Len Badger, a man whose love and loyalty to Sheffield United shone throughout his career and life
Len Badger once remarked that he would walk on his hands to sign for Sheffield United as a schoolboy footballer, and the outpouring of grief that has greeted the passing of one of the club’s favourite sons reflects his standing at Bramall Lane.
United confirmed late last night that Badger had passed away at 75, following complications from a surgical procedure, and fellow Blades legends including Billy Sharp and Brian Deane led the tributes to a man widely known as the finest full-back never to earn a full England cap.
Badger later becoming a familiar face at Bramall Lane in the matchday lounges after hanging up his boots, and the United statement that announced the sad passing of their youngest-ever league captain said that he “loved the Blades beyond measure.”
“He never wanted to play for anyone else,” it read, “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.”
Badger, raised in the Tinsley area of Sheffield, was a Blade from birth. His early hero was Jimmy Hagan and in more recent years, he was a constant sounding board and source of support and encouragement for former Blades boss Chris Wilder, who was close to Badger and his fellow Blades legends Ted Hemsley and Tony Currie.
Badger only left United when Jimmy Sirrell told him he wasn’t tall enough to play at the back. By that point, he had played almost 550 times for the Blades.
He moved to Chesterfield, later running a number of pubs and working in advertising for The Star, and admitted one of his career regrets was never winning a senior England cap despite being in the initial squad for the 1966 World Cup.
He later conceded that he was too quick to leave Bramall Lane after Sirrell’s decision, and voiced his displeasure when United insisted on a fee for him from Chesterfield. He regretted that later. But there was never any remorse at choosing the Blades, either early in his career or later when the chance to move on arose. They were, and always remained, his club.
“I was an England schoolboy international and there were a lot of clubs who wanted to sign me, including Manchester United and Tottenham,” Badger recalled in the book Match of My Life.
“But I only ever wanted to go to Bramall Lane. My family were Unitedites and I wouldn’t have gone anywhere else.
“With the wages we earned in our day, we were closer to the fans. We lived in the same areas whereas today’s players don’t live in the areas where the majority of the supporters live, so they have isolated existences.
“I’d have liked to have had the money they earn today, because everyone would, but I’m glad that I played in an era when the relationship between the players and fans was fairly close.
“It meant more to me playing for United, because I was a Sheffield lad.
“It was my life, and I loved it.”