Leigh Richmond Roose - Goalkeeper
Leigh Roose - Football's first Playboy.
Leigh Richmond "Dick" Roose, (27 November 1877 – 7 October 1916) was a Welsh international footballer who kept goal for a number of professional clubs in the Football League between 1901 and 1912. A celebrated amateur at a time when the game was played largely by professionals, Roose was renowned as one of the best players in his position in the Edwardian period. He was also well known as a footballing eccentric, and many stories about him are still told today.
Roose was born in Holt, near Wrexham in Wales, at a time when association football was principally confined to the north of the country. Roose was raised by his father, a Presbyterian minister named Richmond Leigh Roose, following the death of his mother from cancer when he was two years old. He was educated at Holt Academy – where in the course of one violent football match, Roose's brother Edward kicked H. G. Wells, then a teacher at the school, so hard in the back that he ruptured the future novelist's kidney and left him incapacitated for several weeks. On leaving school in 1895, he went on to study atAberystwyth University.
After graduating from Aberystwyth, Roose studied medicine for a short period at King's College London. Although accounts of Roose often refer to him as a doctor of bacteriology, he never qualified as a doctor.
Standing 6–ft 1 in and weighing over 13 stone, Roose was well qualified to play in goal, a specialised position that was, in the Edwardian era, particularly physically challenging.
He began his footballing career in 1895 with Aberystwyth Town, playing for the club on 85 occasions. His debut came in a 6–0 win over the Shropshire team Whitchurch in October 1895, and he was carried from the pitch shoulder-high following the team's 3–0 victory over Druids in the Welsh Cup final of 1900. It was during this phase of his career that Roose was seen playing by the eminent Welsh historian Thomas Richards, who would later refer to him as Yr Ercwlff synfawr hwn ("This wondrousHercules").
Signed by Stoke, Roose made 147 league appearances for the Staffordshire club from 1901–1904 and 1905–1906 – the latter spell, consisting of only three games, being terminated by a broken wrist. Roose kept 40 clean sheets (that is, did not concede a goal) during his Stoke career, a remarkable record not least because his team flirted dangerously with relegation in 1901, 1902 and 1904.
'Mond Roose punctuated his two spells at Stoke with 24 appearances for Everton, whom he helped reach the semi-final of the FA Cupin 1905. He arrived part way through the 1904–05 season and replaced the Irish goalkeeper Billy Scott, who had conceded 17 goals in the first 12 games of the season. Roose kept 8 clean sheets for Everton, a record proportionately better even than that he had set at Stoke.
After leaving Everton, Roose went on to play in 91 league matches and seven cup games for Sunderland between 1907 and 1910, helping the club to finish second in the league on two occasions, and "almost single-handedly" saving the team from relegation on a third. When his Sunderland career was terminated by a second broken wrist, there was some call for Roose's services to be recognised with a testimonial. Since the player's amateur status forbade this, an illuminated address was presented instead.
In the course of his career, Roose also turned out for Port Vale and Celtic (both 1910). He played one game for Celtic, and it was a Scottish Cup semi-final in which Celtic lost 1–3 to Clyde on 12 March 1910. He made his mark on this game by running after the goalscorer of one of the Clyde goals and shaking his hand! Other clubs he represented on at least one occasion included Druids,Huddersfield Town (1910–1911), Aston Villa (1911) and Woolwich Arsenal (1911–1912).
Roose retained his amateur status throughout his club career, but charged his clubs handsomely for his expenses.
Roose's international career began in 1900, when he played for Wales in a 2–0 defeat of Ireland. He won a total of 24 caps, turning out for his last international game againstScotland in March 1911. He was one of Wales's key players when the team won the British Home Championship for the first time in 1907. Since Wales did not play their first international match against an opponent from outside the Home Nations until 1933, all of Roose's games were played against England, Scotland or Ireland. He also appeared for Wales Amateurs.
Stories told of Roose
Tales of Roose's eccentricities appeared frequently in newspapers and books published during his career. Some have been picked up by later writers and repeated many times, particularly in books concerning goalkeeping. A good deal of further research would be necessary to verify the truth of some of the stories, but the following were commonly told while Roose himself was still alive.
- While playing for Stoke, Roose was reputed to have missed a train that was due to take him from London to a game at Aston Villa. In the years before World War I, railway companies kept private trains ready at a platform for hire by wealthy travellers. Roose engaged such a train and had it take him, in solitary splendour, all the way toBirmingham at a cost of 5/- a mile plus the ordinary fare. Upon arrival, he arranged for the resultant £31 bill – a fortune at the time – to be sent on to his club.
- When the Football League requested a copy of the expenses claim Roose had submitted to the Sunderland club, the account that arrived at their headquarters listed, as its first item, "Using the toilet (twice), 2d." [2 old pence]
- On 23 April 1910, Roose, by then a very famous former Stoke player, guested – along with Herbert Chapman – for Port Vale in a match against Stoke Reserves that would decide the winner of the North Staffordshire and District League. Roose not only insisted on playing against his former club while wearing his old Stoke shirt, but aroused the ire of the 7,000 strong crowd with his breathtaking play. He "saved every shot with such arrogant ease that the furious crowd spilled onto the field, only the brave intervention of the local constabulary saving him from a ducking in the River Trent." In the course of the same fracas, Stoke's chairman, the Reverend A.E. Hurst, ran onto the pitch to appeal for calm and was knocked out by one of his own forwards. The result was appealed to the Staffordshire FA, which declared the championship void, and Stoke's ground was closed for the first fortnight of the 1910–11 season. Roose is reported to have said, in his own defence, that he had believed the game to be a friendly and had not realised a championship was at stake.
