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Memorial service for soccer legend

06:00 18 May 2009

Bert

Bert 'Sailor' Brown playing for Gorleston against Leyton Orient in the FA Cup

While many of today's footballers often stand accused of being overpaid prima donnas, Norfolk's very own Bert 'Sailor' Brown was cut from a different cloth.

While many of today's footballers often stand accused of being overpaid prima donnas, Norfolk's very own Bert “Sailor” Brown was cut from a different cloth.

On two occasions in the 1930s, the hugely talented Gorleston player walked and hitchhiked his way to London and back for trials with Charlton Athletic.

His amazing efforts paid off and the inside forward enjoyed a successful career at club and international level - cut cruelly short by the Second World War and serious injury.

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

Mick Heard, chairman of the Gorleston FC supporters' club, told the congregation at St Andrew's Church how he was just 10 when he first watched Sailor play in the 1950-51 season, during his second spell at the club.

“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.

Yarmouth-born Sailor moved to the north of Scotland to be near one of his daughters after his wife Daisy died a few years ago.

Sailor, who received his nickname after he was likened to Popeye because of his muscular, nautical gait, signed for Charlton in 1934 and scored 24 goals in 60 games. His last game was the FA Cup final defeat by Derby in 1946.

Sailor's career was interrupted by the war, where he served as a sergeant in the RAF, but he went on to play for Nottingham Forest and Aston Villa. He also made six appearances for England before a serious broken jaw ended his top flight career in 1949.

He returned for a successful period as Gorleston's player-manager before his retirement in 1956, after which he went on to run a sports shop and work as a bookmaker. He was also a timber merchant and acted as a scout for Aston Villa.

Two of Sailor's former Gorleston teammates, Albert Vears, 84, and Dave Ellis, 80, were among old friends to attend the service and a reception at Gorleston's Emerald Park ground. Also in attendance was Norfolk man Bryan Boggis, 68, who signed for Aston Villa thanks to a recommendation from Sailor.

Sailor and Daisy, whose ashes were interred in St Andrew's garden of remembrance on Friday, are survived by three children, four grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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.”

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.

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