28/02/08 - Len Boyd: The strong man in Birmingham City's star Fifties side

Many Meltonians will know Len Boyd as one of the town's first traffic wardens, but the 84-year-old – who died on Valentine's Day – was one of English football's best-known players who skippered Birmingham City's most successful team ever

During the early and mid-Fifties wing half Len made 282 appearances for the Blues and led them to the Second Division Championship and the FA Cup final.

He began his career at Plymouth Argyle in 1945 and was one of their star players when sold for a record 17,500 fee in 1949.

The Devon club's loss was Birmingham's gain and Leonard Arthur Miller Boyd soon began to shine.

Under his leadership the Blues won the Second Division Championship in 1955, and the following year were sixth in the top flight – their highest ever finish – and reached the FA Cup final, losing 3-1 to Manchester City in what became known as the Trautmann Final.

The tall, long-striding Len, born in Plaistow on November 11, 1923, was a late starter in the game, serving in the Navy in Malta during the Second World War.

After playing for a Navy side in 1945, a pal who was a Plymouth Argyle supporter tipped off his club and Len was offered a trial after the war and signed professional terms that December, having just turned 22.

He was regarded as a fairly promising forward, but it was only when manager Jack Tresadern switched him to right-half he began to excel.

For three seasons he helped a battling Argyle avoid the drop from the Second Division, playing 78 league games and scoring five times.

Inevitably bigger clubs got interested and Birmingham came in with a bid of 17,500, the most Plymouth had ever received for a player, in January 1949.

Unfortunately City were relegated from the First Division at the end of Len's first season.

It was during the inevitable restructuring Len emerged as a natural leader. City missed out on promotion twice and also reached the FA Cup semis in 1951.

Arthur Turner became manager in 1954 and the following year they became league champions.

He also played for the England 'B' against Holland but never received a full cap.

Despite being tipped to struggle in Division One City surprised everyone and came sixth – their highest ever league position.

They also put together an impressive FA Cup run – beating Torquay, Leyton Orient, West Brom, Arsenal and Sunderland – and despite being away in every round.

However, in the final, despite their team boasting the likes of England goalkeeper Gil Merrick, international defender Jeff Hall and striker Peter Murphy, they lost 3-1 to the tactically astute Manchester City.

The game was best remembered for City's German keeper Bert Trautmann playing 15 minutes with a broken neck.

Even Len was in the thick of it, playing through the game with severe back pain.

After one more game – an Inter Cities Fairs Cup in Zagreb a few weeks later – he hung up his boots, aged 33 having played 282 games and netting 14 goals during his seven-and-a-half years with Birmingham.

After giving up the professional game, Len played for Leicestershire amateur side Hinckley Athletic for a while and scouted for Redditch United between 1960 and 1965.

He also ran a pub in Birmingham and worked as a traffic warden after settling here in Melton.

Birmingham City's home fixture against Arsenal on Saturday saw players from both teams wearing black armbands in Len's memory and fans giving a minute's applause before the kick-off.

He leaves his wife Dolly and a daughter.