Former Preston North End winger Les Campbell passes away

Former Preston North End winger Les Campbell has died aged 84.

By Dave Seddon
Tuesday, 12th November 2019, 11:45 am
Les Campbell during his Preston debut against Wolves at Molineux
Les Campbell during his Preston debut against Wolves at Molineux

Campbell was understudy to Sir Tom Finney for much of his time at Deepdale and made 64 league appearances for North End.

After leaving PNE to sign for Blackpool, Campbell was a team-mate of another wing wizard, Sir Stanley Matthews.

One of his appearances for the Lilywhites came against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, the day the iconic ‘splash’ photo of Sir Tom sliding on a waterlogged pitch was taken.

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Les Campbell pictured in 2013 with the boots he wore on his Preston debut in 1953

Another game he almost played in but didn’t, was the 1954 FA Cup final.

He had been on standby to replace Sir Tom who had an injury.

In an interview with the Lancashire Post in 2013, Campbell looked back on the final which Preston lost 3-2 against West Bromwich Albion.

Campbell said: “A couple of weeks before the final Scott Symon whispered in my ear.

“He said to me, ‘Look after yourself, Tom’s not fit’.

“Tom was having treatment morning, noon and night to get fit, but he couldn’t get fit.

“But when it came to the day of the final, Tom played and I didn’t.”

Born in Wigan, Campbell played from a young age for the Wigan Boys’ Club.

After a number of league clubs showed interest in signing him, he joined Wigan Athletic who were in the Lancashire Combination.

Playing part-time enabled him to train as an electrician.

It was from Wigan that Preston signed him.

Campbell made his North End debut in October 1953 against Wolves at Molineux, in place of Sir Tom.

His first goal for Preston came the next season against Sheffield United.

Campbell (left) was only 5ft 2in and that led to him being on the end of a joke from Tommy Docherty before one game.

“We played Arsenal at Highbury and Tommy Doc must have gone before me and had a word with one of the policeman guarding the entrance,” said Campbell.

“He’d pointed at me to the policeman and said, ‘That little boy has been following me all morning’.

“When I tried to get in, the policeman stopped me.

“He replied, ‘No you’re not, you’re just after autographs’.

“I ended up nearly missing kick-off.”

After his time playing for Blackpool, Campbell went on to play for Tranmere Rovers and then rejoined Wigan.

He helped Wigan win the Cheshire League title in the 1964/65 season.