Hall of Heroes: Graham Leggat

My favourite ever Fulham player is our all-time record goalscorer, Gordon Davies. I’m fortunate to be of an age to have witnessed his entire career and although we’ve undoubtedly had better players since ( no offence Ivor), nobody has come close to usurping him as my hero. It wasn’t just his goals that endeared him to me but they certainly helped.  After all, everyone loves a goal scorer. Johnny Haynes and Bedford Jezzard are tucked just behind Davies in the list but a little further back in 4th lies arguably the greatest goal scorer in the club’s history.

Graham Leggat was born in Aberdeen in 1935 and joined his hometown club whilst also training to be a P.E.teacher. He was quickly thrown into the Dons first team making his debut in 1953 and immediately made a distinct impression with his speed and agility. He had the dribbling skills of a winger as well as the predatory instincts of a natural striker so was comfortable playing anywhere in the forward line. He helped Aberdeen reach the League Cup Final in 1954 and went one step further the following season when he was instrumental in their winning of the Scottish League title. In 1956 he scored an amazing 29 goals in his 29 league games and also got the winner in the League Cup final against St Mirren. It was, therefore, no surprise he was called up to the National team and was awarded his debut against the old enemy England at Hampden Park. Instant hero status was achieved when he put the Scots ahead with a sublime finish which looked for all the world to be a winner until a certain Johnny Haynes popped up to save England a minute from time. Happily, for the Fulham faithful, it wouldn’t be the last time their paths crossed.

Leggat continued to deliver excellent performances at Aberdeen although he was dogged by injury including breaking his leg halfway through the 1957-8 season, an injury that looked like it would thwart his dream of appearing at the World Cup that summer. However, Leggatt’s natural athleticism and the knowledge he’d acquired in P.E. assisted his recovery and having proved his fitness he made the squad and played in 2 of Scotland’s 3 matches at the tournament. English clubs had been sniffing for a while but it was Second Division Fulham who tempted Aberdeen to cash in on his talent that summer for what was to prove a ridiculously bargain fee of £17,000.

With the maestro himself Johnny Haynes pulling the strings Fulham had been scoring goals for fun for a while and Leggat slotted straight into the line up like a dream. He scored in each of his first six games ( all victories) and went on to notch 21of our 96 goals, including a hat trick at Middlesbrough as we romped to promotion. If the First Division was a daunting prospect Leggat didn’t let it show as his 18 goals left him comfortably top scorer and helped us to a healthy 10th place finish. When it was his day he could be unplayable and he often got his goals in batches. He got a hat-trick in a 3-3 draw at Old Trafford that season and 4 in a 5-0 thrashing of Leeds at the Cottage.

That first season was to prove a high water mark in Fulham’s stay in the top flight in the 1960’s as thereafter we embarked on a regular struggle to survive. As an individual though Leggat went from strength to strength. In 1960-1 he increased his tally to 23 in just 36 games which included two more hat tricks against Bolton and Leicester. The following year looked desperate as a run of 11 successive defeats in midseason left us staring relegation in the face. We revived just in time though with Leggat’s final tally of 14 being instrumental in us dodging the bullet of relegation by a single point. He also scored in the FA Cup semi-final against high flying Burnley where an outrageous refereeing decision denied us a clear penalty and a trip to Wembley.

Leggat scored 10 the following season which was a poor return by his standards but certainly respectable enough as we finished a mammoth 7 points clear of the drop. Perhaps he was building up to Boxing Day of the following season as we welcomed Ipswich to the Cottage in December 1963. It may have been that the Tractor Boys of that vintage had overindulged in Christmas Pudding but it was Fulham who helped themselves that day as we marched to a 10-1 win; the club’s record victory. Maurice Cook put us ahead before Leggat etched his name in the record books with a hat trick timed in just under 4 minutes.  Graham got a 4th for himself just before the end which took us into double figures. We certainly peaked that day as in true Fulhamish fashion we went to Portman Road 2 days later and lost the return fixture 4-2. Leggat’s 4 that Boxing Day helped him to a final total of 15 League goals as we ended the season in a comfortable 15th.

Graham was hampered with injury in 1964-5 and scored just 4 goals in his 17 appearances but was fortunately fit again the next season to play his full part in our great escape. A run of just 1 win in 14 games in mid-season had made relegation look inevitable – in fact, that sole victory had been down to Leggat getting the only goal against Arsenal on New Year’s Day. The revival started with a stunning victory over Champions elect Liverpool and we went on to take 20 points from the final 13 games ( 2 for a win) as we overtook Northampton in the nick of time to beat the drop. Leggat’s contribution that season was in just 32 games and although he was now the wrong side of 30 he remained a vital component of the lineup.

His age was to act against him through the next season as our misguided and unloved manager of the time Vic Buckingham sought to get the age of the side down. Leggat was still doing the business but Buckingham preferred to go with the younger legs of Allan Clarke and Steve Earle. Reasonable enough in theory but Leggat’s value to the squad was clear when injury prompted his recall for the Christmas fixture with Leicester. Graham rifled a hat trick in a 4-2 win and got another brace in a 4-1 win at Stoke on New Year’s Eve. They were to prove his last two appearances for the club as inexplicably he was sold to Birmingham a few days later. It was a sad way for Leggat’s Fulham career to finish and it was to do neither party any good. Leggat scored just 3 goals for the Blues as he struggled for a regular place and he was to move on to Rotherham notching 7 goals for them before retiring from playing. Unsurprisingly Fulham didn’t benefit from his loss and although we survived in 1966-67 we finally lost our place in the top flight the year after; a position that took us 33 years to recover.

Leggat went into coaching after retirement and went to Canada in 1971 to manage the Toronto Metros. After coaching he moved into journalism and TV presenting and became a familiar and much-loved figure with the Canadian public. Graham sadly passed in 2015 but remains fondly thought of by Fulham fans; especially those who had the great pleasure of seeing him play. As I said earlier he is arguably our greatest ever goalscorer as the vast majority of his goals were scored in the top flight. Indeed he is the only Fulham player to score 100 goals in the top Division, a feat that is likely to remain unsurpassed (although as I write Mitro has only 97 to go). We can dream!