After my brush with the law at the end of 72/73, my trips to The Goldstone the following season seemed to be in jeopardy. Even though I write about it quite flippantly now, at the time I was mortified and knew I had really let my parents down.
A long summer of working at Butlins to save money for the fine that was coming my way helped to smooth the waters, and by the time we got to the beginning of August, I felt sure my parents would let me go to football again. The court case for my misdemeanour came and I ended up with a fine of £3. Yes, that’s right, THREE POUNDS.
In a strange way, I felt almost cheated. I had worked my socks off over the summer and had about £70 saved. In 1973 that was a decent amount of money. Looking at an inflation calculator, that is the equivalent of between £600 and £800 in today’s reckoning.
I was relieved, obviously, and hoped my Mum & Dad would relent as far as Albion were concerned. They did, but only up to a point. They were prepared to let me go to the games, but I wasn’t allowed any contact with the people with whom I had misbehaved. That seemed a small price to pay and if I accidentally ran into them at the games, then that was hardly my fault.
So there I was, back on the train every other week, with Albion back in the third division. Pat Saward was still in charge but he seemed to be on borrowed time after our abject season in Division Two. We lost the first six home games and although our form was, bizarrely, better away from The Goldstone, it seemed we were lurching into another crisis. It was pretty dismal and despite the first home win of the season on 20th October, Saward was sacked a couple of days later.
I’ve said before in these posts that my dad was a PE Lecturer at the teacher training college in Bognor and for some reason, he asked if I wanted to take a referee’s course. I agreed and became a qualified referee. I started off as a linesman in the Sussex County League, with trips to Wick, Lancing, Selsey and Steyning, among others. The good news was I got paid for this but the bad news was that it restricted my Saturdays at The Goldstone.
This all paled into insignificance with the news that our new manager was going to be Brian Clough. That’s right, the most high-profile manager in the country was going to be in charge of Brighton & Hove Albion. To give a bit of context, a comparable modern-day scenario would be this:
Pep Guardiola wins the Premier League and the following season reaches the semi-final of the Champions League. In the summer of that season he has a massive row with City’s owners and ends up leaving the club. Two months later, he is unveiled as the new manager of Gillingham. It sounds utterly ridiculous but that is exactly what happened in November 1973.
As an aside, there is a brilliant new book out, called Bloody Southerners, by Spencer Vignes, that looks at Clough’s time (with his assistant Peter Taylor) at Brighton. It’s a brilliant read and highly recommended.
So there we were, towards the bottom of the third division with Brian Clough and Peter Taylor in charge. Mental. I guess we were all expecting they would transform our fortunes and we would go on a spectacular unbeaten run and storm back into Division Two. It obviously doesn’t (and didn’t) pan out like that and results were patchy at best. We came to the last week in November with an FA Cup tie against non-league Walton & Hersham to look forward to. This just added to the craziness and although we couldn’t win the game, the replay four days later was surely a foregone conclusion.
The game was played in the afternoon, as the country was in the grip of a power crisis that meant the floodlights could not be used. Despite this, a crowd of 9,657 turned up. The kick-off time led to a strangely quiet atmosphere, as the normally vociferous north stand was empty of all the schoolchildren who would normally have been there. With this backdrop, we fell behind to a goal from headmaster Russell Perkins. The score stayed that way until eight minutes from time when Clive Foskett, a 28-year-old joiner working at the Natural History Museum, scored a second. And a third. And a fourth. It was a nightmare and I can only imagine what Clough had to say to the players afterwards.
Just three days later, we had a chance to make amends with the visit of Bristol Rovers. They were top of the table and in free-scoring form, but surely Clough and Taylor would be able to rally the players so they could bounce back from their cup humiliation.
These days, we can look to the manager’s notes in the programme for an idea of how the team have responded on the training ground. Unfortunately, Mr Clough felt that such things were beneath him so we will never know. We had to make do with the pithy column entitled ‘Secretary’s Desk’. The offering for the Bristol Rovers game, brought news of a proposal for managers to ‘meet regularly to discuss the various aspects of the game to put forward more ideas to the administration about the running of the game’. Riveting stuff.
1970s print deadlines meant there was no mention at all of the midweek debacle and Clough made just a couple of changes. Steve Piper had been substituted in midweek and his place was taken by Ken Beamish. Tony Towner, arguably the only player who came out of the FA Cup game with any credit, kept his place after he had come on for Piper. Other than that, it was up to the players to show they could bounce back. To add to the feeling that we were under the spotlight, the Big Match cameras were at the Goldstone – surely nothing could go wrong?
The Bristol Rovers strike-force ran riot. Bruce Bannister scored a hat-trick and Alan Warboys four as Rovers pulverised us 8-2. We were 5-1 down at half-time and had absolutely no answer to Rovers. I was there because I didn’t have any refereeing commitments and it was a nightmare. Far from being a team ready to push on up the league, we were fast becoming a laughing stock. Clough was quoted as saying “It was the most humiliating 90 minutes of my career. We have plans to sign players but nobody will be signed for the sake of signing. I will play before we do that, or my bairn will…..” Young Nigel turned out to be a very good player but at seven years old, he wasn’t quite ready, even for a team that had just lost 8-2.
For me, it was a real shock to the system and as the season went on, things never really improved. We finished 19th and although we were eight points clear of the drop, it was obvious that Mr Clough was not the messiah we all thought. He jumped ship in the summer of 1974, to take up the manager’s job at Leeds United. How did that one go for you Brian?
