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Aug. 16, 1932 – James Brown signs with Manchester United

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James Brown apparently was such a good prospect, British managers, including Manchester United’s Scott Duncan, raced out to sea to get his signature. Brown, who played for the U.S. in the 1930 World Cup, performed for Manchester United from 1932-34, then Brentford (1934-36 and 1940), Tottenham (1936-37), Guildford City (1937-40) and Clyde (1941) before returning to the U.S. Brown went on to coach Greenwich (Conn.) High School and the Greenpoint United club team, establishing the Brunswick School soccer program in Greenwich in 1952. His son, George, played for the U.S. in 1957, and also coached and played at the University of Bridgeport.

The Kilmarnock-born Brown moved to the U.S. as an 18-year-old in 1927, according to Colin Jose’s American Soccer League 1921-31/The Golden Years of American Soccer. After totaling 23 goals in 63 ASL games, Brown was recruited by British teams, and was set to arrive on the Cunard Liner “Caledonia,” according to a Littlewood Sports Log story, provided by his grandson, James Brown.

At least three managers awaited, among them Duncan. Rather than delay, Duncan went to meet the ship at Moville, Northern Ireland, encountering Partick Thistle manager Donald Turner on the cross channel “tender.” Both managers then took “tenders” out to meet the Caledonia and, though Turner seems to have first encountered Brown, Duncan was able to persuade Brown to sign with Manchester United during a meeting in the chief steward’s room. Brown then scored directly on an “Olimpico” corner kick in his Manchester United debut, a 1-1 draw with Grimsby at Old Trafford on Sept. 17, 1932, going on to convert 17 goals in 40 games for the Red Devils.

When the U.S. reached the 1930 World Cup semifinals, Brown, then 21, was part of a dynamic, young attack that also included Fall River’s Billy Gonsalves, 21, and Bert Patenaude, 20, plus New Bedford’s Arnie Oliver, 23. Brown, though, was not called to the team, nor were Oliver and Patenaude, for the 1934 World Cup.



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