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The following episode taken from The Wizard No. 1787 – May 14th 1960.

With half an hour left to play, the Rangers were losing by two goals to nil to Marchester City in the sixth round of the cup and all the brilliance of Leslie Tomson, the Rangers’ inside-left and captain, was not bringing any goals. The game was being played at the Rangers’ stadium in Darbury.

The City defence was so strong, their marking so keen, and their tackling so sure, that it looked as if the Rangers were as good as out of the cup. The teams had lined up – Rangers – Blackwood; Wisden, Wallen; Garbutt, Monk, Nicholson; Tate, Tomson, Carter, Brownlee, Smith. Marchester City – Horniblow; Ogden, Fenner; Felton, Mannering, Lynchman; Hodge, Falcon, Judson, Major, Lee. A City defender put the ball out of play near the halfway line. Leslie moved over for the throw-in. Due to a childhood accident, his left leg was shorter than his right, and he walked with a slight limp. Tom Garbutt, the Rangers’ right-half, threw the ball to Leslie, who feinted to pass back to the wing-half. Then Leslie pivoted, and carried the ball upfield. Pongo Tate strode in from the right-wing and Rusty Carter, the youngest centre-forward in the First Division, veered outwards. Leslie could hear Lynchman pounding along behind him. He side-stepped, causing the City defender to slither past him, and then hooked the ball out to the left wing. The crowd roared as Eric Brownlee, the Rangers’ inside-left, gathered the ball and cut in. He tried a shot, but the ball cannoned away off a defender. Play swung to the other end, where Lee raced down the City’s left-wing and slashed over a cross. Irwin Blackwood, the Rangers’ unorthodox goalkeeper, was already far out of his goal. He caught the ball so near the edge of the penalty-box that the referee glanced at the linesman, who was watching carefully to see if the goalkeeper had handled the ball outside his area. The linesman made no signal, however, and Blackwood cleared upfield towards Leslie. Leslie was ten yards inside the City half and facing his own goal when the ball bounced beside him. His left foot swung up and he kicked the ball high over his head. Horniblow, the City goalkeeper, ran out to collect the ball before it bounced. It didn’t look as if there was any danger in the floating lob, but suddenly Horniblow stopped dead. Then, frantically, he leapt to one side, his arms outstretched as the ball swerved late in its flight. The goalkeeper just managed to touch the ball, but he failed to stop it from curving into the net. The City defenders were flabbergasted and the home crowd roared with delight. They had often seen Leslie put a terrific swerve on a ball, but they had never seen him do it with an overhead kick before. That goal rocked the City. To the thunder of the crowd the Rangers started to take command of the game. The City tried to keep the ball away from Leslie. Major, the inside-left, joined Lynchman in marking the inside-right. As time went on, those two intercepted numerous passes intended for Leslie. Then Tom Garbutt managed to slip a pass through to Leslie. Major and Lynchman bore down on the inside-right. The gasping spectators suddenly saw the ball flipped up from Leslie’s toe to his rising knee. It was his knee that then knocked the ball on to his forehead. Leslie nodded the ball between Major and Lynchman and brushed between them. Both charged after him, but with every step Leslie appeared to be changing direction in a manner that so bemused his pursuers that eventually they ran into each other. Fenner, the City left-back came tearing in at Leslie. Leslie turned inwards, and then outwards, and somewhere in the baffling display of ball control, Fenner was left sitting on the grass. Now Leslie had only the goalkeeper to beat. Steadying himself, he crashed an unsavable shot low into the corner of the net. The Rangers’ supporters roared their applause for the brilliant solo goal. The game the Rangers had looked like losing was now a game they could win. The City lashed in an attack straight from the kick-off. Judson, the centre-forward, had a shooting chance, but blazed the ball over the bar. A terrific roar went up at the sight of Clem Smith gathering the ball and steadying himself to shoot. Leslie kept on moving towards the goal. Smith shot and, aiming to miss the goalkeeper, struck the far upright with the ball. As the leather flew out, Leslie dived and put it in the net with his head. A minute later the whistle went for full-time. Leslie’s brilliant hat-trick had put the Rangers into the semi-finals of the cup. Dad Moss, the team manager, was flushed with excitement as he watched the players come in. “Les, two England selectors have been watching the game,” he said. “I reckon you’ll be well in the running for an international Cap against Scotland at Hampden Park.” “I don’t know that I want to be picked for England,” muttered Leslie. “You don’t want a Cap?” gasped Moss. “Of course I do!” snapped Leslie. “But the Hampden Park match is on the same day as the National Sheepdog Trial, and I’ve entered Pal.” Leslie referred to his small black and white sheepdog. Leslie’s father, the late John Tomson, had won an International Trial with his famous dog, Skipper. He had also been captain of the Rangers and an England internationalist. Les wanted to follow in his footsteps. Now it looked as if Leslie might have to sacrifice one ambition for the sake of the other.


It was during the week-end that the bleats of the year’s first lambs were heard on Low Dyke Farm, near the village of Dalestone, in Hilly Peakshire, which Leslie ran for his widowed aunt, Mrs Smith. Leslie had kept a patch of good pasture for the ewes, all Blackfaces.

