OBITUARIES : Len Goulden

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The Independent Online
Len Goulden was a captivating footballer, a richly creative inside-forward whose flowing skills earned him a regular place in the England side for two years before the Second World War. But for the conflict, it is probable that the genial Londoner would have added considerably to his tally of 14 caps. Indeed, a telling measure of Goulden's stature is that his international honours were won when he was a player with West Ham Utd, then in the middle reaches of the Second Division. He specialised in switching the point of attack, suddenly and dramatically, with raking left-foot passes that could render helpless several opponents at a stroke.

Born in Hackney and raised in Plaistow, Goulden progressed rapidly as a teenager, winning selection for England schoolboys in 1926 and joining the Hammers as an amateur five years later. As was then the custom, he was farmed out to gain experience with local non-league clubs, in his case Chelmsford and Leyton, before turning professional at Upton Park in the spring of 1933. So eyecatching was Goulden's talent that he was pitchforked immediately into senior action, emerging as his team's star performer for the remainder of the decade.

Yet despite Goulden's frequently brilliant efforts, West Ham failed to gain promotion, and his only club honour was a Football League wartime cup medal, received for his part in victory over Blackburn Rovers at Wembley in 1940. There was stirring consolation in his country's colours, beginning with a scoring debut in the 6-0 thrashing of Norway in Oslo in 1937 and ending prematurely with the outbreak of war in 1939.

After the hostilities, during which he served in the police force, Goulden realised, then 33, that if he was to sample life in the First Division he would have to forsake the Hammers. Accordingly in 1945 he joined Chelsea in a £5,000 deal.

At Stamford Bridge, Goulden spent five largely fulfilling seasons, including a two-year stint fashioning bullets for the great centre-forward Tommy Lawton to fire and a later productive spell as a wing-half. Sadly, though, his trophy cabinet remained devoid of medals, the nearest he came to glory being an FA Cup semi-final defeat by Arsenal in 1950.

That year Goulden retired as a player, joining the Chelsea coaching staff before becoming boss of Watford in 1952. Alas, despite guiding the Hornets to fourth place in the Third Division (South) in 1954, he proved too easy going for management and was dismissed in 1956. There followed three years as a sub post master before a three-season return to Watford as part-time coach, two years passing on his knowledge in Libya and a spell in charge of non-league Banbury Town. A final coaching post with Oxford Utd in 1969 signalled his farewell to the game. Thereafter he worked on a United States Air Force base in Northamptonshire before retiring to Cornwall. Goulden, whose son Roy played briefly for Arsenal and Southend Utd, will be remembered as one of England's most cultured schemers and a humourous, immensely popular man.

Ivan Ponting

Leonard Arthur Goulden, footballer and football club manager: born London 16 July 1912; married (two sons); died London 14 February 1995.