South Shield’s lad’s Leicester City dream signing

Former footballer Joe Jopling

Former footballer Joe Jopling

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Some young lads (and these days, lasses) dream of becoming professional footballers, not so Joe Jopling.

For although he was a talented footballer, Joe, who is South Shields born and bred, had a very different career path ahead of him when he left school – he headed for a local shipyard.

Yet as Joe, who is now 65, explains fate stepped in, and he went on to have a “fantastic” footballing career which culminate in him playing against George Best and Dennis Law and the rest of that amazing Manchester United side.

But back to those school days.

“I went to Stanhope Road School where I played in my first football team,” reveals Joe.

“From there I went to Brinkburn, and played left back for the school team. I then went on to play for South Shields Boys before being picked to play for Durham in 1964/65.

“While I was at school, Sunderland came calling, and I signed school boy forms for them.

“When I left school, I became an apprentice welder at St James shipyard where I stayed for two years.”

During his time in the shipyard, Joe, who by then was playing for Harton and Westoe, which was a 17 to 18 year old side, used to train with Sunderland every Tuesday and Thursday after work, and played for their C team.

“While I was playing for Harton and Westoe, four of us got an offer to go to Aldershot for a fortnight’s trial.

“They had a Geordie secretary, so he used to have a few people looking around the North East.

“After the first week, they asked me to sign for them, which was lovely because I wasn’t the welding type. That was in 1968/69.

At the time, Aldershot were playing in the Fourth Division, but it wasn’t long before Joe found himself playing in a different league, and facing a different quality of footballer.

“I only played 16 games for Aldershot when the manager at the time, Jimmy Melia, told me the club had had an offer for me from Leicester City.

The value of the transfer was £50,000. That was a lot of money in those days, and I was very surprised.”

Tomorrow: Find out if the transfer went through.