Blackfaces formed the main flock on Low Dyke, but Leslie had a small flock of Southdowns that he had bought as an experiment. Southdowns were a lowland breed, but Leslie had wanted to try them out on Low Dyke, which was an upland farm. His experiment was successful, for the Southdowns were thriving. Leslie had an experienced shepherd to help him in Frank Jenner, his hired man. The ewes and the lambs had to be closely watched. There were weakly lambs to be looked after. On the Monday evening Leslie came in late for his tea after a hard day’s work in the lambing pasture. He switched on the battery wireless set, for the farm did not possess electricity. The sports news had not yet come on. Then the announcer said – “The draw was made today for the semi-finals of the Football Association Cup and resulted as follows – Liversea versus Burnstone Rovers, on the ground of Marchester City; Darbury Rangers versus Blackford Wanderers, on the ground of Manningford Albion.” Leslie grinned. “So we’ve got to play against Nick Smith’s team!” he said. “That’s the team Wilf plays for!” exclaimed Mrs Smith. Leslie nodded. His cousin, Wilf Tomson, whom he hardly knew, was the Wanderers’ right-half at the moment. Mrs Smith switched the set off. Leslie finished his meal and stood up. “Ribb and Deacon have been tied up all day,” he said. “I’ll give them some exercise.” Ribb and Deacon were two sheepdogs belonging to Abe peel, who was now in jail for sheep-stealing. Leslie had caught Peel red-handed. The Low Dyke Southdowns had been among the sheep stolen but they had been recovered. Leslie had thought it a cool nerve, but he had agreed when Peel had pleaded with him to look after the sheepdogs. Leslie untied Ribb and Deacon and set off down the lane with them. It was quite dark by now. He had gone the best part of a mile when a car came slowly up the lane. It stopped and Leslie was hailed by the voice of the Vicar of Dalestone, the Reverend Robert Rawson, once a University football blue. “What do you think of the Cup draw, Les?” asked Mr Rawson. “Any semi-final match is sure to be stiff,” Leslie pointed out. “Have you read the papers recently?” inquired Mr Rawson. “No, I’ve been too busy over the week-end,” Leslie replied. “A Brazilian footballer named Vitabella has come over to play for the Wanderers,” said Mr Rawson. “He’s described as the ‘World Centre-Forward Number One.’ The Vanex Corporation, the American firm with a factory at Blackford, apparently brought him over.” “I’ll leave Monk, our centre-half, to worry about him,” chuckled Leslie. “I’ll have a hard enough job against Arnold Tabbs, the Wanderers’ left-half. He’s one of the best wing-halves in the game. While they were talking a cycle lamp came bobbing towards them. It was constable Marden, the new village policeman, who dismounted when he saw Leslie. “The evidence against Peel is being taken at Barford Police Court on Wednesday,” said Marden. “You must be there as a witness. The Court sits at eleven.” “Well, I suppose there’s no getting out of it,” muttered Leslie. “What will they do to Peel?” “The magistrates will hear the evidence against him and then commit him for trial at Quarter Sessions,” said Marden. Leslie was working among his sheep as soon as it was light on the following morning. Both the ewes and their lambs were doing well. Frank Jenner was in the farmyard when Leslie got back. He was a burly man of about thirty, and a very good worker. “Les,” he said. “I’ll be leaving you at the end of the week.” If the chimney had fallen off the house, Leslie couldn’t have been more startled. “What’s the matter, Frank?” he gasped. “Aren’t you satisfied with things here?” “I’m not complaining,” said Jenner. “I just want a change, that’s all.” Leslie sighed. It was true that when he had engaged Jenner he had been warned that the handyman wouldn’t stay. He was a wandering type. “I’ve tried to treat you decently, Frank!” Leslie exclaimed. “I wouldn’t have thought you’d leave here before the lambing was finished with.” “I’ll be here till the end of the week, and then I’ll ask for my cards,” said Jenner stubbornly. “All right,” sighed Leslie. “If you’re determined to go, there’s nothing I can do to stop you.” Later Leslie got his station wagon and, accompanied by Pal, drove the seven miles to the market town of Barford. His first call was at the Employment Exchange to see if he could find a replacement for Jenner. The manager, Mr Radford, gave a shake of his head when Leslie stated his problem. “Shepherds are in big demand at this time of the year, as you know,” he said. “Do you think it would be worth advertising in the paper for a man?” Leslie asked. “Anything’s worth trying,” said Mr Radford. “But you’ll be lucky to get any replies.”


 On the Wednesday morning, Leslie fumed and fidgeted in the police court while the magistrates dealt with a long list of motoring cases. There was plenty of work waiting for him on the farm. Colonel Cairns, a local landowner, was the chairman, and the other magistrates were Miss Ridley, who was a schoolmistress, Dr Harris, Mr James, an auctioneer, and Mr Forgan, a farmer.

