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"When you play football it's war, and I knew that I had to play it with enthusiasm, venom to make a mark. I always played the game very emotionally charged."

- Les Sealey, 1994.
19/08/2011 08:37, Report by Steve Bartram
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Les Sealey: 10 years on

Crystal Palace after Jim Leighton’s shaky display in the sides’ first meeting. Even at 32, the goalkeeper was earmarked as a weak link and was bombarded by Steve Coppell’s Eagles, but Sealey’s clean sheet and Lee Martin’s fine strike ensured winners’ medals all round.

That display, which earned him a permanent deal, came in the first of four cup finals for Les with United. Beaten in the League Cup finals of 1991 and 1994 but a winner in Rotterdam, the stopper quickly earned the nickname ‘Lucky Les’.

“He came here on loan and ended up with a pocketful of medals,” says Gary Pallister. “I think Les was a bit like a kid in a candy shop, getting the chance to play for United. At a stage of his career where he probably thought that it had all bypassed him, he got this move and suddenly he was playing in cup finals. It was a great time for Les and he was a big part of the dressing room culture.

“He was a proper crafty Cockney. The lads used to liken him to a car salesman. I remember once, a company wanted to do a phone deal with just the players, back when mobile phones were just starting out. They offered us free handsets and we were delighted with that, but then Les piped up and said: ‘Nah, we want free phone calls and all’. He had a chat with them and, before we knew it, we were getting free phones and calls.”

“He was a proper Del Boy character,” echoes Bryan Robson. “He was just so busy and boisterous and bubbly. He always had a bit of banter about him and he was good to have around the dressing room as a result of that. He loved the banter and loved having a bit of fun with the lads.”

Everybody who shared a dressing room with Sealey has a story to tell. For McClair, however, sharing a hotel room with the livewire goalkeeper is forever etched on his mind.

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