William George Leonard Graham - 1925-2007

Last updated : 01 November 2007 By Gerry Wolstenholme

William George Leonard Graham


Gerry Wolstenholme

Len Graham, Blackpool FC's trainer for a number of years in the late 1960s and early 1970s passed away in October 2007.

Len was born in Belfast on 17 October 1925 and he first gained serious recognition as a full back when he was capped for Northern Ireland

Schoolboys against Wales and Eire in 1939. He played for Brantwood in the Irish Intermediate League while working as an apprentice in electrical engineering with a large contracting firm within the Harland and Wolf Belfast shipyard.

Just as it looked as though he would join Liverpool, he suffered a broken leg and thus the move did not take place. However, Peter Doherty, one-time Blackpool star, appeared on the scene and persuaded him to join Doncaster Rovers, where Doherty was manager.

Len found Doherty "a great and understanding manager" and was later to say, "Peter knew the game inside-out. My belief is that he was the only man who could have kept Rovers up in Division II as long as he did. Such was his inspiration. For about five of the several years I was with Rovers, Peter was their player-manager. Then in the twilight of his playing career, maybe - but still a great soccer artist."

Len remained with Doncaster from 1949 to 1958 and played 312 League games, scoring three goals. He also earned 14 international caps before moving to Torquay United in November 1958. He played 20 League games for Torquay before turning to the coaching and training side of the game. He spent a few years at Stoke, completed a course at Lilleshall, and then had a couple of years with the Port Vale Youth squad before Stan Mortensen, then the Blackpool manager, came calling.

He did not need too much persuading to join the Seasiders and he was trainer when they won promotion back to the First Division and when they won the Anglo-Italian Cup in 1971. He commented after being at Bloomfield Road for a number of years, "I've not only enjoyed seeing the lads gain promotion but also tasted the disappointment of them being relegated. But there has always been a grand set of players here. Coming to Blackpool looked to me to be a challenge, something in which I have always been interested. My job has largely worked out that way."

He finally retired in the mid-1970s and as he left the view was that there had not been a wiser or shredder judge of professional football than Len Graham.