Tellingly, Pater Taylor stayed. He felt there was unfinished business on the south coast and over the next two seasons he built a team that that would go on to great things.
But more of that another time. Lets just leave 1973/74 behind and try and forget about it.
But do buy the book. Bloody Southerners by Spencer Vignes.
As we go into this International break, Glenn Murray sits equal top of the post-war goalscoring charts for the Albion. His 99 goals is level with Kit Napier, who made 291 appearances between 1966 and 1972. Excluding war-time matches, when the rules on appearances were very different, only the legendary Tommy Cook is ahead of Napier and Murray. His 123 goals came between 1921 and 1929 and his story will be told in a separate post at another time.
So what of the enigmatic Glenn Murray? He turned 35 just a few weeks ago and is still banging in the goals in the Premier League, ten-and-a-half years since he made the move from Rochdale to the South Coast.Football is a game of two halves and Murray’s love affair with Brighton and Hove Albion is also split into two. We loved him, hated him and now adore him unconditionally, so what is the story?
In 2002, Murray was playing for non-league Workington Reds. He had two seasons with them, before moving to the brilliantly-named Wilmington Hammerheads, who played in the American Soccer League. After 14 games (and 3 goals), he returned to Cumbria (well you would, wouldn’t you?) and Barrow, where he scored 6 in 6 games. This led to a move to Carlisle United, who were then in the Conference.
At Brunton Park, he began to hone his skills and was part of the side that gained promotion to the football league, via the play-offs, in 2005. The following year, Carlisle achieved back-to-back promotions, winning League Two. Glenn wasn’t the main man at Carlisle, making just 46 appearances in those two seasons.
At the start of the 2006/07 season, he went on loan to Stockport County, returning after two months, with 11 appearances and 3 goals. He then moved to Rochdale, first on loan, then permanently from January 2007. In the next 12 months, he played 54 times, scoring 25 goals. It was at that time, that other clubs began taking notice of the quietly-spoken man from Cumbria.
Albion scouts started tracking Murray in December 2006 and Barry Lloyd and his team watched him on a regular basis. Rochdale were playing well and he was banging in the goals. Dick Knight opened negotiations with his counterparts at Spotland and after weeks of talks, we paid £300,000 for his services.It was our highest transfer fee for 25 years, and Albion manager Dean Wilkins was keen that the fee didn’t become a burden. He made his debut away at Northampton Town, coming on for Nathan Elder. He made his home debut a few days later, against Crewe Alexandra, and immediately endeared himself to the fans by scoring twice in the 3-0 win. The match report in the following programme talked about the blossoming partnership between Nicky Forster and new-boy Murray, whose two goals included ‘an absolute peach from a free kick by Dean Cox’.
That season ended with Murray scoring nine times. The 2008/09 season continued in the same vein and he netted 12 goals, including one in the famous victory against Manchester City in the League Cup. That season was a struggle for Albion and we survived on the last day, thanks to a Nicky Forster goal against Stockport County.
The following season saw Russell Slade sacked and he was replaced by Gus Poyet. His first league game in charge was away at St Marys against Southampton. Murray was brilliant that day, scoring twice as Albion dealt out a football lesson in front of the travelling Albion fans. I live in Southampton and the win gave my children bragging rights at school for a while afterwards, so thank you Glenn Murray!
Murray again improved his goal tally for the season, with 14. This included 6 goals against Wycombe Wanderers. He notched 4 in the away (league) game, to go with the 2 in the FA Cup game earlier in the season.
By the start of 2010/11, Gus Poyet had refined his squad and hopes were high for a successful season. It was to become one of the most exhilarating periods any Albion fan can remember. We hit the top of League One table at the end of October and stayed there for the rest of the season, despite Southampton’s efforts to catch up. Glenn Murray was unbelievable, scoring 22 league goals as we swept all before us. In a dream scenario, his goals had taken us not only to promotion, but into our new stadium at Falmer as a Championship club.
Then came the bombshell. He was leaving the club. Much has been written about the circumstances and I guess we will never know the true story until the main players write their autobiographies. Murray’s playing style was best described as ‘laconic’ but many people interpreted this as ‘lazy’. Twenty-two goals tells a slightly different story but whatever went on behind closed doors, the upshot was that he left and we brought in Craig Mackail-Smith. He certainly wasn’t lazy, but he also wasn’t a goalscorer.
Matters were made worse when Glenn Murray signed for Crystal Palace. He kept his house in Brighton but every goal he scored that season was a dagger in the heart of Albion fans. Debate was raging as to the reasons for his departure, with fans split between the ‘good riddance, he’s too slow’ camp and those that felt he would have carried on from where he left off in 2010/11. The fact that he didn’t celebrate his goal for Palace against us at the end of September was small consolation, but it did maybe give us an inkling that a part of his heart remained in Brighton.The following season, his 31 goals were instrumental in Palace’s promotion to the Premier League, rubbing more salt in the wound. He scored two further goals against us in a 3-0 win at Selhurst Park, We met Palace in the play-off semi-final and Murray was stretchered off after suffering a cruciate ligament injury. The following three seasons saw him make just 33 appearances as Palace consolidated their position in the Premier League.
At the start of 2014/15, he joined Reading until January 2015, with a view to a permanent move. This didn’t materialise and he returned to Palace at the end of the loan spell. His time at Reading included another game in which he scored AGAINST Albion, in a 2-2 draw at Falmer in December 2014.
