One of the myths that has snowballed down the years has been that Mark Lawrenson does not ever acknowledge his time with Brighton & Hove Albion, or that he has only done so in recent times when the club has been on an upward trajectory. However, a read of his autobiography from 1988 suggests a different story:
I loved Brighton as soon as I saw the place, bright, bustling and cosmopolitan, and the football club was on a high. They had just been promoted to the Second Division and everything was looking good.
What I did not realise when I arrived was that I was taking the place of Graham Cross, the former Leicester player, who had enjoyed a tremendous season in Brighton’s promotion run. There were a few mutterings in the dressing room about this unknown teenager from Preston but Alan Mullery soon silenced them and made it very clear that he was backing me to the hilt. It was the first time I had been away from home but it did not seem to matter. Most of the Brighton players had been recruited from different parts of the country and there were very few locals in the team. There were never any problems about settling in because the majority of the players were in the same boat so we tended to stick together.
I defy anyone not to like living in Brighton. I could see myself staying there permanently long after my football career was over, that’s how much I liked the place, and it seemed that the club would be successful for a long time to come. We just missed out on promotion to the First Division in my first year, but it would happen 12 months later. The town was football daft and we were getting gates of 24,000 on a regular basis at the Goldstone Ground.
Into the 1990s, Lawrenson was again happy to talk about his Albion days as some of the happiest of his career. In ‘Soccer in the ’70s’ on TVS and one of Gary Lineker’s first TV presenting jobs, he spoke warmly of his time at the club (from 3 minutes onwards):
Fast forward to the 2000s, and as he explained to Spencer Vignes in ‘A Few Good Men’, his time down south remains firmly in his affection:
‘Brighton was just great. I’m sure everyone you’ve spoken to who went there has said the same thing. In terms of fun and everything it was just the best, apart from big Al occasionally going mental at us after games. It was a great time to be there with a great set of players and fantastic supporters. So many wonderful memories, both on the playing side and the social.’
And if that wasn’t enough, in the 2010s, he helped present the edition of Football Focus live from the Amex, on the day of the match v Doncaster, and posed in front of his ‘Legends’ banner.
It certainly makes for a juicy story to say that one of Brighton’s best ever players pretends he never played for us. It makes a even better one to add that, as Oxford manager, Lawrenson took advantage of his hard-up former club to ‘steal’ Dean Saunders from us for just £60,000 in 1987. Nevertheless, it isn’t actually true. Maurice Evans was the Oxford manager at the time that Saunders left the Goldstone and, as you can see here, there are ample examples to show that Lawrenson has sung the praises of Brighton in terms of the town (as it was then), his playing days and the current successful times.