A Safe Pair of Hands

Joe Corrigan always dreamed of playing football as a goalkeeper, but little did he know that one day he would be called up by the England team and feature in a Manchester Cityside that won the League and FA cup. Today, the Tytherington resident is an ambassador at Eastlands and his goalkeeping experience is passed down to potential Englandstars of the future. Thomas Castle caught up with the Manchester City and England legend.

Joe Corrigan was born in 1948 in Sale Moor, into a family which supported the red half ofManchester. A typical working class lad, Joe has never lost sight of his upbringing.

“After I had established myself as a professional, and had been cast into the media spotlight, it took a while for me to realise people did not see me as the same person anymore, despite what I thought myself.

I was having a BT line fitted at my house one day and I noticed the engineer was someone I used to play rugby with as a schoolboy. I recognised him and said hello but he was distant. He said this was because I was a nationally recognised footballer. That really brought home to me how things had changed, but I was still a working class lad fromManchester.”

Being tall Joe played as a centre forward in his school’s football team and went on to become house captain for Sale Grammar School’s rugby team before leaving to start an apprenticeship with AEI Engineering in Trafford Park. It was here in 1966 that Joe got his break as a goalkeeper and, ironically, it was a gentleman who worked at the same company, and who was also a part-time football scout, who invited Joe to a trial atManchesterCity.

“The guy who approached me was a machinist in the company I worked for. He had played as a goalkeeper in the British army and he asked whether I would like to come for a trial atManchesterCity, I couldn’t believe it.”

The trial was on a Thursday night two weeks later.

“I left work and caught the bus going upPrincess ParkwaytoMaine Road. We went on to Cheadle where I played goalkeeper in a youth game. I played with apprentices and amateurs who were all looking to secure a place. I met my best mate Tommy Booth there. He was a centre half and Ricky Hatton’s dad, Ray, was in the same team. After the trial had finished Harry Godwin approached me and said ‘don’t go without seeing me first’, he wanted me as goalkeeper for the youth team.”

“I trained every Tuesday and Thursday, and had a game on Saturday, but I was still juggling work too. My Dad spoke with me one day and said I should make a decision between football and work, I decided to take the opportunity atManchesterCityand in January 1967 Malcolm Allison approached me to sign as an apprentice. Unfortunately, I was a year too late so I had to sign as a full-time professional, but I still had all the apprentice work to do which involved cleaning Harry Dowd, Johnny Crossan and Mike Summerbee’s boots and painting the stands.”

In October of the 1967-68 season 19 year old Joe made his debut forManchesterCityagainstBlackpoolin a League Cup match.

“Harry Dowd was injured; the other keepers were cup-tied and I was next in line. I played in front of 30,000 people atMaine Roadagainst aBlackpoolside which featured Jimmy Armfield. I had two touches of the ball; the first was when the ball went through my legs and the second was me picking it out of the back of the net. We drew 1-1 on the night and it was an unbelievable experience. It is still the one game that stands out today as the most memorable and the atmosphere was amazing. Despite letting a goal in, the team were all really supportive. We won the return leg atBloomfield Roadthe following week 2-0.”

Joe remembers how nervous he was before going on, and during the game.

“I was only a kid playing in front of huge crowds, and it is something you only get used to with experience.  I was always nervous before any game but that is part of the role of being a professional sportsman, I wanted to be the best. It is a surreal experience but I remember thinking ‘I want more of this’, so I was more determined than ever to make an impression.”

Joe established his regular place in theManchesterCityteam, playing more than 600 games for the club and then, in 1976,Englandcame calling.

“I was due to tourSouth KoreaandJapanwith City over the summer but in May I was invited to the bicentennial tournament inAmericawith theEnglandsquad. I nearly fell off my chair when I received the call. My first international action arrived when I came off the bench at the Yankee stadium during half time to replace Jimmy Rimmer. I was warming up near third base whenEngland’s manager, Don Revy, told me I was going on for the second half. I defended the baseball diamond end, and it was a phenomenal experience.

Englandwere 2-0 down but we went on to win 3-2 in front of 46,000 people. The tournament was an amazing concept, especially being able to play at the Yankee stadium.  ”

Joe played nine games at international level and was part ofEngland’s 1982 World Cup squad competing for the no.1 shirt with Ray Clemence and Peter Shilton.

“It is difficult being a goalkeeper. There is only one position and you have to be the very best in order to be given the opportunity, and it was very competitive.”

Football has changed dramatically since Joe’s playing days, but the one thing that stands out to him is respect.

“There is a difference to the notion of respect today. When I was playing, players would not argue with referees or with each other. They would accept what decisions were made and get on with the game. Today, players have to answer to the media and you can see that is difficult for them. In my day you would see bloody noses in the dressing room. Players would sort things out amongst themselves but, today, there is a media storm surrounding any minor incident. When players are interviewed after games they are still full of adrenaline and emotion and suddenly a microphone is forced into their face.”

After several coaching roles at clubs including Liverpool and West Bromwich Albion, Joe is now an ambassador atManchesterCityas well as working as a goalkeeping scout forEngland.

“I want to see goalkeepers going back to basics, learning how to jump and catch dead weight like we used to. Goalkeepers today are not a patch on what we used to be.”


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