Just William

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The ‘Just William’ series of some thirty nine books, written by Richmal Crompton, were based on a mischevious eleven year old schoolboy, called William Brown.

Number 33 in the series was called, ‘William’s Treasure Trove’, published in 1962.

Perhaps our own William (or Bill) Brown, who was born in Arbroath in 1931, was a mischevious, thirteeen year old young lad too. That we don’t know, but in the early 60s, he too, was amassing his own ‘treasure-trove’, doing ‘the double’ with Spurs in 1960-61 and retaining the FA Cup in 1962.

This treasure was added to in 1963, when Spurs won the European Cup Winners Cup. Additional honours came when winning the FA Charity Shield in 1961 &1962.

His honours in Scotland had amounted to two League Cup medals, won in 1952 & 1953.

Bill arrived in London N17 in 1959. Bill Nicholson (I bow in reverence) took the night train to Scotland, to seal the deal after the then world record fee of £16,500 was accepted by Dundee, who would use the money money for new floodlights.

Brown had over 200 appearances to his name in the Scottish League, so he was tried and tested. Nicholson was building a special team and Brown was chosen as the man between the sticks – the last line of defence.

From 1959 -1966, he was a stalwart of the Spurs side, missing very few games through injury. Sadly, his form suffered at a time when other keepers are reaching their peak.

Nicholson had to act and signed a young Pat Jennings, from Watford. Brown stayed around for a few years, but, gradually, the younger man took over. It’s tough to take, but we are all expendable.

The legend that is Pat Jennings, became a hero for Tottenham fans (472 apps.) and later Arsenal, where he made 273 appearances. He was allowed to leave ‘The Lane’ way too early, as he was in his prime and would keep goal for our north London neighbours, for some eight seasons.

The men in suits blew it! They shamed the club, in their treatment of such a wonderful servant, who in all competitions, had almost 600 appearances for Tottenham. Other teams were interested in signing him but he was sold to Arsenal. An incredible decision and huge mistake!

Aged 18, the young Jennings had made his International debut against Wales, in 1964. In that same game, another young northern Irishman, one George Best, also made his debut: the rest is history.

William Dallas Fyfe Brown died on 30 November 2004, in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. Fittingly, it was St Andrew’s Day. He was survived by his wife and three children.

In his obituary in The Guardian, 7 December 2004, Brian Glanville wrote that, ‘Brown gave lie to the English belief that Scottish keepers were a joke’.

Ian McColl, who was the Scottish Team Manager in 1964, at the time when Spurs dropped Brown, said, ‘it came as a shock – I regard Brown as the best keeper in Britain’.

Also in 1964; as one Dundee man was in the twilight of his Tottenham career, another Dundee player was just beginning what would turn out to be a glittering Spurs career.

His name was Alan John Gilzean.

A case of Deja vu. Bill Nic had watched Bill Brown play for Scotland against England and signed him. The same was true of Gilzean, whom he saw playing for a Scottish X1 against the auld enemy. Nicholson bought him as a replacement for ‘double’ winner, the great Bobby Smith.

What a replacement he would turn out to be!

Both former Dundee FC players have their places in the Tottenham Hall of Fame.

‘Just William’ was justly honoured.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. Ahhhh – those were the days!. The days when you could just turn up at the training ground and speak to Bill Nic about the match on Saturday. I had no idea that it was a world record for Bill Brown…. a certain Pat Jennings wasn't that bad either.
    It's difficult, of course, to judge just how good these yester-year players were against the current crop of over-seas mercenaries. I still see Alan in my local pub in Cheshunt – a true legend and someone who is proud to say he played for the Spurs.

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