Leslie Jack Image 2 Plymouth Argyle 1926

Leslie Jack Image 2 Plymouth Argyle 1926


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Canning Town, London born inside left Jack Leslie was one of only a very small number of black professional players in England during the 1920’s and 1930’s. He began his football career with Barking Town, scoring more than 250 goals and helping them win the Essex Senior Cup in 1920 and London League Premier Division title in 1921, from where he was signed by Third Division (South) club Plymouth Argyle in the 1921 close season, Leslie making his Football League debut against Merthyr Town in November 1921. Initially playing at outside left, he struggled to break into the first team in his first two seasons, it took until his eleventh appearance for Argyle for him to get his first goal, in a 2-0 win over Gillingham in April 1923, but a move to inside left from that match transformed his career. The arrival of Sammy Black did no harm either, and the two became one of the most feared left flank combinations in the League.

In each of Leslie’s first six seasons at Plymouth Argyle, The Pilgrims remarkably finished runners up in the Third Division (South) missing out on promotion each season as only one team went up to the Second Division. Leslie had a regular hand in this catalogue of glorious misfortune from April 1924, when he broke into the Plymouth team on a regular basis. His first hat-trick for Plymouth came in a win over Bristol City in April 1925, and he got another against Crystal Palace in February 1927. 1928-29 proved the best goalscoring season of his career, when he returned 23 goals and pipped Ray Bowden as Plymouth’s leading goalscorer. He was also a very regular performer. In the five seasons between 1924-25 and 1928-29, he only missed more than two matches in 1926-27.

In 1929-30 he was again a mainstay in the side that finally won the Third Division (South) Championship and promotion to the Second Division, and in 1931-32 he missed only one match, scoring 21 goals during the campaign, joint top-scoring with Ray Bowden, including a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw with Bradford City in September 1931 and 4 goals in a 5-1 win over Nottingham Forest the next month as Argyle finished fourth in the Second Division, a placing the club didn’t better until 1993-94.

In 1930, The Plymouth Herald described him as “known throughout England for his skill and complexion” and rumours abounded that top clubs were keen on a transfer, but a move never materialised. Leslie spent his entire League career with Argyle, appearing over 400 times in all competitions and he remains the Pilgrims’ fourth highest goal-scorer of all time and ninth highest appearance maker with 137 goals in exactly 400 matches, his final appearance and last goal coming in a win over Fulham in December 1934, retiring in 1935.

At one time it was reported that he was to be selected for England against Ireland, and his manager, Bob Jack, told him he had been selected to play, but formal confirmation of his call-up was never received. It was rumoured that the selectors had changed their mind because of the colour of his skin and the invitation to play for his country was withdrawn. It has been speculated that this was because of belated objections to his colour by members of the FA who had been unaware of his ethnicity. Remarkably nearly 50 years passed before a black player appeared for England, when Viv Anderson made his debut against Czechoslovakia in a friendly at Wembley in December 1978. In 1982, whilst working as a member of the back-room staff at his local club, West Ham United, Leslie said to renowned sports journalist Brian Woolnough, “They must have forgotten I was a coloured boy”.

He later worked as a member of the backroom staff of his local club, West Ham United, as the boot-boy. He was offered the job by West Ham manager, Ron Greenwood who recognised Leslie as a great player. During his time at West Ham Leslie cleaned the boots of World Cup winners, Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters and of England international Trevor Brooking and Clyde Best who at the time was one of only a very small number of black players in the top flight of English football.

In December 2019, the boardroom at the newly redeveloped Mayflower Grandstand at Plymouth Argyle’s Home Park ground was named in Leslie’s honour.




Additional information

Weight 0.25 kg

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