LCFC has been somewhat of an underdog of the sport for decades, never quite managing to dominate in any of the major leagues but still always fighting with the larger, wealthier teams. Throughout the history of the club, many talented players and managers have graced the grounds with their charisma and skill. One noteworthy individual from decades past is a man called Johnny ‘Tokey’ Duncan.
Duncan started his career with LCFC nearly an entire century ago and, after becoming captain of the squad, managed to lead the foxes to their greatest ever First Division finishes of third and second place in 1927–28 and 1928–29 respectively.
LCFC Club Historian and Archivist John Hutchinson said: “Johnny started off the great FA Cup tradition at Leicester City and now it’s culminated in a win with these current players a few weeks ago. He was also a great player. In the 1920’s he was captain of the side which was the most successful side before Leicester City won the Premier League 5 years ago. The team back then came second and third in the older First Division. Johnny Duncan’s legacy to the club is phenomenal—he’s one of the great figures in Leicester City’s history, without a shadow of a doubt—as both a captain and a manager.”
Following his successful run as part of the team, ‘Tokey’ became the LCFC manager in 1946 and was pivotal in getting the foxes into their first FA Cup Final in 1949. Sadly, the team didn’t manage to beat the Wolverhampton Wanderers, who beat them 3-1 but that didn’t stop Johnny from being elated at their achievements. His daughter Jenny Blackhurst, who is still a dedicated season-ticket holder to this day said, “He was absolutely over the moon about that. He never had played in a cup final during his playing career and he was really delighted about it. I remember he had to have a new suit for it! My mother insisted he have a new one and said you’re not walking out at Wembley in that tatty old suit! That was the one he’d worn for every round up until that moment.”
Leicester City managed to get themselves to a few more finals in the years after that but, after the 1968-1969 final where they lost to Manchester United, the Foxes suffered a dry-spell. However, their luck changed, as every Leicester resident will be aware. The team proved everyone wrong, against all odds (5000-1 to be exact) by winning the Premier League in 2016 and then a few years later they did it all again by winning the FA Cup.
“I just sent a little message up to my father saying we’ve done it!” said Jenny, recounting the exhilaration of that moment. “That’s all I needed to say. He would have been so pleased to have seen it—we could have gotten anything we wanted out of him that day! He always said that winning the FA Cup was one of the most prestigious things to do in football—he would have absolutely loved it.”
The clan-like mentality of football supporters is very common with lots of family members following in the footsteps of their parents and grandparents by championing the team they have all supported over the years. Johnny’s granddaughter Sue Stanhope said, “Leicester City has always been in our blood. I’ve always supported Leicester City, it will always be my club and I’ve gone to many games. I’m ever so proud of my Grandad. He sadly died when I was only six years old, but I vividly remember him. I remember visiting Leicester market with him to buy strawberries when he was living in his pub, The Turk’s Head.
“I was there at Wembley when LCFC won the FA Cup this year. I was definitely thinking about him. I wear half of his watch chain and my cousin had the other half. I wear it in his honour and I was definitely touching it a lot more when it was coming to the end of the game, willing the team to get it over the line! I was very conscious of my Grandad’s presence there. Thinking about him and about what it must have been like for him to lead the team out to that final back in 1949. I was thinking that my mum was there at that final and I was just so lucky to be there at the final where the Foxes won. It wasn’t a full stadium of course, but we were safely surrounded by wonderful supporters and a fantastic atmosphere.”
Leicester City FC honoured Johnny Duncan’s memory by presenting his daughter Jenny a foxes shirt with Johnny’s surname and the number 49 in honour of the year he got LCFC to their first final. And to top it all off, the shirt was signed by the current team who won that covetous cup.