Touching the dream Monday, March 03, 2008
When I was a young lad, my Mother would always point out a man walking around the local area and tell me that he had been the Captain of West Brom (the team I support) in 1954 when they won the FA Cup.
To someone who is a passionate West Brom fan this made the man a hero in my eyes, albeit it was a leap of imagination to see how this man (20+ years on) could have performed at such a level. He always looked quite serious and my Father often remarked on how past heroes seemed to have been forgotten by the club who had brought them such glory, albeit not by the fans who organised a fund-raising effort to provide Albion's former captain with a motorised wheelchair.
As a player, he was a quiet unassuming fellow, renowned for his gentlemanly conduct and never booked in his 476 senior games (625 appearances) for the club during which he bagged 18 goals, yet he was dubbed "The Agitator". A polished left-back, he didn't allow the great Tom Finney a kick in the 54 Final.
My parents were friendly with Len and his wife, and so one day I was invited to go and see Len's memorabilia at his home in the next street. As a small boy, getting to hold a FA Cup winners medal, look at the match programme, hold the ball from the final and see the shirt he wore, amongst many other items was simply fantastic. It's a memory I've always treasured.
Sadly, Len passed away in 1997 just before his 78th birthday, but his achievements and the manner of the man left a mark on me which I remember each time West Brom play in the FA Cup.
Ivan Ponting Leonard Millard, footballer: born Coseley 7 March 1919; played for West Bromwich Albion 1937-58; died Coseley 2 March 1997.