signing: “Maybe it will be said that one of the last things I did at this club was sign a great new player”.

Kennedy left North London having made 213 appearances in all competitions, scoring 71 goals.

New boss Bob Paisley gave Kennedy his debut against Chelsea on 31 August 1974 and he scored after 22 minutes in a 3-0 win, but he found it difficult to cement a place in the side with the boss preferring John Toshack and Kevin Keegan as his strike duo.

Eventually he was restored to the line up in a midfield role, taking over from Peter Cormack and quickly making the new position his own.

This, in turn, led a phase of his career that was even more golden than that he had enjoyed at Highbury.

During his time at Anfield, the Reds won five league titles, three European Cups, a Super Cup and a League Cup and were undoubtedly Europe’s number one team. His own form saw him win 17 England caps before he retired from the international scene with then-manager Ron Greenwood preferring Trevor Brooking in the left-midfield role.

When the time finally came to leave Merseyside, Kennedy, who played almost 400 times for Liverpool and scored 73 goals, joined the former-Reds contingent created by former Liverpool star John Toshack at Swansea who paid £160,000 for his services.

After the Welsh team finished 6th in the top flight in his first season at Vetch Field he was appointed captain but was unable to play regularly due to recurring hamstring problems.

After Swansea started to suffer financial problems, Kennedy had his contract terminated by mutual consent and returned to his native North East, signing for Hartlepool United.

After 23 appearances he left Victoria Park to take up a position as player-manager of Cypriot team Pezoporikos but his new team made a poor start to the 1984-85 season.

Unable to settle in Cyprus he returned home, against the club’s wishes, in December 1984 and resigned a month later, taking over a pub in Ashington.

Kennedy joined Northern League Ashington, managed by former international teammate Colin Todd but managed to play just six times before worsening health forced him to retire.

Later in 1984, Kennedy was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. Despite the diagnosis he spent some time as first-team coach under Lawrie McMenemy at Sunderland but his condition worsened and he was eventually hospitalised.

Financial problems brought about by the end of his 15-year marriage, tax problems and the loss of his publican’s license saw Kennedy become reliant on help from the PFA to pay his medical bills and in April 1991 former clubs Arsenal and Liverpool played a testimonial to raise money.

Both teams included a number of former teammates and a crowd of 18,334 were present to see Liverpool win 3-1.

Kenneth’s autobiography ‘Ray Of Hope’, written in collaboration with Dr. Andrew Lees who was treating him for Parkinson’s, was published in 1993 and he also sold his medal collection to help pay for medical expenses.

Ray passed away on 30 November 2021 aged 70. He was undoubtedly one of England’s finest players of his generation and the number of trophies he won for two of the game’s biggest clubs, and in two different positions, is testament to his outstanding ability.

In his own autobiography, Bob Paisley called Ray Kennedy; “Probably one of the most underrated Liverpool players of all time”, a tribute that could easily be used to summarise his whole career at both club and international level.

JOHN SILLETT 1936-2021

From a footballing family, John Sillett was possibly only the third-best Sillett on the pitch. But in taking the FA Cup to Coventry, his exploits as a manager more than compensated for on-field limitations.

Like his father Charlie and elder brother Peter, John started his career with Southampton.

Charlie tragically lost his life whilst serving in World War Two and both brothers eventually moved to Chelsea, then managed by their Dad’s former teammate at The Dell, Ted Drake.

Whilst Peter quickly established himself at his new club, winning the 1st Division title in 1955 and representing England it was a slower process for John who made his debut against Manchester United on January 1st 1957.

A tough-tackling whole-hearted player, John was often paired with his brother at full-back and he made just over a century of appearances in almost eight years with the Stamford Bridge club.

New boss Tommy Docherty sold John to Jimmy Hill’s Coventry City, Hill’s first signing, in 1962 and, after plating in 41 games as his team won the 3rd Division title in 1963-64 his appearances for the Sky Blues were limited by a slipped disc.

In 1966, John moved on again this time to Plymouth Argyle and he spent two years with the Home Park club before hanging up his boots.

Moving into coaching, Sillett was appointed youth team boss at Bristol City by former Chelsea teammate Alan Dicks before stepping up to the first team role.

