By Bob Beason - 203 games for Tigers between 1960-72. Now a member of the Board
I used to play against the likes of Llanelli, Swansea and Newport, and apart from internationals they were the biggest games you could get. Fixtures with Welsh clubs died out in the 90's but are now back in the European Cup. Coventry and Northampton were always tough rugby but the crowds were never really there. The Barbarians game was the only time we managed a five-figure gate and those matches were really special.
Journeying to away games has altered; nowadays they go early and relax before the game whereas we spent the time after the match. We would dash off to Llanelli or Swansea at the crack of dawn Saturday morning, get there at lunchtime, have a bite to eat and relax before the game then have a night in town afterwards, the Mumbles if you played Swansea.
Coming home on Sunday you'd stop and have lunch in Hereford then get home at teatime. If you went to Gloucester or Bristol you would call at a hotel in Stratford and have a nice team lunch. By the late 60's you got a 10 bob note on the motorway and stopped to get a hamburger or something similar, and of course if you played cards badly you effectively lost your lunch! In my first couple of seasons we still toured the south west at Easter, in the early 60's we were still travelling by train, depart Leicester station change at Birmingham for Bristol, play Bristol back on the train down to Paignton play Plymouth Albion on Monday, Exeter on Tuesday catch the train back home with lunch on board.
Then due to the expense we changed to buses. In my early years the M1 stopped short of London and the regular routine. For a game down at Harlequins meant we would be to meet at the Whitehall Theatre in London at midnight to come back. All the Leicester clubs used to do that.
John Allen in action in 1961
There have been a lot of law changes over the period, some major like kicking direct to touch only from your own 22. Lineouts were a reasonable 50/50 contest, and teams like Coventry with an England second row and a great scrum half like George Cole, would be down the pitch with just four kicks - kick it out, win the lineout. It was a nightmare for the opposition, as you would just get pegged back.
The scrum was also 50/50, a real team effort. I remember a game against Headingley, John Elliott was a superb hooker and we took 12 against the head but still lost the game 9-0!
We had no coach, the skipper was the coach. The first captain I played with was Tom Bleasdale, and we had pretty primitive training methods like "we'll do 20 lengths now lads". We trained on Tuesdays and Thursdays, there was no gymnasium, no weights, in fact if you wanted any weights you had to make them yourself!
The ball has changed due to new technology. We used to play with a big leather ball that when it got wet went out of shape. If it rained it was difficult to handle but also hard to kick as it used to weigh a tonne. I remember Bleddyn Jones kicking at Moseley, he couldn't reach touch from the middle of the pitch as the ball was so heavy.
|Pld 413, Won 249, Drew 26, Lost 138|
|Biggest win:||48-6 vs Gosforth on 20 Sep 1969|
|Most Appearances in Era:||David Matthews 344, John Allen 253, David Bird 247|
|Most Tries in Era:||David Matthews 103, David Bird 80, Mike Harrison 53|
|Most Points in Era:||Keith Chilton 551, David Matthews 392, Colin Martin 356|