He played twice at the start of 2015/16 before a permanent move, this time to Bournemouth. The fee was £4million and his 22 appearances that season brought him 4 goals. That same season brought heartbreak for Albion, missing out on promotion to The Premier League by the narrowest of margins. Tomer Hemed was top-scorer with 17 goals but the rest were spread across the team. This was no bad thing, but it was felt we needed something extra up front if we were to get over the line.
When rumours of Glenn Murray’s return started to surface, social media went into complete meltdown. Many felt it would be a backward step and there was a sizeable number of fans who felt he couldn’t return because he ‘had played for that lot up the road’. Luckily, Tony Bloom and Chris Hughton ignored the more hysterical shouts of outrage and on 3rd July 2016, Glenn returned to Brighton after 5-and-a-half years. He hadn’t really been away, of course. His house was still in Withdean and many fans were quick to tell tales of bumping into him at various shops and petrol stations around Brighton.
The one thing guaranteed to quieten the most vociferous critics is goals, and Murray hit the ground running. Three came in the first two games and by Christmas, he already had 15. Any doubts about his fitness were firmly put to bed when, after scoring a 95th-minute winner at Birmingham City just before Christmas, he sprinted the length of the pitch to celebrate in front of the 1,207 delirious Albion away fans. Eight more came by the end of the season, including the opener against Wigan in April, the game that indirectly clinched promotion. Glenn Murray’s critics had been well and truly shut down but as we entered the promised land of milk and honey (and TV money), the doubts over his ability to perform again began to surface.
He started slowly as Albion found their feet under the top table but a brace at West Ham in October set him on the way. He even found time to score twice against Palace, one of those being the winner in the FA Cup 3rd Round tie at The Amex. Fourteen goals in all competitions took his Albion tally to 94, just one behind Peter Ward and four ahead of Bobby Zamora. Wardy was the ultimate Albion hero and for many people of a certain age (me included), the person who could never be toppled as their favourite Albion player.
Peter Ward was unbelievable as we rose through the divisions in the late 1970s. Like Murray, his Albion goals came across three divisions and in two spells for the club. Murray though, left for Crystal Palace and while players have a completely different emotional attachment to the club than the fans, for him to come back and win us over all over again, was an incredible achievement.
Zamora too was a superb player for us, scoring 90 goals across his time at the club. When he returned, while it undoubtedly gave the club a huge lift, he didn’t quite re-capture the clinical form he had showed in the early-2000s.
At the start of this season, thoughts turned to whether Glenn Murray could reach 100 Albion goals and overhaul Kit Napier. All Napier’s goals had come in the third tier and although a fantastic achievement, was not at the same level as Glenn Murray.
After five goals in eight Premier League games so far this campaign, Murray stands on the threshold of true Albion greatness. It seems likely that the next two or three games will see him reach that century and who knows, he may even challenge Tommy Cook’s all-time (Peacetime) record of 123. Even if he doesn’t score another goal for us he will surely go down as our greatest ever striker.
Glenn Murray, we salute you.
At twelve years old, I was starting to really pester my parents to be able to go to The Goldstone on my own. It didn’t bother me that it was a couple of train journeys from Bognor and then a walk from Hove station. I just wanted to watch Albion every single week. My parents resisted, but they did agree to take me to as many games as they could.
Looking back at 1971/72, there are loads of candidates for the most important game of the season. We were promoted, so the Rochdale game right at the end of the season could go in there. We made an appearance on Match of the Day as well. In those days, it wasn’t all about the top flight. The BBC cameras visited three games a weekend across all four divisions and at the end of March 1972, our game against Aston Villa was chosen.
This series of articles is all about MY experience though, so I’m going for the game on 27th December 1971, when a huge Christmas crowd of 30,600, including me and Dad, turned up for the game against AFC Bournemouth.
It was Christmas and my first experience of a ‘top-of-the-table clash’. Pat Saward was coming good on his promise of attacking football and we were just 4 points behind the Cherries, who were second.
Mr Saward’s programme notes were written, as always, in a very formal style. He welcomed Bournemouth for ‘what is virtually a four-pointer, and 90 minutes of tremendous endeavour lies ahead’. He also focuses on the consistency of the Albion team. Up to that point in the season, he had used just 16 players. Imagine that today! He also comments on the loyalty of some of the players. John Napier, Norman Gall, Dave Turner, Brian Powney and Kit Napier (no relation, strangely) had all played over 200 times for us and to me, these were some of the players who had helped form my love for Brighton & Hove Albion.
Mr Saward made no mention of the opposition that day, but Bournemouth were absolutely on fire. Up front, they had Ted MacDougall and Phil Boyer. Between them , they scored 50 goals that season with McDougall scoring NINE in an FA Cup game against Margate in November 1971. The ‘Welcome to Bournemouth’ section of the programme did talk at length about Boyer and ‘Super-Mac’, describing them as ‘the goal-scoring twins of the third division’.
In ‘Goldstone Gossip’, young Albion goalkeeper Alan Dovey was praised for his great performance the previous week at York City. This was in the days of just one substitute and reserve goalkeepers had to wait for an injury or loss of form for their chance. Unfortunately for Dovey, Brian Powney was the model of consistency and skill. In his three seasons at The Goldstone, the young man only made 8 appearances. After leaving Albion he played locally, for Southwick and Worthing as well as a long spell with Peacehaven and Telscombe in the Sussex County League.
The game itself was fantastic in every way. We went 1-0 up with a goal from Kit Napier. I would love to say I remember this goal but I don’t. Which is a shame, because the various Albion history books describe it as ‘one of the best goals ever seen at the ground’. Kit Napier ended his Albion career on 99 goals, a total of peacetime goals only exceeded by Albion legend Tommy Cook. The goalscoring twins were kept very quiet by John Napier and Norman Gall and a second-half goal from Peter O’Sullivan sealed a great victory for Albion.
