Ragged A**** Ruffian
Cup finals, a business rollercoaster, love, loss and laughter - a memoir by a former professional football player, who plied his trade in the 1950s and 1960s, before embarking on a business career just as rife with promotions, championships and relegations. This is Les Gilson's story.
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Table of Contents
Facts & Figures
Ragged A**** Ruffian
Back to “Normal”?
A Bright Enough Candle
A New World
Return, My Conquering Hero
Getting On With Life
A Rude Awakening
Back In Civvies
A Born Salesman
Love Of My Life
Dungeness Or Bust
Building A Career
A New Decade
Cricket In Canada
The Old Boys
The Rocks Of My Age
Turning Things Around
Old Haunts & New Beginnings
A New Way Of Living
A Ragged A**** Gallery
About the Editor
A club football scout from Brighton had been watching me at Guildford where I was playing some of my soccer. He suggested that I could find a position at Brighton F.C. in the football league. The wages were £3 per week with a bonus of £2 for a win. At the time, my job at Thomas Meadows was worth a lot more as I have already described. I would have had to lodge in Brighton. I turned the offer down.
The scout also had a connection at Hayes FC, which was fairly near to my home in Brentford They played in the Athenian League, then one of the top amateur leagues. The matter was discussed with Archie McAuley at Guildford who had wanted me to sign as a professional so that he could get a fee if I did sign for Brighton. Having decided not to sign professional terms Archie then advised me to go back into the amateur game with one of the top clubs if I was not turning professional. I duly joined Hayes.
The manager at Hayes was a chap called Dave Brown who I managed to get on with reasonably well and I earned a first team place almost all of the time that I was there. With players like Derek Williams, Les Champelovier and Ron Gadsden, English amateur internationals, we had a very good side. I was lucky at Hayes as I met and worked with two other great managers during my time there. Jack Chisholm, who had been at Brentford, came in for a short spell and then Jimmy Clarkson came in, who was on the FA coaching staff.
Jimmy had a good influence on me and while I was at Hayes I took my coaching qualifications under his guidance. I obtained my Intermediate but failed my final to his and my disgust. I never went back to Loughborough to retake my finals. Let’s just say that the coaching staff there and I did not see eye to eye.
During my time at Hayes we won the Athenian League and also reached the semi-final of the FA Amateur Cup, losing to Bishop Auckland at St. James’ Park, Newcastle. It was a great game in front of a full house at a major first division stadium. It was an amazing experience, but it was also a huge disappointment. At the time you wonder if that is it, if the chance has gone, and, of course, I did not know then what was to come in the future.
The Bishop’s team that played against us was full of stars like Bob Hardisty and Corbett Creswell, once of Manchester United, and many more, many of them playing with professional sides as amateurs as well as playing for Bishops. 32,000 people watched that amateur game. Back then even our club games would have up to 3000 people in the ground when we played at home
Jimmy Clarkson introduced a new way of playing called 4-2-4, which had first been seen in England during England’s loss to Hungary at Wembley in 1953 when Ferenc Puskas, Nandor Hidegkuit and the rest were playing and revolutionising the game in Europe. I saw the wisdom of playing 4-2-4 and supported Jimmy in introducing the formation at Hayes. The change was difficult for some of the players to grasp and so initially we found we were leaking goals at the back and not getting the results we had hoped for, but slowly we started to get to grips with a new way of playing.
A couple of months before this, while I was still working in the City, I bumped into one of my old friends from Guildford City on Fenchurch Street. Percy Gleeson and I stopped and had a brief chat. He had finished playing and was now working for his living as well as managing Kingstonian FC, who were in the Isthmian League. We parted with words to the effect that, if I was in the market, I should be sure to contact him. Little did I know how opportune that meeting was to be.
Jimmy Clarkson was removed as manager at Hayes shortly afterwards. As one of his supporters in the dressing room, I soon found myself in rather a difficult position. I could see the value in the new system of play, but Dave Brown, who had picked up the reins, was of the older school. We went back to the “W” formation and I found out that I was no longer part of his plans. I left on good terms, but apart from one amateur cup game a few seasons later for Kingston against Hayes I really had nothing further to do with the club.
I immediately arranged a meeting with Percy Gleeson, the outcome of which was that I signed for Kingstonian, where Percy was in the process of putting together an exceptionally good squad.