Len Quested was a human dynamo - always very prominent, not to say dominant, in every match in which he played.
Tall and slim, with long legs which just “ate up the ground”, he never, ever, let up, giving Town supporters their full ninety minutes time and time again.
He was born in Folkestone in January 1925 and christened Wilfred Leonard Quested. The family preferred his middle name and soon shortened it to Len.
He played football initially for Folkestone Town, but in the 1940-41 season he was signed as a part-timer by Fulham , but soon departed to do his war service in the Navy.
He was stationed in Australia, serving at HMS Golden Hind, which was not a vessel, but an administrative HQ and played for New South Wales Golden Hind team while there.
Marrying an Australian girl and returning to England in 1946, Fulham signed Len as a full-time professional in 1947.
He soon made his mark at Craven Cottage as a tireless and combative midfield workhorse and missed only 14 league and cup matches after gaining a first-team place. He played for England “B” in 1950 and gained a Second Division Championship medal.
Town supporters were astonished to learn, in November 1951, that manager George Stephenson had sold promising centre forward Jeff Taylor to Fulham and that Quested had come in exchange.
Jeff Taylor had played 68 games for Town and had scored 27 goals (a goodly rate) and whilst somewhat erratic, he had great promise. Why, we asked ourselves, sell him? And why get a defender in exchange, when it was goals we needed?
Such questions were in our minds before we saw Quested’s first appearance in the blue and white stripes. By half-time, however, the questions had changed. Why, we now asked, had Fulham sold us a player of that quality?
The Chairman of Fulham Football Club was Tommy Trinder, a radio and variety theatre comedian. The terrace-siders soon began to claim that swopping a rookie centre-forward for a battle-hardened warrior was the best joke of Trinder’s entire career.
Quested’s impact on the team was immediate and immense, during the remaining two thirds of season 1951-52. But he couldn’t save us from relegation at the end of the season. Nor could new manager Andy Beattie, who took over from George Stephenson on April 18, 1952.
We just had to accept the fact that Town had been relegated for the first time in their history.
After the close-season, however, a new era dawned, and Quested came into his full glory. Just to see him rampaging up and down the field, arms and legs pumping, was a stirring sight. He was everything that a wing-half should be. Strong, powerful, deceptively quick, combative, fearless, and above all tireless, he lifted the spirits of the crowd from the very first whistle.
He read the game so well, he was always there to cover, always available for a team-mate’s pass and his quick breaks changed the dynamic of the game. He was a manager’s dream and a natural “leader by example”.
In January 1954, in the middle of their best post-war season (they finished third in the First Division) Town played West Ham United of the Second Division at Upton Park in the Third Round of the FA Cup . The giant-killing Cup tradition struck us that day and the Hammers won 4-0. It was a shock for Town’s great defence, but thankfully normal service was resumed immediately in the league.
Quested suffered a bad leg injury that day which put him out for the rest of the season. There were no substitutes in those days of course and Quested stayed on the field to hobble painfully about as best he could.
The sight of him urging his team-mates on and conjuring up some penetrating passes whilst in agony brings a lump to the throat even now. At the end of the match, it was found that he had played on with a broken bone in his leg.
It was the first and the last serious injury of his career and he probably said “Just strap it up and I’ll be OK for next week”. This time, however, the indomitable Quested had to give in, which was a unique experience for him. He was back (with his powers unimpaired) the next season, however, and played in every match – and every match of the season after that.
Town suffered a humiliating relegation at the end of season 1955-56 and Quested was devastated. Some players would have demanded a transfer, but loyalty was another of Len’s admirable qualities and so he just knuckled down and got on with the job.
He was getting towards the veteran stage now, but his energy, commitment and leadership were unimpaired. He played 41 matches in season 1956-57, as Town brought in younger players, including Ray Wilson, Les Massie and a certain Denis Law .
All these emerging players benefited hugely from his guidance and encouragement on the field. Quested was never just an “on the field” captain, however: he used all his experience and know-how and common sense to help others and to ensure that they matured into dedicated professionals. Imbued with good sense and generosity of spirit, he was a perfect role model and father figure for all in the club.
This Man of Kent had become a revered figure in the West Riding. At the end of season 1956-57, as Town finished 12th in the Second Division (but with the future looking bright), Quested dropped a bombshell. He had decided to emigrate to Australia and make a new life there. He loved Australia, and he loved an Australian, so from his personal point of view it felt the right thing to do.
Town supporters were devastated, of course. We had to respect his decision, but we wanted to say “please, please, give us another couple of seasons!” As with so many situations over the long years of watching Town, I can but reflect on what might have been.
Quested emigrated to Australia in 1957, and was almost immediately signed up to play for Auburn in the New South Wales State League. In 1961 he moved to Hakoah, where he played for a season before retiring. In 1965, at the age of 40, he made a comeback and played for Awaba for a short time.
He lived for another 47 years, coaching young footballers, helping the community, living quietly with his family and celebrating his Golden Wedding before he passed away on August 20, 2012. He had enjoyed a long and fulfilling life: a life of service, both to football and to other people.
A final memory of Wilfred Leonard Quested.
On 18 September 1954, Town played Manchester United at Old Trafford - a tough game, a hard game, a long slog.
We had a lot of defending to do, but we hung on to secure a 1-1 draw. In those days, no one published “percentage possession” statistics, but I guess it was 70/30 to United.
With 10 minutes left, however, United were done. They were a spent force. They hadn’t got anything left. Town began to venture forward much more and Quested began to cross the half-way line much more.
With three or four minutes to go, Quested sped forward, exchanged passes and got into the “D”.
I was standing in the crowd level with him and I could see the determination on his face. His expression said “we can nick this!” as he struck the sweetest shot you have ever seen. It crashed against Ray Wood’s right-hand post and flew back many yards.
What a player! Our half, their half: what a player! Whilst he only played 220 matches for Town, he was truly “The Man for all Seasons”.