THEY don’t make them like Brian Kilcline any more.
A wonderful and unmistakable one-off, the towering centre-half may only have one FA Cup winners’ medal on his CV.
But in a career that spanned nearly two decades and took him from Notts County to Coventry, from Oldham to Newcastle and Swindon to Mansfield, he established himself as one of the characters of the modern game. He’s still got the hair too!
He’s always ploughed his own furrow…
And not just in the hair stakes.
When he was signed for Swindon in 1994, he rejected the club’s offer to stay in a local hotel with his wife Lynn and instead bought himself a narrow boat in Osney Mill Marina in Oxford, as you do.
“Lynn must have looked at 50 narrow boats because the criteria was I had to be able to stand up in one,” he explained at the time.
“The lads knew about it. I remember having a game of chess against Andy Mutch on the boat once.”
His taste in cars was just as left-field…
While most footballers are known for their taste in luxury vehicles, the same couldn’t be said of Brian Kilcline. During his time at Oldham Athletic, 'Killer' was reprimanded by then manager Joe Royle for turning up to training in a Dacia Duster that looked more like a 'war truck' than something a professional footballer should be seen in.
I remember Joe pulling me in the office one day and saying: ‘What the f***’s that outside?’ He said: ‘You can’t be coming in in that.' "I said: ‘Joe, I either had central heating or a nice car. And central heating won.’”
He never really liked the fame that came with football…
At 6ft 4in tall and with long, lustrous locks and a huge moustache, 'Killer' was always going to be recognised whenever he ventured out in public. But he did his best to avoid it.
Once, when he was in a DIY store in Walsgrave buying some paint, he was approached by his two lads. “Oi mate,” said one, “you look just like that footballer, Kilcline.”
“Yeah, a lot of people say that,” replied Killer before heading off in the direction of the emulsions. “I just carried on walking,” he added.
“I couldn’t be bothered.”
But then he never really thought of himself as a footballer anyway…
Football, he once reflected, was just something he did, not something that defined him and as a player in age before the big salaries came along, it was a fun way to make a living, nothing more, nothing less.
“When we were playing it was more about playing the game and having the craic afterwards – and I loved the craic!” he said in 2018.
And he certainly knew his limitations when it came to playing too.
“The way I’d describe it is we were shirehorses,” he said.
“Footballers today are thoroughbreds. But there are still some Brian Kilclines out there.”
He’s handy about the house…
How many footballers do you know that can weld? Or build dry stone walls? Or know their way around carpentry?
Yes, 'Killer' is a dab hand when it comes to DIY and has also made a successful business of his rental properties in and around his home on Homlfirth, Yorkshire.
He really should have been sent off in the 1987 FA Cup Final…
Towards the end of Coventry’s epic 3-2 FA Cup Final win over Spurs, Kilcline bulldozed into Tottenham’s Gary Mabbutt with such ferocity that he had to be taken off with a minute to go of normal time.
Remarkably, he didn’t even get booked.
Instead, referee Neil Midgeley just asked him, “What the effing hell was that?”
A little over half an hour of extra time later and Coventry had won their first and only FA Cup title, leaving Kilcline to limp up Wembley’s 39 steps to lift the famous trophy.
“I couldn’t move after that,” he recalled. “My leg just locked up. There was an internal bleed inside the muscle. I remember we did the open-top bus and the day after they sliced the leg open and drained it.”
But he did once get booked for something, well, strange…
During his time at Notts County, Kilcline found himself yellow carded during a game even though he had no idea why.
A few days later the club received the League’s report detailing why 'Killer' had been cautioned.
“I opened it up and it said – ‘The player Brian Kilcline went over to the linesman and called him an egg’,” he says.
“It could have been so much worse – it was totally out of character for me to call him an egg!”
But he was a colossus on the pitch…
When Kevin Keegan became Newcastle manager in 1992, he made Kilcline his very first signing, making him club captain.
And it reaped huge rewards. That season, Newcastle won the old First Division championship title, gaining promotion to the Premier League and to this day, Keegan is in no doubt about the contribution Kilcline made.
“Brian was brilliant,” he said.
“He doesn’t think the world owes him a living. A great pro. He got in among the players and helped turn the club around.”
Or to sum up: “The best signing I ever made for Newcastle United.”
The feeling was mutual…
Although Kilcline made his name at Coventry, he still has a special place in his heart for the Newcastle fans.
“They just took to me,” he explains.
“I have played in front of 100,000 at Wembley, but the Newcastle fans were and are something else.
“Pardon my French,” he adds, “but there is so f****** many of them.”
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