Islington People: The Football Priest

�For Martin Gordon life as a Catholic priest in Finsbury was not only about mass, the confessional box and helping his parishioners.

It saw him mix with top-flight footballers such as Arsenal legend George Graham – which earned him the nickname “the Football Priest” – and even showbiz stars such as Brian Blessed and Elton John.

The Glasgow-born 80-year-old was priest at The Church of St Peter and St Paul in Amwell Street in the 1960s and his time there forms a major part of his colourful life story as told in No Love Here: A Priest’s Journey, his recently published autobiography.

He said: “When the Second World War ended I moved to Ireland with my aunt, who influenced me to become a priest. She was so religious, if Jesus had walked in and asked for a cup of tea she wouldn’t have batted an eyelid.”

Martin arrived at the Finsbury church in 1960. “I was known as the football priest,” he said. “I used to visit a music publisher in Denmark Street [a West End street famous for its music shops], where the Chelsea players went too. Elton John was the piano player there, though he was still Reg Dwight then.


“I got to know George Graham and Terry Venables in particular. George would give me match tickets, and I would have tea and cakes with the players and their wives and girlfriends after the game. George and I became very good friends, and I transferred my allegiance to Arsenal when he went there.”

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Martin was also the chaplain at Sadler’s Wells, in Rosebery Avenue through the Catholic Stage Guild. He often gave advice to singers and musicians on their marital problems.

He helped organise a charity football match for the guild – he played in goal and was pictured saving a strike from actor Brian Blessed.

He left the parish in 1966 and eventually the priesthood, going on to marry and have three children.

He said: “I am still in touch with the community in Islington and I still visit. It was certainly different back in the 1960s, but it was a very lively and vibrant community, just as it is today.”

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