After breaking into the Dinamo Minsk side at the age of 17, the skilful Belorussian midfielder Sergei Anatolovich Gotsmanov played on over 350 occasions for his home city, as well as serving in the army and a short stint at Brest, near where his army base was. He also played 31 times for the USSR, scoring the first goal in England’s 2-0 home defeat at the end of the 1983/84, capitalising on Mike Duxbury’s calamitous attempt at cutting out a through ball.
Apart from this, the clip below is also particularly worth watching for a splendid run by Gotsmanov in the first half, skipping past two hapless England defenders:
A game changer back then, he was even more of a talisman when he arrived in Hove, on trial from Dinamo Minsk in February 1990. As a profile in the Brighton v Bradford matchday programme said a month later:
Already he is a favourite with the Albion fans. Even before he scored in his first two full games Sergei Gotsmanov only had to warm up as a substitute to send ripples of excitement down the Goldstone.
Gotsmanov’s two substitute appearances were at Sunderland and then at home with Middlesbrough, before his full debut in the 1-1 draw with Oldham at the Goldstone at the start of March. The programme continues:
Sergei the Seagull realises he is causing something of a stir. But being the centre of attention does not suit his modest nature. The team is what matters, he says. His excellent goal against Oldham, his first for the Albion, struck first time from a through pass, was a piece of quality finishing. However, Sergei dismisses the goal and the part he played in gaining a point. Through an interpreter he prefers to talk about the team: ‘Winning games is what counts,’ he says. ‘Yes, it was a good goal but at the end of a good move. And scoring is not enough if the team loses.’
Here is the goal against the in-form Latics in the 54th minute:
Not only did he open the scoring, Gotsmanov’s star performance had supporters singing his praises. ‘We’ve got a Russian international!’ they proudly chanted.
A midfielder by trade, Gotsmanov was used by Barry Lloyd mainly in attack following an injury to Garry Nelson. With his outstanding control, accurate passing and vision, he looked several classes above the mere mortals of the Barclays Second Division that he was playing with. However, besides artistry, he also showed gutsiness. In the next match, against Plymouth Argyle, Gotsmanov was on the scoresheet again, using his quick reactions and determination to nick this winner:
However, it was undoubtedly the Hull City match at the start of April where he firmly placed his name deep into Albion folklore with an audacious piece of magic. After rounding the keeper with consummate ease, Gotsmanov impudently celebrated before putting the ball in the back of the net:
As Barry Lloyd said:
Call it cheek or a piece of pure theatre: what everyone surely recognised about Sergei Gotsmanov’s goal in last week’s home game against Hull was that it bore the hallmark of supreme confidence.
Much has been said about Sergei since he arrived at the Goldstone. Certainly, he is a player with whom we have been delighted and he is a superb example to other players here, both in skill, technique and dedication.
But the goal was something else! Skipping round tackles and holding your arms aloft BEFORE slotting the ball into the net is the stuff of which dreams are made.
Could we possibly hold on to a star like this? Sadly, the answer was no. Everything was tried, including giving him the keys to a new Lada Samara, from Market Cars of Hove!
In the end, Albion were unable to match the terms that Southampton offered, and a £150,000 fee to Dinamo led to his unsuccessful spell at the Dell. In his brief Albion career, Gotsmanov signed off his goalscoring with this drive against Leeds in April, showing the technique and ability to find space that marked him as a class apart: