Bedford Jezzard

Fulham centre-forward and manager
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The Independent Online

Bedford Alfred George Jezzard, footballer, manager and publican: born London 19 October 1927; played for Fulham 1948-56; capped twice by England 1954-55; managed Fulham 1958-64; died 21 May 2005.

First as a free-scoring, fearsomely pacy centre-forward, and later as a strong-willed, quietly inspirational team boss, Bedford Jezzard was one of the most influential figures in the history of Fulham Football Club. During his playing pomp as a high-velocity spearhead in the 1950s, he was a scourge of Second Division defenders and was rewarded with two England caps. Then, having been invalided out of the game by a grievous ankle injury in his late twenties, he moved into the manager's seat at Craven Cottage, guiding the homely west London club into the top flight of English football by the decade's end.

In both roles, the engagingly unassuming "Beddy" was immensely popular, and there was no shortage of shrewd observers who believed he had the potential for vast achievement in management.

However, that will always remain an untested theory, because he left the game in jarring circumstances as a 37-year-old in 1964, feeling betrayed by the Fulham board's agreement to sell the star wing-half Alan Mullery without consultation with the man who picked the team. Jezzard didn't relish the seemingly futile task of toiling to improve a club at which financial resources were likely to remain slender.

Born in Clerkenwell, London, Jezzard grew up in Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, and after excelling as a footballer with the local boys' club he joined Watford as an amateur during the early 1940s. Towards the end of the Second World War he served some 18 months in India with the Essex Regiment, then returned to Croxley Green after demobilisation to become assistant secretary of the Old Merchant Taylors' Sports Club.

Having continued to thrive in local football, he was taken to Craven Cottage by the Fulham stalwart Joe Bacuzzi and signed on as an amateur. He was an instant success, being elevated to the senior side and turning professional after only three outings for the reserves. In his first term, playing at inside-left with gleeful exuberance, he helped his new employers win the old Second Division championship. There followed three seasons of struggle among the élite, operating in a variety of forward positions as Fulham strove desperately to survive against wealthier and more powerful opponents. Jezzard acquitted himself manfully but could not prevent the Cottagers' relegation as bottom club in 1951/52.

Unwelcome though demotion was, it proved a watershed in the muscular marksman's development. Back in the second grade, he could barely stop scoring, plundering 123 goals over the course of four campaigns and setting a new club aggregate record which would stand until surpassed by Johnny Haynes in the late 1960s.

Jezzard was not a subtle operator and, although he was one of the fastest central attackers of his era, he was prone to put on weight during any enforced absences from training: so much so that he was nicknamed "Pud". But he was sturdy, direct and courageous, charging through glutinous quagmires like a runaway plough. He carried a fulminating shot in either foot, he was fierce and agile in aerial combat, and his capacity for hard graft was endless.

Crucially, too, in his most bountiful years Jezzard was at the centre of a beautifully balanced inside trio, completed by the artistic schemer Haynes and the slightly more prosaic but still gifted Bobby Robson. The three meshed splendidly and Fulham duly prospered.

As a result of his club exploits, Jezzard was called up for his first full cap in May 1954, although it was a chastening experience for England, who plunged to the worst defeat in their history, 7-1 to Hungary in Budapest. Jezzard, who also made three appearances each for England "B" and the Football League, fared rather better in his second and last full outing in his country's colours, when he was involved in setting up all three goals - two for Dennis Wilshaw and one for Tom Finney - in the 3-0 home victory over Northern Ireland in November 1955.

Come the summer of 1956 he remained in the selectors' thoughts, being taken on a Football Association tour of South Africa, but that ended in footballing calamity when he suffered a severe ankle injury, after which he was never to play again.

Jezzard accepted the post of youth coach at Craven Cottage in August 1957. He proved a natural in the role and, nine months later, his promotion to replace Dugald Livingstone as Fulham boss, with the long-serving Craven Cottage administrator Frank Osborne as general manager, was a popular choice.

Jezzard inherited a talented side, but one full of colourful and disparate characters, many of whom were his friends and former team-mates. Some pundits wondered whether his old chums would take liberties, but, although they called him Beddy rather than Boss, he handled them brilliantly, continuing to foster the warm cameraderie that was a hallmark of the club.

Thus, in Jezzard's first term at the helm, he guided Fulham to promotion to the First Division. They finished only two points behind the champions Sheffield Wednesday with an enterprising team featuring the majestic Haynes, the full-back Jim Langley, the former England centre-forward turned defender Roy Bentley, the bearded inside-forward Jimmy Hill (the future players' union shop steward, successful manager and broadcaster), the winger Trevor "Tosh" Chamberlain and the new Scottish international flankman Graham Leggat.

There was a mammoth contribution, too, from the teenage full-back George Cohen, who would help Alf Ramsey's England to lift the World Cup in 1966, and the rookie wing-half Alan Mullery, destined for greater things with Tottenham Hotspur and England. Jezzard's part in the development of this pair deserves huge praise. Though he was no fire-and-brimstone motivator, he did not lack passion, and he analysed the game logically and calmly, always making the most of the limited funds at his disposal.

Now, though, came the even harder task of consolidating in the First Division, and in 1959/60 he confounded numerous prophets of doom by leading Fulham to a vastly creditable 10th place in the table. The four subsequent seasons proved more difficult, with a series of (successful) relegation battles mitigated by a run to the semi-finals of the FA Cup in 1962, a brave and exhilarating campaign ended in a replay by high-riding Burnley.

With the early-1960s abolition of the players' maximum wage having made life more difficult for medium-sized clubs like Fulham, Jezzard's job became increasingly demanding. Eventually, when the cash-strapped board sanctioned the £72,500 sale of Mullery to Spurs in March 1964 without securing the manager's agreement, Jezzard decided that his long-term future lay outside the game.

He took to running his family pub in Hammersmith, west London, for many years.

Ivan Ponting

Chance encounters can shape our lives, writes Michael Jackson. I happened to be passing the Thatched House and had half an hour to kill. Thirty years later, I am still in the neighbourhood.

A northerner, fairly new to London, I did not know that the tall, shirt-sleeved man behind the bar was Bedford Jezzard, a local hero. His quietly friendly welcome softened an air of authority. He maintained professional boundaries with the instinct of a family doctor. That was the key to his popularity and success in running a true neighbourhood pub. The quality of the pint he dispensed clinched the commitment. My next purchase was a house three minutes' walk from the pub.

People who are not pub-goers don't always understand the social importance of the institution. "I hear you wanted to borrow a ladder for your decorating," Beddy's wife Joyce said. "See that fellow at the end of the bar? He'll lend you his." At about six every evening, a blind lady had a beer while her husband read her stories from the evening paper. An elderly lady recently widowed was provided with Christmas dinner on the house.

One regular customer always looked drunk, but had actually been the victim of a stroke, and could scarcely walk. He was a Protestant from Glasgow. His voluble comments in support of Glasgow Rangers were dangerously inflammatory in our Irish Catholic neighbourhood. One day, I saw him being helped to the lavatory by a regular who sported a Celtic scarf. The duo gave me a resigned look, and pleaded in unison: "Don't tell anyone." The Thatched House in the Beddy epoch brought out the best in people.

Our local team are also Rangers: QPR. One year, they won a Wembley final. "Here we go" echoed drunkenly through the streets. A chanting crowd opened the door of the pub. Behind the bar, Beddy was pulling a pint. He looked up and quietly told them: "Not tonight, lads." They left like lambs.

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