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Dave Woodhall pays tribute to former Villa captain Brian Godfrey, who died on Thursday.

While the third division days are the lowest point in the Villa’s history they are still recalled with an enormous amount of fondness by supporters who can remember the camaraderie of the period, and the players involved are still thought of as highly as their most skilled counterparts of more successful periods. Brian Godfrey is one such example.

Brian joined Villa from Preston in 1967. Then playing up front, he was top scorer in 1967-68 as Villa finished 16th in division two, at that time their lowest-ever position.

The next two seasons saw a drama almost every day as Villa experienced new managers, a new board, attendances tripling and eventual relegation to the third division. By now converted to midfield, Brian Godfrey performed in much the same way as he ever did. He gave his all – he knew nothing else.

As captain in the third division Godfrey led by example against teams who have never played at a ground like Villa Park or in front of such crowds as the Villa attracted home and away. Never was his never-say-die attitude better exemplified than in the two legs of the League Cup semi-final against the Manchester United of Best, Law and Charlton.

A 1-1 draw at Old Trafford set the scene for a night often described as the greatest in Villa Park’s history. A 2-1 win gave Villa a Wembley final with Spurs where despite being on top for 80 minutes they succumbed to two late goals.

Brian’s efforts in midfield and as captain made him enormously popular with supporters, so much so that he was awarded the Terrace Trophy for supporters’ player of the year at the end of the season. After years of decline the club was beginning to believe in itself again.

Manager Vic Crowe believed that the team needed improving and Bristol Rovers’ Ray Graydon was the man he wanted. Unfortunately Rovers boss Bill Dodgin would only let Graydon go in return for Brian Godfrey, so Crowe was forced to risk the wrath of supporters by agreeing a swap deal.

Godfrey did well with Rovers, later playing for Newport Country, Portland Timbers and finally Bath City as player-manager. He then took over the manager’s job at Exeter City, later managing non-league clubs Weymouth, Bath City again and Gloucester City. Brian retired to Cyprus, where he died in the early hours of Thursday morning GMT.

Everyone who supports a team in this area will havet players like Brian alongside the memories of their big stars. For Wolves fans the players of the Bhatti era will rub shoulders with the likes of Billy Wright and John Richards. Albion supporters will remember the mainstays of their time in the old third division as well as they do Cyrille Regis and Tony Brown.

They may not have been the most talented in the world but they knew their club was in a position where effort was the most important thing and they had it in abundance. Such players are as important in the history of their club as the ones who won trophies.

They deserve recognition, and for Brian there would be no greater tribute than if next month Villa win the trophy he was so close to lifting 39 years ago.



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