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Larger-than life Les lines up an 80th birthday treat for us all

PUBLISHED: 16:56 16 July 2014 | UPDATED: 15:37 17 July 2014

Les King launches his 4th book for the charity Star Throwers where he is a patron. Pictured with volunteers and users.  Photo: Sonya Duncan

Les King launches his 4th book for the charity Star Throwers where he is a patron. Pictured with volunteers and users. Photo: Sonya Duncan

Archant © 2013

Some people celebrate their 80th birthday in private by raising a glass with members of the family, others may push the boat out by organising a party or even be the VIP at a surprise gathering... and then there is Les King.

Les King with John "Batman" Speakman, the local P.C. on the beat, and two young Regal supporters.Les King with John "Batman" Speakman, the local P.C. on the beat, and two young Regal supporters.

What is Les, our very own “king of sport” and one of the most colourful of all Norfolk characters doing to mark his special day?

He is organising a star-studded charity football match in Wymondham, exactly 40 years on from his first one, and this is your invitation to attend. And how could you refuse an offer from big Les?

“I want to see as many people as possible. It should be a good do,” said Les, who hopes many of his friends, including former Norwich City favourites, will turn up for the game between Wymondham Town FC and a team drawn from his past championship teams.

Guests at the game on Friday July 25 are expected to include former Norwich City manager Ken Brown, and ex-players Iwan Roberts, Robert Fleck and Greg Downes along with top bowls players John Ottaway, paralympic athlete Danny Nobbs and boxers including Sam Sexton.

Cover of 1991 Wymondham Carnival Day programme when Les was 'Carnival King'.Cover of 1991 Wymondham Carnival Day programme when Les was 'Carnival King'.

It’s going to be quite a night with a penalty shoot-out between nine teams representing local businesses, plus a barbecue.

The whole idea is to have a lot of fun, help Les mark his 80th birthday in some style and raise money for the Star Throwers cancer charity. Wymondham Mayor Colin Foulger will be kicking the game off, assisted by Ken Brown.

It was in May 1974, when he was the much-loved boss of the Regal Cinema in Wymondham, that Les first got together two teams of local footballing celebrities to play for the Regal Charity Cup in a match refereed by the then Norwich striker Jim Blair.

The money raised went to Action Research for the Crippled Child and following that Les formed a Regal team (later Olympic Removals), which played for charity – raising a lot of money to help others.

Former boxer and railway worker Les went on to promote other sporting fixtures for various charities, including wrestling, cricket, mini Olympics, golf days, slimming, swimming and guest speaker events.

There were film shows. He also went on a sponsored walk from Wymondham to London and along Peddar’s Way.

So many charities have been helped by Les and he has organised ten charity football matches to raise money for Star Throwers cancer charity.

He also helped to arrange a headstone to be placed on the grave of Norwich’s national boxing legend Ginger Sadd, who died in 1992. He organised a testimonial football match which raised £3,000 for Michael Butler, who had been injured playing the game.

On another occasion a knockout football competition involving celebrity teams, billed “Wembley to Cranworth” raised a similar amount for the village’s Michael Smith, who had suffered a stroke and needed a buggy to get about. “Duncan Forbes presented Michael with the key, which meant he could get to the pub. So he was happy!,” said Les.

And let’s not forget that when Les ran the Regal, anyone in wheelchairs got in for free. Les was quite a manager. He once wandered down the aisle with a horse during a western. And remember that plane which flew over Wymondham when the Memphis Belle film was shown? Who else could organise that?

Among those he has helped over the years have been the Norfolk Cricket League, Norwich Lads’ Club, Spooner Row FC, Wymondham Sunday FC. He has also helped many darts teams and held charity golf days.

No wonder they call him the ‘King of sport’ and ‘Mr Wymondham’.

Happy birthday Les. And, on behalf of the people of Norfolk, thank you.

The birthday charity match between Wymondham Town FC and Past League Winners of Les King’s Championship Teams will take place on Friday July 25 at the King’s Head Meadow, Wymondham, at 6.30pm. The match is sponsored by Hamilton Acorn and all proceeds go to Star Throwers.

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