Writer: Peverell Green
Date:Monday May 6 2013
Peverell Green's Where Are They Now series travels back to the 1920s to take a look at the career of Jack Leslie.
JACK LESLIE - Born 17th August 1901 Canning Town, London.
Jack, the son of a Jamaican father was born in the same year Queen Victoria died; at a time when anything but a white skin could be considered the exception, even in the East End of London.
At one time he was the only black professional footballer playing in England.
He began his football career with his local club Barking Town where he soon became a prolific goalscorer, putting the ball in the net on over 250 occasions.
Jack's talent brought him to the attention of Argyle's manager Bob Jack and in 1921 he joined the club.
He made his debut on 19th November in a 0-0 draw at home to Merthyr Town.
Scoring his first goal for the club on 18th April 1923 in a 2-0 win over Gillingham at Home Park, with Jack Fowler scoring the first goal, his only other goals that season came in the last home game against Brentford when he scored two with Jack Fowler again getting the other Argyle goal.
For the first two seasons Jack spent at Home Park he was used sparingly, playing only nine times in his first season and seven in the second with the youngster being kept out of the team by regular goalscorers Frank Richardson and Jack Fowler.
In 1923-24 Jack became more of a regular in the first team, playing 17 games and scoring five goals. The first coming on Christmas Day when he score last goal in a 4-0 thrashing of Exeter City at Home Park, Percy Cherrett (2) and Cecil Eastwood also scoring.
They repeated the score on Boxing Day, once again beating City this time at St.James Park Jack didn't score again until Easter Saturday 19th April at home against Aberdare, scoring the first goal in a 2-0 win.
Over the Easter period Argyle, like most other clubs played three games in four days, Argyle did well, winning two and drawing the other of their holiday games.
Jack again got the first goal in a 3-0 home win over Brighton with Billy Baker and Frank Sloan also on the scoresheet.
His final goals came in the last game of the season in the 7-1 humiliation of Southend at Home Park, a Frank Sloan hat trick and two each from Jack and Percy Cherrett sending the Essex team home in disgrace.
September 6th 1924 saw the debut of a man who along with Jack would form a scoring partnership that would be feared by defenders throughout football. Sammy Black had arrived.
The first match they played in ended in a 7-1 hammering of Brentford at home Jack scored twice and Sammy once. Jack scored twice in successive matches, both ending in 3-2 Argyle wins, the first away to Brighton and the following Saturday at home to Bristol Rovers.
In March former England centre forward Jack Cock joined the club, further adding to Argyle's firepower.
On Good Friday Argyle destroyed Bristol City 7-1 at Home Park with Jack scoring a hat trick and Sammy Black and Jack Cock also scoring. The season ended at the previous one had with a home game against Southend and once again Argyle won by six clear goals Sammy and the two Jack's all scoring once in a 6-0 win. Jack ended the season as leading goalscorer with 14 goals.
You almost have to feel sorry for Southend they played Argyle on the opening day of the new season, and again conceded six goals, this time losing 6-2 with all three of Argyle's ace marksmen scoring. I don't suppose anyone reading this has ever seen a game end 6-2, well they followed that up five days later by beating Crystal Palace by exactly the same score, and once again all three got on the scoresheet.
Three days later Argyle went to Norwich and won 3-0, no prizes for guessing the three goalscorers.
With the season only one week old Argyle had score fifteen goals with the two Jack's and Sammy scoring thirteen of them, in fact throughout the season at least one of the three scored in 28 different games.
Further big wins followed, Aberdare were despatched 7-2 with all three scoring and Bournemouth were also beaten 7-2 with our super strikers scoring two each. By the time the season had finished they scored an incredible 68 goals between the three of them with Argyle scoring 107 league goals.
1926-27 continued to see goals from the team's three main strikers. Jack scored the first goal in a 2-0 home win over Exeter on Christmas Day with Fred Forbes also scoring, the game was watched by a crowd of 14,000 which, considering it was a local derby was only Argyle's sixth best home gate of the season. Argyle also won the reverse fixture in Exeter the next day by the same score. Argyle continued to take part in high scoring games.
They beat Aberdare 6-5 away with Jack scoring once and Sammy Black and Jack Cock twice each. All three were again on the scoresheet when Crystal Palace were thrashed 7-1 at Home Park with Jack scoring a hat trick, Jack Cock getting two and Sammy one. The two Jack's and Sammy scored 57 of Argyle's 95 goals for the season.
With Jack Cock departing for Millwall early in the 1927-28 season it was down to Jack and Sammy to get the goals, ably assisted by Fred Forbes.
The club continued to score plenty, scoring four goals in a game on six occasions and five goals twice.
At the end of the season a new young striker was given his chance to shine and with four goals in two games the future Arsenal and England star Raymond Bowden had arrived was about to join Jack and Sammy terrorising defenders.
Argyle started the season scoring goals, the first two games were at home, they beat Merthyr 4-0 with Ray scoring twice and Jack getting the fourth goal, the followed that up by beating Swindon 3-0 Sammy scoring twice and Jack once.
