It’s very sad news to hear of a former Brighton & Hove Albion player who has died. It’s particularly regretful that the first Albion player from the glory years of 1976 to 1983 to no longer be with us is the man who captained the side at its first ever FA Cup Final, in May 1983.
Here, he delighted the watching millions by wearing a headband to show solidarity with the suspended Steve Foster:
It’s fair to say that Tony Grealish was not so popular with fans when he was signed from Luton Town for more than £100,000 by new manager Mike Bailey in July 1981. The tenacious midfielder was not in the best of form in his first season, and he had the difficult job of replacing ex-skipper and crowd favourite Brian Horton who found his way to Tony’s previous employers, Luton.
Even so, he seemed in good spirits in this pre-season photoshoot and player profile from the Brighton v Swansea match programme in 1981/82:
Over time, Grealish won over his detractors with his steely determination in breaking up opposition attacks, supplying colleagues with the ball and occasional forays upfield. He was the engine of the side. You can see a fine performance and goal from him from Brighton’s 3-1 win over Everton at the Goldstone in February 1982 (23 mins):
In total, he made 121 appearances for the Seagulls between 1981 and 1984. His contributions to the FA Cup run of 1983 are fondly remembered, such as this dribble past two Manchester City players before a defence splitting ball for the first of Michael Robinson’s double in the 4-0 win (2 mins):
He teed up Jimmy Case’s scorching goal in the FA Cup Semi-Final against Sheffield Wednesday with a cheeky backheeled free-kick (1 min).
As well as a characteristically wholehearted performance, the Seagulls’ number four was involved in the build-up of both of Brighton’s goals in the FA Cup final against Manchester United, switching the ball out wide for Gary Howlett to cross for Gordon Smith’s opener and then pushing the ball into the path of Gary Stevens. In the following season, Tony Grealish (and Danny Wilson) ran the Liverpool midfield ragged in another famous FA Cup game.
The industrious Republic of Ireland international eventually left in March 1984, signing for West Bromwich Albion in a £95,000 deal.
If not a player what job would you do? ‘Don’t know. In the current recession I wouldn’t have a lot of choice. Perhaps an airline pilot!’
That’s rather fitting, and not just because of his British Caledonian shirt! In the words of a North Stand Chat user called ‘rool’, Grealish now joins Alan Davies in the 1983 FA Cup Final reunion in the sky.