Brighton and Birmingham manager Freddie Goodwin launched the careers of two top England internationals

ALBION’S manager when I first started watching them launched the football careers of two top England internationals.

Before he arrived at the Goldstone, Freddie Goodwin had already given a league debut to goalkeeper Ray Clemence, who went on to play for Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur and won 61 caps for his country.

After he left Brighton, Goodwin gave a Birmingham City debut to 16-year-old Trevor Francis who was England’s first £1 million player when transferred to Nottingham Forest in 1979 and he played 52 times for England.

At Third Division Brighton, Goodwin tended to rely on experienced pros on the way down the football pyramid.

Among the players under his stewardship were two of his former Manchester United teammates: Nobby Lawton, who was captain, and centre forward Alex Dawson, who had both been at Old Trafford with him in the late ‘50s.

Brighton were the third club for who he signed former Wolves and Villa goalkeeper Geoff Sidebottom and he brought his former Leeds teammate Willie Bell in as player-coach from 1969 FA Cup finalists, Leicester City.

Born in Heywood, Lancashire, on 28 June 1933, Goodwin came to the attention of Manchester United when playing for Chorlton County Secondary School and became a professional under Matt Busby in October 1953.

One of the famous Busby Babes, he made his senior debut for the club on 20 November 1954 against Arsenal in a 2-1 home win.

However, he wasn’t able to hold down a regular spot until the Munich air disaster in February 1958 decimated the United first team. Alongside Dawson, Goodwin was given a chance to establish himself and he played in the side which lost 2-0 in that year’s FA Cup Final to Bolton Wanderers.

By the time United decided to sell him for £10,000 to Leeds United in March 1960, he’d played 107 games over five seasons.

From being a teammate of Bobby Charlton, Goodwin partnered Bobby’s brother Jack in the Leeds defence and captained the side until the arrival of Bobby Collins in 1962.

After 120 games for Leeds, his playing career was virtually ended when a tackle, ironically by former Leeds legend John Charles, playing for Cardiff, on 4 January 1964, fractured a leg in three places.

Goodwin went on to become player-manager at Division Three Scunthorpe United (his injury restricted him to just six appearances) where he first signed Sidebottom whose place was eventually taken by the emerging Clemence.

When Goodwin tried his luck in America in 1967-68, Sidebottom was one of his first signings at New York Generals, and the ‘keeper played 44 games over there.

Following Archie Macaulay’s decision to stand down as Albion manager two months into the 1968-69 season, Goodwin was brought in as his successor. The side responded positively to his arrival, going 15 games unbeaten at home.

As young lads, we always got to the Goldstone as the gates opened at 1.30pm and as we claimed our places at the front of the perimeter wall near the players’ tunnel, Goodwin would have a few words with us as he came out to inspect the pitch, one time in particular I recall him commenting how heavy going it would be after an almighty downpour.

In his only full season in charge, 1969-70, Brighton were looking good bets for promotion to Division Two. They were top after a cracking 2-1 Good Friday win over Reading but lost 1-0 the following day at Halifax and 4-1 at Fulham on Easter Monday.

With three games to go, they lost two of them, away to Rochdale and home to Mansfield (only managing to beat Rotherham 2-1 at the Goldstone) and ended up fifth, seven points behind champions Orient.

When Birmingham played Albion in a First Division match at The Goldstone on 7 November 1981, Evening Argus Albion reporter John Vinicombe wrote about his memories of Goodwin’s time at the helm.

“I recall him telling me that during his time at New York Generals he occupied his spare time by studying Spanish, book-keeping and accountancy,” wrote Vinicombe. And when he arrived at the Albion he told the players: “Results are nothing to do with you. They are my problem. Forget them and just give me 90 minutes effort, whatever the score.”

In the summer after narrowly missing out on promotion, Goodwin still had 18 months left on his contract but Birmingham came in an offered him a three-year deal to succeed Stan Cullis.

“Albion’s board were stunned,” wrote Vinicombe. “They felt Goodwin was the man to take them up, and initially tried to prevent his release.

“The atmosphere was strained for a day or two. When the Albion board realised it was unrealistic in attempting to hold Goodwin, they came to a financial arrangement with City.”

However, Goodwin decided he wanted to take Bell and youth coach George Dalton with him. So eager was he to hire them that he made an illegal approach while they were still under contract at Brighton and Birmingham were later fined £5,000 for a breach of regulations.

Blues fans will always remember how Goodwin launched the career of teenager Francis. In 1972, Francis, Bob Latchford and Bob Hatton spearheaded promotion for the Blues and a place in the FA Cup semi finals.

The 1973-74 season saw Birmingham escape relegation from the elite by a single point. They were marginally safer the following season, and reached the semi-final of the FA Cup again (losing in a replay to Fulham).

With Blues struggling at the foot of the table at the start of the 1975-76 season, Goodwin was sacked in September and Bell took over.

In 1976 Goodwin returned to America to become the first coach and president of the Minnesota Kicks where he remained until the early 1980s before retiring.

He settled in the US and lived there until his death from cancer aged 82 in Gig Harbour, Washington, on 19 February last year.

In paying tribute to the man who gave him his big break, Francis told the Birmingham Mail: “I will forever be indebted to him for having the courage to put me into the team at such a young age – that tends to be overlooked.

“I had only had a season of youth football and not even a handful of reserve team games but he still gave me my opportunity.

“I held him in very high regard and had enormous respect for him. I was most saddened the day he was sacked.

“He looked after me and took care of me. He was like a father figure to me. He knew when to play me and when to take me out and give me a little bit of a rest – not that I understood that at 16 years old.

“Just before I went to Detroit, Freddie was already in the States coaching the Minnesota Kicks and he put a very lucrative offer in front of me to go out there and play.

“That alerted a lot of other NASL clubs and in the end I went to Detroit, who were managed by Jimmy Hill. I owe much of that to Freddie’s foresight.”

Read more here:

Pictures show a portrait from an Albion matchday programm and Goodwin in a Leeds team line-up from 1962-63 alongside Billy Bremner and Jack Charlton.


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