Eddy Brown, one of the greatest strikers to have ever played for Birmingham City, has died, aged 86.
The much- loved centre forward, famous for hitting the net for Birmingham City against mighty Barcelona and credited with inventing the goal celebration, died at a nursing home in his native Preston on Thursday.
He had suffered Alzheimer’s disease for the last three years, but died after falling ill a week ago.
He will go down in history as one of the Blues’ most loved and eccentric servants, he was renowned for frequently quoting Shakespeare.
Brown, who at one point worked as a male model, was fluent in French, well-versed in Latin and had a passion for Shakespeare and Dylan Thomas – and he went on to teach at a school in Wolverhampton when his playing days were over.
Right-footed Brown had enjoyed an illustrious four-year career with Birmingham City from late 1954, racking up 158 appearances for the club and scoring 74 goals. And his time with the Blues coincided with its most successful period as the club finished sixth in the top flight in 1955/56.
Hugging policemen and shaking hands with the corner flag were among the never-before-seen actions after he hit the back of the net that have seen him credited with the invention of the goal celebration.
Brown’s exploits in front of the goal earned him the vote as the club’s all-time top striker, ahead of fellow legends Trevor Francis and Bob Latchford.
A St Andrew’s strike in a 4-3 European cup win over Barcelona in 1956 also meant he was the first English player to net competitively against the Catalan outfit.
Just days earlier, his header in the Blues’ 3-1 FA Cup final defeat to Manchester City led to the infamous broken neck suffered by opposing goalkeeper Bert Trautmann.
Former Blues left winger Alec Govan played alongside the fast-paced Brown in the 1950s.
“He was a gentleman and a smashing chap – you couldn’t fault him for anything,” said 83-year-old Govan from his home in Plymouth.
“We were all great mates in the dressing room at Birmingham, but he was something special.
“I would have hated to mark him – I thought I was fast until I had a race with him.”
Blues fans paid tribute on the Birmingham Mail's website when the news of his passing was announced on Thursday.
Reader standenberg wrote: "Really sad news. An absolute legend, and an absolute character. The pioneer of the modern goal celebration. A true English eccentric, who wrote a weekly column for The Mail. They don't make 'em like Eddy anymore, a complete one-off."
Another reader blues4me added: "A wonderful role model, both on and off the field. He entertained us well, and lived a life that is an inspiration to us all. A teacher, academic and intellectual. I have fond memories of him, both as a player and person of great faith as befits his formative years when he trained to be a priest. A true example about what is good in the game."
And swanseajack said: "Not just a great player but a true gentleman. I first saw Eddy Brown pay for the Blues in 1954 wth Arthur Turner's legends... a great ambassador for the club who always had a kind word for his many fans."
Brown's eccentricity was recalled by reader azul, who wrote: "Over the years I have thought about the games I have seen him in from a reserve game when he borrowed an umberella for a sprint down the line, to the shakling of hands and corner flags after scoring.
"A cup match at Leighton Orient when he disappeared into the fog and the roar that went up to signal that he had scored.
"He was an under-rated footballer no one could touch for speed, and scored some of goals from impossible angles
Yes, for me, a legend."
A Blues spokesman said: “The club is saddened to hear of the death of former playing favourite Edwin ‘Eddy’ Brown. We would like to extend its sympathies to the family and friends of the Blues great.”
Daughter Vicky Brown, aged 40, and from Preston, said: “Of all the clubs he was at throughout his career, his favourite time was at Birmingham.”
Brown leaves behind Sheila, his wife of 49 years, four children, ten grandchildren and a great grandchild.