With the exact poor man-management approach that Garry Nelson would later document, Barry Lloyd dropped Northern Ireland’s World Cup winger Steve Penney 45 minutes before the Albion’s home match with Bournemouth in September 1988. It led to Penney handing in a transfer request. As John Vinicombe reported:
A day of confusion and disappointment at the Goldstone ended on an acrimonious note with Steve Penney saying he would never play for Barry Lloyd again.
Penney, who had been relegated to the subs’ bench together with Paul Wood, then left to join Billy Bingham’s squad for Wednesday’s World Cup game against Eire in Belfast.
Penney repeated his request for a transfer. He had asked to leave in May 1987 when Albion went into the Third Division. This time, he put his point of view to chairman Dudley Sizen, and later publicly slated the club.
“The way things are going here at the moment is absolutely ridiculous,” he said.
He maintained he was being unfairly treated by Lloyd and that his dropping coincided with playing a target man in Gerry Armstrong.
That switch, according to Penney, didn’t make sense as he is the principal provider of crosses.
“There are other things involved, including financial details. I was told only three-quarters of an hour before playing that I was not playing, and it seems I’ve been made the scapegoat with Paul Wood.
“The way I’m being treated at the moment is ridiculous. The manager had to put me on; we were two-nil down and it could have been a couple more.”
If Lloyd gets a reasonable offer for Penney, he will have no hesitation in selling, and that has been the situation for some time now.
The story also made the back pages of the News of the World, with Penney saying:
The manager told me I was dropped when I came in. It was completely out of the blue. I felt on Wednesday against Southend in the Littlewoods Cup that I played my best game of the season. I got in enough crosses to win but we just don’t have a target man.”
The Bournemouth game was also memorable for the fact that Perry Digweed failed to turn up from his home in Chelsea. As a result, John Keeley, who had injured a finger in training on the Friday, had to answer a late SOS and even had to send a friend to his home to retrieve his contact lenses.
With all the drama, it was hardly surprising that Bournemouth opened up a two-goal lead at the Goldstone through Mark Newson and Shaun Brooks. After Penney came on, Gary Chivers halved the deficit after 66 minutes.
The game against the Cherries was the fifth in a dismal run where Brighton lost all of their opening eight matches of the 1988/89 season. Despite his vow that “I’ve definitely played my last game for manager Barry Lloyd,” Penney regained his place in mid-November in a surprise 3-2 victory at Ipswich, before scoring in the next match in the 3-0 drubbing of Sunderland at home.
His deteriorating relationship with Barry Lloyd is documented well in Spencer Vignes’ superb ‘A Few Good Men’ book, where he recounts another occasion when Barry Lloyd attempted to damage Penney’s likelihood of being selected for his country, by substituting the winger and complaining of his lack of effort to Billy Bingham, the Northern Ireland boss. Bingham replied to Lloyd:
Steve will be playing on Wednesday night because he’s played 15 games for me and that’s not his character.
In the end, knee injuries took their toll on Penney, and his appearance for the Albion in the return fixture with Bournemouth on 2nd January 1989 proved his last for the club. He was given a free transfer towards the end of the 1990/91 season. Nevertheless, the tricky winger who so mesmerised the Liverpool defence on national TV in the FA Cup in 1984, is still remembered with great affection by Seagulls fans.