I was a very happy young man after the game and the season just got better and better after that. We only lost four games in the rest of the campaign and were promoted in second place, behind Aston Villa, with Bournemouth missing out. The game against Villa in March, as well as being in front of the cameras, featured another fantastic goal. This one I do remember. Partly because of the fact it came second in the Match of the Day ‘Goal of the Season’ competition, but also due to it now being available on YouTube. Willie Irvine scored it, but it was made by my first Albion hero, John Templeman.
Promotion was clinched with a 1-1 draw against Rochdale, in front of another enormous crowd in the early May sunshine. The crowd of 34,766 was the fourth highest crowd ever at The Goldstone. Six crowds of over 25,000 were seen that season and as I moved towards my teenage years, my Albion life was looking in great shape.
The following season saw my first taste of second division football, an FA Cup tie against Chelsea and, right at the end of the campaign, something that threatened to derail my obsession with football and The Albion. More of that soon.
As always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to me.
Thanks also to the reference books that provide me with all the statistics. All the programmes I write about can be viewed at my Seagulls Programmes website.
Seagulls! – The Story of Brighton & Hove Albion FC by Tim Carder and Roger Harris
Albion A-Z – A Who’s Who of Brighton & Hove Albion FC by the same authors
Albion – The First 100 Years by Paul Camillin and Stewart Weir
Rothmans Football Yearbook
I’m writing this a couple of days after our opening day defeat at Watford in The Premier League. We were poor, no question about it, but some of the reaction on social media has been nothing short of hysterical. The pre-season euphoria has been instantly replaced with relegation doom-mongering. After ONE game. Ridiculous, right?
Well guess what, that’s what being a football fan is all about. More to the point of this blog, it’s what being a Brighton fan is all about.
In the summer of 1970, I was facing some changes. I started senior school (Year 7 to you kids) at Bognor Regis Comprehensive School and I was also entering my third year of supporting Brighton & Hove Albion. The previous season saw us come so close to promotion, ultimately falling away in the last 5 games of the season. I was gutted, more so when this was followed by England being knocked out of the World Cup by West Germany. Once the disappointment faded, this was replaced with excitement for the new season.
At the club, manager Freddie Goodwin had left and the club were searching for a new man. At the end of June, Pat Saward was announced as Manager and he immediately made his mark with some gruelling pre-season training. In true Albion style, the season was a real struggle, nothing like the previous campaign.
We went into the New Year in all sorts of trouble and by the time Fulham visited The Goldstone on 10th March 1971, we were level on points with Gillingham at the bottom of Division Three. Fulham, in contrast, were riding high at the top, 22 places and 20 points ahed of Albion.
In a taste of things to come 25 years later, there was much dissatisfaction at the way the club was being run. In an attempt to overcome the financial difficulty, Pat Saward had launched his ‘Buy-a-Player Fund’ in December 1970.
In his programme notes for the Fulham game, he talked about one of the players brought in as a result of this initiative. Bert Murray had been on loan with us but was due to join Fulham. At the last minute, £10,000 from the fund secured his services for us and Mr Saward was delighted with his performance in the previous match, saying “he certainly helped towards the lively display“. He was also full of praise for “the way our supporters applauded and encouraged Albion in the Preston game“.
The Buy-a-Player Fund really captured the imagination of supporters and in February 1971, more than 3,000 school-children and supporters from all over Sussex marched along Madeira Drive to raise money. Alongside a picture of the day, it was announced in the programme that the two schools raising the most money, would take part in a match at The Goldstone, before the game against Aston Villa in April. The two lucky winners were Whitehawk Primary School and Woodingdean Primary School. The match took place but I can’t find any details of which School came out on top. Anyone??
In the Fulham pen pictures, was an inside-forward described as a player who ‘spent the early part of last season making occasional over-anxious appearances as substitute, but later settled down to provide much-appreciated quick service to the front runners‘. This player, from Hillingdon, was an unused substitute when Fulham got the to FA Cup Final in 1975. His name? Barry Lloyd, who was to go on to become Albion’s manager. He spent nearly seven years in charge of The Seagulls, from January 1987 to December 1993. He took charge of 371 games, winning 133, drawing 81 and losing 157.
The impetus of the Buy-a-Player Fund was in full swing when we took the field against The Cottagers. We beat the league leaders 3-2, in front of a crowd of 14,413. Our goals were scored by Peter O’Sullivan, Kit Napier and another player brought in with help from the Fund, Willie Irvine. This proved to be a watershed for us and we ended up in 14th place, well clear of relegation. It wasn’t much of a blip for Fulham, who were promoted.
By this time, my matchday routine was beginning to settle down. Before the game, I tended to hang around the little hut at the north-west corner of the ground that sold programmes. I was able to pick up those that I was missing, as well as other match programmes from clubs around the country. The collecting bug had well and truly caught hold and I still have some of the programmes I picked up from that hut all those years ago.
Brighton & Hove Albion were well and truly in my blood and now I was at Secondary School, there were a few of my friends who were also Albion fans. By the end of the season, I felt I was ready to go to games if not on my own, but at least with my friends. My parents had other ideas and I it was while before they would let me go on my own. That didn’t go so well, but that story comes in a couple of season’s time.
Next up is 1971/72 and any number of brilliant games for me to choose my favourite. Come back soon to find out which one made the cut.
