Lancaster man’s claim to fame as only English football manager to sign Pele

A Lancaster man can boast the unusual claim to fame of being the only English manager to sign Brazilian football legend Pele.
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Graham Brandwood has revealed his story in the wake of the world mourning Pele's death at the age of 82.

Pele - real name Edson Arantes do Nascimento - died on December 29.

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The three-time World Cup winner had been receiving treatment for colon cancer since 2021.

Graham Brandwood pictured with Pele in 1983.Graham Brandwood pictured with Pele in 1983.
Graham Brandwood pictured with Pele in 1983.

But back in 1983, he visited London for the premiere of a film he'd been involved in - and ended up signing for a Wednesday league team in Croydon!

At the time, Pele was in his 40s and acting in an ambassadorial role for his former team, New York Cosmos.

The film was about a New York boys' home threatened with closure - Young Giants - and the distributors approached the London Federation of Boys Clubs for support.

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Graham, now 71 and retired, said: "At the time I was the senior sports officer at 'The Fed' and so accompanied Pele to various promotional events over the space of a few days.

Graham Brandwood with his photo of Pele and the registration form he filled in.Graham Brandwood with his photo of Pele and the registration form he filled in.
Graham Brandwood with his photo of Pele and the registration form he filled in.

"I got to know him a little bit, he was a nice guy, very humble with no airs and graces.

"Over coffee at The Savoy I persuaded Pele to sign a registration form for LFBC Rangers, a team for which I was player/manager and which played in the Croydon and District Wednesday Football League.

"Our team was made up of youth workers and staff drawn from boys' clubs across London.

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"Pele completed the form using his real name, Edson A Nascimento, and put his address down as The Savoy Hotel.

The registration form completed by Pele in 1983.The registration form completed by Pele in 1983.
The registration form completed by Pele in 1983.

"I sent the form off to the league secretary, who duly processed the form without realising who he was actually registering.

"Although he never actually played a game for us I remain the only English manager who signed Pele - and without paying him a signing-on fee."

Pele returned to New York shortly afterwards so Graham never got the chance to find out how the Brazilian would fit into his team.

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"He was in his early 40s by then but I think he would probably have got a game with us if he had stayed," he said.

Pele, who is due to be buried later today after thousands of fans waited to pay their respects as his coffin lay in state at the home of his former club Santos. Photo: Mark Lees/PA WirePele, who is due to be buried later today after thousands of fans waited to pay their respects as his coffin lay in state at the home of his former club Santos. Photo: Mark Lees/PA Wire
Pele, who is due to be buried later today after thousands of fans waited to pay their respects as his coffin lay in state at the home of his former club Santos. Photo: Mark Lees/PA Wire

"He is undoubtedly the world's greatest ever player, and he had a humility and warmth about him, he was a real gentleman."

Graham, originally from Preesall, moved to Lancaster with his family in 1990 and went on to work as regional officer for the National Association of Boys' Clubs, helping to develop childcare across Lancashire.

As part of this, Dallas Road Kids' Club was the first of more than 300 clubs set up across the county.

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"I wanted to make better use of buildings and there was a market from 3-6pm for working parents," he said.

"Dallas Road was the forerunner for clubs across Lancashire.

"The difference we made is something I am very proud of."

As for his claim to fame, Graham admits he is still partial to a little name-dropping.

"I will occasionally mention it in conversations," he said. "The picture is on the wall in my house.

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"The federation was a very powerful organisation at the time and so I was very fortunate to meet a lot of people, and I have a few little anecdotes from my time there."

Pele is due to be buried in Sao Paolo today, Tuesday.

Thousands of mourners have been queuing through the night to pay their respects to their hero, who has been lying in state at the stadium of his former club Santos.

Pele's coffin is in the centre of the pitch at the Urbano Caldeira stadium in Sao Paulo, and fans have lined the streets to get into the ground.

There will be a procession through the streets of Santos, before a private family burial.

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