In the spotlight is someone who scored goals at Underhill in the 1960's and 70's with nonchalant ease and is the main reason for me changing my allegiance from Finchley FC to Barnet FC as wee lad and I am very proud to say that over the last ten years we have become firm friends. Therefore I make no apologies for this article being ornamented with personal admiration for a certain Leslie Eason.

Les Eason 1965

When someone plays over 600 competitive games for a club, scores some 300 goals and represents their country at amateur level seven times they would certainly command a legendary status at any club you care to mention. Les Eason did just that with Barnet FC and he will always be held in the most highest esteem by Barnet supporters as illustrated by the Supporters Associations recognition award of ‘Barnet FC Player Of The 1960’s’. He is without doubt one of non league footballs’ all time greats.

Les was born in Edmonton just before the end of the Second World War and grew up supporting Tottenham Hotspurs. “My dad first took me to see Spurs in about 1957 but watching the double winning side of 1960/1 from the Paxton Road terrace as a teenager was special and things got better when the club signed Jimmy Greaves from AC Milan. The best ever, Jimmy was my hero”.

Edmonton Schools was were he first began to make his mark as a natural goalscorer in a position what was then called inside forward and quickly moved to county level before Sid Posser helped him make the transition to Athenian League standard with Finchley FC in 1963.

Barnet, who by 1965 had recently won three Athenian League titles made a move for the 19 year old Eason in the summer just in time for their first season as a semi professional club in the Southern League. It was a league debut to dream about as the Bees thrashed Hinckley Athletic 10-1 with Les scoring the last goal. “Manager Dexter Adams’ favourite phrase was “zip it around boys” as opposed to just knock it around and that side could really play. I suppose I was slightly off the pace at first in a frankly superior league, but I soon found my feet”. (My father then started to attend games at Underhill more regularly than Summers Lane and it was natural for me to become a Bees fan – Reckless.)

Les built up sensational partnerships with Roger Figg and Tony Harding and scored over 30 goals in his first season at Underhill, “I got one more than Harding” he laughed. “Figgy was real quality and a different type of centre forward not like the normal lanky target man. He was short and stocky, solid and hard yet fast and I saw him score a couple of goals by literally stepping out in front of the goalkeeper just as he tried to drop kick. You couldn’t get away with that nowadays in would be deemed ungentlemanly conduct”.
I asked him about the team that I first saw and idolised in the later part of the sixties and early seventies, “That side with Billy Meadows, Ricky George, Gerry Ward and Colin Powell was the simply the best I ever played in. Bill was absolutely perfect for me, I loved playing with him. He was strong, left footed, brave and so cocksure to the point of contempt . Add that to having the incredible service from Gerry in midfield and the brilliant Paddy Powell on the wing I had it easy to score goals”.
Barnet Football Club 1968-69

I then asked about the pay structure at the time and suggested that had he been on a goal bonus system he would have made a fortune? “I never took a goal bonus, although I had it offered many times. I would rather negotiate an extra £5.00 week or whatever rather than bonus. I have never liked that system and am a great believer that once the players are out on the pitch then everybody should all be on the same bonus, always have. I can honestly say that I have never played football for money and I know I could have earned a lot more had I been prepared to travel. For instance Maidstone offered me a contract on really good terms and a signing on fee but I really didn’t fancy it - plus it was long before the M25 was built!. I was settled in Hertfordshire and would I have enjoyed driving down there on a wet Wednesday night after a day in the office? No chance. Don’t forget these days agents are all around football even in the lower leagues and had I had an agent at the time then I possibly would have moved about but I just loved playing football and playing at Barnet. Honestly money was secondary”.

In 1970 Barnet reached the semi final of the FA Challenge Trophy and were drawn against Macclesfield at Stoke City’s Victoria Ground but lost 1-0.
Les was Injured on the previous Bank Holiday Monday and wasn’t going to play. “I got studded in the thigh and spent the week sitting in hot baths which was the worse thing I could do. Anyway Dexter said can you play? I said yes but I struggled. I can remember the Macc players shouting 'he’s injured already'”. I then asked him about the FA Trophy run in 1972 and he instantly mentioned the brilliant 2-1 win at Wigan not only for Colin Flatt’s two goals but a wonderful display by goalkeeper Jack McClelland plus the semi final win against Telford. “Dickie Plume scored right at the death from a penalty and we were going to Wembley against Stafford Rangers.

Les at Wembley FA Trophy Final 1972

 It was the only time I played there unfortunately but the day is a complete blur. I have been told by ex players that you have to play more than once at Wembley to really appreciate it and unfortunately we were well beaten on the day 3-0”.

Les, still only 29 moved to Enfield in 1974 and continued to score goals at Southbury Road and in his own words “It was time for a move after nine great years. I got a great reception at first but got left out a few times. But I learnt a hell of a lot and I believe, although some supporters might not agree, that I came back to Barnet three years later a better player. Of course a certain Jimmy Greaves was in the side then, my idol. I was dropped back in a deeper role alongside him and let me tell you I was more that happy to doing his running, what a magnificent player”.

After two more seasons at Underhill scoring goals Les moved to Bishops Stortford and then to Cheshunt and then to St Albans where he played alongside a certain Paul Fairclough. “Paul was a very fit, hard working midfield player”.

In 1984 after a phone call from manager Ronnie Howell he joined Mount Grace, soon to be renamed Potters Bar Town, and actually player-managed the side between 1986-89. “I warmed the bench most games but came on if a job needed doing”.
Hanging up his boots in 1989 and settled in Broxbourne, although he still played in veteran matches, he was offered the position of Director Of Football at Park Field and has been happily working for the club ever since.

“As I get older I am not looking too far ahead but I enjoy my golf weekends and still get around the park a bit and I love being part of Potters Bar Town”.

Les with Ricky George and Billy Meadows 2013

Now retired he was a fairly regular visitor to Underhill often found on the North West terrace – I eventually had to have a word with him about that – or sitting in the main stand (more like it) keeping a low profile as he is a somewhat shy man. However when you talk football with him he becomes far more social and is sharp as a tack. It is difficult to explain exactly why but it is also somehow rather special to be in his company and it is still plaintively obvious that he is extremely fond of the club that idolised him for well over a decade. 

Reckless January 2013

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