In this revealing interview from 1983, Chris Cattlin shows a mixture of realism and determination as he replaces Jimmy Melia as Brighton boss:
Chris Cattlin has no illusions about the struggle he faces in trying to steer 1983 Cup Finalists Brighton back to the First Division.
“I shall do my best until the bullet comes,” he says bluntly.
Cattlin, the former Huddersfield, Coventry and Brighton defender who has spent recent years building up a thriving rock selling business (see image below) in the Sussex seaside town, has move into his new job as successor to Jimmy Melia with such caution that a casual observer could be forgiven for believing that the Goldstone Ground has been relayed with mines left over from the Falklands war.
Chris Cattlin is arguably the most unpopular manager to be appointed in the history of the game. And none of it is his fault.
Appointed last summer as chief coach, he was given Melia’s job when the Brighton manager walked out last month.
“I didn’t ask to do the job. I was given the job, and having got used to it, I’ll do it to the best of my ability,” explains Cattlin.
“I want to let the dust settle, and then try to get the club straightened out.”
His priority is to win promotion to the First Division and get the club into Europe. But he confesses that the current side, unless stiffened up by two or three new players, is not good enough to gain promotion this season.
“They said Watford didn’t have potential to do anything. Look what happened. Look what Bobby Robson did for Ipswich Town in his time there. One of the best things that happened to Brighton was to get to the Cup Final. It has given us tradition, and Jimmy Melia and the team must be congratulated for that.”
He is looking for new players of “substance” and will not confine his scouting to Brighton. His priority is to find a defender and midfield player.
In the meantime, he confesses to being happy with the quality of many of the Brighton team.
Cattlin’s coach-like appraisal of his squad is fascinating:-
Goalkeeper Joe Corrigan – “Marvellous professional.”
Full-back Kieran O’Regan – “infectious enthusiasm with a will to win.”
Steve Gatting – “A First Division player who needs a kick occasionally. Educated left foot.”
Eric Young – “Lots of potential. He has played against Frank Stapleton and Mark Falco and learns with every game.”
Graham Pearce – “A steady player. Won’t let you down.”
Tony Grealish and Jimmy Case – “Two great professionals. Dedicated.”
Neil Smillie – “Pacey Winger. Doesn’t always produce what he is capable of.”
Gerry Ryan – “Scores goals. He’s lost half a yard of pace. At 28, he has stopped working at his game. I want to get more out of him – and I will.”
Terry Connor – “A shy lad, he has done well, but can improve. Great potential.”
Gordon Smith – “Cost £400,000. Needs to play with more passion. Can score goals.”
Alan Young – “Aggressive striker.”
“I want to pour some concrete into the club to give it the solid foundations it needs. I want to do that before I get the sack, as I inevitably will. Most managers do.
“I have no fear of the sack. I was invited back to the club by the chairman and now i have got the bit between the teeth.”
Chris Cattlin, one of the few managers to be appointed without a fanfare of trumpets, deserves to be given a chance.
But with the smell of cordite fresh around the Goldstone, the most sceptical Brighton supporter would not give much for his long term future.
Cattlin certainly steadied the ship in 1983/84. A side that had fallen to 16th position in the Second Division in October 1983, Melia’s last as manager, recovered to 9th by the end of the campaign. The new manager, with assistant Sammy Nelson, had instilled a new discipline into the running of the team, something that bore fruit in a famous, handsome 2-0 win over Liverpool in the FA Cup in January. All was set for a promotion push the following season.