Memory Lane

Sunday 30 September 2012 10:00

From the past or present, we catch up with a different Fulham personality. This week, Stan Brown talks to Club historian Dennis Turner.

It was a damp, cold afternoon in January 1961, and I, 14-years-old, was in my usual place, standing low down on the Hammersmith End terrace to the right of the goal. We were at home to Sheffield Wednesday in the (old) First Division. My disappointment at the news that Johnny Haynes was unfit was tempered by the prospect of seeing young Alan Mullery Captain the Team for the first time.

And, sure enough, our new skipper made a critical contribution, and in the very first minute. While the goalkeeper was still marking out his lines, Mullers hit the ball from at least 30 yards along the wet surface with unerring accuracy into the back of the net. Unfortunately, the stranded and surprised goalkeeper was Tony Macedo and Alan had scored one of the best own goals seen at the Cottage. Hard to believe, but it got even worse after that, and we ended up losing 6-1, which remains to this day our biggest-ever home defeat in the top flight. 

This match also marked the introduction to league football of Stan Brown. Afterwards, he must have wondered if he would get a second game. In fact he had to wait over 18 months for his next chance. But, when he left the Cottage in 1972, he had made 397 appearances for us (number 17 on our all-time appearances list) in three divisions of the league and had played for five managers. Stan was one of our most consistent and reliable players for a decade and today, at the age of 71, is still an avid supporter.

“I felt terrible after my debut but Beddy [Jezzard, the Manager] was fine about it and didn’t blame me,” Stan recalled. “I eventually made the breakthrough in 1962/63 and in my second game that season I scored the winner against Everton, the club that went on to win the title. And what a great feeling that was. It was the only goal of the game and all I wanted was for the ref to blow the final whistle. After that I was pretty much a regular for 10 years and loved every minute of it.”

Stan admits to being a Fulham fan from a very young age and says he always wanted to be a footballer.

“The family was very football-minded and I had two brothers who were also professionals, Alan for Brighton & Hove Albion and Irvin for AFC Bournemouth. We were Lewes-born and bred and I played for an outstanding schools side and captained Sussex Schools. One day, six of us got asked to go Brighton who were interested but I was told to come back when I was bigger. But we were being watched by another scout and one day a letter arrived at home offering me a trial with Fulham. It was my first-ever visit to London and I met up with Alan Mullery who was also having a trial. After a couple of weeks, the Club offered me a place on the groundstaff.”

Although the life of a professional footballer seems glamorous, Stan remembers that there was a lot of hard work.

“In those days, we had to clean the toilets, sweep the stands and in my case clean the boots,” he said. “Every Friday I had 40 pairs of boots to clean. And then we trained in the afternoons. Doing the boots was a good job. It was indoors and I got to know the players, who used to take the mickey, but it was always good natured. I was asked a few years ago on a television programme about the Johnny Haynes statue outside the ground. I said I thought it was a wonderful likeness except for the fact that his boots were dirty. When I did them, they were spotless.”

And the Maestro was, in Stan’s opinion, someone very special.

He said: “He was a lovely man who helped me a lot. As a player, he was brilliant, a class apart. Although he would often ruck with some of his teammates, I could understand why. He was a perfectionist and he set the standards very high. We had some very good players at Fulham in those days, but Johnny stood out and we all recognised his talent. And all the stories about Fulham being a happy, friendly Club were absolutely true. The big names and the youngsters all mixed in together and there were no cliques.”

How would Stan assess the managers he played for?

“Beddy was my first and he was terrific,” mused Stan. “He looked after me and was always encouraging me. I remember once we were playing at White Hart Lane, around 1963 I think, and he said that he wanted me to man-mark Jimmy Greaves, follow him everywhere, even to the toilet. For over an hour, I never game him a kick. Then we got stretched at the back and I moved to cover the Spurs winger to stop him crossing the ball. I was a split second too late, the cross went to Greaves, 1-0 to Spurs and the only goal of the game. But Beddy was understanding, knew it was one of those things and there were no recriminations.

“His successor, Vic Buckingham, was very different. I never took to him. I thought he was very odd, weird even and there were so many stories about how he treated some players, you just had to laugh. But he let a lot of good ones go and the Club suffered. I had played alongside Bobby Robson for five seasons before he came back as Manager. But he was still young, it was his first job and the rot had already set in. I don’t think he really had a chance but he did go on to prove he was a brilliant manager.

“I always liked Bill Dodgin and the way he wanted his teams to play. I felt he was really unlucky to be sacked in 1972 a year after winning promotion. We were not a bad team but had some bad luck. Some of the things we tried didn’t come off and the goals dried up and we were lucky to hang on in the Second Division. But Bill was a good man.

“I never really got to know Alec Stock. He came in the summer and a few months later I went out on loan to Brighton before joining Colchester United in December 1972.”

His 13 years as a professional with Fulham were something of a roller-coaster ride and Stan was quick to point to the highs and lows.

“Winning promotion in 1970/71 was an obvious high,” he said. “Bill Dodgin got us playing some very good football and we should have gone up as champions but blew it in the final game at home to Preston North End.

“But, after being part of the teams that were relegated twice, it was a great feeling to be moving upwards. The escape from relegation in 1966 was exciting and I will never forget that game at Northampton Town, which was virtually the decider. We were 2-1 down at one stage and looked to be on our way down, but then young Steve Earle popped in a hat-trick and we won 4-2. Dave Sexton must take a lot of the credit. He came in as Coach in January when we were rock bottom and turned us around.

“Like me, he used to travel in from Sussex every day and was such a nice man. He was the first coach I worked with who really thought about tactics and formations. Training sessions with Dave were not just pounding the streets for three miles.

“Apart from my first goal, the one I remember best was in a cup tie against West Bromwich Albion in 1969. We were at the bottom of the Second Division, they were in the First and FA Cup holders. They beat us 2-1 at the Cottage but we were worth a draw. I got our goal, a header when I had to twist in mid-air. I was all of five feet seven but I managed to out-jump their centre half John Talbot, who was a strapping figure.

“As regards the lows, it goes without saying that relegations in 1968 and 1969 were awful. It’s very dispiriting playing in a losing team week after week and you could feel the confidence draining away.”

Although he has had his bus pass for a few years now, Stan is still involved and interested in football. He watched the Tottenham Hotspur v Lazio game, lamenting the fact that Mousa Dembélé and Clint Dempsey were playing for the wrong Lillywhites.

He runs soccer schools in his home town of Lewes and he and his Fulham-supporting sons get to Fulham whenever they can. And he keeps in touch with some of his teammates from the 60s.

He said: “Last August, I got a phone call at home asking for Mr Brown. After a couple of minutes the caller burst out laughing and said he was Tony Macedo. We chatted for over an hour. He was a wonderful goalkeeper, a forerunner of the modern goalkeepers like Mark Schwarzer; very fit, agile and athletic. And Tony of course had to put up with a lot more physical punishment than ‘keepers do today.”

Talking to Stan, it’s pretty clear that football and Fulham are in his DNA. In October 1970, he was awarded a richly-deserved testimonial and his brochure was titled appropriately, ‘The Player’s Player’. He was someone we are unlikely to see again in top-class football, a player who spent almost his whole career at one club, who played in any position that he is asked and who remained modest and self-effacing throughout. Stan was a consummate professional who made a major contribution to Fulham at an exciting time in our history.