Touching tributes have been paid to a former Clarets manager who went on to nurture some of Manchester United’s most famous rising stars.
Joe Brown, who died last week in Burnley aged 85, helped to oversee the emergence of the likes of Ryan Giggs and David Beckham from fresh-faced novices to global superstars during his time as youth development officer at Old Trafford.
The son of a North-East coalminer, Brown’s love affair with football began as a small child growing up in Cramlington.
Although the family were poor, Joe would receive a new leather football every Christmas – his only present.
He soon put it to good use and escaped a life down the pits when he gained an apprenticeship with Middlesbrough before being transferred to Burnley. However, he would only make six appearances for the Clarets as a wing-half before going on to play more than 200 games for Bournemouth.
But it would not be long before the lure of Turf Moor beckoned again, and he returned as a coach in 1961.
It was during these years that Joe’s benign and gentle nature proved itself suited to coaching the club’s youngsters.
His skill in this field was proven when he guided the Burnley team to FA Youth Cup success in 1968.
He eventually became club legend Jimmy Adamson’s assistant in the 1970s, and replaced him in January, 1976. But his own job in the Turf Moor hotseat was shortlived and he was replaced a year later.
Former Claret Paul Fletcher, who played under Brown, believed he was too nice to be a manager, but was ideally suited to guiding youngsters.
“Joe was a fantastic person. He was the buffer between the players and Jimmy Adamson who could be quite strict.
“Joe would always put his arm round your shoulder. I think he was too nice a guy to be a manager, but he found his niche in youth football.
“I can’t ever remember him not having a smile on his face. He was quite a religious man so there wasn’t much swearing when he was around!
“I was so pleased when he found his niche at Old Trafford, and I feel privileged to have known him.”
Joe’s son, Martin, who now lives in France, said his dad was inundated with offers after leaving Burnley, but accepted a position at Manchester United. He declined an offer from Arsenal because his wife Constance wanted to remain living in Burnley.
“Dad loved the Burnley people. He thought they were very genuine, similar to North-East folk. He lived here for 53 years,” Martin added.
One of Joe’s first protégés at United’s legendary The Cliff training ground was the talented young Northern Irishman Norman Whiteside.
Martin said: “Dad lived and breathed football. He was very rarely in the house and hated television – he was always out watching games.
“I wasn’t particularly interested in football but I occasionally met some of the youth players – I remember meeting David Beckham when he was an 11-year-old.
“No-one ever had a bad word to say about dad, and I know he got on well with Sir Bobby Charlton. He always told me a tale about when they were on a tour to Germany and someone approached Sir Bobby in the street. This German chap simply said ‘that was never a goal’, obviously referring to the 1966 World Cup final.
“Dad loved his time at Old Trafford – he was always very proud whenever any of the young players made their breakthrough, which of course many did. He had a great deal of respect for Sir Alex Ferguson.”
Away from football, Joe was a committed Christian and worshipped at Queensgate Pentecostal and Rosehill Baptist Church.
Martin revealed that two incidents in his dad’s later life had a profound effect on him.
He was injured in a hit and run accident in 1991, and could be seen on the pitch afterwards, still limping from his injuries.
But worse was to come in 2004 when his other son Nigel died aged just 49.
Martin added: “I think dad was quite badly affected by Nigel’s death and the accident. He later developed dementia which was a terrible thing to see. I know he will be missed by a great many people who loved and respected him.”
Joe Brown’s funeral will be held on Thursday at 10am at Rosehill Baptist Church.