Len Boyd

Len Boyd

Infobox Football biography
playername = Len Boyd

fullname = Leonard Arthur Miller Boyd
dateofbirth = Birth date|1923|11|11|df=y
cityofbirth = Plaistow
countryofbirth = England
dateofdeath = death date and age|2008|02|14|1923|11|11|df=y
cityofdeath = Melton Mowbray
countryofdeath = England
height =
position = Wing half
youthyears =
youthclubs = Ilford
Royal Navy
years = 1945–49
clubs = Plymouth Argyle
Birmingham City
Hinckley Athletic
caps(goals) = 078 0(5)
255 (14)
nationalyears = 1952
nationalteam = England B
nationalcaps(goals) = 001 0(0)

Leonard Arthur Miller "Len" Boyd (11 November 192314 February 2008) was an English professional footballer who played as a wing half. He made more than 300 appearances in the Football League, playing for Plymouth Argyle and Birmingham City. As Birmingham captain he led the team to the championship of the Second Division in 1954–55 and to the FA Cup Final the following season. He represented his country at "B" international level.

Playing career

Early career

Boyd was born in Plaistow, East London. He was part of the same West Ham Schools team as Ken Green, later to be a Birmingham team-mate, and as a youth played for Ilford F.C., but the outbreak of the Second World War when Boyd was 15 put paid to an early entry into football as a career.cite book |author=Matthews, Tony |title=The Legends of Birmingham City |publisher=Breedon Books |location=Derby |year=2006 |isbn=978-1-85983-519-7 |oclc=67375456] He joined the Royal Navy, and while serving in Malta was spotted playing for a Navy team by a Plymouth Argyle supporter, who recommended him to the club. After a trial, Boyd signed professional forms in December 1945. At the time, he was playing as an inside forward, but when Plymouth manager Jack Tresadern switched him to right half it became clear that he was better suited to that position.cite news |url=http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/len-boyd-steely-birmingham-city-skipper-783981.html |title=Len Boyd: Steely Birmingham City skipper |work=The Independent |publisher=Independent News & Media |date=2008-02-19 |accessdate=2008-05-07 |author=Ponting, Ivan] After around 80 games for the Devon club, spending three consecutive seasons helping them avoid relegation from the Second Division, [cite web |url=http://www.fchd.info/PLYMOUTA.HTM |title=Plymouth Argyle |work=Football Club History Database |publisher=Richard Rundle |accessdate=2008-05-08] cite news
url=http://www.meltontimes.co.uk/melton-mowbray-nostalgia/280208--Len-Boyd-The.3828865.jp |title=Len Boyd: The strong man in Birmingham City's star Fifties side |work=Melton Times |publisher=Johnston Press |date=2008-02-28 |accessdate=2008-05-07
] Boyd was sold to First Division club Birmingham City in January 1949 for a fee of £17,500, the first five-figure fee ever received by Plymouth for a player.

Birmingham City

He went straight into the first team as replacement for Frank Mitchell who had joined Chelsea earlier that month, and made his debut in a goalless draw away at Preston North End. [Matthews, "Complete Record", pp. 23, 111.] In the 1949–50 season, his first full season with Birmingham, he established himself in the first team but was unable to prevent his new team's relegation to the Second Division.Matthews, "Complete Record", p. 185.] When Fred Harris retired at the end of that season, [Matthews, "Complete Record", p. 94.] manager Bob Brocklebank appointed Boyd as his successor as club captain, a post which he retained for the remainder of his Birmingham career. [cite web
url=http://www.bcfc-archive.freeserve.co.uk/clubofficials.htm |title=Club Officials & Backroom Staff |work=The Birmingham City FC Archive |publisher=Tony Jordan |date=2002-01-02 |archiveurl=http://web.archive.org/web/20031004012928/http://www.bcfc-archive.freeserve.co.uk/clubofficials.htm |archivedate=2003-10-04

Under Boyd's captaincy Birmingham reached the semifinals of the FA Cup in 1951, when they were defeated by the powerful Blackpool side of Stanley Matthews and Stan Mortensen only after a replay. [cite book
author=Matthews, Stanley |title=The way it was |authorlink=Stanley Matthews |publisher=Headline |location=London |year=2001 |pages=p. 363 |isbn=978-0-7472-6427-9
] They twice came close to winning promotion, missing out by three points in 1950–51 [cite web
url=http://www.fchd.info/lghist/fl/fl1951.htm|title=Football League 1950-51 |work=Football Club History Database |publisher=Richard Rundle |accessdate=2008-05-17
] and then on goal average the following year. [cite web
url=http://www.fchd.info/lghist/fl/fl1952.htm|title=Football League 1951-52 |work=Football Club History Database |publisher=Richard Rundle |accessdate=2008-05-17
] Boyd's performances were recognised with selection for England B against Netherlands B, a match played in front of a crowd of 60,000 at the Amsterdam Olympic Stadium, [cite web
url=http://www.rsssf.com/tablese/eng-b-intres-det.html |title=England - International Results B-Team - Details |author=Courtney, Barrie |date=2004-03-21 |publisher=RSSSF |accessdate=2008-05-17
] but this, and a selection as reserve for a Football League representative side in 1954, [cite news
title=Football League XI |work=The Times |page=9 |date=1954-02-01 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-08
] was as close as he came to full international honours.

