Latcham returns as half time guest

Last updated : 06 December 2002 By Tony Scholes

It was against Manchester United that Les made his debut for the Clarets as a left-winger in February 1965. That was at Old Trafford and we lost the game 3-2 with our goals coming from David Walker and Willie Irvine.

Les was not in the team the following week when we returned for an FA Cup tie but he will be remembered by many for his games against them, and one player in particular.

He was a versatile player and despite making his debut at outside-left he did in the end settle into the left-back position replacing Alex Elder when the Irish international moved on to Stoke City.

He came up against a certain George Best on a number of occasions in the battles against United and despite Best being considered the top player in the country it is more than fair to say that Latcham came out on top in every contest.

He would mark Best closely giving him no room whatsoever and not once was the United winger able to get the better of him. In fact so much so that had we not seen him on television the Burnley fans would never have seen anything to impress them about Best.

But Les Latcham didn’t just play well against the one side and eventually became a regular in the Burnley side in the left-back position establishing himself in a good First Division team.

He was a reliable player, not matter what the position, and he returned from Italy in 1967 after the Battle of Naples with his head swathed in bandages. Incredibly Latcham’s injury had been a complete accident after a clash of heads with Altafini. It caused him to miss just one match though, the following Saturday at Blackpool.

In 1969 he found himself a new position in the side. On the opening day of the 1969/70 season Burnley held newly promoted Derby County to a 0-0 draw at the Baseball Ground. Debutant Peter Mellor didn’t see the 90 minutes through and with not long left had to be replaced. It was Les Latcham who went in goal and kept the Derby forwards at bay as the clock ticked down.

He was one of a number of players released after relegation at the end of the 1970/71 season and he moved on to Plymouth where he spent two years playing in midfield before returning north to end his professional career with Bradford City.

Les Latcham was a very good player for Burnley in the late 60s and far too good for George best – maybe he should be receiving the lifetime achievement award.