Brighton fans often enter into a debate about who was the best goalkeeper ever to play for the club.
Although he was past his best when he joined the Seagulls, former England international Joe Corrigan would certainly be a contender.
Corrigan was, quite literally, at 6’4” a giant among goalkeepers and a colossus for Manchester City at the highest level before a second tier spell with Brighton towards the end of his playing career.
He subsequently became a top goalkeeping coach and amongst the ‘keepers he worked with was another former Seagulls favourite, Tomasz Kuszczak, when at West Brom.
After taking over from Harry Dowd, Corrigan was a near permanent fixture in goal for Manchester City between 1970 and 1983.
But for his career coinciding with Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence, he would surely have won more than the nine England caps he accumulated.
In total Corrigan made 592 appearances for City, a club record for a goalkeeper, and he was City’s Player of the Year three times.
In 1983, at the age of 34, Corrigan was sold to American club Seattle Sounders for £30,000, but he stayed in the US only a few months, and, in September that year, returned to England with Brighton.
Unfortunately for Joe it was at that turbulent time when, although Jimmy Melia was still the manager, chairman Mike Bamber had installed Chris Cattlin as first team coach behind Melia’s back.
Within a matter of weeks of the 1983-84 season starting, Melia was fired and Cattlin took over.
Corrigan was not impressed. In his 2008 autobiography (Big Joe, The Joe Corrigan Story) he declared Cattlin “the worst manager I’d ever played under” although he described his teammates as “a terrific bunch of lads” and he seemed to enjoy a decent social life on the south coast.
For instance, at the annual players Christmas ‘do’ – if the account in Jimmy Case’s autobiography is anything to go by.
Corrigan became big pals with Case during his time at Brighton and the Scouse midfield favourite recounts in Hard Case (John Blake Publishing), a time the players went out on their Christmas ‘bash’ in Brighton wearing fancy dress.
Corrigan wore white tights and a tutu and at one point stood in the middle of the road directing traffic while his teammates crossed – beckoning cars facing a red light to go and stopping cars that were on a green light. “I am still not sure how he survived that incident without having his collar felt,” said Case.
“Joe is a big, soft lad with a heart of gold but he has a painful way of showing it.”
One of his party pieces was to catch people off guard with a short jab in the ribs or arm. One playful punch landed on physio Mike Yaxley broke two of his ribs!
Case described Joe as “a star performer on the pitch and a bloody clown off it”.
Corrigan played 36 times for the Seagulls, including performing heroics in the famous 2-0 1984 FA Cup win over Liverpool, when goals by Terry Connor and Gerry Ryan meant the Seagulls dumped the mighty reds out of the cup two years in succession (following the 2-1 win at Anfield during the 1983 run to the cup final).
Sadly, as revealed in Big Joe, The Joe Corrigan Story, his time with Brighton ended on a sour note and when Cattlin opted for Perry Digweed as his first choice ‘keeper for the 1984-85 season, it all turned publicly ugly.
The club fined Corrigan for speaking out of turn to the press but Corrigan successfully got the fine overturned thanks to help from the PFA.
As it became clear he would never play for Brighton again, he went out on loan to Stoke City and Norwich but then back in Brighton Reserves sustained an injury to his neck that ended his career.
Corrigan retired from playing and went on to become a goalkeeping coach at a number of clubs, including 10 years at Liverpool, then spells at Celtic, Middlesbrough and West Brom.
When at 60 in 2009 he brought down the curtain on a 42-year career in the game, Tony Mowbray, manager of West Brom at the time, told the Birmingham Mail’s Chris Lepkowski: “Joe has been a pleasure to work with. His knowledge and experience have been a big help to me and I’ll be sorry to see him go.
“He’s a great character, a true gentleman and everyone at the club wishes him a long and happy retirement.”
Corrigan told the Mail: “Everyone says you know when the time is right to retire – and I feel this is mine.
“I’ve had just over four great years at this club and want to say a massive thank you to the Albion fans, who have always been very supportive of me and made me feel really welcome.
“The staff and players – particularly the keepers – have also been a pleasure to work with.
“Ironically, my final home game here will be against Liverpool, a club where I spent ten happy years, and we went to City two weeks ago, which obviously is always a special occasion for me.”
- Pictures from my scrapbook show Corrigan punching clear of Chelsea’s David Webb, diving headlong to deny Chelsea’s Keith Weller, letting his teammates know his thoughts, and in an Albion squad line-up alongside Eric Young and behind Gerry Ryan and Steve Gatting.