Former Halifax Town forward Les Massie dies, aged 85

Les Massie. Photo courtesy of Johnny MeynellLes Massie. Photo courtesy of Johnny Meynell
Les Massie. Photo courtesy of Johnny Meynell
Former Halifax Town forward Les Massie has died, aged 85.

An old-fashioned inside-forward, he wrote himself into the club’s annals by famously scoring the goal against Rochdale in May 1969 that gave Town their first promotion as runners-up to Doncaster Rovers in the old Fourth Division.

Born in Aberdeen, Massie began his lengthy football career with Powis Youth Club but was signed by Second Division Huddersfield Town manager Andy Beattie from Banks O’Dee in August 1953, though he spent his first three seasons in the reserves.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was Beattie’s successor Bill Shankly who gave Massie his League debut in an away fixture at Fulham on 1 September 1956 and he ended his first season with five goals to his name.

He went on to top the club’s goalscoring charts over the next four seasons, scoring exactly one hundred League goals from 335 League appearances, and was third only to Jimmy Glazzard and Andy Booth in the club’s post-war scoring charts.

Massie figured in a forward line that also featured Kevin McHale and a young Denis Law, but towards the end of his time at the Leeds Road club he was converted to wing-half, and in October 1966 he moved to Darlington for a reputed fee of £2,500.

But Massie scored just twice from twenty League appearances for the Quakers and couldn’t prevent his side’s relegation to the Fourth Division.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It was then that Halifax Town manager Vic Metcalfe stepped in to bring Massie to The Shay in June 1967 and he proved an instant hit with the supporters, bagging 25 goals in his first season and sharing the Fourth Division goalscoring list with Port Vale’s Roy Sproson, as well as being the recipient of the Supporters’ Club Player of the Year.

Under Alan Ball snr, his goals during 1968-89 were crucial as the Shaymen made a push for their first-ever promotion, and feeding off Ian Lawther, Massie scored 15, including the promotion clincher in the penultimate fixture with Rochdale at The Shay, a header from a Phil McCarthy cross.

Earlier that season, he’d scored a dramatic equaliser which earned a draw at First Division Stoke City, whose goalkeeper was England international Gordon Banks, no less, in a fourth round FA Cup tie to earn the side a lucrative replay.

At times criticised for his lack of work-rate, nevertheless, Massie was, nevertheless, a lethal goal poacher and his record of 41 league goals – these included two hat-tricks, both scored, coincidentally against Newport County – for the Shaymen from just 89 appearances is testament to that.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But having gained promotion, Massie then refused the terms of a new contract and found himself out of the team for the season’s opening Division Three match with Shrewsbury Town.

Despite protests from the fans, Massie was sold to Bradford for £1,750, but after netting just twice in fourteen matches, he was on the move again, joining fellow Fourth Division side Workington and helping them to a respectable tenth place finish in 1970-71.

He made 62 League appearances and scored 15 goals for the club, then returned to Bradford, by now playing in the Northern Premier League, and after a spell with Selby Town, finished his playing days under former Town colleague Mick Meagan at Drogheda United.

On leaving football, he became a self-employed haulage driver before taking a job with the Holset Engineering Company in Huddersfield. Later he worked part-time in a car accessory shop.

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.