Former Sheffield United captain Len Badger was part of club folklore and a reminder of those heady days of Tony Currie, Alan Woodward, Ted Hemsley and Eddie Colquhoun in the late Sixties and first half of the Seventies.
His passing on Thursday at the age of 75 has affected many at the club deeply. The heartfelt tone of a lovely and genuine tribute on the club’s website bore testament to that.
It spoke of one of the ‘funniest, warmest and kindest people’ that anyone could wish to meet and someone who loved his club ‘beyond measure.’ An ex-player, but also a friend and colleague.
It referenced the privilege of not just wearing the red and white striped jersey for many years, but also the sheer pride of his latter role as a match-day host.
Someone as amiable and gracious in those duties as he was classy in his defensive work on the right during his playing era.
His great friend, fellow Lane legend Tony Currie, eloquently summed up what he meant to everyone as did Hemsley, the fellow full-back who patrolled the left-hand side of United’s defence with similar distinction during some halcyon times for the club.
Currie said: “Len was a diamond. He was more than just a team-mate. He was like a brother to me. Len was the first person I really met when I came up here to join United and I will miss him terribly.”
“He was a special player and a special guy,” Hemsley added.
“Again, Len was the first person I met when I came here and things just went from there. I loved playing football with Len and loved his company off the pitch.”
Darnall-born Badger, a wonderfully-consistent right-back, made 541 appearances for United between 1963 and 1976.
Raised in Tinsley Park, Badger represented Sheffield Boys and England Schoolboys before joining his beloved Blades, firstly as an apprentice before finally signing professionally in August 1962.
He made his league bow in April, 1963 versus Leyton Orient and was capped by England at all levels apart from senior level.
Badger was a member of Sir Alf Ramsey’s World Cup ‘Shadow Squad’ of 1966, the same year that he was made captain of the Blades and became the youngest leader in the history of the club.
He was a key figure in the revered 1970-71 side who were promoted to Division One under John Harris and would later end his career at Chesterfield.
A Blades statement read: “Len was one of the greatest full backs to play for the club, but he was also one of its greatest characters. Those fortunate to know him will testify that he was one of the funniest, warmest and kindest people you would ever have the joy of meeting.
“He loved the Blades beyond measure. He never wanted to play for anyone else, and it was possibly that loyalty to one of the more unfashionable clubs that cost him a far more glittering career, but that mattered little to him.
“He was proud of the fact he was a Blade, and you could find no other former player with not only an encyclopedic knowledge of the games he had played in, but in the history of the club full stop. He cared and it mattered.”
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