Leadbetter gets overdue recognition

MODEST Jimmy Leadbetter today shrugged off his inclusion in a new book which lists him among the most influential players ever in English football - and insisted credit should go his old Edinburgh primary school.

Although never capped by Scotland, the 75-year-old, who played for Ipswich Town, is listed in McFOOTBALL by author Norman Giller, as worthy of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with other legends who plied their trade in England such as Kenny Dalglish, Graeme Souness, Gordon Strachan and - most significantly - Dave Mackay.

Each of the illustrious Scottish contributors is afforded a chapter on his exploits with Leadbetter’s headlined: "England’s World Cup Hero."

While the man, who returned home and became an Evening News delivery van driver for 19 years and who now lives in Corstorphine, is inclined to shrug off the "English hero" label, there is no mistaking his justifiable pride in a career which has earned overdue recognition.

Giller insists that when Alf Ramsay (later Sir Alf) was honing the tactics with Ipswich Town that were to win England a World Cup in 1966 it was Leadbetter who was instrumental to his planning.

Basically the idea was to move a winger into midfield thereby confusing right-backs who did not have a conventional opponent to mark.

Giller writes: "The plan worked so well that Ipswich won the league at the first time of asking as defences struggled to fathom how to counter a team playing without a left winger. Alf the General had out-thought them all. Leadbetter simply sat deep to collect the ball from defence and then sprayed passes with his magic left foot. He had an assist role in dozens of goals.

"It was the prototype of the formation that four years later was to win Ramsay and England the greatest prize of all, the World Cup. By then it had been labelled 4-3-3.

"Little Jimmy Leadbetter was the man who made it work for Ipswich but he did not get the credit he deserved for his contribution."

Today, Leadbetter admits he is pleased with his contribution, remarking: "I’m honoured to be named among the calibre of player listed in the book. But it is an honour, too, for Balgreen Primary because Dave Mackay also attended, although he was a few years behind me."

Above all, though, it is possibly most appropriate that Scots in the English League are given due recognition. That competition was, after all, founded by a Scot, William McGregor.

• McFOOTBALL by Norman Giller is published by Robson Books, price 16.95.