Len Shackleton

Self-styled 'clown prince of football'

Player Biography
Full name: Leonard Francis Shackleton
Date of birth: May 3, 1922
Date of death: November 27, 2000
Clubs played for: Newcastle, Sunderland
Len Shackleton, Newcastle United
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Len Shackleton, Newcastle United Len Shackleton, Newcastle Len Shackleton, Newcastle United Len Shackleton, Sunderland Len Shackleton, Sunderland v Everton Len Shackleton, Sunderland Sunderland FC 1951 Len Shackleton Sunderland Football Club 1957 /58 Len Shackleton
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Club Career

A supremely gifted natural footballer, Len Shackleton originally started his career at Arsenal, but was released when war broke out in 1939 without making a first team appearance.

During the war, however, Len caused numerous scouts to sit up and take notice by scoring 166 goals in six years for Bradford Park Avenue. He signed with Newcastle  in 1946, but within two years was transferred to their great rivals Sunderland for a then-record fee of £20,500.

Despite his exceptional skills, Shackleton never won any domestic honours, though he did make two FA Cup semi-final appearances with Sunderland. An ankle injury forced one of football’s greatest entertainers into retirement in 1957 but he remained an entertainingly outspoken football fan right up to his death in 2000 and is remembered for the page of his autobiography headed ‘Chapter 9. The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football’. Other than those words it was completely blank.

Club Stats

Years Clubs App Goals
1946-48 Newcastle 64 29
1948-1957 Sunderland 348 101

International Career

Shackleton's international career spanned six years but he made just five appearances for England during that time. Given his undoubted talent this is a paltry haul, but his desire primarily to entertain didn’t sit well with the blazers, who remained skeptical of his talents to the end.

International Career Stats

Years Clubs App Goals
1948-54 England 5 1

Key Games

Newcastle 13-0 Newport (Second Division, October 5, 1946)

Having just signed for the north-east club for £13,000, Shackleton made his debut against Newport and things couldn’t have gone much better as Toon proceeded to win 13-0. Shackleton scored an astonishing six goals, the last one apparently going in off his backside!

England 3-1 Germany (International friendly, December 1,1954)

Shackleton won his fifth and final international cap when he played against Germany at Wembley in an emphatic 3-1 victory. Despite scoring the final goal with a cheeky chip in the 79th minute, and being praised by team-mate Stanley Mathews for his superb performance, Shackleton was never again selected to represent his country.

Sunderland 4-0 Everton (First Division, April 14, 1951)

Sunderland ran riot against a hapless Everton with Shackleton the architect of everything that was good in the home side’s play. He opened the scoring himself after just 10 minutes, then dazzled with a bamboozling series of tricks and flicks as Sunderland scored four without reply.

Did You Know...?

One stuffy England selector once explained why Shackleton hadn’t played more games for England by saying “because we play at Wembley Stadium, not the London Palladium."

Sunderland were once leading Arsenal 2-1 with five minutes left to play. Shackleton dribbled into the Gunners’ penalty area where he proceeded to stand on the ball and pretend to comb his hair while looking at an imaginary watch.

After retirement Shackleton put his quick wit to good use by developing a career as a journalist.

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From the back pages

Denmark 0-0 England Published: September 27, 1948

International friendly match report

Sunderland 1-1 Birmingham Published: September 12th 1949

First Division match report

England 3-1 Germany Published: December 2, 1954

International friendly match report

'Shack' Finished - Daniel For Sale Published: September 3, 1957

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