In June 1974, he was appointed manager of Hereford United and he led them to the Third Division title two years later before leaving during the following season to take over as Chief Scout under Gordon Milne at Coventry before becoming youth team boss.

He left the club in 1984 but returned two years later when he was appointed as youth team coach yet again, this time under Don Mackay.

With three games remaining in the 1985-86 season and the club in danger of relegation, Mackay was relieved of his position and Sillett, along with former teammate and now Managing Director  George Curtis.

A win over QPR on the last day of the season secured City’s place in the top flight and the Curtis-Sillett partnership were given the job on a permanent basis soon after with John given the job title of Chief Coach

The 1986-87 season proved to be a new high for Coventry as they finished a comfortable 10th in the top flight But this was outdone in the FA Cup as victories over Bolton Wanderers, Manchester United, Stoke City Sheffield Wednesday and Leeds United saw Sillett lead his team out at Wembley to face Spurs in the final.

A dramatic 3-2 extra-time win saw City capture their first and to date, only major honour.

Before the following campaign Sillett’s role was changed to that of manager and the next three seasons saw 10th 7th and 12th-placed league finishes.

But the 1990-91 season saw Coventry get off to a poor start and in mid-November he was replaced at the helm by Terry Butcher.

Six months later, Sillett returned to manage Hereford but he stayed for just over a season before stepping aside.

He became a familiar face on Central TV’s football coverage and was also a regular at Highfield Road, leading the fans in singing the Sky Blue Song in the final match at the ground.

Later he would work as a scout of England under Sven Goran Eriksen and, in 2011 he became a Life President of Coventry City.

He was at the game when City played their first match back in Coventry in August 2021 and remained involved with the club right up until shortly before he passed away at the age of 85 in November 2021.

A larger-than-life character and a firm favourite with fans in his adopted city and nationwide, John Sillett was a key figure in Coventry’s most successful-ever period.


After spending the last 39 years of his life in a coma, former French international defender Jean-Pierre Adams passed away in September at the age of 73.

Adams, who never regained consciousness following a routine knee operation in 1982 was nursed by his wife Bernadette at home for those 39 years.

The full story, with an appreciation of the devotion show by Bernadette can be found elsewhere on our website in ‘Labour Of Love’.


Francisco “Paco’ Gento who passed away in January certainly deserves his place as one of Spain’s – and indeed the World’s greatest-ever players.

Born in the village of Guarnizo in the Spanish province of Calabria, Gento started his career with local team Racing Santander and was appearing mostly for the reserves before a flu epidemic at the club saw him promoted to the first team.

A fine performance against Real Madrid in 1953 saw him quickly snapped up by them and he would spend the remainder of his long and illustrious playing career in the Spanish capital.

Gento’s early days at Real were not particularly successful and indeed President Santiago Bernabeu was reportedly keen to move on from the left-winger before being persuaded to hold on to him by centre-forward Alfredo Di Stefano who had been impressed by his pace on the wing and shooting ability.

So ‘Paco’ retained his place and he was part of the formidable Real team that won the inaugural European Cup in 1956 and then went on to successfully defend the trophy four times.

Gento was still in the team, and in fact the only survivor, when Real returned to the pinnacle of European football in 1966, skippering them to their sixth victory in the competition, over Partizan Belgrade in Brussels.

The winger remained at Real until 1971 and in that year he captained the team in their European Cup Winners Cup final loss to Chelsea bringing his total of European finals to eight an amount equalled only by Paolo Maldini.

Gento also claimed 12 La Liga titles and two Copa del Reys during his time at the club and won 43 caps for Spain, captaining them at the 1966 World Cup in England.

Although primarily a creator of chances for the likes of Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas, Gento also found the net himself 180 times, adding five more for his country.

After hanging up his boots Gento managed a number of lesser teams in his homeland but never reached the heights of his fantastic playing career on the sideline.

An eighteen-year career at the very top of European football earns Francisco Gento a place among the game’s best.


