Alan Biley – a Law unto himself

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From the Brighton v Leeds programme from April 1985:

It won’t take Alan Biley long to make friends in the Goldstone terraces and stands. There is always a sense of excitement and anticipation when the player in question is a man of proven ability who loves to entertain the fans.

Ask Alan Biley about his own heroes and he’ll talk enthusiastically about two men in particular: Denis Law and rock star Rod Stewart. Both men won fame as excellent showmen. Biley’s mind sees Law score a spectacular goal and wheeling away, arm aloft, to salute the Stretford End. Or Stewart, strutting the stage with style and confidence, oozing that indefinable quality, charisma.

‘I take enjoyment very seriously,’ he says. ‘By that I mean that I know how lucky I am to earn my money playing the game I love. When I was 10, my only ambition was to become a professional footballer and that has never changed. It was the only thing I ever wanted to do. I know there are millions of kids who dream of making the grade. I’m one of the lucky ones. Now I’m there, I love to make the most of every day.’

Biley was a small, very mobile striker who made great runs and had a deadly finish. His modelling himself on his idols was not just apparent from his attention-grabbing blonde feather cut hair, but also his Law-like habit of grasping onto the cuffs of his long-sleeved football shirt. A good example is this photo from this Leeds match, as he celebrates triumphantly after scoring in the 1-1 draw (wonderful expression on Terry Connor’s face too!).

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After a prolific spell with Cambridge, Biley had first come to the attention of many Brighton fans when his two goals for relegation-bound Derby County had stuffed the Seagulls 3-0 in the First Division five years previously in April 1980. He had a largely unsuccessful spell with Everton after a big £350,000 move in July 1981. After being loaned to Stoke City, the Leighton Buzzard-born striker rediscovered his goal-scoring touch when he arrived at Portsmouth in August 1982. On the South Coast, he hit 51 goals in 105 League games for Pompey.

When he joined Brighton in March 1985 for £50,000, the hope was that his goals would turbo-charge the Seagulls’ return to Division One. Sadly, it was not to be. Four goals in thirteen appearances in 1984/85 was not enough. Here you can see him back at Fratton Park in action for his new club against Portsmouth, losing his footing before a classy lay-off to set up Chris Hutchings’ chance:

Although not on the scoresheet there, Biley did get the equaliser against Grimsby when Brighton stormed back from 2-0 down late on to win 4-2 in the penultimate match of the campaign. In the end, Brighton missed out on promotion by three measly points.

As the next campaign dawned, Biley proved his goal-scoring credentials with a first half header against Nottingham Forest in a famous 5-1 pre-season win, as part of Warm Up ’85:

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Despite hitting another quite opportunist goal against Grimsby in the League opener in 1985/86, Biley was in and out of the side as Cattlin had Dean Saunders, Mick Ferguson, Terry Connor and Justin Fashanu also competing to play upfront. Biley endured some very rough tackling at times, such as in the Barnsley away defeat in August. In the end, the extrovert with the larger-than-life persona had a goal ratio with the Seagulls that was anything other than larger-than-life. Perhaps he would have scored more with the protection that referees offer attacking players nowadays. Here he is getting chopped down by England defender Mark Wright after coming on as substitute against Southampton in the FA Cup Quarter Final home defeat in March 1986:

Biley amassed just four League goals in 26 League appearances in his second season with the Seagulls, which effectively spelt the end of his Brighton career, and he was loaned to New York Express and Cambridge before going on to play for Twente Enschede (Holland), Brest (France) and Panionios (Greece).

While some spells (such as his first at Cambridge with whom he was recently voted in their Team of the Century) were much more successful than others, Biley is still fondly remembered at most of his clubs, including ours. If you wish to declare your enduring footballing love for the blonde bombshell, you can get an Alan Biley T-shirt from Cult Zeros.

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