One of two footballing brothers best known for their performance in the 1977 FA Cup Final with Manchester United
Brian Greenhoff, who has died suddenly at the age of 60, was one of two footballing brothers best remembered for their performance in the 1977 FA Cup Final, when with Manchester United they denied the then dominant Liverpool a historic treble. Older brother Jimmy scored the clinching goal, but the ball-playing defender Brian was man of the match.
The two were born in Barnsley, Yorkshire. Brian followed Jimmy into the school team and the local and England schoolboy teams, but while Jimmy joined Don Revie’s Leeds United, Brian was snapped up by Manchester United as a junior – he was one of Sir Matt Busby’s last signings. It was 1968, the year that the United of Best, Law and Charlton won the European Cup, but, through injury and United’s subsequent slump, glory did not come right away.
Thingstook off for him only with the arrival of Tommy Docherty as manager. Till then Greenhoff had played in central midfield, but in 1973 his big opportunity arrived. Jim Holton, fixture of the United dressing room and idol of the fans, broke his leg playing against Sheffield Wednesday, and did it again while making a comeback in the reserves. In the ensuing emergency, Greenhoff was drafted into the centre of defence, and there he stayed.
Greenhoff might not have been as rampaging and aggressive as Holton, who inspired the terrace chant “Six foot two, eyes of blue, Big Jim Holton’s after you”, but he was considerably more mobile, and although United were relegated in 1974, Greenhoff was that season’s supporters’ player of the year. He was a trier, enthusiastic and uncrushable, and was to develop into a crowd favourite as, blond locks flying, he set up the wing-heeled wide men Steve Coppell and Gordon Hill in counter-attack and formed a famous defensive partnership with the gifted Scotland international Martin Buchan.
At the end of the 1974-75 season, Manchester United were promoted back to the top tier at the first attempt. Far from struggling to stay out of the First Division drop zone, they reached the 1976 FA Cup Final, though, in spite of being odds-on favourites, they lost to Second Division Southampton. “I was so disappointed that I didn’t shake hands with a Southampton player,” said Greenhoff later. “I couldn’t even watch them receive the Cup.” Instead, he went back to the team hotel and threw his losers’ medal across the room, telling his wife that he would wait for a winners’ medal next year.
He was as good as his word. In the close season of 1976, Docherty signed Jimmy, a midfielder and by then a local hero at Stoke City. Within a year the brothers found themselves at Wembley together, confronting Liverpool in the 1977 final.
At the time, managed by Bob Paisley and with a team sheet that included the names of Kevin Keegan, Steve Heighway, John Toshack, Emlyn Hughes, Tommy Smith and Ray Clemence, Liverpool were the supreme force in the English game, but United beat them 2-0 and Brian got his winners’ medal. He was subsequently pictured strolling across Hyde Park with Docherty, Steve Coppell and a bottle of champagne.
Then United sacked Docherty after his relationship with Mary, wife of the physio Laurie Brown, came to light. With the arrival of Dave Sexton, Greenhoff fell out of favour. In 1979, after 11 years, 271 appearances and 17 goals, he was sold to Leeds for £350,000.
With that move down the ladder and after 18 England caps between 1976 and 1980, Brian’s international career petered out. So, after 72 appearances and one goal in his three years with Leeds, did his time in the English game, though following stints in South Africa and Finland he made a fleeting comeback as a player-coach at Rochdale, where Jimmy was manager.
The brothers’ relationship suffered in the aftermath of Jimmy’s dismissal in 1984, and, from having been seemingly inseparable, they fell out. It was, said Jimmy later, “a little family argument. It’s the only one we ever had.” They refused to speak to each other for a decade and a half.
For several years Brian worked for a sports wholesale company in Manchester. His family then lived on the Spanish island of Menorca before returning to Rochdale.
Greenhoff is survived by his wife, Maureen, and sons Paul, Brian and Peter.
• Brian Greenhoff, footballer, born 28 April 1953; died 22 May 2013
Read the full article here.
This news item has been reproduced from today’s media. It does not necessarily represent the opinion of Kop That.