Back with a bump: Barry Bridges and the premature promotion celebrations

barrybridges

From Brighton v Millwall, September 1972:

“I have played in three losing FA Cup semi-finals – two for Chelsea and one for Birmingham – but the most disappointing game of my career was Millwall’s last game of the season against Preston North End on April 29. We were leading 2-0 and with ten minutes to go someone in the crowd heard on the radio that our promotion rivals, Birmingham City, were losing at Sheffield Wednesday.

“The news spread through the crowd and within seconds everyone in the ground, including the players, knew as well. A defeat for Birmingham would have meant promotion to the First Division for Millwall and we naturally thought we were up.

“The side somehow managed to get through the final ten minutes without conceding a goal to Preston. As the final whistle went thousands of spectators streamed onto the pitch chanting ‘We are the champions’.

“We had our shirts stripped off our backs and were chaired around the pitch by excited fans. But then an announcement was made that Birmingham had beaten Sheffield Wednesday. It had all been a dreadful mistake.

“The four supporters, who had been chairing me off on their shoulders, dropped me. Everyone was stunned and we all had to troop off the pitch all bitterly disappointed and choked.

“It’s difficult to describe my feelings at that moment. I desperately wanted to play First Division football again and so did the rest of the lads. We were all sick.

“If Millwall had won promotion I am perfectly convinced that I would not be a Brighton player today. I don’t know how Millwall would have fared in the First Division but I would still have liked to have been part of their team.

“But that’s all in the past. I am now with Brighton and delighted to be so. I have been extremely impressed with their set-up, the marvellous training facilities, the ground and the grand bunch of players.

“Brighton could certainly become a First Division side. But it requires patience and a lot of hard work. The skill factor is a big thing in the Second Division. But the spirit is right within the club and that’s important.”

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