Club honours

THE ashes of a legendary footballer were brought home to his beloved Gorleston at the weekend, and tributes were paid to his strength of charactern and skills.

THE ashes of a legendary footballer were brought home to his beloved Gorleston at the weekend, and tributes were paid to his strength of charactern and skills.

On Saturday, family, friends and former teammates of Bert “Sailor” Brown, gathered for a memorial service organised following Sailor's death, at the age of 93, in December.

The service at St Andrew's Church started with the hymn Abide With Me and ended with You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers. Both songs have been adopted as football anthems and were fitting for a service dominated by stories of Sailor's achievements on the pitch.

Mick Heard, chairman of Gorleston FC supporters' club, told the congregation how he was just 10 when he first watched Sailor play in the 1950-51 season. By then, Sailor had returned to Gorleston as player-manager after a serious injury brought an end to his top flight career.

“I was captivated…His passing and ball skills were out of this world. It is something that will stay with me for the rest of my life,” said Mr Heard.

Recalling an emotional conversation he had with Sailor shortly before he left Norfolk, Mr Heard said: “When I said cheerio to him for the last time I was very sad, but I said 'thank you for all the memories you have given me'. There were tears in his eyes and in mine.”

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Yarmouth-born Sailor moved to the north of Scotland to be near his daughter Julie Munro after his wife Daisy died a few years ago. Sailor and Daisy, whose ashes were interred in St Andrew's garden of remembrance last Friday had three children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

Sailor, who was given his nickname after he was likened to Popeye because of his muscular, nautical gait, signed for Charlton from Gorleston in 1934 and scored 24 goals in 60 games, to help the Londoners assume a leading position in the first division.

However, the second world war meant he left Charlton in 1940 to become a sergeant in the RAF. He returned to the club after the end of the conflict and his final appearance came in 1946 in the FA Cup final defeat by Derby County.

Sailor went on to play for Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa, also making six appearances for England, before a serious broken jaw effectively ended his top flight career in 1949.

He returned as player manager with Gorleston, taking them to the first round of the FA Cup, where Leyton Orient took three games to knock them out. He also masterminded the Eastern Counties League title in 1952-53 and was victorious in the Norfolk Senior Cup in the same season.

Following his retirement in 1956, Sailor stayed in Norfolk, going on to run a sports shop and a bookmakers and also work as a timber merchant.

Two of Sailor's former Gorleston teammates, Albert Vears, 84, and Dave Ellis, 80, attended the service and a reception at Gorleston's Emerald Park ground.

Mr Vears said: “You couldn't go wrong with a man like him. He was a wonderful man and a good leader.”

Sailor maintained his links with football by working as a chief scout for Aston Villa, which led to Norfolk man Bryan Boggis joining the Birmingham club as a right-back.

Mr Boggis, 68, said: “I owe him a lot; he was my mentor.”

Speaking after the service, Sailor's daughter Julie Munro, 57, said: “It has been even better than I anticipated. Dad would have been so pleased.”

Granddaughter Justine Smith added: “It was a lovely service. It was really informal and a lot of his old colleagues were there.

“He was so full of life and fun. He was very mischievous and was really fun to be with.”

t Gorleston FC has paid its own tribute to its ex-player by launching the Sailor Brown memorial cup to be played for by local sides.