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Peter Mellor: Played As A Goalkeeper For Three Decades

Peter Mellor played as a goalkeeper for three decades as a professional soccer player. Burnley, Fulham, Hereford United, and Portsmouth were some of his clubs in the top three tiers of English professional soccer. Now he coaches in the United States.

During the 1968/69 season, Witton Albion’s 21-year-old goalkeeper arrived on trial and never dreamed that he would begin the following season as the team’s first choice keeper at Burnley.

Joining Burnley

After a trial and reserve team game, Peter Mellor signed. Following the dismissal of Harry Thomson, he became the first choice keeper for the 1969/70 season.

At the Baseball Ground on the first day of the season, he made his debut against newly promoted Derby and kept a clean sheet for almost the whole game before going off injured.

burnley goalkeeper

In spite of Mellor’s injury, we drew the game 0-0, and for much of the season, he was in inspirational form. In one of his first appearances at Turf Moor, he saved a penalty from Jimmy Greaves.

That would be the Clarets’ best season for him. After missing the start of the next season with a shoulder injury, Burnley FC brought in Tony Waiters, who had previously retired. He won back his place once he returned to fitness, but poor form led to Waiters being restored after just five appearances.

Relegated to Division Two the following season, he got back into the side, but his form did not improve. Despite his injury, he didn’t seem to be the same keeper. After a couple of games where Jeff Parton won a place, Mellor was dropped, and he moved on loan to Chesterfield before signing for Fulham a month later.

When he was with Fulham, he played in the FA Cup Final. Over the next five years, he would be Fulham’s first team keeper until Gerry Peyton arrived from Burnley. After one season with Hereford, Mellor signed for Portsmouth where he remained until his retirement in January 1982.

His total number of league games was 69 for the Clarets, 190 for Fulham, and 424 overall.

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Peter Mellor Playing For Pompey

For Peter Mellor, it was a time for acceptance – resistance was futile. The goalkeeper had started 53 of Pompey’s 54 matches during the 1980-81 Division Three campaign, an automatic first choice.

Yet his long-time understudy was about to take the leading role in Frank Burrows’ eyes.

Mellor had mentored Alan Knight in his three seasons on the south coast following a free transfer arrival from Hereford. Having scrutinized the blossoming talent of the young pretender, the 33-year-old knew the outcome was inevitable.

That fateful day arrived in the summer of 1981, and following 146 appearances and a Division Four promotion campaign, his Fratton Park career was effectively over.

Mellor departed for America months later, and to this day, he remains in Florida and got involved in coaching.

mellor peter

Moving To The USA

During his years across the Atlantic, he identified 14-year-old Tim Howard as a future star and coached Brad Friedel and Kasey Keller for ten years with the USA side.

And in Knight – the player who went on to play 801 games for the Blues over four decades – Mellor recognized a worthy successor for him to step aside for.

He said: ‘At the end of the third season, Frank called me into the office and said: “Peter, I know you’ve had a great season, but we have a young guy that you’ve been mentoring who has done very well and we think he is ready to play.”

‘It didn’t surprise me, even if I did have a year left on my contract.‘ Frank continued: “You don’t deserve to play, but we feel Alan Knight is ready to make a push for the future as a starter.”

‘I had worked with Alan from day one when he was a snotty-nosed whatever. We had a great, great relationship.

‘Now, we all have egos, but you have got to look at it with a business perspective – and it made total sense.

‘Frank knew I wanted to play in America before I retired but said he had no problem with me staying put and fighting for my position.

peter mellor letting a goal in

‘I was told I was more than welcome to continue, but as a number two in case Knightsie slipped up.

‘My response was “Frank, not a problem, that is the reality of the game” – and when I did leave, it was very, very amicable.

‘I have nothing negative to say about how anyone at the club treated me, whether it was Jimmy Dickinson, Frank Burrows, his assistant Stan Harland, or Mr. Deacon.

‘In fact, Mr. Deacon and his wife were very nice to me – and my wife whenever she was at games. They were both outstanding people in my eyes.

‘As for Knightsie, I’d like to think I always had time for young goalkeepers coming up the ranks.

‘We worked together, and I believe I helped mentor him in his early days at Pompey.

‘He showed he was courageous, technically solid, and always willing to learn. And I could tell – he would have a tremendous career.

‘You get that feeling. You sense when somebody is a bit special, it’s just about whether a player with that talent will continue.

‘It doesn’t happen very often, but I saw it with Knightsie, and Frank made the right decision.’

Tim Howard As A Youngster

Scouting Tim Howard

Mellor saw out his career at Edmonton Drillers in the old North American Soccer League before retiring a year later.

