European Sky Blues – the future Albion stars that beat Bayern Munich

The proof-readers must have been on holiday, because the matchday programme for Brighton’s recent pre-season friendly with Norwich City carried this juicy blunder:

Norwich are the only English side to have beaten Bayern Munich in European competition.

Well, apart from Arsenal, Aston Villa, Chelsea, Everton, Manchester United and Tottenham, of course. Three of those were in the final of the European Cup (or Champions League), so it was a sizeable gaffe that deserves to be squelched. And, in an act that might inspire some Jimmy Hill chin-stroking style incredulity, Coventry City have also defeated Bayern Munich. Yes, that’s right. And it was in the decade when Bayern were crowned champions of Europe three times. What is more, the Sky Blues did it with a quite a few players who went on to ply their trade with Brighton & Hove Albion several years later.

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Autumn 1970. Ex-Eire international midfielder Pat Saward had recently left the coaching staff at Coventry City, where he had nurtured the youngsters of Highfield Road to the FA Youth Cup Final for the second time in three seasons. However, now a much bigger challenge loomed, as the prospect of relegation threatened to engulf his first campaign as Brighton manager. Having finished fifth in the previous campaign under Freddie Goodwin, Albion had started 1970/71 with a measly two wins in ten matches. So Saward went back to old club to replenish his side in the face of an injury crisis. He emerged with the reserves’ tough centre-half Ian Goodwin on loan. As John Vinicombe wrote of Saward in the Evening Argus:

He well remembered Goodwin, a 6ft central defender, who at 20 was still learning his trade. Goodwin, all 13st of him, had lost his first team place after four appearances when City splashed £100,000 on Wednesday’s Wilf Smith.

The transfer struck a chord with Saward, who during his career at City had tried to sign Goodwin’s younger brother. Ian only turned up at Highfield Road as a driver for the 15-year-old kid. Saward recalled: “We happened to be short of a player and asked Ian to show us what he could do and he turned in such a good performance that he had a month’s trial and stayed.”

Two years later Goodwin answered Saward’s SOS and breezed into the office, declaring: “Have no fear, Goodwin is here.” That self introduction was typical of Goodwin, who became a breath of fresh air to Albion’s dressing room.

“You can relax,” he beamed. “From now on it’s going to be wins all the way.” Now Saward was no mean motivator himself, but with Goodwin having joined the ranks, initially on a short-term arrangement, spirits began to soar.

Goodwin’s boast proved empty as Albion continued to fall, from 17th place in early November to as low as 23rd in late March 1971 before rallying to finish a respectable 14th position.

As for Coventry, the Sky Blues had much, much bigger fish to fry. The Midlanders had finished sixth in the First Division in 1969/70, which opened the way to the first and only European campaign in their history, in the Inter-Cities Fairs Cup. Once they progressed past the first round, having beaten Trakia Plovdiv 4-1 in Bulgaria before a 2-0 win at Highfield Road, Coventry then drew mighty Bayern Munich.

The Sky Blues line-up at the Olympic Stadium in Munich was:
McManus, Coop, Cattlin, Machin, Blockley, Strong, Hunt, Carr, Martin, O’Rourke, Clements.

cov-chriscattlin2So that’s three players there that went on to join Brighton. Left-back on the night was the ever-dependable Chris Cattlin. He had a distinguished career at Highfield Road after signing from Huddersfield for a record fee for a full-back, £80,000, in March 1968. On the Sent From Coventry blog he said recently: “I was a long, lanky lump and I wouldn’t dive in. I’d trap the attackers in the corner then wallop them. I had a great relationship with the fans at Coventry. They knew what they were going to get from me.” He was transferred to Brighton for no fee in summer 1976 as Peter Taylor’s last signing for the Albion, and his stiffening of the defence (when ousting Ken Tiler from right-back mid-way through the season) made such a huge contribution to Brighton clinching promotion to Division One in 1978/79.

cov-machinMidfielder Ernie Machin also played in Germany on that evening. This energetic and skilful player eventually came to the Goldstone Ground via Plymouth in summer 1974. Although he was appointed captain, he never settled on the south coast, and still lived in Coventry and trained in the Midlands. Released at his own request in 1976, he eventually returned to Coventry briefly as youth team coach.

cov_neilmartinCoventry’s lanky striker Neil Martin also didn’t last very long as an Albion player. Signed by Taylor in summer 1975 as a freebie from Nottingham Forest, he left for arch rivals Crystal Palace in March 1976 after losing his place.

In the first leg, Coventry went down 6-1 to Bayern.

For the return leg, Neil Martin kept his place and scored the winner in a famous 2-1 victory. Cattlin and Machin dropped out, and Wilf Smith and Dennis Mortimer were promoted to the side:
Glazier, Coop, Smith, Mortimer, Blockley, Hill, Hunt (Joicey sub), Carr, Martin, O’Rourke, Clements.

cov-Wilf-SmithWilf Smith had been born as Wilfred Schmidt in Neumünster, Germany before his parents decided to Anglicise his name. He had joined Coventry from Sheffield Wednesday for £100,000, a record fee for a full-back, in summer 1970. It was this move that led to unsettled Goodwin joining Pat Saward’s Albion. The classy Smith also came to Albion on loan from Coventry in October 1974, but Albion could not afford the fee to make the deal permanent.

cov-mortimerFinally in this exodus-of-sorts to the Goldstone, Dennis Mortimer. At the time of the Bayern clashes, he was just eighteen years old, eventually playing 193 Division One games for the Sky Blues before a successful move to Aston Villa. He joined Albion much later in 1985, signed by Chris Cattlin, now Brighton manager, on a free transfer. By that time, Mortimer was reaching the end of his career and yet his powerful performances with Brighton made him a firm favourite at the Goldstone Ground. The influential midfielder had already notched up another victory over Bayern Munich, in the 1982 European Cup Final as Villa skipper.

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One thought on “European Sky Blues – the future Albion stars that beat Bayern Munich

  1. Following the 1970/71 season, and in preparation for the next, many of the Coventry’s First Division stars came down to Brighton for a pre-season friendly, winning 2-1 at the Goldstone. They must have loved it down here!

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