The gloriously manly Wang Computers are quite rightly hailed by The Football Attic as the greatest shirt sponsor of all time. Man, I wish Brighton & Hove Albion had the US computer company as our shirt sponsor in the 1980s. Instead, we wound up with the thoroughly embarrassing NOBO. I’m sorry, but boasting you are ‘Top of the First Division For Display and Training Aids’ cuts no ice with me.
When Wang Computer became the sponsor of Oxford United, a Division One club for the first time, in summer 1985, Brighton were still plying their trade in the Second Division. When the U’s, who had triumphed in the League Cup Final against QPR 3-0, won by the same score over Arsenal on the final day of the 1985/86 season, it inconveniently preserved the side’s top flight status. Their home kit, incidentally, looked strikingly similar to Brighton’s away kit for the forthcoming 2013/14 season.
Hopes of a mirth-making Wang v NOBO football match were dashed by that Arsenal result, and frustrated again the following season when both Oxford and Brighton went down, preserving the league gulf between them.
It took until September 1988 for newly promoted Brighton to play in their NOBO-emblazoned shirts against the team in Wang.
Brighton lost 3-2 to Oxford in a Second Division fixture as part of a depressing start to the 1988/89 campaign where they lost their first eight matches. Oxford manager at the time was ex-Seagulls favourite Mark Lawrenson. His programme notes explode the myth that he has never acknowledged his time at Brighton since leaving the Goldstone. Instead, he wrote warmly:
“Welcome today to Brighton and Hove Albion, the players and officials and everyone connected with the club. Brian Horton and myself spent many happy years at the club and we have a great affinity for the club from the good times we had there. Indeed Brighton’s result is one of the first we look for on a Saturday night. Dean Saunders too, I am sure will wish to have a good game today as he had a successful time at the Goldstone Ground.”
Due to the financial woes at Brighton, Saunders had been signed for a ludicrously low fee of £60,000 in March 1987. Sometimes, it is said by Brighton fans that Lawrenson took advantage of the difficulties at his former club to ‘steal’ Saunders from us, but the Oxford manager at the time was Maurice Evans (bottom row, second from left, in the image below), not Lawrenson.
Mark Lawrenson didn’t last long as manager, however. He was sacked the following month after making critical comments when Saunders was sold to Derby County against his manager’s will. The future complacent BBC armchair pundit was replaced by Brian Horton.
By the time of the return fixture, in late March 1989, Brighton had hauled themselves off the bottom of the table to 21st place, one place above the relegation trapdoor. They helped their cause even more by coming from behind to beat Oxford 2-1 at the Goldstone Ground.
The Seagulls eventually finished 19th, two places behind Oxford.