It was getting on for half-past twelve when the last motoring case was finished with. Mr Fox, who had been Clerk to the bench for something like forty years, said, “Put up Abe Peel!” Footsteps were heard on the stairs from the cells. Followed by a policeman, Abe Peel stepped into the dock and stared at the magistrates. He was a tall, bony man with dark, deep-sunk eyes. He wore neither collar nor scarf. He listened with no apparent interest as Mr Fox read out the list of charges. Mr Forgan had moved to a chair away from the other magistrates. He had been Peel’s employer and later was to give evidence. This made it impossible for him to act as a magistrate in this case. A local solicitor, Mr Rowley, stood up and bowed to the magistrates. “May it please your worships, I will appear for the prosecution in this case,” he said. “The prisoner does not have a defending lawyer.” Police Superintendent Bowen intervened. “The prisoner was given the opportunity of seeing a lawyer, but declined to do so,” he stated pompously. Mr Rowley then went on with his opening statement. “The case for the prosecution is this,” he said. “The prisoner worked in the West of England for many years and his employers all speak well of him. He saved some money and bought some land in the county of Somerset. That was about a year ago, and he apparently decided on the idea of obtaining his stock by felonious methods -” “You mean he decided to steal sheep to set up his farm?” Colonel Cairns interjected brusquely. Mr Rowley pulled his spectacles down his nose and pushed them up again. He didn’t like being interrupted. “That is the allegation,” he said. “Peel came to Avonbury and obtained employment as a shepherd with Mr Forgan. You will be told that his work was satisfactory. He proved to be a skilful shepherd and dog handler. He won first prize at the recent sheepdog trial. “But all this was a cloak for sheep-stealing,” the solicitor went on. “We shall prove he stole fifty Blackface ewes from the farm of Mr Sydney Sanders, as many more Suffolks from the farm of Mr Eli Evans, and twenty-nine Southdown shearling lambs from the land of Mrs Daniel Smith. “The stolen sheep Peel transported to a dale on Mr Forgan’s farm, where he kept them concealed until his arrest. I am now going to call the evidence, and at the end I shall ask for his committal to trial at the Quarter Sessions. Leslie Tomson, Please!” As Leslie limped towards the witness box, Abe peel saw him for the first time since coming into court. The shepherd leaned forward from the dock. “How are Ribb and Deacon?” he demanded. “Your dogs are all right,” Leslie answered. Peel gave Leslie a slight smile of gratitude, muttered something, and then lapsed into his former silence. Leslie took the oath. Then he told of how, in a fog, he had caught Peel red-handed as was attempting a second theft from Low Dyke farm. The hearing went on. The evidence for the prosecution ended with police sergeant Bostock describing how he arrested Peel and later found the stolen sheep in the dale on Mr Forgan’s farm. The magistrates conferred very briefly. “The prisoner will be committed for trial at Quarter Sessions in six weeks’ time,” Colonel Cairns announced. Peel stared at him hard. “Are you going to keep me shut up all that time?” he asked. “I’ve had over a week in prison now. Can’t I have bail?” Colonel Cairns looked inquiringly at the police superintendent. “What do you say?” he asked. “The police will have no objection to bail, providing it is substantial and there is a surety,” boomed Superintendent Bowen. The magistrates held quite a lengthy discussion before Colonel Cairns gave their decision. “The prisoner can have bail on a personal surety of fifty pounds and another of a similar amount,” he announced. This meant that if Peel deposited fifty pounds with the police and got someone else to deposit another fifty, he would be released from custody till his trial came up. “That’s no use to me,” Pell muttered. “I’ve no friends. I can’t get anyone to put up fifty pounds surety. I’ll have to stay in jail.” The dock officer tapped his shoulder. Peel was turning to go down to the cells when Leslie limped forward. “Can I speak to Peel?” he asked. Colonel Cairns looked surprised at the request, then nodded his permission. Leslie walked to the front of the dock. “If I go surety for you, will you stay on my farm and work for me?” he asked peel. Leslie saw a glow in Peel’s deep-sunk eyes. “Aye, I’ll work for you,” Peel replied huskily. Leslie turned to the bench. I’ll be the surety,” he said. The superintendent sniffed disapprovingly. “You realise that, if Peel runs away and fails to appear at his trial, you will forfeit your fifty pounds?” he asked. “I’ll risk it,” Leslie said calmly.


 On Saturday the rangers had a home game with Rainham Villa. The usual arrangement was for Leslie to drop his aunt in Barford to do her shopping while he carried on to Darbury, but when he was talking about it at breakfast, she voiced her doubts.