Though Birmingham narrowly failed to reach yet another FA Cup semifinal in 1953, losing in the sixth round to Tottenham Hotspur after two replays, [cite web
url=http://www.soccerbase.com/cup2.sd?competitionid=58&seasonid=82 |title=English FA Cup 1952/1953 |work=Soccerbase |publisher=Racing Post |accessdate=2008-05-17
] and manager Brocklebank had significantly strengthened the playing staff, [Matthews, "Complete Record", pp. 24–25.] their league results failed to improve.cite web |url=http://www.fchd.info/BIRMINGC.HTM |title=Birmingham City |work=Football Club History Database |publisher=Richard Rundle |accessdate=2008-05-18] In late 1954, Arthur Turner was appointed manager, and his ability to instil a positive approach in the players transformed a team stagnating in mid-table into one needing to win the last game of the season, away at Doncaster Rovers, in order to be promoted as champions on goal average. Boyd led the team to a 5–1 win, later recalling:

The ground was packed and alive with supporters wearing the colours of Birmingham City. We knew we would win – and so too did those fans – and our performance that day was quite brilliant. [Matthews, "Complete Record", pp. 27, 190.]

The same squad of players carried their promotion form into the 1955–56 season in the First Division, achieving the club's highest league finish of sixth place, and reaching the FA Cup final. They became attractive to the media; after the FA Cup semifinal victory, Boyd signed an exclusive contract committing himself and his team-mates to appearing only on BBC programmes in the weeks leading up to the final. [cite news |title=Cup Final team's B.B.C. contract |work=The Times |page=10 |date=1956-03-28 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-18]

Fellow wing half Roy Warhurst injured a thigh in the sixth round at Arsenal and played no further part in the season. [cite news |title=To-day's football |work=The Times |page=14 |date=1956-04-18 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-18] Boyd himself had for some time been suffering from a debilitating back problem, and relied on injections to keep him playing; he missed five of the last seven games of the season, [Matthews, "Complete Record", p. 191.] and was sufficiently doubtful for the final that manager Turner named four half-backs in his 13-man squad on the eve of the game. [cite news |title=Birmingham's F.A. Cup decision |work=The Times |page=14 |date=1956-05-04 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-18] In the event, Boyd played, in Warhurst's position at left-half, and the 22-year-old Johnny Newman came in on the right. [Matthews, "Complete Record", pp. 114, 191.] With Warhurst missing and Boyd out of position and not fully fit, Birmingham's strength and balance was disrupted, leaving them particularly vulnerable to Manchester City's unconventional "Revie Plan". [cite news |title=Manchester's New Triumph: F.A. Cup Attacking Plan Succeeds |work=The Times |page=14 |date=1956-05-07 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-18 |quote=Time and again, Hall, Green, Newman, Smith and Boyd found themselves out of alignment and cleverly pierced by the skilful Manchester approach.] At half-time, a row erupted between the manager and some of the players, Boyd included, about their fitness;cite news
url=http://docs.newsbank.com/openurl?ctx_ver=z39.88-2004&rft_id=info:sid/iw.newsbank.com:AWNB:LTIB&rft_val_format=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:ctx&rft_dat=0F91EC9CB17D3CEE&svc_dat=InfoWeb:aggregated5&req_dat=0D0CB57AB53DF815 |title=Wembley dream rekindles Birmingham spirit |work=The Times |author=Shaw, Dennis |date=1991-05-24 |accessdate=2008-05-18 |quote=There was a furious dispute in the dressing room at half-time between the manager, Arthur Turner, and players over their fitness. With internal arguments still simmering the demoralised team simply did not perform in the second half.
] in the second half, whether due to physical and mental exhaustion or the effects of the row, Birmingham were soundly beaten. ['Manchester's New Triumph', "The Times", "Their spirit and iron determination, whatever the signs might have been, were two qualities not to be lightly disregarded. But having patched up the scar of that shattering opening blow, drawn level at the quarter-hour, and then immediately taken control for a period of 20 minutes, they dissipated their strength. The effort had taken too much out of them physically and mentally and there was no reserve when the Manchester flower blossomed fully later on."]

