Farewell to Town legend Leadbetter

JIMMY Leadbetter, fondly known as “Sticks” by Ipswich Town fans, has died in Edinburgh at the age of 78. A key member of Alf Ramsey's Division One Championship winning team of 1961-62, he collapsed on the stairs at his home.

JIMMY Leadbetter, fondly known as “Sticks” by Ipswich Town fans, has died in Edinburgh at the age of 78. A key member of Alf Ramsey's Division One Championship winning team of 1961-62, he collapsed on the stairs at his home.

He had recently undergone an intestinal operation during which he had a mild heart attack. A heart scan suggested he was making a good recovery. He had been able to play golf until last month.

He was a most unlikely-looking professional footballer with wrinkles round his eyes, thinning hair and spindly legs. He lacked pace to beat the hard-tackling full-backs of the day but he was skilful on the ball, possessed the uncanny knack of spotting an opening and used brains rather than brawn.

Leadbetter arrived at Portman Road from Brighton & Hove Albion as an inside-forward just over three weeks before the appointment of Alf Ramsey as manager in August 1955. He played only one first team match before the following December but then secured the outside-left role from George McLuckie and never looked back.

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The shrewd Ramsey always adapted team tactics to the strengths of his individual players. It became Leadbetter's role to stay deep and thread passes and provide crosses for Ted Phillips and Ray Crawford to take English football by storm with their remarkable goalscoring feats.

The late Roy Stephenson, perhaps slightly quicker, had a similar role on the right which made Ipswich a team to fear because they were such an unknown quantity.

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Ramsey used much the same tactics when he guided England to the 1966 World Cup. By that stage there was talk of “wingless wonders” but the Ipswich tactics took opponents by surprise. Analysis on television was something for the future and few scouts turned up at Portman Road because travel both from London and from the Midlands was slow and laborious before towns were by-passed.

Leadbetter won Division Three (South), Division Two and Division One Championship medals. Division One corresponded to the Premiership of today.

A modest man with a sense of humour, Leadbetter was immensely popular both with his team-mates and with the Town fans who would congregate on the “Chicken Run” terracing, some on milk crates, in front of the old wooden Portman Road stand. There would be shouts of “Come on, Sticks” whenever he gained possession.

Leadbetter came from a footballing family. His father played for Bathgate FC, who dropped out of the Scottish League many years previously. He went to school less than 200 yards from Tynecastle, the home of Heart of Midlothian.

He played as an amateur for Murrayfield Athletic until starting National Service in the Royal Artillery at the age of 17. He played for a Combined Services side that was run by Johnny Wheeler of Tranmere, Bolton and Liverpool fame.

Back in civilian life he turned professional with Armandale where, in 1949, his talent was spotted by Chelsea manager Billy Birrell. He made three senior appearances in three seasons at Stamford Bridge and was the first player to leave when Ted Drake was appointed manager.

He moved to Brighton and for three seasons became a regular first team player under Billy Lane. It was only after he asked for a transfer in 1955 that manager Scott Duncan, Ramsey's predecessor, was able to bring him to Ipswich.

Leadbetter made 375 first team appearances for Ipswich of which 344 were in the League. He scored 49 goals but it was as a provider that made him such a valuable asset.

He was ever-present in the League in 1960-61 when Ipswich won the Second Division title by a point from Sheffield United.

Ramsey gave Leadbetter the confidence to more than hold his own at the very top level. He missed only one match, at home to Leicester, when Aled Owen deputised out on the left.

Full-backs in those days seldom crossed the half-way line and wingers were not expected to track back. The deep-lying tactics adopted by Leadbetter and Stephenson left opposition full-backs with no-one to mark and unsure of what role they should play. Tottenham Hotspur, who had completed the League and Cup double the previous year under Bill Nicholson, seemed at a loss to know how to cope against a Town side who beat them 3-2 at Portman Road and 3-1 at White Hart Lane.

It was story-book stuff as Leadbetter scored in the European Cup against the great AC Milan in the second leg of the first round at Portman Road. Later that season he scored a hat-trick of headers in an FA Cup third-round tie in the snow against Mansfield Town at Field Mill.

Leadbetter was still at Portman Road in 1963-64 when an ageing Ipswich side, now under Jackie Milburn, was relegated after conceding 121 goals in 42 matches. However he missed the 10-1 Boxing Day drubbing at Fulham and the 9-1 hammering at Stoke.

In 1964-65 Bill McGarry arrived at Ipswich with a very different approach. Ranting, raving and kicking door stops was in complete contrast to the quietly-spoken and well respected Ramsey. The days of Leadbetter at Portman Road, now 36 years old, were numbered. He had a spell with Sudbury Town before returning to Scotland where he took a job driving a delivery van for the Edinburgh Evening News.

He had been retired for some years. He leaves a widow, Janet, and daughter Shirley.

The down-to-earth members of Ipswich Town's championship squad of 1961-62 were great company, unselfish in their outlook and served Suffolk magnificently. It was a question of a club with limited finances taking on the big boys and winning

Of Ramsey's memorable home-spun squad that won successive goalkeeper Roy Bailey died in South Africa and both Roy Stephenson and Ken Malcolm passed away in Suffolk.

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