Stoke City v Huddersfield Town. 28 October 1961

In 1930, 15-year-old schoolboy international right winger Stanley Matthews signed for his local team Stoke City, ignoring the advances of a number of other clubs including Wolves, Aston Villa, Birmingham City and West Bromwich Albion.


He spent 17 years at the Victoria Ground (interrupted by the 2nd World War during which he served in the R.A.F), rose to become an England regular and was lauded as the greatest winger in the game,

To the dismay of his legion of fans in the Potteries, Matthews left the club in May 1947 after the latest in a series of bust-ups with manager Bob McGrory.

City had finished the 1946-47 campaign in a highest-ever 4th place in the First Division, just two points behind title-winners Liverpool but Matthews appeared in only 23 of the 42 games, had been dropped during the run-in and was recalled only after an injury to Bert Mitchell.

At the end of the campaign, club and player decided it was time to go their separate ways with Mathews wanting to join Blackpool, where he had been stationed during the war and where he still lived.

Initially there was a problem over the fee with Blackpool bidding £10,000 for the 32-year old and Stoke saying it wasn’t enough. Eventually the Seasiders upped their offer to £11,500 and the deal was agreed.

Blackpool manager Joe Smith asked Matthews before agreeing the deal: “Do you think you can make it for another couple of years?”

In his first year at Bloomfield Road he won the Footballer of the Year award and helped his team reach the FA Cup final. In his sixth year he inspired the club to their first major honour in the famous ‘Matthews Final’ at Wembley.

When the 1961-62 season started Matthews, now aged 46, was still at Bloomfield Road. In the intervening years he had played well over 400 times for the Tangerines as well as spending his summers in far-flung place like Ghana and Canada, helping to develop the game.

Having fallen down the pecking order at Bloomfield Road, one would have thought that it would be the end of the road for the great man who had been awarded the CBE in 1957 and was also the first winner of the coveted Ballon d’Or in 1956.

But Stoke City manager Tony Waddington had other ideas. On 7th October Matthews played for Blackpool in a 3-0 defeat at Arsenal on 7th October 1961. The following week he was dropped for the first time in 15 years and four days after that he was on his way back to the Potteries.

Amazingly, Blackpool demanded a fee for the 46-year-old and Stoke stumped up £3,500 to bring him back. When he complained to one director about this he was told; “You forget. As a player, we made you”.

When rejoining his first club Matthews said; “I don’t see any reason why I can’t go on for a year or two.

“I shall be thrilled to play in a Stoke shirt again”.

Stoke chairman Arthur Henshall’s father was on the board when Stanley left the club and after agreeing to double his wages from the £25-per-week that he was on at Blackpool to £50-per-week, admitted that he expected to see attendances rise but added; “We have not signed him for his crowd-pulling alone.

“He will be a tremendous boost for the team, and will set an example to the young players of the Potteries”.

The signing was shown live on the BBC’s Sportsweek show and manager Waddington said to his new man: “Welcome home Stan. For years this club has been going nowhere. Now we’re on our way”.

Still recovering from an ankle injury Matthews missed the defeat at Plymouth which left Stoke floundering in 19th place in the 2nd Division.

On October 14th Stoke had played Preston at home and a lowest-of-the season crowd of 8,409 saw the teams draw 1-1.

Two weeks later, for the return of their hero, 35,974 packed into the Victoria Ground for the visit of Huddersfield Town, four times higher than the season’s average to date. At 3s per head the extra gate revenue repaid that £3,500 transfer fee in one fell swoop.

The teams:

Stoke City: O’Neill, Asprey, Allen, Howitt, Andrew, Skeels, Matthews, Thompson, Mudie, Ratcliffe, Adam.

Huddersfield Town: Fearnley, Atkins, Wilson, Saward, Coddington, Dinsdale, McHale, Kerray, Stokes, Bettany, O’Grady.

So Matthews was opposed by young right-back Ray Wilson later to become a member of England’s World Cup-winning team in 1966.

Every time Matthews received the ball there were roars of approval from the crowd, every time he got away from his opponent the noise increased.

But Wilson marked him closely throughout the first 45 minutes and this, allied to his admitted nervousness led to a mostly quiet first-half, although City did take the lead when Adam headed home a centre from Mudie.