“Don’t forget Frank Jenner leaves at the end of the morning,” she said. “If I go with you to Barford, Abe Peel will be left on the farm himself.” “I’m not worrying, and neither need you,” Leslie answered. “You ought to see him working. He’s a wonder with sheep. We would have lost a ewe last night if it hadn’t been for Abe.” Later in the morning Leslie went up the farm. He found Peel in the lambing pasture. “I’m going to Darbury now, Abe,” Leslie said. “I shan’t be back much before seven. Remember to give the Southdowns a small feed of hay.” “I’ll see to it,” promised Peel. Leslie arrived at the Rangers’ stadium about half an hour before the kick-off. Dad Moss came across the dressing-room at his entrance. “Nick Smith’s here,” he said. “And three English selectors.” “Come to look us over before the Cup-tie, have they?” chuckled Leslie. “Yes, I’ll be returning the compliment with Nick’s team next week,” said Dad Moss. “The Wanderers have a mid-week League game to play, and I shall be there.” “Why isn’t Nick playing today?” Leslie asked. “He hurt his leg,” Moss answered. Leslie nodded and went on, “Well, judging by the newspapers, Vitabella isn’t a big success.” “I pulled Nick’s leg about it,” Moss replied. “He says that all Vitabella wants is to go home. He hasn’t felt warm since he got here.” The Villa were a young, fast-moving side. They put on pressure from the start. Irwin Blackwood foiled their attempts to score, however, by his speed and daring in leaving his goal to cut out crosses from the wings. It was from a throw by the goalkeeper that Leslie worked across to the outside-left position with the ball. Pongo Tate was there to volley it into the net. If Nick Smith were trying to form a mental picture of the Rangers’ tactics, he must have had a hard job, because of the constant changing of positions by the forwards and wing-halves. The team tactics too, were continually being altered. One minute the ball was being worked short, crisp passes. The next it was being swung about from wing to wing. The Villa had many narrow escapes up to the interval. In the second half Leslie put Rusty through and he banged in a goal. Leslie walked the ball in for the third goal with no defender other than the helpless goalkeeper within ten yards of him. “What did Nick Smith think of us?” Leslie asked Dad Moss at the end of the game. “He didn’t say very much,” replied Moss. “It’s been a useful win, Les. We’re seventh from the top of the league now.” Leslie bought a sports paper before he started for home. Fred Porter, the veteran sports reporter of the local paper, had written – “There is no doubt that Leslie Tomson is now a serious candidate for the inside-right position in the England team against Scotland. I, for one, confidently expect to see him at Hampden Park in April.” “It will be awkward if I’m picked,” muttered Leslie. “I can’t miss the National Sheepdog Trial, now that Pal’s as good as he’ll ever be.” Leslie picked up his aunt at Barford. She was still full of misgivings about leaving Abe Peel alone. Mrs Smith was craning her neck looking for Peel when she entered the yard. Leslie chuckled. “He’s still here,” said Leslie pointing. He backed the car into the stable and then went across to the house. As he walked through the porch he scored a goal – through the kitchen door. He had stumbled into his old football that he used for practice and which was lying in the porch. The ball went shooting over the mat. Leslie grinned. He kept the ball on the shelf at the side of the porch and he supposed it must have fallen off. But when he reached under the kitchen table where it had landed and picked it up, he frowned. The ball was wet. There was mud in the seams. Somebody must have had it out and kicked it about, and the only person who could have done so was Abe Peel!

All the thrill of the F.A. Cup semi-

Final between the Rangers and

Blackford Wanderers are in NEXT

TUESDAY’S super installment. And

You’ll be thrilled at collecting





The captains with the most original ideas in football, Limp Along Leslie and Nick Smith, toss for ends in the match of the season –

the Cup semi-final between the Rangers and Blackford Wanderers!

The following episode of Limp Along Leslie is taken from The Wizard No. 1788 – May 21ST 1960.

Leslie Tomson, the young sheep farmer and First League footballer, was heading for the post office in the village of Dalestone, near Low Dyke Farm, in hilly Peakshire, which Leslie ran for his widowed aunt, Mrs Smith. Les moved with a slight limp, for he had a short left leg due to a childhood accident.

