No, this is not a Leeds United shirt!
This is a pimped-out version of the very ‘plain Jane’ Brighton home shirt from Peter Taylor’s first season in sole charge at the Goldstone in 1974/75. As you can see, not only did Albion fans have to put up with their manager Brian Clough defecting to Leeds, but our traditional and beloved blue and white stripes were ditched in favour of a design by Admiral that echoed the kit worn by the Elland Road side.
To add a bit of flourish, the shirts were originally worn with white shorts that had two blue stripes running down the side and with white socks featuring two blue rings.
While controversial, the move to all-white had a precedent at the Goldstone earlier in the decade. Before Brighton boss Freddie Goodwin had left for Birmingham City in the summer of 1970, he had instigated a change to the team’s colours to this aesthetic, perhaps in admiration of Leeds or maybe he thought it would help us play like Real Madrid. Or could it be that he just liked how milky-white kits shone under floodlights during night-time matches? Whatever the reason, that radical change lasted for a single season, however, in the first campaign of the Pat Saward era.
Just as under Pat Saward in 1970/71, Brighton’s season in 1974/75 was one of struggle in Division Three, with the threat of relegation being averted by the end. Under the watch of Peter Taylor, the all-white affair was worn by the likes of Ian Mellor when he scored on his League debut for Brighton in an opening day win against Crystal Palace in August 1974 and by fellow striker Dave Busby who became the first black player to play for the Albion when he came on as a substitute against Reading in the League Cup in September. Humiliatingly, the shirt was also worn with blue shorts for the 1-0 home defeat in the FA Cup by non-league side Leatherhead in January 1975, with Chris Kelly, ‘The Leatherhead Lip,’ here giving the Albion defenders the runaround:
At least the white shirt from the earlier season had the letters ‘B&HAFC.’ This one of 1974/75, with the identical blue round neck and shirt cuffs, had nothing that identified it as belonging to Brighton & Hove Albion. Stingily, it also offered none of the design innovations that Admiral became synonymous with during the decade, such as tramlines down the shirts and shorts …or even sock tags which featured mainly at Elland Road in kits manufactured by Admiral (If you’re going to copy Leeds, at least copy sock tags!) And yet, as if to rub your nose in it, Admiral did manage to get their own logo on.
Strangely, given the plentiful supply before, there’s a paucity of colour photography of Brighton & Hove Albion players during 1974/75, apart from this photo by Crystal Palace fan Paul Wright which understandably is from quite far out, so you can’t see the detail on the shirt. So, from black and white photos, I was unable to ascertain the colour of the Admiral logo until Phil Shelley from Old Football Shirts was helpfully able to confirm it as yellow with a blue outline, having chatted to a few ex-Brighton players at the Alan Mullery special celebration dinner event last year.
Powered with this knowledge, I ordered a blue round-necked white shirt from Toffs. Then I proceeded to get a yellow Admiral logo unstitched from another shirt and sewn on to it although, judging from photos, I think the originals had the logo as an ironed on transfer. I even got the Admiral neck label added on to make it look more authentic when it is anything but!
Although it could be easily mistaken for a white polo necked t-shirt with a badge ironed on, I do wonder how much an original Brighton home shirt from 1974/75 is worth. Not that there’s much chance of an original surviving the lifespan of being used in competitive matches, then in reserve matches, then as training kit, then probably discarded due to wear and tear. When I contacted Dave Busby, who made three appearances during that season, he said: “We were never allowed to keep kit. It all had to be accounted for.”
Unless any found their way out, what you are looking at could be the only 1974/75 Brighton home shirt in existence, albeit as a reproduction.
Back row: Brian Daykin (assistant manager), Andy Rollings, Ian Mellor, Peter Grummitt, Graham Winstanley, Jim Walker, Ken Gutteridge (coach)
Front row: Harry Wilson, Ernie Machin, Fred Binney, Peter Taylor (manager), Tommy Mason, Tony Towner, Peter O’Sullivan