Obituary: Peter Springett

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The Independent Online
Peter John Springett, footballer: born London 8 May 1946; played for Queen's Park Rangers 1963-67, Sheffield Wednesday 1967-75, Barnsley 1975-80; died Sheffield 28 September 1997.

A transfer deal that was surely unique and a telling role in one of the most astonishing upsets seen at Wembley stadium ensure the goalkeeper Peter Springett's niche in English soccer folklore.

The ground-breaking transaction - believed to be the only one in which brothers moved in opposite directions - took place in May 1967 and involved Springett's leaving Queen's Park Rangers for Sheffield Wednesday in exchange for pounds 24,000 and his more famous sibling Ron, a fellow net-minder who had played 33 times for England. At the time, 21-year-old Peter was regarded as one of the most promising keepers in the land while Ron, 10 years his senior, was approaching career's end.

That spring the younger brother's stock was particularly high as he had just helped the Londoners to lift the Third Division title and, more sensationally, to come back from two goals down to defeat top-flight West Bromwich Albion in the first League Cup Final to be held at Wembley. With the score at 2-0 Springett made two crucial saves, enabling the underdogs, inspired by Rodney Marsh at his extravagant best, to net three times in the last 27 minutes and claim a romantic victory.

After joining the Loftus Road club as an apprentice in 1963, Springett made rapid progress, making his first-team debut that year and earning a regular place during 1965/66. The move to First Division Wednesday gave him a grander stage, but, though he developed into an admirably steady perfomer and won England under-23 honours, he never managed the quantum leap to full international status. However, as his contemporaries included such outstanding custodians as Gordon Banks, Peter Shilton and Ray Clemence, that can hardly be classed as a failure.

Sadly for Springett, the Owls were on the decline in the late 1960s and were relegated in 1970. Over the three following seasons he lost his berth to Peter Grummitt but recovered it in 1973-74, only for Wednesday to plunge into the Third Division a year later. Thereafter he was freed to join Barnsley, whom he helped gain promotion from the Fourth in 1978-79, before retiring in 1980, having played in nearly 600 senior matches.

On leaving the game, Springett joined the police, and for a time acted as liaison officer between the South Yorkshire force and the fans of Sheffield United. For the last four years he battled an illness which had confined him to a wheelchair, though only weeks before his death he had declared his determination to walk again.