Tribute to Glan Letheren

Following the sad news of Glan Letheren’s passing, club historian Stuart Basson has written the following tribute to the former Spireites keeper…

Born in the village of Dafen, near Llanelli, Glan came to attention playing at the age of 15 in the Welsh League for his local side. Leeds United offered him a place on their apprenticeship scheme, and he turned pro with the Peacocks in 1973. 

Glan made his Leeds debut as a second-half substitute in the second leg of a UEFA Cup tie at Hibernian in October 1973. He kept a clean sheet and Leeds came through the tie on penalties. He was a substitute keeper in United’s run to the 1974/75 European Cup final and made a Football League debut for Leeds against Ipswich in April 1975. While at Elland Road, he was called into the Wales under-23 squad for the first time, making his debut for them in February 1976. He played two more matches for the side as the under-23s became under-21s.

Glan joined Scunthorpe United on loan in August 1976 and soon impressed with a run of accomplished displays in the Iron nets. He remained with Scunthorpe for most of the 1976/77 season, playing 27 times; Leeds did not want him cup-tied, however, so he missed playing against Chesterfield in that year’s FA Cup. The Iron spoke to Leeds about a permanent transfer in the summer of 1977 but the Yorkshire club were reluctant to sell while it looked like first-choice David Harvey might move to Everton.

Harvey’s move did not happen and Blackpool reportedly agreed a fee of £20,000 with Leeds for his transfer as the 1977/78 season began, but Glan ended up on a month’s loan at Chelsea in August, having what was effectively a trial in their reserve team. Nothing came of that, or of a similar loan at Notts County.

Glan had seen several changes of manager since Don Revie first brought him to Leeds, and none really dangled the carrot of first-team football. He had reached an age where his career needed that, however, and he gladly accepted a move to Chesterfield in December 1977. The Spireites had recently sold Steve Ogrizovic to Liverpool for £65,000, but paid only £10,000 for Glan, who had been valued more highly in his early Leeds days.

His debut, at Chester on December 3, 1977, ended in defeat but he settled in quickly, keeping three successive clean sheets in home wins over Oxford, Port Vale and Portsmouth in January. A team that was flirting with the bottom four on his arrival climbed to mid-table by the time Glan received his first call-up to the senior Welsh squad for their friendly in Iran on April 18, 1978, as understudy to Dai Davies. He injured a shoulder in training after coming back from Tehran, and missed the rest of the season.

Glan began as first-choice for the 1978/79 season and remained so until Phil Tingay took over for the last ten games after Arthur Cox reckoned to have spotted a dip in the keeper’s form. He remained the back-up keeper for Wales at full international level through this season, taking his number of international call-ups for the senior squad to 11.

The first ten games of 1979/80 saw Glan reclaim his first-team place at Chesterfield, although he was overlooked for the Wales squad to play against the Republic of Ireland at Swansea on September 11. Swans fans in the crowd had only a week to wait to see Glan play, however, as Chesterfield accepted a £60,000 bid for the player from Swansea City. In all, Glan played 63 Football League games for the Spireites, keeping 13 clean sheets and conceding 84 goals at 1.35 goals per game. Given the somewhat transitional nature of the side in Glan’s time here, that’s a very respectable record.

Glan was placed straight into Swansea’s first team and remained there until David Stewart, who was number two keeper to David Harvey when Glan was number three at Leeds, was signed in February 1980. Glan played only 21 times for the Swans before his contract was cancelled in May 1981.

Blackpool offered trials in the close season of 1981 and thought enough of him to include him on their team photo for that season, but the move broke down. At the age of 25 he went non-league with Oxford City before joining Scarborough, then of the Alliance Premier League, in the summer of 1982. A move to Bangor City, themselves a strong Alliance Premier team, followed a year later, and Glan appeared in an FA Trophy final for them in May 1984. 

Glan saw out the rest of his playing career closer to where it began before taking coaching badges and moving into the specialist field of goalkeeper recruitment and coaching. While scouting for Leeds and Swansea he was appointed manager of the Wales international women’s team. He coached the goalkeepers at Swansea, Exeter City, Chester City and Leicester City before going overseas to coach in Australia, Haiti and St. Lucia. With his UEFA Pro licence, Glan set up his own company, Top Catch Goalkeeping, coaching British goalkeepers and bringing young prospects over from the USA. Over the course of more than 20 years, Glan worked to provide financial support to young Welsh men and women seeking to pursue a career in sport.

The Letheren family name lives on in football, and goalkeeping: his son Kyle enjoyed a long playing career in the game – including a spell with Chesterfield in 2020 – before recently joining the coaching staff at Doncaster Rovers.