Leicester City “Brits Abroad”, Besiktas, Barcelona, Hellenic FC and DC United

Not to be talking down the life of Premier League and English football, but often as soon as players are leaving Britain they are of the radar, and some of the former Leicester City players did just that and experienced a life in football that few would imagine was possible.

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English footballers are the most educated players in the game as the tradition of learning football is based in Britain. There could be others saying that the game has come further in other countries but the tradition and knowledge is based on those “learning books” coming from the English founders.

Gordon Banks might be the most remarkable of the lot as he turned out for clubs in South Africa and in USA, being a guest at Hellenic FC, playing three games for the NFL club in 1971. He also turned out for Cleveland Stokers in 1967, managed by the Stoke manager Tony Waddington. Maurice Setters, Peter Dobing and George Eastham were other players in the party. But Gordon Banks return to football five years after his retirement at Stoke City might be more to talk about. When he in 1977 going into his 40’s, coming out of retirement and playing with only sight on one eye, is in itself astonishing, but to then be voted best goalkeeper of the league and setting a new record of most clean sheets in the history of that league is just remarkable.

So to see players go abroad and find new life in other countries is nothing new, and often based on the fact that an English manager has been appointed which was the case in many of these moves happening.

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If you look back in time and the first real adventure of English footballers going abroad they made moves to Italy, South Africa and to the NASL in the 60’s and 70’s. Few have talked about the amount of British players to move to South Africa and the “All White” league NFL. You had a number of former Leicester City players who turned out as guests for clubs down there. Frank McLintock, Derek Dougan Gordon Banks and Frank Worthington all had spells in South African football. Worthington played in the late 80’s, at the time when the league no longer was segregated.

NASL and American Soccer had long before Pelè attracted players of all kinds and of course British players were popular. Frank Large, Gordon Banks and Derek Dougan were all “over the pond” playing before the days of the great Brazilian. Andy Lochhead who had a short spell at Leicester City in the late 60’s were also one of the early sailors.

NASL clubs had mostly British managers and then easy to recruit people they knew from before. Everyone heard about Pelè and George Best moving there, but a great number of former Leicester City players also made the move. Len Glover, Keith Weller, Frank Worthington, Jon Sammels, Larry May, Dean Smith, Steve Kember, Alan Birchenall, Steve Earle, Brian Alderson, Roger Davies, Billy Hughes and David Nish all had spells in the NASL, either after, under or before joining Leicester City. Derek Strickland, Martin Henderson, John Ridley, Lammie Robertson, Gary Mills and Alan Lee are other examples of “Brits Abroad” that also played for Leicester City.

Some experienced greatness and had more success than at Leicester City, while others didn’t see much glory on their journeys out and away. Gary Mills and Roger Davies both appeared in the 1982 Soccer Bowl final but sadly lost to New York Cosmos. Jon Sammels had the same experience while at Vancouver Whitecaps but was an unused sub in the final a few years earlier.

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From the teams constructed and build by Jock Wallace and Gordon Milne, we all know the move of Gary Lineker to Barcelona and later to Japan and Nagoya Grampus Eight. Ian Wilson joined Gordon Milne at Besiktas and experienced the thrill of winning the Turkish league and cup. Leicester City did recruit Laurie Cunningham who had spells at Real Madrid, Marseille, Sporting Gijon and Rayo Vallecano.

Stan Collymore had a short and unbreakable time at Leicester City, and before hanging up his boots he moved to Real Oviedo. In recent time we have seen players such as Iain Hume, Marcus Bent and Steve Guppy all moving out to clubs abroad.

Les Ferdinand had a short loan spell with Besiktas and this was under the time Gordon Milne had his successful period at the Turkish club. Ferdinand joined Leicester City for a season many years later.

Sean St. Ledger left Leicester City for Ipswich Town, but his spell at Portman Road never led to anything and a chance to play in the MLS appeared, turning out for Orlando City and Colorado Rapids. Jack Barmby also jumped at a chance to play in the MLS, so did Ryan Smith who Leicester City had on loan from Arsenal.

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Jordan Stewart is another player who had his spell in the MLS, playing for San Jose Earthquakes for a number of seasons. He also had a spell in Greece playing for Skoda Xanthi. Tony Sealy did the most of his move to Hong Kong and has since his playing days settled and today an influential figure in the game over there, with his son representing the nation internationally.

Frank Worthington also among those “Brits Abroad” to have played in Scandinvia representing Mjällby from Sweden. Gary Ford and George Armstrong both played football above the polar circle, representing Norwegian clubs Tromso (Ford) and FK Mjolner (Armstrong).

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George Thomas recently joined Ado Den Haag on loan, and with the current siste club Leuven based in Belgium a number of players have gone there to get more experience.  One of them was Elliott Moore who joined Oxford United this season.

Julian Joachim did also move abroad in his “swansong days” turning out in Gibraltar recently, representing Europa Point, but is now back in England and out and about with Bourne Town a club residing in the 9th tier of English football. Julian is at 45 still continuing in the game, astonishing and almost as impressive as his fantastic goals scored for Leicester City in his early days more than 25 years ago.

A few former Brits of Leicester City made the move to Australia and New Zealand. Examples are Emile Heskey and Scot Gemmill who both had spells “Down Under”.  Spencer Prior was also at a time at Newcastle Jets, but mostly been in a coaching capacity in the Far East and Australia. Matt Elliott also had a spell out and about in a coaching capacity.

Former Leicester City trainee Alie Sesay, born in Enfield, has also made his career a travelling football adventure, been playing in Sweden, Greece, Bulgaria and recently moved to play for Zira in Azerbaijan.

Harry Panayiotou is back in England representing Aldershot Town at present, he recently returned from a spell in Greece with Aittitos Spata. Tony Cottee who we remember from the MON days was signed from Malaysian club Selangor, where the England international spent a few months in between his life in the English game.

A recent move abroad was currently made by Michael Cain, joining Thai club Bankhai United. Cain was seen as a massive talent but never made it to the first team at Leicester City and has since his departure been playing in non-league before his new adventure taking place.

Kevin Ball who joined Leicester City from Manchester City never played a full league game at Leicester City, but during his better days in football represented PSV Eindhoven in the Dutch league for a couple of seasons. Darius Vassell joined Leicester City from Turkish club Ankaragucu. Leicester born Jorrin John did also have a spell abroad playing a few games for Slovakian club NK Domzale.

It might be more “Brits Abroad” among those former foxes, but this was our list and update of those we can remember and collect.


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