Scottish footballer who found success at Brighton and Hove Albion

Born: September 26, 1943;

Died: March 31, 2019

KIT Napier, who has died aged 75, was a Scottish footballer who found success at Brighton and Hove Albion, where he became one of their record-breaking goal scorers. However, as well as his ability to do the hardest thing in football – put the ball in the opposition's net regularly – he had something else that made him stand out: a memorable name. It helped make him a well-known player.

Born Christopher Robin Anthony Napier in Dunblane, he was raised in West Linton, playing for his school team and local youth team, Linton Hotspur. His headmaster thought young Kit had the talent to make it in the game, some strings were pulled and, on leaving, he went straight onto the Blackpool ground staff, signing his first professional contract aged 17.

Football was clearly in his genes, his uncle was former Celtic legend Tommy McInally. But his hopes of following the likes of Jackie Mudie and Allan Brown and scoring goals for the first team came to nothing. He managed just two first-team games, without scoring, in his three years as a full Blackpool player.

Moving up the road to Preston North End saw him again fail to set the heather alight, but, when he moved on again, to Workington Town, then a lowly Division Three side, he clicked and the goals began to flow.

Two goals in an unexpected 5-2 league cup win over Blackburn Rovers earned him some welcome publicity, and when he followed that up with the equaliser, as the Cumbrians held Tommy Docherty's Chelsea all-stars to a 2-2 League Cup quarter-final draw, his profile was further enhanced.

These goals persuaded Newcastle United, in November 1965, to pay £18,500 and take him into the old First Division. Sadly for him, he was unable to follow Hughie Gallacher as a goals-laden Scot in the Newcastle number nine shirt – no goals in eight first-team appearances, seven of which were lost spelled failure. United bought Welsh front man Wyn Davies, who did become a Toon legend and, in September, 1966, Napier was back in the third division, and some 350 miles south, after an £8,500 transfer to Brighton and Hove Albion.

But, under Scottish manager Archie Macauley, the former Rangers, Arsenal and Scotland wing half, he rediscovered his goal-scoring touch. He scored 84 goals in 250 games and was the club's top-scorer in five of his six seasons there.

He contributed 16 goals to the Seagulls' promotion – second behind Aston Villa, from the Third to the Second Division in 1972, but, a handful of games into the new season, he was on the move again, Blackburn Rovers paying £15,000 to take him to Ewood Park, where he played over 50 games and scored 10 goals in three seasons.

He was now in his early thirties and, like quite a few players of the time – former England captain Johnny Haynes and the great Rangers centre-half Ronnie McKinnon, to name just two, he opted for sunnier climes, joining Durban United in Natal, South Africa.

In South Africa, he added selling cars to his talent, after United team-mate Brian Tawse, an Ellon man who had played for Arsenal, before playing alongside Kit at Brighton, got him into the motor trade.

Tawse returned to the UK, but Kit Napier remained in Durban, carving out a successful career in the motor trade and enjoying the lifestyle in “the last bastion of the British Empire.” He became a very good golfer, playing to a low handicap and featuring regularly in pro-ams prior to tournaments on the South African circuit.

He enjoyed life, until his final years wer blighted by emphysema. His marriage ended many years ago, but he is survived by his son Robin and his family, and is fondly remembered in Brighton and in Durban, for his goal-scoring expertise and the fact he was a thoroughly nice bloke.

In a tribute to Napier, the We Are Brighton blog said it was his goal-scoring abilities that fans particularly valued. "Napier could deliver beautiful in-swinging corners from the right and even scored directly from one against Bury in December 1969," it said. "At times, he looked a little lazy but then he’d throw in a swerve or a burst of pace and be away from whichever opposition player had been given the unenviable job of marking him. But most important of all was that he scored goals. Lots of them."