Jimmy Brown

Footballer Born: 1 July, 1925, in Buckhaven, Fife. Died: 7 November, 2008, in Cellardyke, Fife, aged 83.

JIMMY Brown, who has died after a long illness, was one of the most influential Scottish goalkeepers of the post-war era.

Born in Buckhaven, James Robertson Brown first came to public consciousness as goalkeeper for a solid Wemyss Schools team which reached the Scottish Schools Cup final.

After leaving school he went down the pit as an apprentice electrician, continuing his football with Bayview youth club, an East Fife nursery. He seemed destined to become an East Fife player, but the club's Scottish Cup success in 1938 made manager Dave McLean a target for bigger clubs; he moved to Hearts and in 1942 stole the young Brown from under East Fife's nose, taking him across the Forth to Tynecastle.

With a war on, Brown was in a reserved occupation in the pits and this helped him secure an early debut, in a 2-2 draw against Dumbarton on 10 October, 1942. However, it took the part-time Brown until the first full post-war season, 1946-47, to make the goalkeeper's jersey his own.

Although standing just 5ft 9in tall, short for the position, Brown soon established himself as an excellent shot stopper and in 1949, with regular Scotland goalkeeper Jimmy Cowan unable to travel, Brown was called into the Scotland touring party for a nine-match post-season tour of north America.

As the only goalkeeper on the tour, he played in every game, including the match when the Scots lost to Belfast Celtic and the final game, against the United States. The Americans considered this a full international, but the Scottish Football Association refused to recognise the match as such. So while the other ten Scots had been or later became, full internationalists, Brown missed out.

His Hearts career continued until 1952, when he lost his place to another son of Buckhaven, Jimmy Watters, following a shoulder injury. He was temporarily loaned to Southend before, in August 1953, after more than 238 games for Hearts, he was freed and joined Kilmarnock, having forged a reputation as one of the Gorgie club's finest custodians.

Kilmarnock were in the Second Division, but gaining promotion at the end of Brown's first season, they embarked on a period of sustained success, first under Malcolm MacDonald and later under Willie Waddell.

Brown was a fixture in goal for more than seven years at Rugby Park. He had spells as team captain and his defensive understanding with his centre halves, first with former Hearts teammate Bobby Dougan, later with Willie Toner, was a significant factor in the club's success.

With Celtic in decline, Kilmarnock and Hearts were Rangers' biggest rivals at this time. Brown featured in two losing Scottish Cup finals and a losing League Cup final during his Rugby Park years.

He became an innovator – the first Scottish goalkeeper to eschew the heavy and uncomfortable yellow woollen roll-neck jerseys in favour of lighter, more colourful cotton tops. He also, ironically given his club, dispensed with the long-established goalkeeper's "Kilmarnock bunnet" in favour of American-style baseball caps.

Cowan is considered the first goalkeeper to have used angles, marking out the position of his goalposts on the six-yard line and so forth. He played mind games with forwards, publicly stating his conviction that he would be the first goalkeeper to save a penalty taken by Rangers' Johnny Hubbard.

He was beaten to that milestone by Airdrie's Dave Walker, but he was still, with Walker and Bert Slater, one of only three goalkeepers to save a Hubbard spot-kick.

Brown devised several means of upsetting the Old Firm, sporting a green jersey when he played against Rangers, a blue one against Celtic.

Brown also broke new ground in the pre-match warm-up. He stopped doing what goalkeepers had done for years – simply standing on the goal line and fielding shots fired at him by teammates. Instead he went out to a corner of the pitch and warmed up, usually with half backs Frank Beattie, Toner and Bobby Kennedy.

In November 1960, after 315 appearances, he shocked Kilmarnock by asking for a transfer and was quickly on his way to St Mirren in a deal which took future Scotland goalkeeper Campbell Forsyth to Rugby Park.

While at Love Street, he was called into the Scotland squad in December 1961 as cover for Dunfermline Athletic's Eddie Connachan for the crucial World Cup qualifying play-off against Czechoslovakia, after a 12-year absence from the national squad.

But now aged 36, he knew his career was on the wane. He had short spells as goalkeeping cover with East Fife, Stranraer and Falkirk before winding down his playing career in Canada with the quaintly named Polish White Eagles club.

After retiring from football he cashed in on his cult status in Kilmarnock by opening a pub called Jimmy Brown's Cross Bar – he wanted to call it the Cross-Shot after the effort he considered hardest for a goalkeeper to deal with, but the licensing board vetoed the name.

He later opened another pub, the Bonnet, in Stewarton; coaching local side Stewarton United during this time, before retiring back to the East Neuk of Fife, where he lived in Cellardyke. He was a keen golfer, and captained the senior side at Crail.

Brown had been fighting cancer for some time and his death removes a colourful, larger-than-life personality, a man of sunny disposition and a popular figure with supporters, from Scottish football life.

He is survived by his widow, Nessie, sons Jim and Wallace, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

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