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8 September 2007

John Napier

Name: Robert John Napier
Born: 23 September 1946, Lurgan
Height: 6.02 ft
Weight: 12.12 st
Position: Centre-Half

Representative Honours: Northern Ireland: 1 Full Cap (1966), 2 Under-23 Caps (1967-1968), Youth, 3 School Caps (1962).
Club Honours: (with Brighton) Football League Division Three Runner-Up 1971/72 (promoted).

Club Career:
FA Cup
FL Cup
Bolton Wand'rs
69(0)/ 2
218(1)/ 5
Bradford City
106(0)/ 3
Baltimore Comets
22(-)/ 1
24(-)/ 1
(Northern Premier League)
San Diego Jaws
22(-)/ 1
Bradford City
0(1)/ 0



John Napier was a strapping centre-half who starred at Youth international level alongside the likes of Jennings, Best and Clements. He starred in Northern Ireland's march to the European Youth Championship (Little World Cup) Final in 1963, only to have the misfortune to head an own goal in a 4-0 defeat by England at Wembley.

Still, Napier went on to represent Northern Ireland at Full international while still a teenager, given a chance due to the unavailability of Jim Nicholson for a pre-World Cup match against Germany in 1966. He came in at centre-half, with Terry Neill switching to Nicholson’s left-half position. The match, at Windsor Park, resulted in a 2-0 win for the eventual World Cup finalists, and proved Napier’s only outing in a senior international. Over the following two seasons he did twice play in Under-23 matches against Wales, but his international career ended at the age of 21.

At club level Napier signed apprentice forms with Bolton Wanderers in September 1963. He made his Football League debut at the tail-end of the 1964/65 season, as the Trotters’ pushed, ultimately unsuccessfully, for promotion back to the top-flight at the first attempt. Established in the Bolton line-up from the start of the following campaign, a season in which he was named as the club’s Player of the Year, Napier never got to play in Division One as Bolton continued to disappoint over the following seasons.

Transferred to Division Three Brighton & Hove Albion in August 1967, Napier was seen as the rock on which a promotion push could be built. Named Brighton Player of the Year in 1969, at the Goldstone Ground Napier briefly played in the same side as other Northern Ireland internationals, Willie Irvine and Bertie Lutton. The Irish trio were regulars in the Brighton side which clinched promotion to Division Two in 1972 as runners-up to Aston Villa. Still regarded as a Brighton legend, Napier lasted only a few months in Division Two before being allowed to sign with Bradford City in Division Four.

Napier and the Bantams never finished above mid-table in the Fourth Division. After almost three seasons as a regular he decided to try his luck in the NASL with Baltimore Comets in the summer of 1975. He spent the winter with non-league Mossley before returning to US. He re-joined the same “franchise”, which had left Baltimore to become the San Diego Jaws.

In August 1976 Napier returned to Bradford as player-coach, playing his final professional match in a 2-1 defeat by Aldershot in the opening match of the season. In February 1978 he was appointed Bradford manager in succession to Bobby Kennedy. Kennedy had been harshly sacked as the team struggled to come to terms with life in Division Three after promotion the previous season. Napier couldn’t stop the rot and following relegation and continued struggles back in Division Four, he too was sacked in October 1978.

Napier returned to the USA in 1979 to take a coaching position at Pepperdine University in California. He has remained actively involved in US soccer at various levels for almost thirty years now.

Coaching Career
Career Pictures

Northern Ireland Cap Details:
07-05-1966 West Germany H L 0-2 FR

Summary: 1/0. Won 0, Drew 0, Lost 1.

Northern Ireland Under-23 Cap Details:
22-02-1967 Wales ...... H W 2-1 FR
20-03-1968 Wales ...... A W 1-0 FR

Summary: 2/0. Won 2, Drew 0, Lost 0.

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