Bill Brown recalls a change in position in 1960

"I used to fancy myself as an outside-left,
until something happened which put me on a different road to success
"

I am at present an international goalkeeper but there was a time when I fancied myself as an outside-left.  Before the war, when I was a schoolboy in Arbroath, I played for the Inverbrothock Primary School team, on the left wing, and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I still fancied myself as another Alan Morton when I moved to Arbroath High School, but something happened there which changed my outlook on the game and put me on the road to success.  One day our goalkeeper was hurt and, as I was the tallest boy in the team, I was persuaded to go between the posts.  I seemed to do well, although probably no better than any other make-shift goalkeeper.  Our sports master, Mr David McKechnie was a great believer in basketball, and when he saw that I showed promise in that game, he began to teach me how to keep goal.  And so I played in goal for the school team on Saturday morning and, in the afternoon, turned out for the local Arbroath Cliffburn Juvenile XI in an under-18 league.  When Cliffburn disbanded, I joined another juvenile XI, called Carnoustie Panmure FC, and during my time with that go-ahead little club I was selected to keep goal for the Scottish Juvenile XI against Wales, at Aberdeen.  That was my first representative honour and after it I was asked to sign for Dundee.  I preferred at the time to remain an amateur with Carnoustie Panmure as I was working as an apprentice electrician but in September 1949, Dundee approached me again and I agreed to sign as a part-time professional.  After six reserve matches for Dundee, our first team goalkeeper, Johnny Lynch, was injured and I made my debut for the League side against Clyde at Shawfield.  I stayed in for six weeks and then Lynch reported fit and returned to duty.  Unlucky Lynch was prone to injury, however, and in season 1950-51, I was able to make several more League appearances.  Then Willie Thornton took over as manager from George Anderson and I won a regular place.  In season 1954-55 I was picked for Scotland “B” against England “B”, on my home ground at Dens Park.  We fielded a very weakened side that day because of injury to players originally selected, but still managed to hold the English to a 2-2 draw.  England included such fine players as Bill Perry of Blackpool; John Atyeo, of Bristol City, and the late Tommy Taylor; but even so, they managed to equalise only in the 89th minute.

That summer I went on tour to Europe with the Scottish FA party, as reserve to Tommy Younger.  It was the start of a run in which I was picked as reserve to big Tommy no fewer than 27 times.  Eventually, during the Word Cup Championships in Sweden, I won a full cap when I was preferred to Tommy for the game against France.  Strangely enough, I seemed to take to the international atmosphere much more readily than when I first came into League football.  The bigger the occasion, the better I like it.  It was mainly for this reason that I decided to move south, into English football, when Spurs bid for me after the Wembley game against England in April 1959.  I knew that in English football the goalkeeper played a much more prominent part in the game than in Scotland, where he tends to be fairly static unless he is actually saving shots at goal.  In England, I have found that the goalkeeper is encouraged to throw the ball out to a full-back or wing-half, rather than kick it upfield, as is usually the case in Scottish football.  I prefer to clear my lines by the constructive “throw out”, but for some reason which I have never been able to discover, Scottish managers, and crowds, do not favour this style of play.

Arsenal were supposed to be interested in signing me before Spurs came along, but before I left with Dundee on a close-season tour of America and Canada, negotiations broke down.  When I returned from tour with Dundee, the Spurs manager Bill Nicholson came after me and I decided to go to White Hart Lane.

I realised that if I did not take this chance I would have to stay at Dundee to finish my career and felt that if ever I was to sample English football it was now or never.

Bill Brown, in typical style, making a last-ditch save for Tottenham Hotspur

Editor’s note: Bill Brown was transferred in 1959 for £16,500 to Tottenham Hotspur when Dundee needed the money for new floodlights and became an integral part of the team, being at White Hart Lane for seven years, winning the Double in 1961, the FA Cup again in 1962 and the European Cup Winners' Cup in 1963.  He displaced the immortal Ted Ditchburn at Spurs but a few years later he found stern competition from a young Pat Jennings and eventually lost his place in the side.  After a spell at Northampton Town, Bill moved to Canada to end his playing days with the Toronto Falcons during the 1967 National Professional Soccer League season.  After he finished playing, he stayed in Canada and worked as a property developer and also for the government. In 1988, he suffered a heart attack which persuaded him to cut out the 40 cigarettes he smoked each day and in 1994 he was diagnosed with prostate cancer which he also survived.  He died in 2004, aged 73.

The news broke just before Tottenham played a League Cup tie against Liverpool and, as a tribute, they wore black armbands for the occasion.

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