The limp had not prevented Leslie following in the footsteps of his famous father, the late John Tomson, and becoming the captain of the famous Rangers. Leslie could not move as fast as other players, but what he lacked in speed he more than make up for in skill and craft. On the coming Saturday the Rangers were to play Nick Smith’s team, Second Division Blackford Wanderers, in the semi-final of the Cup. The next big event for Leslie was the National Sheepdog Trial, to be held at Westport, on April 4th and 5th. Leslie had entered his sheepdog, Pal, for the trial. Leslie’s ambition was to win an International Sheepdog Trial as his father had done with his famous dog, Skipper. Just as Leslie approached the post office, Mr Ruddle stepped out. He was a sturdy old man who had been the Dalestone postman for years. “I’ve got a letter for you, Les,” he said. When Leslie took the letter he saw that it had come from the Football Association. Leslie opened the envelope and frowned as he read – “Dear Tomson, - I am pleased to inform you that you have been selected as a reserve for England in the match against Scotland, at Hampden Park, Glasgow, on Saturday, April 5th.” Then followed instructions about travelling arrangements. Leslie was ordered to join the team in London on the Thursday previous to the match. The Vicar of Dalestone, the Reverend Robert Rawson, came across the street. He had got his blue for football at University, and had always been a good friend to Leslie. “You’re looking sorry for yourself,” the vicar observed. “What’s the matter?” “I’ve been picked as reserve for England,” Leslie said glumly. “I suppose it will be as reserve inside-right to Bert Allen.” “Congratulations!” exclaimed Mr Rawson. “That’s a big stride towards getting your cap. I can’t understand why you are looking so dismal.” “Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m very proud of the honour, but under the circumstances I don’t want to go to Glasgow,” explained Leslie. “You see, I’ve fixed up everything to take Pal to Westport for the National Sheepdog Trial, on the Friday and Saturday of that week.” Mr Rawson’s smile faded. He could understand Leslie’s glumness. If les and Pal won at Westport, then they would have the chance of competing against the best shepherds and dogs of Scotland and Wales in the International Trial. “Um, you could send a wire to the Football Association, state the position, and ask for reconsideration,” suggested the vicar. “I’ll do that,” replied Leslie. Mr Rawson smiled. “Don’t forget my ticket for the semi-final,” he said. “I won’t,” Leslie replied. “You’ll get it before Saturday.” “You should win,” commented the vicar. “Nick Smith has a good side, but this Brazilian centre-forward, Vitabella, who was brought over, seems to have been a disappointment.” “I think he’s been dropped,” remarked Leslie. “He wasn’t mentioned in the report I read of the Wanderers’ match on Saturday.” “You’ll be up against a good half-back!” the vicar exclaimed. “I’m sure that if Arnold Tabbs were playing for a First Division side he’d be in the England team again.” Mr Rawson turned away. Leslie went on to the post office, wrote out a telegram to the Football Association, and brought some stamps. He made one or two other calls and returned to his station wagon. A new battery was required and Leslie had to swing the handle to start the engine. Then he drove back to Low Dyke Farm. He would collect the battery the next day. Abe Peel, a tall gaunt man, was coming down the hill with his sheepdogs, Ribb and Deacon. He’d been making an inspection round of the flocks. Abe peel was awaiting trial on a charge of sheep-stealing. Desperate for help on the farm, Leslie had bailed Peel out of jail to work on Low Dyke, and peel had proved to be a first-class shepherd. “Are you going up to the farm?” he asked Leslie. Leslie nodded. “I want to take Pal out for training – not that I’m sure of going to Westport,” he said. “I may have to go to Glasgow instead. I’ve been picked for England.” “Now that’s something to be proud of!” exclaimed the shepherd. It seemed as if he were going to add to these words, but he cut himself short. Because of certain things that had happened, Leslie had a strong feeling that peel had been a footballer, but the shepherd was a secretive man, and seldom spoke about himself. “I know, but I want to go to Westport,” Leslie replied unhappily. “Pal is at his best now. I don’t want to put off entering him in the trial for another year.” “I said being a reserve for England was something to be proud of. And so it is, but you must put your dog first,” retorted Peel. “Let’s hope the Football Association let me off going to Glasgow,” said Leslie. “I’ve done my best to explain the situation to them in a telegram.” Leslie had barely finished dinner when Mr Rawson drove up the lane in his small car. “I’m acting as telegraph boy to save them sending up from the post office,” he chuckled. “I have a telegram for you.” The telegram read – “While appreciating your position, must insist on your joining the team. Allen is undergoing treatment for an injury, and there is a chance you will be in the team.” “Well that leaves you no option, Leslie,” Mr Rawson said. “I think the officials are to be commended for giving you such a full explanation. “Evidently you were picked as reserve because of their doubt about Bert Allen’s fitness. You’ll have to go to Glasgow.” “Yes,” nodded Leslie. “But I’m not going to scratch my entry in the Sheepdog Trial yet. You never know what might happen between now and the fifth of April.” Which, as events were to prove, was very true.


Leslie had to go into Dalestone next morning for the new battery for his station wagon. He used the starting handle. The engine wheezed and fired. The handle suddenly swung back viciously and hit Leslie a terrific crack on his left shin.

