LES Horsman played for Bradford Park Avenue and cricket in the Bradford League the 1950s. Born in Burley-in-Wharfedale in 1920, he played football for Burley Trojans and Guiseley before signing for Bradford Park Avenue.

Les played every game for Avenue in the 1948-9 season. The following season they were relegated to join Bradford City in Third Division North. Bradford’s first match in Division 3 North in 1950 was at home to Barrow. They won 5-0 with four goals from Billy Elliott, in front of a crowd of 16,623.

Leon Luty, Derby and England centre half, was signed for £24,500, leading to a disagreement between Les and the Board. Les was moved to centre forward against Queens Park Rangers, reluctantly, after expressing displeasure at losing his centre half place to Leuty. The following season he moved back to centre half when Leuty moved to Notts County in the Second Division.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Bradford Park Avenue 1952. Les is second from left, middle rowBradford Park Avenue 1952. Les is second from left, middle row

During the 1950-51 season, “the wholehearted Les Horsman” only missed one game. Newspaper reports considered him to be outstanding, a match for any centre forward. He was physically strong and determined, but very fair. His leadership qualities meant he captained the Avenue. He played 239 games between 1946 and 1953, scoring 12 goals.

Read the first part of Dave's tribute here: https://www.thetelegraphandargus.co.uk/news/19997287.look-back-sporting-career-les-horsman/ 

In 1953, Les was transferred to Halifax Town, playing 122 times and scoring eight goals. Me and my dad had to travel to Halifax from Burley-in- Wharfedale; along journey which included changing to the Hebble bus from Chester Street in Bradford. I’d inevitably have to stand at the front of the crowded, stuffy bus, pressed against the round radiator. I remember going to the Shay to watch Hull City. Their team included Stan Mortensen, who played with Les with Arsenal in 1944. There was a goodhearted tussle between the two.

When Willie Watson was manager of Halifax, Les often took coaching sessions when Willie was playing cricket for Yorkshire. He retired from football in 1957. Les was also an outstanding Bradford League cricketer. He played for and captained Idle, who won the Priestley Cup in 1951, thanks to their two most influential players, Horton who scored 83 not out, and Horsman, 78 not out. They beat Queensbury’s total of 169 for the loss of one wicket. In 1954 he won the WH Foster Jubilee League Batting Award with an average of 57.11. Idle Cricket Club records describe him as “an aggressive player who had a wonderful cover drive.” He was a brilliant fielder in the covers, batsmen rarely chanced a run when the ball went near him. My dad took me to watch him play. On one occasion I couldn’t believe it when he was out for a duck. As he returned to the pavilion, a spectator called out: “What went wrong, Les?” His reply: “I had a hole in my bat”. Because he was my hero, I believed him.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Les excelled at cricket too Les excelled at cricket too

Former Idle captain Ken Woodward remembered him as an outstanding Bradford League cricketer, good enough to play for Yorkshire. As a footballer he was as hard as nails, but fair. Many thought he should have played for Yorkshire, including England players in a charity match at Burley on the rest day of the test at Headingley against South Africa in 1951. The outstanding England bowler was Alec Bedsar, who Les tonked out of the ground into the adjoining park and through a house window. He had a trial for Yorkshire but was rejected because they didn’t want sloggers! I went with my dad and Les, his friend, to watch England v South Africa at Headingley in 1955 and a couple of times to Turf Moor with them, by which time Les had a car. Bradford City drew with Burnley in the FA Cup fifth round on February 20, 1960. City were winning 2-1 but in the final seconds Connelly equalised. The replay was at Turf Moor. Les took us over, we were packed in a crowd of 52,000. I was so disappointed that City lost 5-0, but as a consolation Les said we’d stop at the Dog and Gun on the way back, for pop and crisps.

After retiring from football in 1957, Les took on a paper shop on Main Street in Burley. I delivered papers for him! I’d sometimes go into his living-room at the back of the shop and stare at his trophy cabinet containing his football and cricket medals and cups. I was football mad and captained Burley Junior School. I dreamed of being a professional footballer, but advice from Les changed my life. He told me how much he had loved playing football, but made very little money. A footballer’s maximum wage in 1951 was £14, and when Les retired in 1957 it was £17 a week. He suggested I use my interest in sport, and train as a PE teacher. I took his advice and became a teacher, not of PE, but History.

Ironically, Les became a PE teacher at Leeds City High School. He was later a popular licensee at the Ivy Cottage pub in Knaresborough from 1964-1976. He later managed the Conservative Club in Crosshills, Keighley, for 18 months before becoming a holiday guide for Saga Holidays in the Midlands.

Twelve months before he died in November 1996 Les was diagnosed with bladder cancer. He was 76 and left behind his wife, Gwen, who he met when she was a receptionist in a Bradford hotel the Avenue team used, and four children. I attended his funeral at Burley Parish Church with my dad. There were ex- Bradford footballers and cricketers there to pay respects. A T&A report on December 7 had the headline: ‘A Man You Would Want In Your Team’.

A fitting quote from Les’s former Bradford Park Avenue team mate, and England international, Billy Elliott: “Les was a typical team man. I don’t think you would hear a wrong word about him. You could guarantee that whenever he put the shirt on, he would give you 100 per cent.”

I was proud to have known Les Horsman, and to call him ‘my hero’.

* Thanks to Les’s son, Peter Horsman, for family information and Johnny Meynell for Halifax Town material.