Thanks as always to the incredible and vast amount of information in the Albion bibles:
Seagulls! – The Story of Brighton & Hove Albion FC by Tim Carder and Roger Harris
Albion A-Z – A Who’s Who of Brighton & Hove Albion FC by the same authors
I knew this would happen. I thought it would be reasonably straightforward, choosing one programme from each season to look at. There can’t be that many highlights, can there?
Well, for a nine-year-old the answer is yes, there can.
After my first game in August 1968, I was desperate to go to The Goldstone again. Unfortunately for me, just a few weeks after this momentous event in my life, came another one for the whole family. My Dad, a PE Lecturer at the Bognor Teacher Training College, got a Fulbright Scholarship to go to America for a year, to study for a degree. We waved him off at Bognor station with lots of tears, knowing we wouldn’t see him until Christmas.
He didn’t come back for good until August 1969 and one of the first things on my agenda was to ask him when we could go to see Brighton again. The answer was 24th September, another midweek game but this time in the League Cup. Wolverhampton Wanderers were the visitors and over 32,500 people, including me and my Dad, crammed into The Goldstone. It was a thriller, with Albion leading 2-1 at half-time. Division One class told in the end and we lost 3-2. At the time, This was my first choice for the memorable programme from that season, as I didn’t think things could get much better than that.
However…………as the months drew on, I realised that we were having an amazing season. Coming into March 1970, it looked very much as though we could be promoted. I had been to a couple more games but on Good Friday we again travelled to Hove for the game against Reading, themselves chasing promotion. Another enormous Goldstone crowd of over 32,000 turned up for the game.
Albion’s manager Freddie Goodwin recognised the importance of the game in his welcome. In those days, teams played three games over the easter weekend and the Reading game was immediately followed by a trip to Halifax and then another away game on Easter Monday, at Fulham. A tough schedule and Mr Goodwin was hoping to reward the players with a trip to the Isle of Wight for a few days.
Our team was developing and winger Kit Napier and forward Alan Duffy were beginning to forge a good partnership up front. Action from the previous match shows Napier scoring the only goal in the previous game against Southport.
‘Goldstone Gossip’ started with the headline ‘The Yanks have Come’. Professional football in the USA was still in its infancy and former Eastbourne United manager Gordon Jago was one of the pioneering coaches. He was visiting Brighton with a team from Baltimore, who were due to play friendly games against teams in Sussex.
We also hear about the ‘importance of goal average’. These days of course, goal difference makes it easy to separate teams but 50 years ago, you sometimes had to get the slide rule out (ask your parents if you’re not sure what a slide rule is!). The league table at the time showed Albion at the top, but many newspapers put rivals Bristol Rovers ahead. The truth was more complicated. Our goal average was better than Rovers by 0.02 of a goal! The simpler method was introduced in 1976, thank goodness!
At that time of the year, thoughts were turning to the voting for Albion’s player of the season. The previous winner, John Napier, was in contention again, and supporters were asked to send in their votes to John Vinicombe at The Evening Argus. The award was eventually won by Stewart Henderson, a Scottish fullback signed in October 1965. In a successful season it was unusual to see a defender winning the award but Stewart was a rock-solid player who ended up with 226 appearances for us, before moving to Reading on a free transfer in 1973.
Opposite this information is the travel information for those fans wanting to go to Halifax the following day. This was in the days before both the M23 and M25, so drivers needed to navigate the Crawley by-pass and various routes through London. Compared to today’s journey, it was a shorter trip in 1970, but took much longer!
The game itself was very exciting, made more so by the 5,000 Reading fans that had made the journey. Alan Duffy scored a goal in each half and despite Reading pulling a goal back, we held on to stay top of the league. Surely we could hold on for promotion?
Unfortunately, the trip to Halifax in the early hours of the Saturday took its toll, because we lost 1-0. This was followed on Easter Monday by a 4-1 hammering at Fulham. The wheels then completely came off and we finally finished fourth. This ten-year-old was absolutely gutted at our inability to convert the great play into promotion but looking back, this was good preparation for the numerous disappointments that were to come!
Another highlight from 1969/70 was a marathon FA Cup tie against Walsall. No penalties in those days. We were drawn against The Saddlers in the second round on 6th December. The game at The Goldstone ended 1-1, with Alex Dawson scoring our goal. The replay brought the same result, after extra time. The second replay was played at Craven Cottage, home of Fulham and was yet another draw, this time 0-0. We tried again just two days later, this time at Highfield Road, Coventry City’s ground. This time, a solitary Albion goal wasn’t enough and Walsall went through with a 2-1 win. Inbetween these games we played a league game against Leyton Orient meaning that in 11 days, we played 5 times, including two lots of extra time. The good old days………
The feeling of missing out on promotion lasted for a short while, before attention turned to The World Cup in Mexico. England, of course, were the holders and I, along with the rest of the country, felt sure we would bring it home. In the same way that a run of four defeats in the last five games prepared me for a life of broken dreams as an Albion fan, the events in Mexico gave me similar feelings for the national team. The manner in which we surrendered a 2-0 lead to West Germany, Gordon Banks and his ‘tummy upset’ and not forgetting Bobby Moore’s issues with jewellery, was a sign of things to come as an English football fan.
In a strange way though, all these events helped to cement my love for the game in general, and Albion in particular. Even as a 10-year-old, I was completely captivated by the game and literally couldn’t wait for the 1970/71 season to start. The amazing thing about football is that at the start of every season, all teams are equal, despite the amount spent in the transfer market. We enter the season with hope, expectation and excitement. For most fans, that slowly dwindles as the season unfolds but the underlying love never, ever goes.