As he fell, groaning with the pain, Leslie was sure he must have broken his leg. It was not a fracture, however, but a very bad bruise. By Friday evening, the bruise extended nearly from Leslie’s knee to his ankle, and he could not walk without pain. Leslie sat in the old armchair in the kitchen and kept his aching leg up during the evening. His aunt was out and he rose to switch on the battery wireless set for the sports news. “Nick Smith has announced his team for the Wanderers’ Cup-tie against the Rangers,” the announcer said. “There is a surprise selection. The Brazilian centre-forward, Antonio Vitabella, will play for the Wanderers. “The choice of Vitabella for this game will set Blackford people talking. He was announced as World Centre-Forward Number One, but his displays in English football have been very disappointing.” Leslie went to bed early that night. His leg felt very stiff when he woke in the morning, but by the time he had massaged it and moved about for a time it felt easier. Soon after breakfast Mr Rawson came in his car for Leslie. The plan was for the vicar to drive him to Darbury. There, Leslie was to have some final treatment from Dad Moss, the Rangers’ trainer-manager, at the ground before the team set out by coach for Manningford, where the semi-final was to be played. Leslie was able to have half an hour’s heat treatment before the coach arrived, but his leg was still a little stiff. Judging by the traffic on the road to Manningford, a large proportion of the population of Darbury and district was bound for the match. The Rangers’ team had lunch in a hotel near the ground. “How does your leg feel, Les?” Dad Moss demanded anxiously when it was time to leave. “I think it will be all right,” replied Leslie. So it was with his injured leg well padded that Leslie led out the Rangers into the hugh ground. He turned and had a look at the Wanderers as they were shooting in. His gaze fixed on a tall, swarthy player wearing very short shorts in the continental style. He had a shock of dark hair and a doleful face. “That’s Vitabella,” chuckled Walter Wisden, the Rangers’ right back. A tall, burly player broke from the Wanderers and ran over to Leslie. It was his cousin, Wilf Tomson, whom Leslie had not seen for years. “Hello, stranger.” Leslie said, and stuck out his hand. Wilf had a grip like a vice. “How are you keeping?” Wilf asked. “I’m fine,” said Leslie, who was keeping his sore leg a secret. The whistle pipped. The Wanderers’ captain, a keen faced, agile-looking man, came trotting up the field for the toss-up. It was Leslie’s first introduction to Nick Smith. “I hope we have a good game, Les,” Nick said. The referee produced a half-crown. Leslie sent the coin spinning into the air. “Tails,” called Nick. “It’s heads,” said the referee. Leslie looked up at the slowly moving clouds. “This way,” he said, and noticed that Nick looked surprised at his decision to play against the breeze. The crowd roared excitedly. The players took their positions for the kick-off. As Leslie stood on the edge of the centre circle he received a toothy grin from the stocky man who was playing at left-half for the Wanderers. This was the great Arnold Tabbs. Leslie grinned back. The line-up was – Rangers – Blackwood; Wisden, Wallen; Garbutt, Monk, Nicholson; Tate, Tomson, Carter, Brownlee, Smith. Blackford Wanderers – Bakeman; Wheeler, Black; Tomson, Ironmonger, Tabbs; Lane, Bunting, Vitabella, Smith, Harris. The Wanderers were soon moving into the attack. Frankie Nicholson, the Rangers’ left-half, broke it up with a determined tackle and came away with the ball. He flicked it towards Leslie, but just a shade slowly. As Leslie was gathering the ball, Arnold Tabbs came dashing in. He took the ball, made ground and then put a long slanting pass down the wing. Arnold was fully aware that Leslie was the schemer of the Rangers’ forward line. He was obviously determined not to give Les the chance to gather the ball and then create openings for the other forwards. Leslie thought Arnold’s pass was going out of play, but Basil Harris, moving very quickly down the Wanderers’ left-wing, caught up with the ball and hooked it hard and fast into the middle. It was a dangerous moment for the rangers. Monk the centre-half, had left Vitabella uncovered while Irwin Blackwood was coming out of his goal too late to cut out the cross. Vitabella rose to the ball. It flew off his head high over the bar, and the centre dropped flat as if he had been stunned by a mallet. “Whew, that was a let-off,” muttered Leslie. “Vitabella should have scored there.” Nick Smith and Arnold Tabbs hauled Vitabella to his feet. The centre looked dazed. Irwin Blackwood placed the ball for a goal-kick, turned and back-heeled it sharply. The Rangers’ fans gasped. Blackwood was always doing something unorthodox. Bert Bunting fell over trying to get the ball, but Irwin’s trick beat him. Frankie Nicholson collected the ball and carried it upfield. The Rangers’ forwards started weaving in an attempt to draw the wanderers defence out of position. As Clem Smith tore into the middle, Leslie veered towards the left-wing. Pongo Tate and Rusty Carter swapped positions. The Wanderers appeared to be flummoxed by this swift moving stuff. They were confused and running all ways in an attempt to cover up as Frankie Nicholson pushed the ball up to Leslie. Wilf Tomson blocked the way. He retreated as Leslie came on. He was not going to be lured into a rash tackle. Leslie lobbed the ball over his cousin’s head and ran round him. Out of the goal strode Bakeman to gather the ball. As he tried to gather it, the spin Leslie had put on it brought it back to the inside-right, who gave it a tap across the empty goal. Rusty Carter came tearing in and hit it into the net. Leslie grinned as he heard a remark passed by Arnold Tabbs. “Lummy, who are we playing? Blooming ghosts? Exclaimed the stocky half-back.


Eric Brownlee was fast into the tackle from the restart and got the ball. He feinted as if to give it to Clem Smith, then turned quickly and sent a defence-splitting pass out to Pongo Tate on the right. Pongo took the ball on, then pushed across field to Leslie. Arnold Tabbs closed on Leslie to make his tackle.

