Former Halifax Town goalkeeper Peter Downsborough dies

Halifax Town 1964-65, Peter Downsborough is on the back row, third from the left, Photo: Skircoat Shed Archive
Halifax Town 1964-65, Peter Downsborough is on the back row, third from the left, Photo: Skircoat Shed Archive

Former Halifax Town goalkeeper Peter Downsborough has died, aged 76.

Downsborough was born in Siddal and was an all round sportsman, excelling at cricket, rugby union, football, and won boxing and swimming honours.

He began playing football as a centre forward for Halifax Boys’ Brigade but an injury to the regular goalkeeper saw him take his place between the sticks, and so well did he perform that Town manager Harry Hooper snapped him up. Downsborough turned professional in September 1960, by which time he had already broken through into the first team, appearing in the final game of the 1959-60 season at Bournemouth.

The promise he and another local lad David Knowles had shown prompted Hooper to release regular first choice keeper Arthur Johnson, and though it was Knowles who initially got the nod as his successor, the form Downsborough showed in the reserves meant that by the 1961-62 season, he had established himself in the first team.

Most of Downsborough’s time at The Shay was spent battling against the odds though little blame could be attached to him when Town suffered relegation to the Fourth Division in 1962-63 and Downsborough continued to enhance his reputation over the course of the next two seasons. Agile and fearless, he became the club’s biggest asset by the mid-sixties, and such was his value by the time he moved to Swindon in August 1965 that he netted the Shay club £3,000 plus centre forward Bill Atkins. Downsborough went on to become a fans’ favourite at the County Ground and was described in certain quarters as possibly Swindon’s greatest-ever goalkeeper, going on to make 274 league appearances over eight seasons.

Having also played for Bradford City, Downsborough returned to live in Halifax after finishing playing, and was a school caretaker until his retirement. He died in September 2019 as a result of stomach and throat cancer.

Thanks to Johnny Meynell for his help with this article.