The two gents pictured right were revisiting their old stamping ground on Sunday, December 6 for the FA Cup game against Doncaster Rovers, as guests of 100 Years of Coconuts and Cambridge United. Len Saward (right) and Russell Crane eagerly drank in the atmosphere and shared the disappointment of other U's fans at the result.
Accompanying Len were his son Patrick and grandsons Jack and Charlie, passionate U's supporters every one.
We've written extensively about Russell, the newly installed Honorary Life President of Coconuts, in the recent past. Now it's Len's turn, and we can do no better than to reproduce the programme article about him that appeared on Sunday. Read on …
Football brothers: Bobby and Jack Charlton, Phil and Gary Neville, Rio and Anton Ferdinand, John and Clive Charles for starters. Glenn and, um, Carl Hoddle. The U’s have had a few, Alan and Gary Kimble being the most obvious examples.
If only Pat Saward had played for United alongside older brother Len, what a partnership that would have been, supporters of the older generation have been known to muse. The Millwall, Villa and Huddersfield wing half overshadowed Len in the fame stakes, winning an FA Cup winner’s medal and earning 18 Irish caps during a long career.
Ah but, you see, there are many who saw the brothers play who insist Len was the better of the two. He could have eclipsed Pat’s fame if he’d had more of the latter’s driven nature, the sages used to say over their pints of mild in The Globe. Look at what Wilf Mannion said about him, they’d declare, driving the point home with a jab of the pipe stem.
Len Saward, Golden Boy Mannion once said, was the cleverest footballer he ever played with.
Len, who is at today’s game as a guest of 100 Years of Coconuts and Cambridge United, has earned himself a unique place in the Abbey annals. He was a wonderfully elusive inside forward possessed of a mighty shot who played for the U’s in two spells between 1952 and 1958, chalking up 170 games and 43 goals. He paid for the club’s first floodlights out of his testimonial fund, for heaven’s sake. Then he worked in Dudley Arliss’s commercial department, at first selling the pools tickets that helped United climb towards the Football League.
Aldershot-born Len arrived from Crystal Palace via Tonbridge and a £750 fee in September 1952, promptly scored on his Eastern Counties League debut against Stowmarket and finished the season in double figures.
The following term he starred in United’s 3-1 FA Cup win over Cambridge City in front of a near-12,000 crowd – a victory that paved the way for the toppling of the Third Division South Newport County in the first round proper. After drawing 2-2 at Newmarket Road, United’s heroes triumphed 2-1 in the replay in South Wales, with Len heading the first goal.
Newport liked what they saw and paid £750 for Len’s signature, but the move really didn’t suit him and he was allowed to rejoin the U’s in March 1955.
Back in Cambridge, he found himself playing under the most incompetent manager in United’s history, Gerald Williams, but the latter was soon history and Len flourished under Bert Johnson. The 1956/57 season saw him playing on the right wing as part of perhaps the strongest ever U's forward line, which also included Mannion, Bernard Moore, Brian Moore and Kevin Barry.
A crowd of 5,500 turned out in October 1957 for Len’s testimonial, which pitted United against an Invitation XI. Among the stars in the latter team was, naturally, brother Pat.
The following year Len joined Sudbury Town and he later moved to Newmarket Town. He was player-manager of Soham Town Rangers in 1965 when he took the job of assistant admin secretary at the Abbey as part of Dudley Arliss’s incredibly successful pools team. He worked for United until 1987.
Now in his late 80s, Len can be found talking to Coconuts TV at 100yearsofcoconuts.co.uk/coconuts-tv.html. It was a delight to have him with us again today.