Leslie did not use the inside of his left foot to trap the ball. He took it on the outside of his right, flicked it, tapped it, dodged to right to left, and glided past the slithering left-half. Leslie saw Wilf Tomson striding towards him as he moved upfield. Determination blazed in Wilf’s eyes. The cousins thudded together in a charge, and it was Wilf who spun away. Although Leslie looked frail, he was tough and strong. Leslie drew the Wanderers’ defence, and then switching the play again, cracked the ball out to the left. The crowd thundered as Clem Smith raced from the wing and hit the ball in his stride. Then the noise rose to a crescendo as Bakeman, the Wanderers’ goalie, dived and pushed the ball outside the post for a corner. It was a superb save. Nick Smith clapped his hands as he came running back, and waved his players into position. Pongo Tate was picking up the ball to place it for the corner kick when Leslie limped across the field. “I’ll take the kick, Pongo,” he said, and winked. “Ok, Les,” replied Pongo. Leslie walked towards the corner flag. His left leg was hurting him now. Leslie put the ball down and retreated a couple of paces. He was motionless for a moment. His eye was on the spot where he wished to kick. Then he moved forward, and his foot made contact with the ball and swung through. The ball soared into the penalty-area. There was a surge of players towards the penalty-spot. They were starting to jump when the ball changed its flight and swerved towards the goal. Bakeman took a side-step. He opened his hands to catch the ball. It looked easy. Then, at the last moment, the ball swung away from the goalkeeper and drifted into the net. Leslie had scored direct from the corner kick. In the grandstand Dad Moss was on his feet. “I saw it coming – I saw it coming!” he cried in the ear of the Honourable Basil Spenser, the Rangers’ chairman. “I’ve often seen Les practice that corner kick.” From the restart Nick Smith slipped away from Tom Garbutt. Then he flashed the ball down the middle. It was a perfect pass to Vitabella. The Brazilian swung his foot at the ball. He connected. But instead of the leather flashing into the net, it soared high over the bar. Nothing seemed to be going right for Vitabella. Leslie was not surprised when Nick Smith shuffled his forward line. He went to centre-forward himself and sent Vitabella to the left-wing. The Wanderers improved after these changes. Nick Smith blazed in a shot that Blackwood knocked down and grabbed at the second attempt. The goalkeeper ran, bounced the ball, reached the edge of the penalty-area, and hurled the ball to Leslie. As it reached Leslie, Arnold Tabbs charged into the tackle. It was robust but fair. The ball was locked between the two, and the jar of the impact sent a spasm of pain up Leslie’s injured shin-bone. Arnold took the ball away. He passed to Basil Harris, but Walter Wisden dispossessed the winger, and returned the ball to Leslie with a long kick. Leslie pivoted and swept the ball along as he turned. It reached Rusty Carter, and the young centre’s cannonball shot crashed back from the crossbar. Wheeler kicked away to Wilf Tomson, who passed to Bert Bunting. Bunting shot first time. The ball flashed just wide of the goal as Blackwood dived after it. The whistle sounded for half-time a moment later, and the Rangers’ supporters acknowledged their team’s two-nil lead with a prolonged cheer.


The Rangers were first on the field after the interval. Nick Smith and Arnold Tabbs were conversing when the Wanderers made their appearance. Both turned and looked up at the terracing. Following their gaze, Leslie noticed a small group of foreign looking men in blue tunics.

