More tributes to former Ipswich Town player who represented England and GB at youth level

len fletcher

Len Fletcher, who died recently - Credit: Supplied by family

Former Ipswich Town player Len Fletcher died last week. TONY GARNETT, who saw Fletcher play and covered Town for more than 40 years takes a look back at his career.


In the days when Ipswich Town Football Club wore the town crest on their shorts and played in Division Three South was when Len Fletcher was on the playing staff at Portman Road.

He died last week - the then oldest-living former Town player, aged 91.

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Ipswich Town 53/54: Back Town (from left): Basil Acres, Neil Myles, Jack Parry, Dai Rees, Tommy Parker, Len Fletcher. Front: Billy Reed, Tom Brown, Tom Garneys, John Elsworthy and George Mcluckie. - Credit: Contributed

I spoke to him a few years ago about his time at Town under manager Scott Duncan when the Ipswich stars included Tommy Parker, Harry Baird, Mick Burns and Jackie Little.

As a teenager Fletcher had represented both England and Great Britain youth teams. The England captain was Jimmy Dickinson who was to become a Portsmouth (in their heyday) and England star.  A big name in the Great Britain team was Jimmy Wardhaugh of Heart of Midlothian and Scotland fame.

Football player Jimmy Dickinson MBE, captain of Portsmouth FC, and one of the longest-serving player

As a teenager Fletcher had represented both England and Great Britain youth teams. The England captain was Jimmy Dickinson, pictured, who was to become a Portsmouth (in their heyday) and England star - Credit: PA

Fletcher spent the two years of his National Service in the RAF stationed in Germany at the time of the Berlin Airlift. He met up with Eric Bell, an original Busby Babe, before moving on to Bolton and playing in the Stanley Matthews 1953 FA Cup final against Blackpool. Bell and Fletcher played in service teams and kept in touch.

He spent some time stationed in Nottingham when he played for Notts County Reserves and Colts.

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The County manager was Major Frank Buckley whom Ipswich Town hoped to attract to Portman Road before they secured the services of Scott Duncan.

MORE TRIBUTES TO LEN FLETCHER

The centre-forward was Tom Garneys. While he was on the injury-list County signed Tommy Lawton for £20,000. Garneys was handed a free transfer and moved first to Chingford and then to Brentford from where he was signed by Ipswich in 1951.

Garneys became Ipswich Town’s best-known striker before the days of Ray Crawford and Ted Phillips. The cry “Give it to Garneys” often heard on the terraces when a goal was needed.

After a distinguished youth career it was a blow for Fletcher to find himself playing in the Ipswich third team in the Eastern Counties League. Others in the team went on to great things.

Ipswich Town's record goal scorer Ted Phillips. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Hot-shot Ipswich goalscorer Ted Phillips - Credit: Archant

The Ipswich “A” side included John Elsworthy, Ted Phillips, David Deacon and Vic Snell all of whom moved up into the first team. A memory of those times was of Vic Keeble, then at Colchester, scoring four goals against Ipswich “A” before his move to Newcastle United.

Fletcher’s first team debut was against Bristol City at Ashton Gate on March 18, 1950. Ipswich lost 4-2. The team was: Tom Brown; Jim Feeney, Harry Baird, Alec Mitchell, Dave Bell, Len Fletcher, Jackie Brown, Sam McCrory, Stan Parker, Allenby Driver and Joe O’Brien.

EADT chief sports reporter Tony Garnett in the Press Box at Derby County on the last day of the 2002

Tony Garnett, who covered Town from 1958 for more than 40 years. He saw Len Fletcher play for Town, before he began his reporting career

There were no substitutes in those days. Fletcher played four more games that season as a 20-year-old. Ipswich finished three points clear of having to apply for re-election.

“Many friends from my school days were at Ashton Gate," Fletcher told me.

"It was only an hour and a quarter from Wallingford where I used to live. I had two cracking shots that were turned away by the goalkeeper.”

Fletcher made only 21 first team appearances between November 1949 and August 1955 when he signed for Falkirk.

He explained: “Scott Duncan preferred to rely on experienced players, a policy that had stood him in good stead in his earlier years in management.”

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Ipswich Town at Wembley - FA Cup 1978
Brian Talbot
NEG 61935
ES 29/2/08

Brian Talbot in FA Cup final action for Town. Fletcher chose Ipswich because his sports master at Wallingford was Bob Talbot, uncle of England, Ipswich and Arsenal star Brian.

Fletcher chose Ipswich because his sports master at Wallingford was Bob Talbot, uncle of England, Ipswich and Arsenal star Brian Talbot whose father Ernie was Ipswich through and through.

In those days some of the tackling was fierce. In the semi-final of the Combination Cup Ipswich met Luton Town.

Elsworthy rode a couple of tackles before slotting the ball between England goalkeeper Bernard Streten and the post. His socks were ripped and shin pads scattered. Ipswich went on to reach the final against an Arsenal team that included Peter Goring and Freddie Cox who played in the 1950 FA Cup final.

Len Fletcher and his wife Gillian pose with the Uefa Cup after the Blues' victory in 1981

Len Fletcher and his wife Gillian pose with the Uefa Cup after the Blues' victory in 1981 - Credit: Supplied by family

One of the Luton players who had hacked at Elsworthy’s shins was speedy South African winger Billy Havenga.

Elsworthy would have noted the name with every intention of settling the score at a future date. As it turned out Havenga signed for Ipswich. The first time they met again was on the Portman Road practice pitch. Exchanges were lively.

In those days the Players Union was toothless.

Fletcher took over as Ipswich representative after the death of George Perrett. Jimmy Guthrie handed over the chairmanship to former Ipswich player Geoff Fox, then with Bristol Rovers. Fox resigned when he became manager of Swindon Town which left the post open for Jimmy Hill who changed everything.

At Falkirk, Fletcher stayed with Alec Cowie, brother of Ipswich reserve team trainer Charlie, and his wife Jean. Falkirk were managed by Bob Shankly, brother of Liverpool’s Bill. Fletcher had left Brockville shortly before The Bairns won the Scottish Cup in 1957.

This picture from the early 1950s has trainer Jimmy Forsyth (right) with, from the left, Tommy Parke

This picture from the early 1950s has trainer Jimmy Forsyth (right) with, from the left, Tommy Parker (captain) Dai Rees, Jimmy Feeney, Neil Myles, Basil Arcres and goal keeper Jack Parry.

Ask Fletcher who was the best Ipswich Town captain he would certainly say Tommy Parker.

“He was my role model. He was a great leader, never seemed to lose form and was always running strongly towards the end of a game. His loyalty and fitness were exceptional," he said.

“He was a great captain and must have been a boon to the manager as he was never in trouble and wanted to play for Ipswich.

“After his playing days he gave his all for the club and proved most capable at organising and running the Supporters’ Development Office.”

Mick Mills, who features in both Town's Top Five right-backs, and Top Five left-backs, of the last 40 years

Brilliant captain, Mick Mills

Ipswich Town has had some wonderful captains. Mick Mills, Matt Holland, Andy Nelson, Billy Baxter, Cyril Lea, Terry Butcher, Paul Mariner, Jimmy McLuckie and Reg Pickett are some that spring to mind up to the mid-eighties.

In 2012 Fletcher had an accident in a supermarket when an out-of-control mobility scooter pinned him against a pillar. He sustained injuries that gave him great pain to the end.

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