Obituary: Alexander ‘Sandy’ Brown, footballer

Footballer Alexander 'Sandy' Brown. Picture: Contributed
Footballer Alexander 'Sandy' Brown. Picture: Contributed
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BORN: 14 March, 1939, in Grangemouth. Died: 8 April, 2014, in Blackpool, aged 75.

Sandy Brown, who has died, aged 75, after a long battle against Alzheimer’s, was one of the pillars of Harry Catterick’s great Everton teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Grangemeouth-born Brown played his junior football with Broxburn Athletic, before being snapped up by Partick Thistle in 1958. He made his first-team debut, at Celtic Park, on 21 March, 1959 and went on to make more than 150 appearances for the “Maryhill Magyrs”, before his consistency earned him a move south, for a bargain £38,000, to Everton, in September 1963.

His move to Everton’s “School of Soccer Science” came just days after he gained his solitary representative honour, when he played for the Scottish League XI, which was roundly criticised for “only” beating the Irish League 4-1 at Windsor Park, Belfast, on 4 September, 1963. His next game, on Saturday, 7 September, was his Everton debut, against Burnley, at Goodison Park, in a match which the visitors won 4-3.

On moving south, Brown was an immediate success at Goodison Park, where his versatility saw him occupy every position in the team – he even deputised in goal after England internationalist Gordon West was sent off in a match at Newcastle United – and made him a more-regular team member than he might otherwise have been, given that Everton’s other full backs at the time were Scotland cap Alex Parker and England regular and World Cup winner Ray Wilson.

Another England internationalist in Tommy Wright was also on the staff, with Keith Newton, yet another England full-back arriving later from Blackburn Rovers. He played his part in Everton’s successful FA Cup campaign of 1966, never more so than in the semi-final against Manchester United at Bolton’s Burnden Park, where his goal line clearance late in the game preserved Everton’s lead.

In spite of this, Brown had to watch the final at Wembley, in which, previously unknown journeyman Mike Trebilcock scored twice and Everton fan Eddie Kavanagh was chased the length of the pitch by a squad of Metropolitan Policeman after his one-man celebratory pitch invasion, as the Toffees beat Sheffield Wednesday 3-2.

He therefore didn’t get an FA Cup-winner’s medal, but, for his part in the campaign, Everton chairman John Moores presented him with a set of silver cutlery.

The following season, fielded up front, Brown scored the only goal of the game in a European Cup-Winners Cup tie against Real Zaragoza, in Spain, while his other memorable moment in Europe was to smash home the winning penalty in a shoot-out against Borussia Monchengladbach.

Brown’s shot was measured as the second-hardest in the English League, behind another Scot, Leeds United’s Peter Lorimer.

His punch was fairly hard too; older Evertonians still speak with awe of the blow with which he laid-out Leeds’ Johnny Giles in a memorably dirty match between the teams. Brown was red-carded and the referee took the teams off the park to cool the players down.

His best season with Everton was the League Championship-winning campaign of 1969-70. The midfield trio of Colin Harvey, Howard Kendall and Alan Ball got the glory, and England centre-half Brian Labone actually picked up the trophy, but, in spite of competition from Newton and Wright, Brown still appeared in 36 of the 42 league games in that campaign.

It was in that season that he scored what is claimed to be “the own goal against which all other own goals are measured”. It was a spectacular diving header, Liverpool’s second counter in a 3-0 Goodison Park Merseyside Derby win.

In all, Brown played more than 250 games for Everton, before winding down his career with a season at each of Shrewsbury Town and Southport.

The Everton teams in which he played were renowned for the quality of their football but, for all the fine passing of such as Harvey and Kendall, they also required uncapped players such as Brown to provide the steel.

Everton, back then, had a tartan spine running through the side.

The first Everton team he played in saw him paired at full back with Parker, while Jimmy Gabriel, Alex Scott and Alex Young were other team mates. “Golden Vision” Young recalls Brown as a terrific athlete, who, on the club holiday for players and their wives which followed the FA Cup win, won a bet by swimming a length of the swimming pool with a lit candle on his head.

After he hung up his boots, Sandy Brown worked until retirement in a biscuit factory. His later years were blighted by Alzheimer’s disease, however and he was confined to a nursing home in Blackpool. He was predeceased by his wife, Margaret, last year and is survived by son Paul, daughters Carole and Elaine and granddaughters Mollie and Mercedes.

His funeral will be held, at Carlton Crematorium, Blackpool, on Friday, 25 April, at 2:30pm.