He wondered who on earth they could be. The game had hardly restarted when Frankie Nicholson pushed the ball through to Leslie who made Arnold Tabbs come to him before flashing a pass to Eric Brownlee. Leslie saw his cousin whirl into Brownlee and send him staggering with a hard but fair tackle. It was a sample of what was to follow. The Wanderers’ tackling now had a purposefulness that it had lacked in the first half. The Wanderers were playing very hard, but there was nothing dirty in their methods. Arnold shoved the ball to Nick Smith. Leslie saw Irwin Blackwood yards out of goal as he tore out in his daring and – as he claimed – scientific fashion to narrow the scoring angle. A shiver of apprehension ran through Leslie as he watched Nick Smith lob the ball over Tom Garbutt’s head to Basil Harris still at inside-left. Blackwood made a frantic turn as Harris shot. Wisden raced into goal, and just managed to head clear on the line, with the goalkeeper still well out of position. “Tell Irwin to be careful,” Leslie said to Monk, and the centre-half passed on the message. Within a minute Bunting fired in a long-range shot that Blackwood beat out. Nick Smith ran to the ball and slammed it back. “Ooooh!” moaned the Wanderers’ supporters when the ball hit the post. All Wisden could do with Harris hustling him was to scuffle the ball towards Leslie. Arnold Tabbs made a rush for it. As he hooked the ball, the inside of his boot slashed against Leslie’s shin. Pain shot up Leslie’s leg right to the hip. He had a feeling of sickness in the pit of his stomach. It was an accident, and no foul, but it stopped Leslie dead and Arnold slammed the ball across the field to Bert Bunting. While Leslie gritted his teeth in pain he saw Harris hit the ball past Blackwood into the net from Bunting’s pass. There was a roar of glee from the Blackford supporters that turned into a frantic gasp and then a storm of fury. The referee had given Harris offside. The pain began to leave Leslie, but his leg was partially numb. Leslie sensed danger when Bunting side-footed the ball to Nick Smith. The Wanderers’ captain went weaving through. “Tackle him,” Leslie yelled, and Monk flung himself at the ball, heels furrowing the turf, in a sliding tackle. He took Nick Smith’s feet. Nick staggered, but reached the ball again. However, before he could shoot, the whistle sounded. Angrily, Nick Smith spun round and glared at the referee, who had given a free-kick against Monk just outside the penalty-area. Nick was sore because he felt the official should have applied the advantage rule and let him carry on with the ball when he had a good chance of scoring. A storm of booing from Blackford supporters broke out. Nick Smith gestured to Bunting to take the kick, and the Rangers formed a barrier in front of goal. Leslie could just follow the flight of the ball as it sped from Bunting’s foot. There was a dull thud as the ball struck Tom Garbutt’s head, and the right-half went limp and dropped flat. Garbutt was badly dazed when he was lifted, and had to have attention from the trainer before he could resume. The ball came to Leslie just inside the Wanderers’ half. He could hear the pursuing feet of Arnold Tabbs and swerved to put him off. Leslie had a glimpse of the goal and tried a shot. Leslie watched the ball swerve late in its flight, as he had intended. For an instant he thought he had scored. Then Bakeman’s figure sprang across Leslie’s line of vision, and pushed the ball out for a corner. Pongo Tate caught the ball as it was returned by a ball-boy. He looked questioningly at Leslie, wondering if the inside-right wanted to take the kick. Leslie saw that, after a word with Nick Smith, Wilf Tomson was going into goal to guard against another attempt to score direct from the corner. Leslie signed to Pongo to take the kick himself. The crowd went quite as they waited. The rattles, bells, and whistles went silent. Then Leslie heard music and wondered where it was coming from. It sounded like a South American dance tune. Pongo took the corner and Leslie had a glimpse of a high jumping figure. The player he had forgotten all about took a tremendous leap and headed the ball away. It was Vitabella. He was not content with just heading the ball away. He raced after it, collected it, and strode down the field. Garbutt tried to cut him off, but Vitabella swerved round him and ran on. Leslie watched tensely as the Brazilian turned inwards. Wisden and Wallen were converging on him. Before they could close, Vitabella was through between them. He shot and Blackwood dived after the ball was in the net, so fast was it moving. In the startled hush that followed, Leslie again heard the thump of drums and the South American music. Then there was an explosion of cheering that drowned the music. The Wanderers ran to congratulate Vitabella. He was dancing about with glee. Nick Smith moved Vitabella back to centre-forward. Leslie wondered what on earth Nick was saying to Arnold Tabbs. Both of them grinning as they looked up at the terracing. The blue-coated men had produced instruments and they were playing the music. Vitabella did a little dance to the rhythm of the Samba. The Wanderers attacked. Blackwood saved a cross-shot from Lane. Leslie moved back to help the defence. He wished his leg were less stiff and painful. Leslie heard the crowd start to chant in time with the music. The sound grew louder. It was filling the stadium to the exclusion of all other noise when Harris centred the ball. Before Monk could close on him. Vitabella sprang a yard and took the ball on the volley. It whistled into the net like a rocket. “It’s that blooming tune,” Pongo said to Leslie as the Blackford fans roared their delight at the equaliser. “It’s done something to Vitabella.” At the pip of the whistle, Rusty rolled the ball to Leslie. He turned, put the ball back to the left-half, and raced ahead. Nicholson lobbed the ball into the space in front of Leslie. Arnold Tabbs raced for the ball. Leslie set his teeth as his leg hurt and tried to get to it. Tabbs beat him by inches and took the ball away. As the game went on the crowd had thrill after thrill. Rusty got in a shot that Bakeman just held. He pushed it to Wilf Tomson who kicked down the middle. Nick Smith got under the ball and beat Garbutt, who looked slow. Monk and Wallen converged on Vitabella. “Mark Bunting,” Leslie yelled, but the din drowned his voice. Nick Smith passed to the unmarked Bunting. In spite of a heroic plunge by Blackwood Bunting’s shot hit the back of the net. The game was scarcely restarted when the whistle gave a long blast for time, and the Wanderers were through to the Cup Final. It was not to be the Rangers’ Cup year after all. Leslie felt a crushing sense of disappointment as he limped with his hand out to congratulate Nick Smith. “What came over Vitabella?” he asked. “He likes the music,” Nick grinned. “I never expected to be beaten by a tune,” Leslie said. “Best of lick in the Final.” “Best of luck for the First Division championship!” exclaimed Nick for the Rangers still had a chance of topping the First League table. Leslie limped despondently into the dressing-room. Dad Moss flushed with anger. “I’ve found out that the Samba band was rushed over from South America to play that tune for Vitabella and remind him of home,” he snapped. “It isn’t right.” “No, Dad, on second thoughts it wasn’t the Samba tune that beat us,” Leslie said. “I’d like to know what did,” Moss snapped. “Two things,” Leslie answered. “The knock that Tom Garbutt took on the head slowed him down. Tom would have stopped Vitabella on his first rush if he hadn’t been dazed.” “What was the second thing,” Moss demanded. “My leg,” Leslie growled. “It was numb most of the second half. That’s why I couldn’t get to the ball when Frankie lobbed it ahead. If I’d beaten Arnold Tabbs that time I would have scored. “Still, there’s no good crying over spilt milk. This defeat should make us fight all the harder to win the First Division championship.”

Limp Along Leslie 18 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1302 – 1313 (1951)

Limp Along Leslie 37 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1333 - 1369 (1951 – 1952)

Limp Along Leslie 35 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1386 - 1420 (1952 - 1953)

Limp Along Leslie in Summer 3 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1429 - 1430 (1953)

The Wild Man of the Rangers 34 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1439 - 1472 (1953 - 1954)

He Never Said a Word 20 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1490 - 1509 (1954 - 1955)

Limp Along Leslie 9 episodes appeared in The Wizard issues 1541 - 1549 (1955)

Limp Along Leslie 52 episodes (Reprint of two series) appeared in The Wizard issues 1740 – 1791 (1959 - 1960)

Mister Ninety Minutes 34 episodes (Reprint of The Wild Man of the Rangers) appeared in The Wizard issues 1854 – 1887 (1961 - 1962)

© D. C. Thomson & Co Ltd 

Vic Whittle 2003