By Tony Attwood
Leonard Bruce Julians played 18 times for Arsenal and scored a remarkable 7 goals. Try to find out about him through Wiki or Arsenal.com or even the “Where are they now” site, and you get a line or two, if you are lucky. They will tell you his other clubs perhaps, (Leyton Orient, Nottingham Forest, Millwall) and maybe that he ran a garage with a friend after football.
And that’s that.
But behind this is another truly remarkable story which has gone missing from most of the records, and which really ought to be recorded.
So I’m going to do my best to sort the record out, and give a tribute to Len Julians, which is befitting to what he did.
Len was born in Tottenham on 19th June 1933 and was, as his goal scoring record suggests, a centre forward. His first club was Walthamstow Avenue, followed by Letyon Orient whom he joined in 1955. After 66 games and 35 goals, it was not surprising that Arsenal would come knocking.
He played his first Arsenal match on 26 December 1958 away to Luton Town, and scored. Unfortunately the final score was Luton 6 Arsenal 3 – Arsenal’s third successive defeat (which is remarkable when one remembers that Arsenal came third in the league that year).
The regular number 9 was David Herd who played 26 and got 15 goals, so Len Julians fitted in around him, as well as Barnwell, Bloomfield and Groves. And fitting in is what Len Julian did, playing inside left, inside right and centre forward. He played 10 league games in the second half of the season, and got five goals – a fair return for a player just stepping up from Leyton. Additionally he four games in the FA Cup and got another two goals.
But then in 1959/60 Herd kept his place at number 9, and with Groves, Bloomfield and Henderson all playing at numbers 8 and 10 as well as centre forward, Len Julians didn’t get a look in until late October.
In total in that second season he played 8 league games and got two goals, and two cup games with another goal. In the league that made seven goals in 18. His final game was Fulham 3 Arsenal 0 on 18 April 1960. The defeat however can’t be put down to Len – Arsenal won only two of the last ten games and finished 13th in the league.
And so with club confidence high in the Barnwell, Herd, Bloomfield combination Len was moved on. In retrospect this was an error, because John Barnwell was injured after four games next season and the shuffling of the team started. Geoff Strong was a success over time, but playing Mel Charles at centre forward was less so, and it wasn’t until the signing of George Eastham that things picked up a little. Arsenal ended up 11th in 1960/1, and 10th in 1961/2, and then George Swindin called it a day, and left the club.
So at the end of the 1960 season, Julians joined Nottingham Forest staying for four seasons, playing 58 games and scoring 24 goals, after which he went to Millwall in 1963, – 125 games 58 goals, and helping them up from the fourth to second division in two consecutive seasons.
After Millwall Len Julians showed a willingness to experiment with the unknown – the North American Soccer league had been set up and he played just one game for Detroit Cougars, but following an injury was retained as their manager.
That was in 1968, and after this there is a gap in the story for the next I know of him is in 1983 when he turns up in Nairobi, Kenya where he is persuaded to become coach of the club Gor Mahia.
The club had appeared in the 1979 African Cup Winners’ Cup final, but had then sunk back, not least after multiple stories of corruption. By 1983 they were in real trouble and a new coach was sought – and up popped Len Julians. At the moment he took over the club had not won a match, but by midway through the season they were second in the league and beat Norwich City 4-2 in a friendly. They won the league at the end of the season.
The local story at Gor Mahia is that under Len Julians a group of young inexperienced players were turned into champions. I regret the names of these players mean nothing to me, but I’m told that one of Len’s team, Sammy Onyango, became one of the most complete players aver to play in Kenya. Len got the reputation for being able to mould talented players into top performers.
For the first time in their history Gor Mahia won the league twice in a row under Julians, but he then left the club. Again, the record stops at this point, but in 1991 he returned and again won the league. However he only stayed the one year, and left at the end of 1991 because of financial difficulties within the club.
After that he seems to have returned to England, and it is said, although I don’t have any details, that instead of staying in football, he ran a car repair garage in Moepham in Kent with former fellow player Bryan Snowden. He died in Southend on Sea, on December 17 1993.
The story of Len Julians is unexpected indeed, since none of the usual sources have any mention of his time in Africa, or indeed of him becoming a coach.
As always if you have any information please do write in. And of course, if I have anything wrong here, my sincere apologies to members of Len Julian’s family. I would say that it is only by publishing such information as I can gather that we tend to unravel what happened in the lives of Arsenal players whose details we don’t have.