Harry Dowd was a fearless, daring and exceptionally agile goalkeeper who won silverware, including the FA Cup, with Manchester City in the 1960s, and there was no warmer, happier, more popular figure around the club. Yet the affable local boy was also one of the game's more idiosyncratic characters.
For instance, he was never interested in football beyond the playing of it. He didn't want to watch it and he didn't want to talk about it. He loved his time on the pitch, but that was it as far as he was concerned.
Then there was his singular experience as an amateur at Maine Road in the late 1950s, stretching into his early professional days in the following decade. While his City contemporaries, the likes of David Wagstaffe, Neil Young and Fred Eyre, were carrying out their menial duties – polishing the boots of the senior players, sweeping out the dressing rooms and cleaning the baths – the rookie Dowd, who happened to be training as a plumber and was adept at most forms of DIY, was doing maintenance work around the ground, seeing that pipes, drains, woodwork, sometimes it seemed the entire fabric of the place, were all up to scratch.
None of which should detract from the fact that Dowd was a terrific performer between the posts. When he signed for City from ICI Blackley, the task facing him was the daunting one of progressing in the shadow of one of the most revered of all net-minders, the German giant Bert Trautmann.
Unfazed, despite being no colossus at 5ft 10in, Dowd rose through the junior teams and made his senior debut as stand-in for the injured Trautmann in a 4-1 defeat at Blackburn Rovers in December 1961. His goals-against tally swelled to 10 in two games when he conceded six in his next outing, at Burnley, but he was judged ready to succeed Big Bert as the great man approached the end of his career in 1962-63.
Despite his progress, that season ended on a dismal note for Dowd when City were relegated, and he had unluckily conceded a crucial late penalty to Denis Law of fellow strugglers Manchester United in the Blues' penultimate game. City drew and sank, United survived and prospered, but nobody blamed the unfortunate young keeper, who was first choice again in 1963-64.
That season was enlivened in February when Dowd broke a finger at home to Bury and, in the time before the use of substitutes, played on at centre-forward and scored the equalising goal, stabbing home after Derek Kevan had shot against the crossbar.
The incident made his comrades smile because the athletic custodian loved to play as a striker in training, and now he pointed out to them the value of his attacking enterprise. In fact, he was never afraid to venture from his goal-line even during matches, being ever-ready for an enterprising dribble.
Though displaced occasionally in mid-decade by Alan Ogley, Dowd usually held sway, and he was part of the side revitalised by the arrival of the inspirational managerial duo Joe Mercer and Malcolm Allison in the summer of 1965, which lifted the Second Division title only a year later.
Back in the top flight, with star men Mike Summerbee and Colin Bell soon augmented by another potent attacker in Francis Lee, City pipped local rivals United to the League Championship in 1967-68, but there was to be no winner's medal for Dowd, who had suffered an injury in the autumn then failed to regain his berth from Ken Mulhearn.
However, there was rich consolation in 1968-69 when he ousted Mulhearn and performed brilliantly as City won the FA Cup. Having conceded only one goal on the road to Wembley, Dowd was magnificent in the 1-0 final victory over Leicester City, making one blinding fingertip save from Allan Clarke then diving with typical courage at the feet of Andy Lochhead when the abrasive Scot was through on goal.
By then, though, Dowd was in his thirties and facing the challenge of the hugely promising Joe Corrigan. He accepted a brief loan stint as cover for the England goalkeeper Gordon Banks at Stoke City, and made the last of his 219 senior appearances for Manchester City on the final day of 1969-70.
Still, Dowd wasn't finished, joining Oldham Athletic of the basement division in December 1970, helping them to promotion at season's end, and before being supplanted by the much younger Chris Ogden midway through 1973-74 he had done enough to collect a Third Division championship gong that spring.
There followed a spell with Northwich Victoria of the Northern Premier League and work as a sales representative, while sharp-eyed City fans might have spotted him on several occasions in the studio audience for the Manchester-based Mrs Merton Show. Grinning broadly, he was greeted each time as Harry by its star, Caroline Aherne, but remained uncredited beyond that, which was just how he liked it.
Henry William Dowd, footballer: born Salford 4 July 1938; played for Manchester City 1958-69, Stoke City on loan 1969, Oldham Athletic 1970-74; died Manchester 7 April 2015.Reuse content