On the eve of Brighton’s debut in the top flight in 1979 came this unsettling story. Alex Montgomery reports:
Alan Mullery reluctantly put brilliant striker Peter Ward up for sale last night and then prepared to man the Brighton barricades.
The South Coast club, newly promoted to the First Division, expect a storm of abuse from their fans who adore Ward – rated in the £750,000 class.
Mullery admitted that he has already had one death threat warning him against ever selling Ward.
But it seems certain now that the former Young England star will be leaving the Goldstone and the odds are that he will join Kevin Keegan, Dave Watson and Laurie Cunningham on the big money trail into European football.
Watson’s new club Werner Bremen have already contacted Brighton and Cologne are another West German side who have been asking questions about Ward.
But first, top English clubs like European champions Nottingham Forest will get the chance to put their money where only their mouths have been so far.
Mullery made no secret at his deep disappointment and said: “I don’t take the death threat seriously of course. But it highlights the depth of feeling there is surrounding Peter down here.
“I can understand it. he is a top class player and I don’t want to lose him. But I have no alternative but to transfer-list him because he wants to leave and it is not my policy to hold onto a player in these circumstances.”
Ward himself would only say: “I’ve thought about it over carefully and have decided my future lies away from Brighton.”
Happily, Ward settled his differences and hit an impressive sixteen First Division goals in 1979/80, capping his enhanced reputation by appearing for the full England side in the close season friendly against Australia.