John Brown has blown full-time on his distinguished service to the Irish Football Association (IFA) which has seen him kick off many years as a referee and move to a seat on the association’s international committee.
En route, he “was there” when Gerry Armstrong hammered home the goal against Spain (World Cup 1982) so often viewed on television, and has other great memories of travelling all over Europe – including the Azores and Iceland – when he was on the Junior International Committee of the IFA and watched promising young players like David Healy and Aaron Hughes go through the ranks.
And he still holds dear the memory of the iconic Healy goal that saw Northern Ireland beat England 1-0 in the 2005 World Cup qualifier, although England still went through. And the famous disallowed “perfectly good goal” that George Best scored when he ‘stole’ the ball from England keeper Gordon Banks (May 1971) still rankles with him, as it does with so many fans, especially as Francis Lee clearly handled the ball prior to England’s winner.
John began life his football life as manager in his home town Lisburn when he ran junior side Lisnargarvey Strollers. But when he moved to Portadown and married the former Gladys Robinson in 1964 (sadly Gladys died at the young age of 53) he turned to off-field activities.
He qualified as a Grade Two referee (in control of B Division matches and running the line in senior matches) and then moved to his true forte of administration in the mid-1970s.
He became secretary of the Mid Ulster League after predecessor Roy Marshall joined the IFA full-time, then was appointed secretary of the Mid Ulster Football Association for 14 years (also treasurer), after which he was secretary of Portadown Football Club for three years.
In 1993, he suffered a stroke – from which he has recovered well – and at that stage (1993) Dungannon Swifts – then B Division – asked him to join their board, which he did the following year and there he remains. “I don’t know why they asked me,” said the modest John. “But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Swifts – it’s been a happy ‘marriage.”
Meanwhile, he was invited to join the IFA and initially travelled all over Europe with the junior teams – Norway, France, Italy, Eastern Europe, Iceland, Azores, you name it and John Brown was there.
He joined the IFA the night before his beloved Arsenal were beaten 1-0 by Ipswich Town in the FA Cup Final, with Roger Osborne hitting the winner – “even more sickening as I sat in Wembley and watched it!”
He was on the junior committee for 18 years and then was invited onto the international committee, where one of his first duties was the appointment of Laurie Sanchez as Northern Ireland team manager, an era more successful than most, given the rather restrictive panel that he had to work with, the golden moment being that single goal win over England.
Meanwhile John – a retired technician with DoE Roads Service – bore the death of his beloved wife Gladys and his illness with great fortitude, and appreciates the help of daughter Janet Compston, son Gary and his four grandchildren.
And the Portadown Times thanks him for the work he did for the paper, both as an excellent contact in the football world, and for organising the penalty kick competitions we used to run, the prize for which was an expenses-paid trip to Wembley Cup Finals for the winners!
At the age of 73, John felt it was time to step down. “The upper age limit in the IFA is 75, so I feel my timing is just right,” he said. “I decided I wouldn’t wait for the final whistle!”