We reflect on Len Badger’s career, which included three years with the Spireites, following his passing…
A Sheffield United legend, freely described as that club’s finest-ever right back, Len turned professional with United in August 1962 and took over their right-back berth during the 1963/64 season, remaining there until 1975. At the time he was appointed, he was United’s youngest-ever captain and was capped by his country at every level except that of full international. He played 458 Football League games for the Blades.
With the modern game’s devotion to a player’s physical prowess, it might be thought that Len could not make such an impact in the game today, but while he was not renowned as a physically powerful player, the Sheffield United ‘Complete Record’ described him as “…a fine, polished full-back” with “positional sense,” who “always tried to use the ball well and was quick in recovery”.
Those qualities allowed Len to prosper and were of interest to Chesterfield when Len’s time at The Lane came to an end. Len was appointed captain upon signing for the Spireites and settled in immediately, taking responsibility and communicating his experience well, but he was struck down by a broken leg in his second season – his first serious injury in a career that had run for almost 500 league appearances.
Arthur Cox persuaded him to make a comeback after almost a season out, but he suffered another break after seven games of the 1977/78 season and retired in April 1978 to become the managing director of the Middlewood Paper Stock Company, in Sheffield, a business he had set up while a United player.
When that business was taken over, Len worked briefly for Sheffield Newspapers before entering the licensed trade. He was well-known to Chesterfield’s pub-goers as mine host at The Peacock in Barlow and The Fox & Goose, in Wigley. In later life he became a matchday host in the hospitality suites at Bramall Lane, where he was was well-liked for his warmth and openness.
Our sincere condolences are extended to his family and friends.
A personal tribute from the club’s head of media & communications, Nick Johnson…
I approached Len when I was writing a book called ‘Sheffield United: Match of My Life’, featuring interviews with former players who featured in memorable matches. He immediately agreed to be interviewed and we arranged to meet at The Barrack in Apperknowle.
We sat outside the pub and I recorded the interview as Len recounted anecdotes from his career and he expressed disappointment that his time with the Spireites was curtailed by injury problems.
He was then running The Fox & Goose and I promised to take a copy of the book to him when it was published. When the time came to deliver the book, I spent some hours in his company and he wouldn’t let me buy a drink all night. That was a mark of his generosity.
I would see Len at different functions or out and about in Dronfield – where he often socialised with his wife Mal – and he was always friendly and approachable. A memorable occasion was when my wife Debra and I were invited to Tony Currie’s 65th bithday party at The Green Dragon and Len was in his element, having a laugh and talking about the old days with a host of other former players. The guests also included another ex-Spireite, Bill Dearden.
I invited Len to be the special guest at a Senior Spireites lunch a few years ago and hosted a Q&A session with him, which was well received.
I spoke to Jim Brown before yesterday’s game at the Technique Stadium and he said that Len made him feel welcome when he joined the Blades and helped him settle in. He also recalled how Len would often have a laugh, even during games when the pressure was on to help lighten the mood!
Len was a truly wonderful man with many friends who will miss him dearly. It was a pleasure to have known him and spent time in his company.