In the second-half, Matthews roamed more around the pitch and although Wilson often went with him he found more room and made a greater impact as Thompson scored twice and City had two more disallowed to record an easy 3-0 win.

Before the match Matthews had said; “if I don’t do well it isn’t the end. There is still another chance”.

But he did do well, and there were plenty more chances. With Dennis Viollet signed from Manchester United for £22,000 adding punch to the attack, Stoke climbed the table and got on the heels of the promotion challengers by March.

They faded a little towards the end of the campaign to finish 8th (one place below Huddersfield).

The return provided an extra windfall of £80 per player at the end of the season. The team were on £1 per man for every thousand over 250,000 in total attendance at the Victoria Ground. Just over 61,000 attended the first seven matches but Stan came back the figures jumped and they finished the season having attracted 330,000.

A year later, with Matthews making 31 appearances, Stoke won the 2nd Division title, allowing Matthews to equal a feat achieved by the great Steve Bloomer.

Bloomer left Derby County for Middlesbrough but returned to his first club after they had fallen into the second division and helped the Rams win their place back in the top flight.

Stanley, later Sir Stanley after his knighthood in the 1965 New Years honours list, played his final league match for Stoke in a 3-1 win over Fulham on 6th February 1965 just after his 50th birthday.

He had played 59 times in his second spell with the club bringing his total during his two periods to 318 league appearances for the Potters, to go with 379 for Blackpool, 54 caps for England and two more for the Great Britain XI.

There was a special farewell game on 28th April 1965 between Stan’s XI and an International XI which the internationals won 6-4 and after which Matthews was carried shoulder high from the pitch by Lev Yashin and Ferenc Puskas.



Pitch Publishing £19.99

Sir Geoff Hurst will forever go down in history as the man whose hat-trick against West Germany.  in 1966 gave England their first and – to date – only World Cup. The feat of scoring three times in football’s biggest game is yet to be equalled.

Sir Geoff was also a talented cricketer with a love for all sports and to celebrate his 80th birthday he got together with well known sports writer Norman Giller to write about the 80 sportsmen that had the biggest influence on his life.

So, from Ali to Zola we get to know who Sir Geoff’s sporting heroes have been, whilst he was growing up, when at the top of his own profession and since hanging up his boots.

The book is packed with fun – and plenty of little-known facts about a gallery of sport’s biggest stars and also gives us the great man’s own views on what made this particular 80 heroes not just to Sir Geoff but also to sport lovers around the world.

Eighty at Eighty is an enjoyable and entertaining look at the globe’s sporting greats through the eyes of ‘one of their own’.


Conker Editions £15

‘Flat Caps and Tangerine Scarves’ is the second Blackpool book written by Roy Calley, following up ‘Blackpool: The Complete Record’ and it again outlines the writers knowledge, and love, of the Bloomfield Road club.

But whereas Calley’s first book was a serious record of the club’s history, his new offering is more light-hearted and more of an oral history, full of great quotes, superb images and photos of memorabilia of the Seasiders’ long and illustrious past.

Stanley Matthews, Stan Mortensen, Jimmy Armfield, Alan Ball; all of the great stars to have pulled on the famous tangerine shirt are featured, in newspaper reports, magazine features, even bubble-gum cards giving the reader a fascinating look into how media coverage towards the game in general – as well as Blackpool in particular – has developed.

‘Flat Caps and Tangerine Scarves’ is a must-have for all Blackpool fans and will also be enjoyed by anyone as a look at football coverage and fandom through the eyes of one club.




Our debut random programmes is from the 1969-70 season and the match at Loftus Road between QPR and Charlton Athletic.

The QPR programmes of the time regularly won awards and were packed with interesting articles, great photography and interesting – and often humorous – looks at the game.

The two teams featured some fine players including Rodney Marsh, Terry Venables and Keith Peacock and the London rivals fought out an entertaining 1-1 draw, Mike Kenning putting the visitors in front in the first half and Dave Metchick equalising for the hosts.

The result left Rangers third in the table with Charlton down in 14th and by season’s end the home team had slumped to 9th whilst their visitors finished just one place clear of relegation.