- Playing for Stoke against Liverpool at Anfield on 4 January 1902, Roose, along with his team-mates, unwittingly ate a lunch of tainted fish. By kick-off time many of the Stoke players were feeling the effects and – having conceded a goal after only eight minutes – Roose ran from the pitch in search of a toilet. He had a pulse rate of 148 and did not return to the game. At the start of the second half only seven of the Stoke players were in a fit state to continue, the dressing room resembling "the cabin of a cross-channel steamer in bad weather." Liverpool won the game 7–0.
- In March 1909, Roose travelled with Wales to play Ireland in a British Home Championship match. He appeared at Liverpool station with one hand heavily bandaged, telling the waiting press that he had broken two fingers but would nevertheless play in the match. Roose's Welsh team-mate Billy Meredith, suspecting trickery, peered through the keyhole of the goalkeeper's hotel room soon after their arrival in Belfast and saw his friend remove the bandage and wiggle his fingers with no sign of discomfort. News of Roose's disability having spread through the city, a huge and expectant crowd turned out next day in the hope of witnessing an Irish victory. Instead Wales won the game 3–2, Roose himself playing superbly.
- Like many footballers, Roose was famously superstitious, wearing a 'lucky shirt' beneath his goalkeeping jersey throughout the course of his career. The shirt, said to have been an old black-and-green Aberystwyth top, was reputedly never washed. Some support for this story comes from a contemporary article in Bolton's Cricket and Football Field (March 1904), which observed: "Roose is one of the cleanest custodians we have, but he apparently is a trifle superstitious about his football garments, for he seldom seems to trouble the charwoman with them."
Roose enjoyed to the full the acclaim that his sporting exploits brought him. Contemporaries at Aberystwyth testified to his popularity with both men and women at the college, and in London, in 1905, he was acclaimed by the Daily Mail as one of the capital's most eligible bachelors – second, the newspaper suggested, only to the cricketer Jack Hobbs. When the Daily Mail invited nominations for a World XI to face another planet, Roose was selected as the World team's goalkeeper by a large majority.
Much of Roose's popularity stemmed from his extrovert character. He led – according to his nephew, Dr Cecil Jenkins – an extremely glamorous life, keeping an apartment in the centre of the capital and buying his suits on Savile Row.
"The first thing I remember," the 101-year-old Jenkins told an interviewer,
- "is him taking my mother and me just before the First World War to lunch at Scott's restaurant in Piccadilly. He was in full morning kit with a top hat – he was real man about town. I was only about five or six and it was very exciting for a young boy like me.
- "He was very much a larger than life character who played to the gallery. When a carriage picked him up from the station to take him to the game, schoolboys would run after it."
One newspaper voted Roose among the 10 most recognisable faces in the London of this period, and he enjoyed relationships with several women, among them the great music hall star Marie Lloyd.
For all this, Leigh Roose was prone to displays of bad temper throughout his club career, and once assaulted one of the Sunderland directors, beating him so badly that the Football Association banned him for 14 days. The early sportswriter "Tityrus" (the pen-name of JAH Catton, editor of the Athletic News) recorded that during the half-time interval in Wales's heavy 1908 defeat by England, Roose – who had been injured by an opposition forward – "had an unpleasant conversation with the England selectors, who thought that the speech of the goalkeeper was not such as might be expected from a gentleman."
Although well above the age of the average recruit, Roose joined the British Army on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, and served in the Royal Army Medical Corps in France and Gallipoli. He returned to London and enlisted as a private of the Royal Fusiliers in 1916 and then served in the First World War on the Western Front, where his goalkeeping abilities resulted in his becoming a noted grenade thrower.
He was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery on the first occasion he saw action, the regimental history recording:
- "Private Leigh Roose, who had never visited the trenches before, was in the sap when the flammenwerfer attack began. He managed to get back along the trench and, though nearly choked with fumes with his clothes burnt, refused to go to the dressing station. He continued to throw bombs until his arm gave out, and then, joining the covering party, used his rifle with great effect."
His award was gazetted on 21 September 1916.
Promoted to the rank of lance corporal, Roose was killed, aged 38, towards the end of the Battle of the Somme the next month. The exact location and manner of his death remain a matter of dispute.
His body was not recovered, and his name appears on the war memorial to missing soldiers at Thiepval. Due to a typographical error on his enlistment papers, his name is recorded as "Leigh Rouse".
- Sourced from his profile at the English National Football Archive
|Celtic (loan)||1909–10||Scottish 1st Division||0||0||1||0||1||0|
|Huddersfield Town||1910–11||Second Division||5||0||0||0||5||0|
|Aston Villa||1911–12||First Division||10||0||0||0||10||0|
|Woolwich Arsenal||1911–12||First Division||13||0||0||0||13||0|
Acknowledgements to Wikipedia for Some of the Text I have used.