Tributes paid to Holbeach-born soccer star ‘Slogger’ Keeble

TIGERS LEGEND: Holbeach-born Brian Keeble who played for the Carter's Park club before moving to Grimsby.
TIGERS LEGEND: Holbeach-born Brian Keeble who played for the Carter's Park club before moving to Grimsby.
  • Journey from town Tigers to hero status as Keeble faces Matthews and Ball – alongside Graham Taylor

A Holbeach-born footballer who went on to play against some of the game’s greats, including World Cup winner Alan Ball, has been remembered this week.

The funeral of Brian “Slogger” Keeble, who died just before Christmas aged 77, took place yesterday in Grimsby where mourners included team-mate and ex-England manager Graham Taylor.

Mr Keeble, who leaves a wife, two children and two grandchildren, was born in July 1938 and started his career at Holbeach United before a spell of National Service with the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment.

Pete Cousins (85), of Whaplode, a Holbeach United supporter for nearly 70 years, said: “Brian was a heck of a player, there’s no two ways about it.

“He was also quite a lad who always had time to talk to you.

“I started supporting Holbeach when I was 16 and even then it was noted that Brian was from a footballing family.

Brian was a good defender, both at centre half and right back, and a hell of a stopper

Pete Cousins (85), of Whaplode and a Holbeach United supporter for nearly 70 years

“Brian was a good defender, both at centre half and right back, and a hell of a stopper who played with Alan Day (ex-manager of both Holbeach and Spalding United).

He left Holbeach to join Grimsby Town in 1959 and made 172 appearances for the Mariners, scoring just one goal in the 1961-62 season.

A statement from Grimsby Town said: “We are saddened to hear of the passing of former player Brian Keeble who, while doing his National Service in the Royal Lincolnshire Regiment, played for Town’s reserves as an amateur.

“Brian turned professional as soon as he left the Army in 1959 and made his league debut the following September, going on to establish himself as an ever-present when the club were promoted from the old Third Division in 1961–62.

“Our thoughts are with Brian’s family at this sad time.”

Mr Keeble’s final move as a player was to Darlington where he played 154 times, scoring twice, before going on to play at clubs which included Boston United.

A family tribute read: “Brian passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his loving family, after a short illness and he will be missed by all (who) knew him.”

The name of Brian Keeble may not be the first one that comes to mind when considering the famous footballers linked to Grimsby Town.

Former manager Bill Shankly, who has legendary status at Liverpool, Lawrie McMenenemy, who left Grimsby to join Southampton where he managed the FA Cup winning side of 1976, and Garry Birtles, who won the European Cup twice under Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest, are all more likely candidates.

But Mr Keeble has his own place in Mariners’ folklore as a member of the Division Three promotion-winning side in 1962, playing against the late Sir Stanley Matthews, before joing Darlington three years later.

In a book about his time at the Durham club, Farewell to Feethams, Mr Keeble said: “I moved house to Darlington from Cleethorpes but on the day we were due to move, the removal van didn’t show up.

“We had a young baby who was only six months old, so (the manager) said we could stay at his house while it was all sorted out.”

Mr Keeble played for Darlington when they pulled off a shock 2-1 win at Blackpool in the Football League Cup in October 1965.

“Blackpool had a full-strength side out, including players like Alan Ball and Jimmy Armfield,” Mr Keeble said.

“I put in a crunching tackle on Alan which he was expecting me to pull out of it.

“But after the game, Jimmy Armfield was a real gentleman when he came into our dressing room and congratulated us.

“There was a big celebration that night.”

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