A 5-2 beating of Newport at Home Park saw Jack score two of the goals with two more coming in the 3-0 home win over Coventry after Ray had scored the first goal.
Christmas Day saw Jack get two at home to Gillingham in a 3-0 win. He scored both goals in a 2-0 win at Brentford. The season ended with a 2-0 win at home to Bournemouth with Jack and Ray both scoring their 22nd goal of the season to end up joint leading goalscorers.
Not content with already having three of the most feared strikers in football, in 1929 Argyle manager Bob Jack added Jack Vidler to his team.
Such was their dominance over opposition defenders of the 42 league games at least one of the four scored in 34 games, and in three of the 42 Argyle failed to score.
They also scored in three of the four FA Cup matches that season.
It was no wonder Argyle ended up as runaway champions, finishing ten points in front of Brentford and twenty in front of third placed QPR and were also the divisions leading goalscorers with 98.
Argyle started in their first ever season in Division 2 with a home game against Everton watched by their largest ever crowd at that time of 34,326.
Argyle went down 3-2 with Jack scoring the second goal, it was a result that turned out to be a reasonable start as Everton won the division by seven points scoring a massive 121 goals in doing it. Argyle fans turned out in force to support their team, a Boxing Day crowd of 31,106 saw them beat Cardiff 5-1 with Jack scoring once and Sammy getting two. Their third best crowd at Home Park of 24,549 saw them beat Spurs 2-0.
1931-32 saw Jack again show his goalscoring talents after two seasons of being a goal provider for his colleagues. He scored a hat-trick in a 3-3 home draw against Bradford City and went one better a month later when he scored four in a 5-1 home win over Nottingham Forest. In January all four of Argyle strikers got on the scoresheet in an 8-1 drubbing of Millwall at Home Park, a Jack Vidler hat trick, Ray Bowden two and one each for Jack and Sammy. With an own goal finishing the Londoners off.
Jack got another two against Spurs in a 4-1 home win, Sammy and Jack Vidler also scoring. Another two goals came in a 5-0 win over Oldham. As well as beating Manchester United 3-1 in the league they also beat them 4-1 in the FA Cup setting up a fourth round tie against the mighty Arsenal at Highbury, even though the Gunners scored four Argyle left the 65,386 crowd impressed with their footballing skills after goals from the two Jack's, Vidler and Leslie made the score respectable.
Once again when the season ended Jack and Ray Bowden finished as leading goalscorers with 21 goals each.
Although Jack was thirty at the start of the 1932-33 season his goalscoring ability hadn't left him. He scored in the opening home game, a 4-0 win over Grimsby with Sammy Black (2) and Tommy Grozier also scoring.
He finished the season as he had started with a goal, this time a 4-1 home win over West Ham with goals from Eugene Melaniphy, Tommy Grozier and an own goal sending 10,444 fans home happy before the summer break.
With age now catching up on him Jack was used more sparingly, in 1933-34 he only made eleven appearances after being an almost ever present for the previous nine seasons.
He still managed to score two goals, the first coming on September 9th in a 1-1 draw at home to Brentford and the other for that season a week later when he scored Argyle's second goal in a 2-2 draw at Burnley, Sammy Black got the other.
1934-35 was Jack's last at the club, he only made one appearance, his 401st for the club, and of course he made it a farewell to remember by scoring.
On 29th December 1934 Argyle beat Fulham 3-1 at Home Park, inevitably Sammy Black also scored, getting the first, Jack scored the second and Tommy Grozier finished the scoring. It was Jack's 137th goal he had scored in the green shirt of Argyle.
At a time when a lot of footballers would only stay one or two seasons at a club before moving on, it's worth mentioning the players Jack played with on over one hundred occasions. Sammy Black 327 games, Fred Craig 228 Alec Hardie 216, Norman Mackay 197, Moses Russell 196, Fred McKenzie 179, John Pullen 169, Fred Titmus 158, Fred Forbes 154, Tommy Grozier 142, Ray Bowden, 137, Jimmy Logan 136, Alf Matthews 134, Frank Sloan 127, Bob Preston 110 and Harry Roberts 107.
After retiring from football Jack had a spell as a publican in Cornwall before returning to East London to become a boilermaker.
In his later years he worked as part of the backroom staff at West Ham, working in the boot room.
Jack passed away in 1988 in London. The end of a true Argyle legend.
It wouldn't be possible to write about Jack's life without recounting the shameful incident that befell him at the height of his goalscoring powers in the late 1920s.
He was unexpectedly called into Bob Jack's office and told by his manager he had been selected to play for England, obviously he was overjoyed, both for himself and his club. Unfortunately when the team was announced in the papers a couple of days later his name was omitted and he had been replaced by Billy Walker of Aston Villa. It later emerged the reason he didn't play was that FA officials hadn't known, as they said 'he was a man of colour'.
It would be almost fifty years before Viv Anderson became the first black player to wear an England shirt.
Date:Monday May 6 2013
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