Len Shackleton was born in Bradford
in 1922 and played as an amateur footballer for Bradford Park Avenue
, after being released from the London club, Arsenal
, as he was 'too small' when he was seventeen years old. Len played war-time football between shifts down the mines for Bradford PA. In October 1946 he was transferred to Newcastle United
for £13,000 and on his debut scored 6 goals.
Two years later he moved to Sunderland for £20,500, a new British record for a footballer. Shackleton scored 101 goals in 348 games for Sunderland before an ankle injury ended his career in 1957. The pitch was his theatre, he played one-twos, scored with backheels, played the ball off the corner flag and could put so much back-spin on the ball he could direct passes to himself. Once when playing and bewildering the team that rejected him, Arsenal, he stopped in mid-dribble and sat down on the ball. Shackleton was always an entertainer before a player, his ball-juggling was as remarkable as his goal-scoring and he was relished by fans (even rivals) for his skills and artistry.
Shackleton only played for England five times, a selector of the time pronounced he was 'too good for the rest of the team'. After he retired from playing 'Shack' gained notoriety for his autobiography, The Crown Prince of Soccer, which had little time for the footballing establishment. His book had a chapter entitled 'The Average Director's Knowledge of Football' and the rest of the page was left entirely blank. Such antics gained trouble with the FA, and Shackleton finished his career without any medals from league or cup, and earned at the most £20 a week. He spent his retirement in the north-east of England, occasionally reporting and coaching the game until his death in November 2000.