On their return to Birmingham, the team received a civic welcome; Boyd told the thousands outside the Council House that the team felt they had let the supporters down. Though the crowd roared "No!", [Matthews, "Complete Record", p. 29.] recriminations followed, but speaking fifty years later goalkeeper Gil Merrick refused to attribute blame to Boyd playing when not fully fit:

The reason why we lost, in my opinion, was nothing to do with Boydy who some claimed was unfit. Why we didn't perform in the second half was mainly because nothing was said in the dressing room at half time about stopping the damage caused by Don Revie. He was a good player and ran the game but at half time we should have talked about stopping him. Tackles should have been talked about, but they weren't. It was a lack of tackles that caused us to fold in the second half, and that's all I'm going to say. Don't put all the onus on Len Boyd. Len was a good player and a bloody good captain. [cite journal |year=2004 |month=May |title=An Evening With Gil Merrick |journal=Blues Magazine |pages=p. 46 |publisher=Ian Drew and Eric Partridge]
Boyd played only one more game for the club, two weeks after the Cup Final. Not fit for their first game in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup, against Internazionale in the San Siro, he played their next, a 1–0 win against a Zagreb Select XI in Yugoslavia. [Matthews, "Complete Record", p. 241.] Injury then forced his retirement, at the age of 32. [Matthews, "Complete Record", p. 74.]

tyle of play

Boyd was a tall man with a long stride. He was hard-working, combining industry with composure and skill on the ball. His dynamism was regularly mentioned; "The Times"' match report of the 1953 FA Cup sixth round replay against Tottenham Hotspur, a 2–2 draw in which Boyd both scored and had his name taken, attributed Birmingham's second-half comeback to their captain's performance:

And behind it all there was the constant driving force of Boyd, their captain, at right-half. Boyd, in fact, one would say, was the final hero of a desperate day. Up in attack and back in defence he played a magnificent game to inspire and keep his colleagues going. [cite news |title=The F.A. Cup: Great rally saves Birmingham |work=The Times |page=11 |date=1953-03-05 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-08]

Against Arsenal in the 1956 cup run he was "a champion who covered every inch of Highbury's mud, a dynamo and a man of steel",cite news
title=Birmingham worthy victors: Storming test survived: Arsenal 1 Birmingham City 3 |work=The Times |page=4 |date=1956-03-05 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-08
] and, later the same season, "The Times"' correspondent wondered rhetorically "was there ever such a human dynamo at wing-half?" [cite news |title=Still in the hunt: Blackpool break a sequence: Birmingham City 1, Blackpool 2 |work=The Times |page=5 |date=1956-03-26 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-08]

Birmingham based their success of the 1950s on "their acutely drilled and disciplined defence – founded upon the authority of their half-backs Boyd, Smith and Warhurst", though these three did much more than protect their defenders.

... the towering young Smith, centre-half in the England Intermediate (Under 23) XI, is flanked by two men, Boyd and Warhurst, who keep the ball flowing forward quickly all the time. There are no superfluous frills about them. Their accent is on a quick release along the lines of longitude. They are the real driving force. [cite news |title=Birmingham's power at half-back: Brown's three goals upset Charlton |work=The Times |page=3 |date=1956-02-06 |format=Times Digital Archive 1785-1985 |accessdate=2008-05-08]

They acquired a fearsome reputation. Boyd himself once played four matches carrying an injury which turned out to be a hairline fracture of his leg, and team-mate Alex Govan

... wouldn't say Boydy was a dirty player but he was hard, very hard, although all Birmingham defenders were then! I used to think 'thank God I'm playing in front of them and not against them'! Birmingham probably had the hardest defenders in the First Division in those days, with Len, Trevor Smith, Roy Warhurst, Jeff Hall and Ken Green – no one liked the idea of playing against them.

Life outside football

Boyd was married to Dolly, and had two children. According to Govan, "Len was a typical cockney really. He was hard on the pitch but soft off the field, he wouldn't do anybody a bad turn."

After retiring from professional football he kept a pub in Birmingham. After two-and-a-half years out of the game, in early 1959, he attempted a comeback with Leicestershire side Hinckley Athletic, but found himself unable to play a full game. He remained involved with football for a few more years, acting as coach and scout for Redditch of the West Midlands (Regional) League between 1960 and 1965. Settling in Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, he went on to become one of the town's first traffic wardens. In later life he moved into a care home in Melton, where he died in February 2008 at the age of 84.cite web |url=http://www.blues.premiumtv.co.uk/page/News/NewsDetail/0,,10412~1242805,00.html |title=Govan's tribute to captain Boyd |publisher=Birmingham City F.C. |date=2008-02-15 |accessdate=2008-05-07]

Career statistics


with Birmingham City
* Football League Second Division champions: 1954–55
* FA Cup finalists: 1956


*cite book |author=Matthews, Tony |title=Birmingham City: A Complete Record |year=1995 |publisher=Breedon Books |location=Derby |isbn=978-1-85983-010-9 |oclc=34282307;Specific

NAME = Boyd, Len
ALTERNATIVE NAMES = Boyd, Leonard Arthur Miller
SHORT DESCRIPTION = Professional footballer
DATE OF BIRTH = 1923-11-11
PLACE OF BIRTH = Plaistow, London, England
DATE OF DEATH = 2008-02-14
PLACE OF DEATH = Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, England

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