He then turned to coach, progressing to becoming the goalkeeping coach of the USA national team for more than ten years and at several World Cup finals.

Mellor spotted the future Manchester United and Everton keeper Howard in an Olympic Development Player camp along the journey.

Mellor was also involved in helping Howard win his work permit appeal after joining Manchester United from MetroStars in 2003.

Such is his standing in the American game. The ex-Pompey man became the US Soccer Federation’s first full-time national goalkeeping coach in 1997 and later developed the curriculum for the national goalkeeping license.

Yet Mellor’s desire to enter coaching and management – in addition to his ambition of moving to the States – almost conspired to prevent him from joining Pompey in the summer of 1978.

peter mellor making a save

Plating For Hereford

The keeper had been crowned Hereford’s player of the year in his maiden season, despite relegation from Division Three.

Halfway through that ill-fated campaign, John Sillett was dismissed as a manager, with his assistant Tony Ford taking over as caretaker boss.

Mellor applied to be a player/manager, yet ex-Wolves midfielder Mike Bailey got the job, with Mellor turning down the chance to become his coach.

Instead, a switch to Fratton Park appealed.

Manager Jimmy Dickinson 
had his goalkeeping replacement for Phil Figgins and Steve Middleton.

Mellor added: ‘Portsmouth should never have been in Division Four. But, it was a start to try to build for the future.

‘I was at Hereford and had an interview for the manager’s job following Sillett’s departure – coaching and managing was something I wanted to get into.

‘I missed out, and that summer, my family and I were holidaying in Brixham, Devon, when I received a telegram from Frank Burrows saying Portsmouth was interested in signing me.

‘So Frank came down with Mr. Deacon, and we sat down and negotiated a contract.

‘Days later, Bailey got the Hereford job and wanted me to be his coach, but I was a man of my word and went to Portsmouth FC.

‘It was a fantastic opportunity to go to a good club, and I was very excited thinking that, at the twilight of my career, I would have the chance to help the club move forward.

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‘Jimmy Dickinson was a manager with Frank as his assistant, and I felt I had an excellent first season, even captaining the side on occasions.

‘I was in the dressing room when he had his heart attack at Barnsley. Then Frank stepped up so well to take charge.

‘It was just a very, very good time at Pompey, trying to kickstart them back to the top and a great opportunity in my career to play in a fantastic stadium with some wonderful fans.’

Mellor established an affinity with the supporters, leading to him being chosen as the first The News/Sports Mail player of the season for 1977-78.

He later hosted his show on Radio Victory titled ‘Mellow Mellor’, while throwing sweets into the Fratton end pre-match won favor.

And it is an affiliation with the Fratton faithful the 67-year-old still treasures.

He said: ‘I enjoyed being involved with the fans, playing to them a little bit, giving them the stuff they wanted to see.

‘My philosophy was if you make a mistake as a goalkeeper, then your relationship with the fans can dictate whether you will play the following week because the fans can get you dropped.

‘I enjoyed it anyway. That relationship wasn’t forced, no way.

‘The day you had a bad game, they were still behind you.

‘They may also stay behind you after two bad games.

‘But they won’t come after three.’

But ultimately, a certain Alan Knight dislodged the likable Mellor.

Getting tackled in sand soccer

Beach Soccer

Mellor was one of the founders of Major Beach Soccer, a soccer game played on the beaches, in the late 1980s. First seen in Brazil, beach soccer inspired him. Fort Myers Beach, Clearwater Beach, and Daytona Beach held Major Beach Soccer tournaments by 2009.

During Mellor’s tenure as President of Major Beach Soccer, 53 teams competed at the Major Beach Soccer National Championship. It is being considered by FIFA to make soccer an Olympic sport.

Peter Mellor Coaching Days

In addition to coaching in the MLS with Real Salt Lake, Peter has over 30 years’ experience at all levels in the United States. As well as coaching the US Men’s National Team goalkeepers from the Under-15 age group through the senior team, he has coached and trained numerous US Men’s National Team coaches.

During his time as a coach, he has taken part in six U-17 Men’s World Cups, three U-20 Men’s World Cups, and the 2000 Olympic Games.

In addition to Tim Howard, Brad Friedel, Kase Keller, Nick Rimando, and Hope Solo, Peter has assisted in the development of several notable US goalkeepers at the senior and youth levels.

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Peter Mellor Facts And Stats

Full Name: Peter Joseph Mellor

Birthdate: 20/11/1947

Birthplace: Prestbury, Cheshire, England

Playing Career:

  • Burnley 1969–1972
  • Fulham 1972–1977
  • Hereford United 1977–1978
  • Portsmouth 1978–1981
  • Edmonton Drillers 1982