ace shot stopper

This article originally appeared in 
MEHSTG Vol. 2 Issue 20 (April 2001)

Now that we have the first choice Scottish International goalkeeper in Neil Sullivan the comparisons will obviously be drawn with Bill Brown, who was our keeper in the great sixties team and also the regular Scotland No.1.

Bill was signed by Bill Nicholson in 1959 from Dundee for £16,000 (a big sum for a keeper in those days) and proved to be a very good buy for Tottenham.  A reliable, agile and good shot-stopper, the keeper had many outstanding games for Spurs.  He won 28 caps for Scotland until he retired from international football in 1965 and was consistent in his level of performance.  Tall and thin in appearance, Bill's greatest strength was in saving shots.  He had the ability (like Jennings) to make some of his saves look easy because of his brilliant reflexes, which often turned over point blank shots for corners.  Some of his performances were truly outstanding.  He kept Spurs in the European Cup in the 3rd round in 1962, when he made unbelievable saves in Prague to keep Spurs in the competition as the Czech forwards rained a heavy barrage on the Tottenham goal.  He turned away volleys and headers and was the true star of the side as Spurs were able to come back from Czechoslovakia with just a 0-1 deficit against Dukla Prague.  Spurs went on to win the home leg 4-2 to get through as far as the European Cup semi-final.

He was the last line of defence in the great Spurs side of 1960-61, which won the double.  His high level of consistency was shown in the fact that he missed just ten League games in the three seasons when Spurs excelled from 1960-61 to 1962-63, picking up the League Championship, two FA Cup wins and the European Cup Winnersí Cup.  In the following season, 1963-64, Bill suffered an injury that kept him out for 15 League matches, which probably cost Spurs the title as Liverpool finished first - some six points ahead of Spurs in fourth place.  The key to this was that Spurs conceded 81 League goals, 36 more than the champions. It was obvious that Tottenham needed a new reserve goalkeeper to understudy Brown and Pat Jennings was signed in the summer of 1964.  Bill initially lost his place to Pat, but the latter's inconsistency and hesitancy soon allowed Bill back into the first team and they shared the first choice spot for two seasons between 1964-65 and 1965-66 before the Irishman went on to make the position his own.

Bill's brilliance was evident during the double season when Spurs won so many away games.  It was to his credit, that with such an attacking side, Spurs won 16 away games in the League in that wonderful season.  He was very calm and composed during the incredible atmosphere of that heady season and never flinched from his duty.  He had great powers of concentration, which ensured that he kept mistakes to a minimum. His goal-kicks were usually accurate in picking out a team-mate and his clearances always tried to find a Lilywhite to keep possession.  His only real weakness was in dealing with crosses, so he preferred to stay on his line and allow big Maurice Norman to clear them with his head and stay ice-cool himself to field any resulting shots or rebounds.  When he first came to the club, he caused a bit of friction as Bill Nicholson asked the then first choice keeper Ron Reynolds (who Brown was brought in to replace), if he could go and teach Brown how to catch crosses in training !

Bill was one of the three great Spurs goalkeepers from 1955-1970.  He followed the legendary Ted Ditchburn and eventually handed over to Pat Jennings.  What a wonderful triumvirate of goalkeepers - Ditchburn, Brown, Jennings!

Bill played 262 games in total for Spurs before moving on to Northampton Town and then to Canada, where he retired and now lives.  He is an all time Spurs great and his brilliance for club and country will be a target for Neil Sullivan to emulate.  If he is half as successful, we will all be happy.

Richard Porter

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