Kerslake: in the Seagulls’ shadow

Jackie Chan’s classic kung fu film ‘Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow’ hit the screens in 1978, the same year that up and coming full-back Mick Kerslake joined Brighton & Hove Albion. Now I have no idea whether the young Mick went to watch the action-packed martial arts comedy at, say, ABC Cinema on East Street with his new team mates. Even so, he must have hoped that there was an ‘old master’ at the football club that would help turn him from a raw talent into a champ.


As a seventeen year old Fulham defender, Kerslake had made his League debut when he played against Orient in October 1975 in a 1-1 home draw. When his four years at Craven Cottage ended, he undoubtedly wished that an Albion club keen to augment its squad with his services would get to see his career blossom. As the promotion race in Division Two was hotting up, there was even a ‘Personality Parade’ profile on him in the Brighton v Charlton programme on 13th April 1979:

In any football club with ambition there needs to be players in the shadows waiting for their chance. History is full of unknowns having sensational debuts and then coming through to make a place their own.

Many current internationals have started in just this way and here at the Goldstone we have a young full-back who has spent this season waiting for his chance.

Mick Kerslake signed for the Albion last May after three seasons on the professional staff at Fulham. He came very close to playing in the first team just before Christmas and would have played against Queens’ Park Rangers in the friendly that was cancelled in January. Supporters though are still awaiting his debut in Albion’s first team.

Mick was born in Bethnal Green 21 years ago, the son of a docker. He has two brothers and a sister, and his younger brother is already showing talent on the soccer field. He’s a regular with Spurs youngsters and plays for his school in Stepney.

The younger brother mentioned in the last two sentences above is almost certainly David Kerslake, the former QPR, Swindon, Tottenham and Leeds right-back of the 1980s and 1990s, who is currently assistant manager at Cardiff City. Thanks to Paul from Cult Zeros for this information. On a visit to Wembley, Paul remembers seeing Mick’s bro as captain of England Schoolboys against West Germany in May 1981.

The article continues:

Mick himself went to St Mary’s and St Michael’s Primary School in Stepney and moved from there up to St John’s Secondary School. He first kicked a football at the tender age of 10 and played for both his school and for East London Schools. He gained representative honours at all ages up to 15 and was captain for his last two seasons.

He spent a short while with Chelsea as a schoolboy but on leaving school he signed apprentice professional forms with Fulham, then managed by Alex Stock. At the time, Alan Mullery was the senior player at Craven Cottage, while Ken Craggs, who originally spotted Mick, was Youth Team Manager.

Craggs and Kerslake, as well as Barry Lloyd, are in this Fulham photo that AZ Gull found yesterday:

Fulham 1876

Fulham 1876: (Back row, l-r) Marcus Ellwood, Brian Greenaway, Tyrone James, Tony Mahoney, Tony Gale, Dennis Byatt, Viv Busby, Terry Bullivant, Michael Kerslake. (Middle row, l-r) Paul Howes, John Dowie, Steve Hatter, John Lacy, Richard Teale, Ron Woolnough (physio) Peter Mellor, Ernie Howe, John Mitchell, Steve Camp, John Margerrison, Steve Scrivens. (Front row, l-r) Ken Craggs (coach), Barry Lloyd, Les Barrett, Jimmy Conway, Alan Slough, Les Strong, John Cutbush, Bobby Campbell

After a year he signed full professional forms but in his time there he only played one full League game and had two more as substitute.

He played twice for England Youth XI against Wales three years ago alongside John Deehan, Glenn Hoddle and Gary Owen among others. In his one game for Fulham he played alongside Alan Mullery and Bobby Moore.

He had little hesitation in coming to the Goldstone when offered the chance and having been here almost a year has lodged with George and Bet Kirby who’ve accommodated so many Albion players over the years.

However, he hopes to get married in the near future to a London girl, Jane Wells, and in preparation he’s bought a flat in Clarendon Villas into which he expects to move shortly.

Away from football Mick plays a fair amount of tennis, weather permitting, and at school he was an outstanding athlete. He attained representative honours in the 100 metres and long jump.

He’s an ambitious young man who hopes to make the grade as a regular First Division player with the Albion.

Very, very sadly, he never got his chance for the Brighton. He was released at the end of the 1979/80 season and his subsequent career details are unknown. Nevertheless, like the nondescript and enigmatic Woody Allen film character ‘Zelig’, Kerslake has the distinction of having featured in numerous Albion team photos of the time, rubbing shoulders with the stars… while not many people looking back at the images really know who he was!

If you knew Mick or know what Mick did next, please get in touch either via the comments, email or on Twitter. It would be great to find out what he’s up to now. Kung-fu, probably!

In between George Aitken and Peter Ward

In between George Aitken and Peter Ward

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