He may have blotted his copybook with Brighton fans years later, when seeking to sign Gareth Barry as Aston Villa manager without compensation, but there is little doubt that John Gregory provided sterling service to the Seagulls in those first two seasons in the First Division. A strong tackler, Gregory added steel and good positional play, as well as the ability to go on overlapping runs. His high transfer fee, then a club record, was worth every penny.
The £2S0,000 Brighton paid for Aston Villa defender John Gregory was almost chicken feed compared to some of the close season deals.
Says Gregory: “Once Trevor Francis went for a million pounds, everybody else’s price shot up by £50,000 to £100,000.
“Even so, the money I cost was lot for Brighton, and you’ve got to put things into perspective. Costing that kind of money obviously causes a little bit of burden but I hope not too much of one for me.
‘It took me a long while to decide whether I would come here or not but that was nothing to do with the club or the terms they offered me. It’s just that my wife was brought up in the Midlands end had never travelled more then an hour away from there before. So her happiness, end that of our two children, had to be taken into account.
“They all like it down here though – and the kids love being by the sea. They’re treating it as a permanent holiday.”
Gregory knows, though, that it won’t be any holiday for his team in the First Division during this crucial season of 1979-80. They’ll have to fight for their right to play in the top sphere.
“From what i’ve seen so far, I think we’ll certainly hold our own. We haven’t got many players with First Division experience but having seen how the other half lives in the lower regions of the Second and Third Divisions, I think our won’t went to give up life in the First too easily.
“I’ve probably got the most experience of the First Division. But Gerry Ryen’s been there, too. And we have Chris Cattlin end Graham Moseley, who know what it’s like.”
Gregory hopes that hell finally find himself a settled position at Brighton.
“At Villa, they seemed to regard me as a player who could do a job anywhere. I played full-back, central defender – even centre-forward. Now I’d like to settle at right-back.”
In his first season at the Albion in 1979/80, Gregory made 33 League appearances, all in the number two shirt, just the way he wanted.