Colin Lee: Centre forwards are a different breed

Willie Brown in his Torquay United playing strip

Willie Brown in his Torquay United playing days - Credit: Submitted

During my playing career and management career, I had the pleasure of playing alongside and have coached and managed some really good centre forwards (goal scorers).

They are a different breed and have a channelled mentality and a huge belief in their ability to score goals.

Willie Brown – TUFC

When I joined Torquay United the centre forward was Willie Brown.

Willie’s career started at Burnley but after one league game he was given a free transfer to Carlisle United where eventually he scored eight goals in 19 league games before departing for Newport County in August 1970, where he became a regular goal scorer, scoring 50 goals in 168 league appearances.

Towards the end of the 1973-74 season, Willie found himself out of favour at Newport, joining Hereford on loan in March 1974, scoring six goals in only nine League games.

In November 1974 he joined Brentford and although scoring nine times in 16 games. He failed to settle in London and joined Torquay United in March 1975 for a fee of £5,000.

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His regular goal scoring soon made him a fans favourite at Plainmoor scoring 47 goals in 139 league games.

When I joined Torquay United in January 1977 Willie was the centre forward and became a good friend he was a very likable person with a bubbly character and I quickly realised he possessed a strong mentality and belief in his ability to score goals. 

Willie loved to score goals and regardless of performance he always got huge satisfaction when he scored for United.   

Kerry Dixon - Chelsea and England International  

After scoring 51 league goals in 116 appearances for Reading, Kerry joined Chelsea in August 1983.

For a big guy Kerry was not great at receiving the ball into feet but he possessed outstanding pace so when I played up front with him in the early days I tried to be the target man on both sides of the pitch allowing Kerry to make runs in behind the defence where he left them for dead.

He was great in the air from crosses and scored many outstanding goals.

If ever you got into a conversation with him about football or personal performance he would always talk about goal scoring, nothing else mattered to him and his biggest asset in my opinion was his focus and belief in his ability to score goals. 

His 193 goals across all competitions made him the third-highest goal scorer of all time at Chelsea and for three seasons in a row - 1982-83.1983-84 and 1984-85 - he was the top goal scorer in his teams’ divisions: 3rd (Reading), 2nd, and 1st (with Chelsea) respectively.

He also scored four goals in eight international appearances for England. He believed he was born to score goals and was an outstanding goal machine.  

Jimmy Quinn – Northern Ireland International  

I worked with Jimmy at Reading FC where I was the assistant manager and first-team coach.

I watched Jimmy play one evening for West Ham United the season before we signed him. I was on one of my scouting missions and reported back to Mark McGhee, Reading manager, that we should sign Jimmy Quinn if we ever got the opportunity.

Jimmy became available at the end of the 1992 season but had already made his mind up to join Harry Redknapp at Bournemouth FC.

Fortunately for us, things didn’t work out for him at Bournemouth and he joined Reading FC in 1993.

Jimmy was a prolific goal scorer and a good all round player with the ability to score goals with either foot.

The pinnacle of his league football career was winning the Second Division ‘Golden Boot’ award for the 1993-94 season, having scored 40 goals for Reading when we were promoted as champions.

As his coach, I recognised he didn’t need a lot of coaching it was a case of making the team around him aware of his movement off the ball.

With this in mind, I introduced finishing sessions and phases of play sessions called the Jimmy Quinn session plans and everyone soon became aware of his outstanding ability to drift off defenders to encourage the diagonal pass and his outstanding ability to find space in and around the 18-yard box. 

He possessed a great belief in his ability to score goals scoring 232 goals in 659 appearances for various clubs spanning over his 18-year career.

Steve Bull – Wolves and England International 

When I joined Wolves as assistant manager /first-team coach in 1995 one person I was really looking forward to working with was Steve Bull.

I soon recognised that Steve was a match day player and to a degree just ticked over in training between games.

However, he did like the gym and work out regularly to keep his upper body very strong, I think he would agree he wasn’t the most comfortable receiving the ball to feet always preferring the ball over the top or played into the 18-yard box.

He was surprisingly a quiet lad who came into training to do his job and believe it or not very rarely stayed behind to practice his finishing.

He scored goals like no other player, taking shots where other players would look to pass.

I can remember an evening match at Molineux which looked as if it was going to be a 0-0 draw when from a ridiculous angle Bully pulled the trigger and scored.

I looked at Mark McGhee, the manager, and said: "There’s only one man out there who could have scored that goal."

We won 1-0 thanks to Bully.

On a match day, he became a completely different person he would come into the changing room totally focused said little but his body language was like a man on a mission.

I asked him once what he thought was his secret to scoring goals.

He replied: "I try to take the shot as early as possible and if I miss I know I will take the next chance."

In over 13 years at Wolves, Bully broke no less than four of the club’s goal scoring records. He became their all-time leading goal scorer with 306 goals in competitive games (250 of them in the football league, also a club record) and became their highest goal scorer in a single season when he scored 52 goals in competitive games during the 1987-88 season.

He also scored a club record of 18 hat tricks.

My biggest disappointment when managing Wolves was when on our pre-season tour in 1999 he told me he had decided to retire. It was a total shock and something I hadn’t expected or planned for.

How could I replace Bully’? Impossible.

I think his biggest strength apart from his goal-scoring ability and belief was he never forgot his roots and he remained a very level headed person who managed his success and fame in a very professional manner.

It is a fact that top strikers need fewer opportunities to score goals and once again Christiano Ronaldo has topped the list of players who’ve scored the most goals in Europe’s top five leagues in 2020.

Ronaldo’s dominance in the goal scoring charts, has seen him net 27 goals for Juventus this year. Five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Ronaldo averages a goal every 73 minutes on the pitch – unbelievable.

Wishing all the readers a very happy Christmas and more importantly a healthy new year – stay safe.