In profile: Graham Leggat

This piece on Graham Leggat was published in the Fulham matchday programme against Rotherham United on Tuesday 13 December 2016.

 

Graham Leggat was simply one of the finest players to pull on a Fulham shirt. He also played for Rotherham United towards the end of his career.

He grew up in Aberdeen, making his debut for his hometown club in 1953. After finishing runners-up in the Scottish Cup in his first season, the Dons secured their first league title in the 1954/55 campaign. The next season, Aberdeen won the Scottish League Cup, with Leggat scoring the winner in the final at Hampden Park. In the league that term, he notched 29 goals in as many games.

At 21 he made his full Scotland debut in 1956 against England. He scored a superb lob and the Scots were only denied a win by an equaliser a minute from time by Johnny Haynes. The following year he broke a leg playing for Aberdeen and missed most of the 1957/58 season, but returned for that summer’s World Cup in Sweden.

By now, he had caught the eye of new Fulham manager Beddy Jezzard, who snapped him up for £17,000. Leggat scored in every game as Fulham recorded six straight wins at the start of the season. He became one of the lynchpins of the side alongside Haynes, bagging 22 goals in all competitions as the Club were promoted to Division One.

Our first season back in the top-flight was a successful one. Leggat again had a productive campaign in front of goal, netting 20 in all competitions as his pace and bravery gave defenders a torrid time. His standout game was at home to Leeds United, when he netted four goals in a 5-0 win over the West Yorkshire outfit.

Jezzard’s men struggled during the 1960/61 season, but Leggat scored 23 league goals. Despite his form, the Club flirted with relegation, with a four-game unbeaten run at the end of the campaign enough to see them over the line.

Fulham were marooned at the foot of the table for much of 1961/62, but six wins and two draws in the final 12 games of the season were enough to survive. Leggat found goals harder to come by, but still managed to find the back of the net 15 times. The Whites also reached the FA Cup Semi-Final.

The 1962/63 campaign was also a struggle, but Leggat still emerged as one of the leading lights, just about reaching double figures as the team finished 16th, with eight straight wins between February and April ensuring safety.

The following term will be remembered for a memorable clash with Ipswich Town, when the Tractor Boys were put to the sword 10-1. Leggat bagged four and his first three strikes (scored in three minutes and 10 seconds) remained the quickest hat-trick in the English top division until last year, when it was eclipsed by Sadio Mane. The game also saw Leggat reach a century of goals for the Club.

The 1964/65 season saw the replacement of Jezzard with Viv Buckingham and the departure of a number of stalwarts followed. Plagued by injuries, Leggat had a disappointing campaign in front of goal. He also had an in-and-out start to the 1965/66 season, but returned to form and fitness in the ‘great escape’ and netted nine in the last 15 matches.

In 1966/67 Leggat scored five goals in the opening 11 games but Buckingham, trying to lower the average age of the side, dropped him and the Scotsman reluctantly asked for a transfer. Recalled to the side at Christmas, he hit a hat-trick in a 4-2 home victory over Leicester City and his eight trebles remain a post-war high total.

However, in January Buckingham sold Leggat to Division Two side Birmingham City for a giveaway fee. Fulham supporters were stunned. In total, he made 280 appearances for Fulham, netting 134 goals. Following a forgettable spell at St. Andrew’s, Leggat moved to tonight’s opponents for the 1968/69 season. Despite only spending a brief amount of time at Millmoor, he scored seven goals in 16 Division Three games.

While not a one-club man, the zenith of Leggat’s career was on the banks of the Thames. There was a minute’s silence at the Cottage for the fixture with Blackburn Rovers in September 2015 following his death the previous month.

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Diego Costa lot, but continues to produce the goods

Chelsea maintained their three-point lead at the summit of the Premier League with a hard-fought victory over West Brom, with Diego Costa bagging the only goal of the game.

The first-half was definitely a slow-burner. The Blues, as expected, dominated possession from the off, but it was the Baggies, on a four-game unbeaten run and sitting eighth, who carved out the first clear-cut chance, as Salomon Rondon headed into the arms of Thibaut Courtois. Antonio Conte was able to field his preferred starting eleven, but despite this his side were not able to open up a dogged West Brom defence. In addition to their expected solidity, Tony Pulis’ men were showing adventure going forward, with Craig Dawson whipping in an inviting delivery, only for Chris Brunt to head over from point-blank range after six minutes. Nemanja Matic then tried to initiate an attack on his return to the side, but his raking crossfield ball was just out of Victor Moses’ reach. West Brom continued to be the more likely side to score in the opening stages and Matt Phillips should have done better when afforded space, but he blazed over.

By the fifteen-minute mark Chelsea were beginning to get into their rhythm, with Costa and Hazard involved in some intricate build-up play.  The West Midlanders have been a difficult opponent in recent seasons and this looked set to continue. However, Ben Foster was untroubled. West Brom then had arguably their best chance of the half, as Chris Brunt wriggled past the challenges of Matic and Marcos Alonso before blazing over. With 25 minutes gone, the Chelsea faithful felt the need to rouse the team, as the visitors had become too comfortable. Not long after, Rondon almost got his name on the scoresheet, nipping the ball off David Luiz and going on the outside of Cesar Azpiliceuta before whipping the ball past the left-hand post. Chelsea then almost broke the deadlock, with N’Golo Kante’s skidding shot deflecting off Pedro and dribbling just wide, before Luiz and Eden Hazard blasted over in quick succession. The half meandered to a rather uneventful conclusion, as West Brom were happy to sit back and hope for a counter.

The second half beginning in a very similar vein, with Chelsea dominating possession but not converting it into chances. Chris Brunt’s ball in had Courtois scrambling. The crowd felt the need to increase the decibel levels once more, as West Brom kept the home side at bay, despite accruing four yellow cards by the 58th minute. Dawson in particular was flirting with danger and should have been sent off for a second bookable offence following a rash challenge on Costa on the hour. The hosts’ threat on the wing had been well and truly nullified, and Conte felt it sensible to throw on Willian to add dynamism in place of Pedro. Phillips then reminded the crowd that his side were still looking for the win, whipping in a ball that Rondon almost got a toe on.

Despite continually probing, Chelsea were thwarted time and again by a well-drilled and hardworking side. Matic had a rare bit of space 25 yards out, but his effort did not trouble Foster. The breakthrough then came on the 76th minute, as a looping ball over the top seemed to be under Gareth McAuley’s control. However, the Northern Irishman dallied on the ball and Costa capitalised on the indecision, pinching the ball before speeding away from the hapless defender and finishing with aplomb past Foster into the top corner. The home side were wary of resting in their laurels, having led twice in this fixture last season before having to settle for a 2-2 draw. Marcos Alonso flashed a shot over in the 86th minute and after a real struggle the home side looked set to haul themselves over the line.

The four minutes of added time gave the Baggies a glimmer of hope, but ultimately they were made to rue the chances that they had squandered at the beginning of the match.

Alex Bowmer

Featured image: AP