Next up is 1970/71. A new kit, new manager and (always) new hope.
Thanks as always to the treasure trove of information in the following books:
Seagulls! – The Story of Brighton & Hove Albion FC by Tim Carder and Roger Harris
Albion A-Z – A Who’s Who of Brighton & Hove Albion FC by the same authors
My last blog post celebrated the fact that it will soon be fifty years since I saw my first Brighton and Hove Albion game. That game triggered my passion for collecting football programmes, particularly those of my beloved Seagulls. Over the years my collection has grown and, following a crazy idea 10 years ago, you can see scans of my programmes at Seagulls Programmes
People often ask me about my favourite programme and I always give the same answer. It’s the one that accompanied that first game, on 28th August 1968. As well the sixteen pages in the programme, Albion also provided the Football League Review. That made 32 pages of news and information on Albion and the Football League. Looking back to that game, got me thinking about my favourite programme from each of the fifty seasons since then.
They may not be programmes from crucial games but they all mean something to me, so here goes. I’ll start with the programme that started it all off.
1968/69 v Torquay United 28 August 1968.
Obviously the place to start. The beginning of my journey that has brought joy, pain, despair and a fair bit of misery along the way.
The programme cover shows a drawing of one of the iconic Goldstone floodlight pylons, behind an image of Brighton beach that is almost unrecognisable from what is there today. The aerial photo shows the West Pier in all it’s glory, with the Palace Pier in the background. In the far distance you can see Rottingdean Cliffs, with no Marina in sight.
Inside, Manager Archie Macaulay offers a ‘cordial welcome’ to Torquay United, before talking about some of the changes he had introduced at the start of the season. He looks forward to some ‘interesting and attractive football’ as the season progresses.
The team listings are presented in a familiar Albion format, with the teams shown surrounded by adverts for some famous local products and services. Among those is an invitation to ‘kick off to a good start for a stay in Brighton’ at The Salisbury Hotel on the seafront. The Hotel is now called The Brighton Hotel but there is a link to the past, as you can dine in the Salisbury Restaurant.
Next we have an action from the previous week’s game. Albion midfielder John Templeman is shown scoring in the game against Oldham Athletic. Opposite this are the pen pictures of Torquay United. Robin Stubbs is listed as a Centre Forward, signed from Birmingham City in August 1963. Somewhat disappointingly, there is no mention of the fact that it was his complimentary tickets, given to his brother (and my Godfather) that led to me going to the game.
Elsewhere in the Torquay player details, we see an Inside Forward (Attacking Midfielder would be the modern description) by the name of Fred Binney. Born in Plymouth in 1946, Fred joined Torquay United in 1966 from non-league Launceston. His career didn’t really take off until he moved the short distance to Exeter City. After scoring 28 goals in the 1972/73 season, he became one of Brian Clough’s last signings for Albion, when he moved to The Goldstone in May 1974. He went on to play 85 times for us, scoring 44 goals.
Also in the Torquay team was a defensive partnership of John Bond and Ken Brown. They both went on to have a successful managerial career and played a part in Albion’s run to the FA Cup Final in 1983. Bond was manager at Manchester City when they were beaten in the fourth round and Brown brought his Norwich City team to Hove for the quarter-final.
‘Goldstone Gossip’ conjures up images of nuggets of behind the scenes information but the reality is nothing like that. We hear that George Dalton, recovering from a broken leg, is to present the prizes at Moulscoomb Adventure Playground, and that skipper Nobby Lawton recently appeared on Radio Brighton recently.
Nobby is featured in ‘Albion Spotlight’. He started his career at Manchester United at the time of the ‘Busby Babes’ and made 36 league appearances for United before moving to Preston North End in March 1963. He captained them in the 1964 FA Cup Final and played 143 games for the Deepdale club before Archie Macaulay brought him south to act as Albion’s ‘midfield general’. He made a total of 127 appearances for us, scoring 16 goals. He once scored an incredible 40-yard goal against Shrewsbury Town in February 1969.
The back cover of the programme advertised something that is still going strong in Hove. Greyhound Racing at Nevill Road offers ‘Bars, Buffets, Restaurant, Cocktail Lounge and All-weather comfort’.
Albion’s programme was heavy on content with a relatively small portion of the content given over to advertising. What there was, was geared almost exclusively to local companies and products. This was the same for most clubs and means that the Matchday programme provides an almost unique snapshot of life in the city at the time. From Albion’s programme we can see that there are restaurants and hotels that are still here today, along with some landmarks that are sadly no longer with us.
So, one down and 49 to go. A look at the programme from our League Cup tie with Wolverhampton Wanderers in September 1969 will be next.
Thanks for reading.
Thanks also to the absolute mine of information contained in Tim Carder’s two essential Albion books
Seagulls! – The Story of Brighton and Hove Albion FC and Albion A-Z – A Who’s Who of Brighton & Hove Albion FC
On 3oth October 2010, Albion destroyed Peterborough United 3-0, on our way to promotion and the glorious transition from The Theatre of Trees at Withdean, to the magnificent cathedral of football at Falmer.
Here we are, nearly 5 years on from that day, with Albion not having won a single game in the Halloween month. This extraordinary run stretches for 20 games, during which we have seen 13 draws and 7 defeats. Goals have been a rare commodity, with our strikers netting just 12 times in those games, whilst our back line has leaked twenty-two times. All but one of the games have been league encounters, with just one match (against Tottenham Hotspur in 2014) in the League Cup. Why has this happened? Even by the weird standards of the usual Albion inconsistency, this is a strange one.
