September 04, 2015

Graham Leggat

Graham Leggat


BILL THE BIRO on a player he knew nothing about


Graham Leggat died at the end of August, at the age of 81. He was a Scottish footballer whom I never saw yet his death produced a moment of reflection on my youth.

Graham Leggat is a name from my days at primary school ('Cuthie's College for General Knowledge' as my dad used to say), in the late 'fifties. That was long before I developed any interest in football beyond running round on games days in a clump of fourteen boys, chasing a ball which was being looked after by another similar clump on Rift House Rec. I was hopeless at football, and didn't really like it that much. (Later, when I grew to like it, I was still hopeless, and would end up spending games afternoons with the other duffers, on the triangular pitch. Footballing success for me was being picked second-last rather than last!)

However, back in Cuthie's we all collected and swapped footy cards. I can't now remember whether they were genuine cigarette cards, which you had to scrounge from your network of smokers, or they were dedicated cards that you bought from the local sweet shop or newsagent's, but they may even have been the ones that came in packets of tea (before the days of teabags.) However, collect them we did, and stuck them into an appropriate album. And Graham Leggat was on one of the cards.

I've no idea why he sticks in my memory, as he wasn't as well-known as Billy Wright or Stanley Matthews, and, unlike them, he was foreign - well, Scottish, anyway. And he never played for any team in the north of England, let alone the north-east.
"Footballing success for me was being picked second-last rather than last!"

I may have been influenced by my dad, who used to watch Pools, and for some reason also followed Celtic (presumably for their Irish Catholic connections rather than their Scottishness, of which there was not a trace in our family.) Except that Graham Leggat never played for Celtic (or even Rangers.)

Perhaps for a yet-to-see-the-light football fan it was more to do with his unusual surname. I've never come across another Leggat. Maybe it was the option to spell his name as 'Leg it!' that tickled me.

For anyone interested (and I didn't know any of this until this week) he was born in Aberdeen and played for his home town club for five years as a right winger, winning the League Championship with them. In 1958 he both played for Scotland in the World Cup, and transferred to Fulham, with whom he stayed for a further eight years. Then he saw out his career with short stays at Birmingham City, Rotherham, Bromsgrove Rovers, and finally with Toronto Metros in 1971.

After retiring he became a Canadian Gary Lineker, although Jimmy Hill might be more of a contemporary, presenting a weekly footy programme and also doing stints as a pundit. He remained in Canada and died there on August 29th.

As I said, when I heard that he'd died, there was a reaction, perhaps not as strong as those I felt when I heard that Jimmy Mulvaney and Tony Parry had passed away, but nevertheless sufficient to cause the memories of primary school, and football cards - and kick and rush - to come flooding back.

Graham Leggat 1934-2015 RIP