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Leslie Jesse "Les" Sealey (29 September 1957 – 19 August 2001) was an English footballer who played as a goalkeeper for, among others, Coventry City, Luton Town, Manchester United, Aston Villa and West Ham United. He was a nephew of Alan Sealey, another West Ham United player.
|Full name||Leslie Jesse Sealey|
|Date of birth||29 September 1957|
|Place of birth||Bethnal Green, London, England|
|Date of death||19 August 2001(aged 43)|
|Height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|1984||→ Plymouth Argyle (loan)||6||(0)|
|1990||→ Manchester United (loan)||2||(0)|
|1992||→ Coventry City (loan)||2||(0)|
|1992||→ Birmingham City (loan)||12||(0)|
|1994–1996||West Ham United||2||(0)|
|1996–2001||West Ham United||2||(0)|
|1998||→ Bury (loan)||0||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Sealey joined Coventry City as an apprentice in 1976 and made his debut as a 19-year-old on 11 April 1977, in a 1–1 draw at Queens Park Rangers. He spent the next five seasons at the West Midlands club before joining Luton Town in 1983 for £100,000. He was a regular in the team for much of his time at Kenilworth Road, but he missed their 1988 League Cup triumph due to injury, his place being taken by Andy Dibble. A year later, Luton reached the final again and he was able to keep goal this time in a 3–1 defeat to Nottingham Forest in which Sealey had a poor game, including fouling Neil Webb to concede a penalty (converted by Nigel Clough). He was dropped from the team for Luton's next game and replaced by Alec Chamberlain. Sealey never played for Luton again.
In December 1989, Sealey was loaned to Manchester United and made two league appearances during the final weeks of the season. He was named as goalkeeper for the 1990 FA Cup Final replay against Crystal Palace (even though United had signed him after the transfer deadline), after a poor display from Jim Leighton in the preceding 3–3 draw, and made several saves to help his side win 1–0. He later offered his winner's medal to Leighton, who had played throughout the cup run, but the FA subsequently granted medals to both players, who remained friends thereafter.
United signed Sealey on a permanent basis, and he was their regular goalkeeper throughout the 1990–91 season, keeping goal in their League Cup Final defeat to Sheffield Wednesday (in which he was injured, but refused to leave the field) and the Cup Winners' Cup Final victory over Barcelona the following month. He became a cult hero with United fans and got a standing ovation whenever he returned to Old Trafford. He was hoping to get a two-year contract, but was offered just a one-year deal and turned it down in favour of a transfer, and was signed by Aston Villa. For much of the first half of 1991–92, Sealey was Villa's first-choice goalkeeper, but he then lost his place to long-serving Nigel Spink and never played for the club again.
In his second spell at Old Trafford, he made just two first-team appearances – once as a substitute when Schmeichel was sent off in the FA Cup Quarter-final against Charlton and the other in the League Cup final, which United lost 3–1 to his old club, Aston Villa. It meant his last four appearances for United were a Cup Winners Cup Final, two League Cup Finals and an FA Cup Quarter-final. He had, however, been an unused substitute for most of United's matches since his return to the club.
Due to an injury crisis, Sealey made his Hammers debut as an outfield player, coming on as an attacking substitute against Arsenal in the autumn of 1995. During his 18-month spell at the Boleyn Ground, he was understudy to Ludek Miklosko.
In December 1996, the 39-year-old Sealey returned to West Ham in an exchange deal for 47-year-old Peter Shilton. He made his last first-team appearance on the final day of the 1996–97 season, fittingly against Manchester United at Old Trafford. He had come on as a substitute for Ludek Miklosko, West Ham's regular first-choice goalkeeper.
At the end of the 1997–98 season he was loaned out to Bury but did not make a first-team appearance. Upon his return to West Ham he was appointed as the club's goalkeeper coach, although he was still registered as a player during the 1999–00 season, taking him past his 42nd birthday in September 1999.
Sealey was still employed as West Ham's goalkeeper coach when he died of a heart attack on 19 August 2001 at the age of 43. One of Sealey's pupils at West Ham was Stephen Bywater who wore the number 43 on his shirt as a tribute to his former coach. Also at the club were Sealey's sons, George and Joe.
- "Les Sealey obituary". Eastlondonhistory.com. Archived from the original on 14 October 2007.
- "Les Sealey factfile". The Guardian. 20 August 2001. Retrieved 10 June 2018.
- Barlow, Matt (19 May 2016). "The untold story of 1990 Cup final hero Les Sealey... how a crazy goalkeeper changed Manchester United's history". Daily Mail. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
- "Interview: Jim Leighton, former Aberdeen and Hibs goalkeeper". The Scotsman. 14 April 2012. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
- Glanville, Brian (21 August 2001). "Les Sealey". The Guardian. Retrieved 1 October 2012.
- Burt, Jason (24 November 2007). "Stephen Bywater: 'I like playing with the anger inside. Critics don't hurt, they drive me on'". The Independent. Retrieved 1 October 2012.