Team-mates pay tribute to 'incredible character' as keeper Green dies
FORMER team-mates have paid tribute to ex-Derby County goalkeeper Les Green, who has died aged 70.
Green was a key figure in the Rams team that won the Division Two title in 1968-69.
He kept 19 clean sheets that season and was ever-present, along with Roy McFarland and John Robson.
Born in Atherstone, Green started out at Atherstone Town before going on to play for Hull City, Nuneaton Borough, Burton Albion, Hartlepools United and Rochdale.
Brian Clough and Peter Taylor had worked with Green at Hartlepools and paid Rochdale £7,000 to sign him for Derby in May 1968.
He made 129 consecutive appearances for the Rams before he lost his place to Colin Boulton in January 1971.
His final game for Derby was in a 4-4 draw against Manchester United at the Baseball Ground on Boxing Day 1970. He never played League football again.
John McGovern was a team-mate of Green at Hartlepools and Derby.
He described Green as an "incredible character" and added: "I went to see him a few days ago and he was in a poor way but I'm glad I went, because we managed to have a last couple of laughs together. He was an incredible character.
"When I was a kid at Hartlepools, he used to come back in the afternoon and help me do some extra training.
"He was one of the senior pros who helped me a lot early in my career – and I appreciated that."
Green died in the Loros Hospice, near Leicester, on Monday night after a battle with cancer.
Roy McFarland played centre-half in front of Green and remembers a fine goalkeeper and also somebody who kept a smile on the faces of his team-mates.
"Les was so positive with us and especially the younger players like myself, John Robson, Jim Walker and John McGovern. He would encourage us all the time," said McFarland.
"He would always be ribbing John McGovern and Jim Walker, who were on the slim side. He'd say to them: 'You're like two wish-bones – get some meat on you!'
"He would get them in a playful headlock and he was that strong, you couldn't move. He got me in one once, so I know.
"My abiding memory of Les is that he loved being among the group of players. He idolised Dave Mackay and loved being on the same team sheet with a legend like Dave.
"Les was a great character. He was the comic, the comedian, the one who kept a smile on all of our faces."
Alan Durban, like McFarland, was already at Derby when Green arrived.
"It's very sad news to hear that Les has died," said Durban. "He signed for us and proved himself as a magnificent keeper.
"He was short for a keeper (around 5ft 8in) but was brilliant and a great kicker of the ball. Peter Taylor was obsessed with keepers who could use the ball well, either by kicking it or throwing it, and Les could do both.
"I remember he had a great rapport with Dave Mackay and there was some great banter between them.
"He was in at the start of Derby's climb under Clough and Taylor.
"Les was a bit of a comedian.
"I recall one time when we were away at Bisham Abbey in Marlow. We had been for a drink at the Bull Inn and we were walking back in the dark.
"Les had left earlier, saying he felt unwell or something, but he decided to hide in a tree. As we walked past, he jumped out of the tree and on to Alan Hinton's back. It frightened the life out of Ally."
After leaving the Rams, Green went on to play for Durban City in South Africa and was part of the team that won the National Football League in 1972.
A broken leg ended his playing career and when he returned to England, he became commercial manager and then manager of Nuneaton Borough.
He also managed Hinckley Town and Tamworth.