A Phew From Hugh…….Leicester Have Turned The Tables!

Hugh McIlmoyle at home in recent years.

Hugh McIlmoyle at home in recent years.

Foxes Cup Finalist Who Tasted Heartbreak At Hands Of Spurs

It would be stretching a point to say Hugh McIlmoyle has just emerged from 55 years of hurt through Leicester’s successful, unbelievable sealing of the Premier League crown.

But the centre-forward, who had a prolific Wolves spell in the mid-1960s, is nevertheless thrilled at the title race outcome as he nurses vivid memories of the day he and his fellow Foxes went head-to-head against Tottenham with another of the game’s major honours at stake.

Amid shades of Stan Cullis’s selection of rookie Barry Stobart against Blackburn 12 months earlier, McIlmoyle was a shock FA Cup final inclusion when he was preferred to fans’ favourite Ken Leek at Wembley in May, 1961.

The fairytale of the biggest day of his career ended pretty much, though, with the appearance of his name on the team sheet. The game went true to form and Spurs added the Cup to the League crown they had already won as they did what Wolves had narrowly missed out on the previous year by becoming the 20th century’s first double winners.

All of which helps explain why McIlmoyle, now 76 and resident near his beloved Carlisle, is thrilled that the club who gave him his first chance in the game have turned the tables this time.

“People up here who know my football background have been asking for weeks and weeks whether I thought Leicester would win the League,” he said.

“I kept saying I was confident they would but, deep down, I thought Spurs might well catch them on the line, so I am absolutely thrilled for them and the game as a whole that they have done it.

“Leicester got me started in professional football, so I have a real soft spot for them. My son lives near there in Oadby and I have other family in the Leicester area who we travel down to see a couple of times every year.

“Going this far in the season and losing only three League games, plus winning several more matches than anybody else in the division, is a wonderful achievement.

“Leicester didn’t register that much in Cumbria before this season and they certainly wouldn’t have been my tip to win it but what they have done has livened up the whole game. I am so pleased for them.”

McIlmoyle, who had been pinning his hopes on a victory over Everton at the King Power Stadium this Saturday, was a novice at nearby Filbert Street when named at no 9 against Bill Nicholson’s star-studded Spurs.

Meeting the Duchess of Kent at Wembley in 1961.

Meeting the Duchess of Kent at Wembley in 1961.

He had scored four times in his seven games but Welsh international Leek had netted in every round of that season’s Cup and hit 25 goals in all competitions – ample reason for him to expect to be one of the first names on the team sheet.

“I don’t quite know what happened between him and the manager Matt Gillies but clubs were very strict in those days and the gaffer came up to me when we were jogging round in training in the park on the Thursday and told me I was playing,” the Scot added.

“I was only four months past my 20th birthday and had played only a handful of first-team games, so it was very much out of the blue that I played at Wembley. If it had been the other way round and happened to me, I’d have been mad about it.

“Ken was transferred to Newcastle that same summer and I bumped into him there more than once. He didn’t mention anything about the final, so I didn’t either.

“I did okay but I was very nervous and Spurs were a terrific team. Our full-back Len Chalmers broke his leg in the first half, so I suppose we did quite well with ten men to keep it goalless until they scored a couple in quick succession in the last 25 minutes as we ran out of steam.

“I would love to have gone back and played in another final. It was all a bit of a blurr really….I was up against Maurice Norman, who had Danny Blanchflower and Dave Mackay as his wing-halves.”

Although the outcome was different in 1961 to 2016, McIlmoyle has recollections that Vardy, Mahrez, Morgan and friends will never be able to match.

Forget the ‘Party with Vardy’, four of Leicester’s Cup final squad were holed up in digs together at the time, in the same bedroom no less!

“It was a big house that I think the club owned,” he said. “It was run as a sort of hostel by a couple and four of us Scots – Frank McLintock, Jack Lorne, a lad called David Agnew who didn’t make the first team and me – got to know each other very well!

“It was two or three miles from Filbert Street and Frank had this flashy car that he bought in Leeds and which we used to polish for him on a Sunday.

“He would drive us in each day but was such a brilliant trainer that he would pull over part way and ask one of us to drive, so he could improve his fitness even more by walking the last mile or so.

“I would love to get in touch with him again now but I’ve become a bit unsociable living this far north and I’ve only really seen one or two players from our Wembley side, like Richie Norman and Howard Riley, when I’ve gone back to the East Midlands.

“Football was a completely different game then. I remember getting a ticket through Leicester for the Wolves v Blackburn Cup final in 1960 and having to stand behind the goal.

McIlmoyle the Wolves favourite.

McIlmoyle the Wolves favourite.

“I am pretty sure I also went to the quarter-final when Wolves won at Filbert Street, as I had joined Leicester in 1959.”

McIlmoyle, who scored in a 7-4 Wolves defeat at Tottenham in March, 1965, netted 45 goals in only 105 games while at Molineux from 1964 to 1967.

Recent converts to this site might be interested to read the https://www.wolvesheroes.com/2008/08/01/feature-1/ article we wrote when visiting Hugh at his home in 2008.

Thomas Publications