Len Quested: Footballer both feared and fearless

 

Len Quested was a footballer both feared and fearless, a tirelessly combative midfield workhorse who wielded immense influence with Fulham, then Huddersfield Town, in the decade and a half after the Second World War.

Tall and lean, almost skinny, but infinitely more powerful, durable and generally warrior-like than his appearance suggested, the effervescent Quested was also a natural lifter of team-mates' spirits, a boon to any manager.

In his pomp, which straddled his days at both Craven Cottage and Leeds Road, he might have been considered unfortunate never to win a full cap – the nearest he came was a call-up for England "B" against The Netherlands in 1950 and an FA tour of South Africa six years later – but competition for wing-half berths was unremittingly fierce, with the likes of Billy Wright, Jimmy Dickinson, Ronnie Clayton and eventually the incomparable young leviathan Duncan Edwards among his rivals for international selection.

Quested signed for Fulham as a teenage amateur in the early 1940s then served in the Royal Navy throughout the rest of the conflict. He was stationed in Australia and played football alongside the future Manchester United star John Aston for the Golden Hind, a team for servicemen in New South Wales.

On demob he rejoined the Cottagers from his local non-League club, Folkestone Town, in August 1946 and after conversion from inside-forward to wing-half he finished that season in the lacklustre side which finished in the bottom half of the Second Division. Thereafter, though, Fulham improved steadily and Quested was a key performer as the divisional title was lifted in 1948-49, his energetic all-knees-and-elbows style meshing splendidly with the rock-like Jim Taylor and the thoughtful Pat Beasley in a half-back line of high quality.

However, with only slim financial resources, they toiled grimly among the elite under manager Bill Dodgin, who enraged many regular supporters in November 1951 by allowing Quested to join fellow strugglers Huddersfield Town in a deal which saw centre-forward Jeff Taylor move in the opposite direction. Sadly for the still-ambitious midfielder, the Terriers were relegated the following spring, in company with Fulham, but the indomitable Quested buckled down in 1952-53 to help seal instant promotion as runners-up to Sheffield United, becoming in the process part of the most settled "back six" in the history of the game.

Manager Andy Beattie fielded goalkeeper Jack Wheeler, full-backs Ron Staniforth and Laurie Kelly, and the half-back trio of Bill McGarry, Don McEvoy and Quested in all 42 League games, thus attaining a formidable level of consistency. This continued into the following season, in which the team touched new peaks, finishing third in the race for the top-flight title behind Wolverhampton Wanderers and West Bromwich Albion, with the free-scoring marksman Jimmy Glazzard and star left-winger Vic Metcalfe garnering lavish plaudits.

Quested was as integral as ever, but only until January, when he suffered a leg fracture in an FA Cup tie at West Ham which kept him out for the remainder of the campaign. Typically determined, though, he bounced back to be ever-present in the next two seasons, but was devastated when his efforts weren't enough to avert demotion in 1955-56.

Now in his thirties but with his effectiveness unimpaired, he proved an inspiring captain in the second tier, first under Beattie and then under his successor, Bill Shankly. Youngsters at Leeds Road, including the emerging Scottish genius Denis Law and England's future World Cup-winner Ray Wilson, were particular beneficiaries of the veteran's experience, wisdom and generosity of spirit, and to many of them, away from home for the first time, he was like a second father.

However, having married an Australian, he emigrated to her country in 1957, going on to play for several clubs in his adopted homeland, including Auburn, Hakoah and Campbelltown, and to manage Cumberland United.

Wilfred Leonard Quested, footballer and coach: born Folkestone, Kent 9 January 1925; played for Fulham 1946-51, Huddersfield Town 1951-57; married (two children); died Queensland, Australia 20 August 2012.

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