In 2011, the euphoria surrounding the move to Falmer was just beginning to evaporate. After a confident start, that saw us top by the end of a frantic August, September brought us back down to Earth. A reason for the Oktoberfarce in 2011 may possibly be seen in the freak nature of the fixture calendar at the end of September, allied to the malevolent influence of Sky Sports, able to move games at the slightest whim. On Wednesday 21st September, our League Cup game against Liverpool was chosen by Sky as a live game. We gave it our all and despite a stirring second half performance, Liverpool went through 2-1. Just TWO days later, we (and the Sky cameras) were back at Falmer for a league game against former ‘Champions of Europe’ Leeds United, no doubt in response to the millions of global fans they have, demanding more coverage for their perennial underachievers. It was another thrilling game. 2-0 down at half time, Craig Mackail-Smith played like he was supposed to and we went into second-half injury time 3-2 up, only to be denied when Casper Ankergren (ex-Leeds United goalkeeper, although that is clearly an irrelevance……….), decided to throw one in his own net, right in front of the Leeds fans. Oh well. Two games in three days, but the real test was to come on the following Tuesday, when we welcomed the real enemy from just up the M23. It was the first time we had played Crystal Palace since 2005 and we were DESPERATE for a result, for so many reasons. It was not to be. Palace won 3-1 and to add insult to injury, their 3rd goal was scored by Glenn Murray, who had crossed the divide after contract negotiations broke down in the summer of 2011. So this run of 3 games in 6 days was surely a good reason for what followed in October. A 3-1 defeat at Ipswich Town, followed by draws away at Hull City and at home to Millwall, set the tone. For me, the most disappointing game was against the hoofball hooligans of the East End. Newly relegated from the Premier League, Sam Allardyce brought his neanderthal group of over-bulked monsters to Falmer, with clear instructions to get the ball forward as quickly and as aerially as possible. Our brand of Poyet-inspired tippy tappy was good enough to give us over 70% of the possession, but we were undone by one slip at the back, letting in Kevin Nolan, who slammed the ball into the North Stand goal, and then set off on his trademark duck/twat (delete as appropriate) celebration in front of us. 1-0 to 19th Century football (copyright J Mourinho) and we ended the month with another insipid goalless draw, away at Birmingham City.
Twelve months on, into 2012/13, and another fine start had only been (slightly) halted by a 1-0 defeat at home to Birmingham City. Perhaps the curse was carried over from the draw against the same opponents at the end of October the previous year? We certainly couldn’t blame a fixture pile-up courtesy of the League Cup. Swindon Town had taken advantage of early season lethargy to dump us 3-0 before a ball had even been kicked in anger in the league. Perhaps our monthly ration of goals had been used up? We scored 15 goals in September 2012 and the return of 2 (yes, TWO) in the 5 games in October would suggest there is some merit in this. Whatever happened, we were pretty shit, with scores of 1-1 (home v Ipswich), 0-0 (away v Derby), 0-1 (home to Middlesbrough), 0-1 (away to Leicester City), and 1-1 (home to Blackpool). What a transformation, from the free-scoring cavalier football we saw in the previous month. The cracks were beginning to show in Gus Poyet’s brand of football and the grumbling had started. We (obviously) went unbeaten in November and the season ended brilliantly, although the final tactical shitstorm against Palace in the play-offs, was undoubtedly a factor in Poyet leaving the club. I can’t think what else it might have been……..
2013/14 came and new manager Oscar Garcia arrived with a Barcelona-based CV and a calm, measured approach to his job. Two close defeats at the start was halted by a recovery at the end of August and into September but once again, a defeat at the back end of that month, set us up for another run from hell. Our three home games in October yielded two draws and a defeat, with the solitary away trip, to Yeovil, providing more ammunition for the doubters, as our inability to do anything of note in the final third, brought yet another 0-0 draw.
The appalling run of form carried on into November 2013 but we at least recovered to scrape into the play-offs, thanks to Leonardo Ulloa’s stoppage-time heroics at Nottingham Forest. It was a false dawn, because we were absolutely torn apart by Derby County in the play-offs. Oscar Garcia decided enough was enough and left his post, to be replaced for the 2014/15 season, by ex-Liverpool hero Sami Hyypia.
Even the mention of his name makes me twitch in ways that are not in any way good. The season started with two defeats, then two wins. That was it really, and we ended September with a 1-1 home draw to Cardiff City. So, no defeat going into October. Surely this was time for the hoodoo to be broken. Forget it. October started with an away draw at Watford and ended with an away defeat against Bournemouth. Both these teams ended up being promoted, but we seemed to be getting further away from the promised land, rather than closer. In between those games, we had our usual sequence, defeat, draw, draw, with a League Cup reverse at Spurs thrown in.
Hyypia was a dead man walking and after some pretty abject performances, particularly a game just before Christmas against Millwall, he left the club. That Millwall game was one of my lowest points watching Albion. This says a lot, bearing in mind I’ve been watching us since 1968. At least when we were really shit, we were all in it together. At that Millwall game I saw fans of the same club fighting each other. Depressing. Also depressing, but strangely inevitable, was the sight of the knuckle-draggers from Millwall behaving in their customary manner in the South Stand. Hey ho.
So, this season.
Albion unbeaten, top of the league, and a manager in Chris Hughton who seems to have the right balance between gritty determination, organisation throughout the team, and no short measures of flair. Surely, this will be the time to lay the hoodoo and break a sequence of results that becomes more remarkable as each season goes by.
Someone should have mentioned this to skipper Gordon Greer. Picture the scene. 1-1 against a decent Cardiff City side that we had out-played but not put away (sound familiar?). In the 94th minute, the ball comes across the six-yard box and Gordon manages to miss the target from a yard. And so it goes on. P20, W0, D13, L7, F12, A22
On Saturday we play Leeds United at Elland Road. They are again threatening a season of mediocrity but this is October so who knows? We then play Bristol City (at home) who are also struggling, then Preston, also at home, who are having problems with life in the parachute-payment rich Championship. We finish the month away at Reading.
Surely, surely we are set to win in October at some stage over the next 19 days?
It’s hard to believe that a month has gone by since the operation.
I’m all settled now, apart from a few hiccups, and just counting off the days to when the cast comes of (25th April if you’re interested). I had a bit of a set-back last week though. I’d had the proper fibre-glass cast put on but a couple of days after that, I noticed a big blister under the front of the cast. The nice people at Google told me that it was OK as long as it didn’t burst. Sure enough, it burst. I called the Hospital, as instructed, and they told me to get down to the Plaster Room and they would have a look.
Not as easy as it sounds. As I’ve said, Justine is out of action as well, with her shoulder, so neither of us can drive. To get to the hospital, we had to cadge a lift from a friend, then on the way back, it was a combination of a taxi and train from Winchester, then another lift home from the train station. A bit of a trek.
To cut a long story short, all was OK. The stuff in the blister had leaked on to the dressing a bit, so I did right going back in, but it was all sorted and hopefully this will be the last time I go back, apart from the final removal. I’ve settled into a routine now, where even the ridiculously easy tasks, like making a cup of tea, become triumphs of organisation and planning. The kitchen is next to where I work, so I have to try and shuffle along on one crutch, whilst holding the cup of tea, hoping it doesn’t slop all over the floor. On the whole this works OK, but I literally cannot wait to be able to walk properly again. Still, it won’t be long. The first month has gone pretty quickly anyway.
So, what of the football. When I last wrote, the mighty Seagulls had drawn with Reading and beaten QPR and Bolton Wanderers. Nicely poised for a push to the play-offs then, just like last year, Right?
Wrong. In true Brighton and Hove Albion style, the hopes of the fans are dashed with a performance of ineptitude. And so it proved. Ineptitude might be a bit strong, but we just can’t score goals.
Last Saturday we played Ipswich Town at The Amex. The largest crowd of the season, just over 29,000, was hoping the good form would continue, against one of the teams snapping at our heels for those play-off places. I was safely tucked up in front of my PC and once again managed to find a stream of the game on the internet. This was fine, but it was slightly disconcerting to see adverts for local cougars popping up all over the place. In the end, I gave up – the pictures were so out of synch with the commentary, it was pretty pointless.
A fairly dour first half was scoreless, and the eternal optimist in me was convinced we would go through the gears in the second half, and put the Tractor Boys to the sword. Not quite. Despite early pressure from The Seagulls, Leonardo Ulloa didn’t have his scoring boots on and Ipswich took the lead. Back we came, but it was all a bit toothless and Ipswich clinched the win with a second near the end. It was made even more galling by the fact that one of Ipswich’s more influential players was Johnny Williams, on loan from Crystal Palace. He was brilliant against us last year and seems to to be getting back to his best after a nasty injury – bastard!
Ok, so another home defeat but we had the chance to put it right on Tuesday against Sheffield Wednesday. Where we don’t win. Ever. At all.
My radio companions for the evening were commentator Johnny Cantor and summariser Warren Aspinall. Warren lives near me and I often bump into him at Tesco. He is an absolute mine of information about all sorts of random players and works hard for the club in his scouting role. His main claim to fame on the commentary however, is his complete inability to pronounce names properly. Leonardo Ulloa (properly pronounced as Oo-Joe-ah) enjoys multiple pronunciations and it makes for some funny moments. No problems on Tuesday though, because that man from Argentina wasn’t playing, having picked up an illness. Alarm bells immediately started ringing, because he scores most of our goals. Would David Rodriguez step in and fire us to our first ever win at Hillsborough.
In short, no.
As is becoming the norm, we (in Aspinall’s words) battered them and created plenty of chances, but just couldn’t put the ball in the back of the net. As the game wore on, Warren and Johnny in the commentary box were getting more and more worried that we would be punished for this profligacy. Yet again, this was proved correct, as we conceded a last minute goal following a mistake by Bruno, which led to a bit of a bust-up with Thomasz Kuszczak – more handbags than actual fisticuffs but not good.
To make matters worse, results went our way, with Derby, Forest, Wigan and Reading all losing. This made the pain of the defeat slightly better, but as has been the case so often this season, we are left wondering what might have been. We still have a game in hand, against Blackburn next week, and this is preceded by a home game against Middlesbrough.
I’m going to the Middlesbrough game – very exciting!
I’ll be sitting in The North Stand, just in front of where we had our season tickets. Getting to and from the ground on the crutches will be interesting but i’ll let you know how I get on!
We have to win. The next three games are all away (Blackburn, Barnsley and Leicester) so we need to go into those with a bit of momentum. Things aren’t entirely in our own hands but there is still loads to play for. Forest are seemingly in freefall and Reading Derby and QPR are all capable of slipping up, so we could sneak in, if only we can convert all the chances we create into goals.
Come on Albion!!!!