In his own words: Peter Taylor at Brighton

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This is an extract from ‘With Clough By Taylor’, Peter Taylor’s autobiography. It’s his chapter on his time at Brighton, both with and without Brian. Interesting to hear Taylor so clear about what he thought his own weaknesses as a manager were:

Only the man on the end of the phone attracted me to Brighton.

He was Mike Bamber, a property developer and the club chairman. He was persuasive, progressive and brave enough to make his move while the charge of bringing football into disrepute hung over Brian.

The F.A. disciplinary commission were to hear the case in a fortnight. At best, a long suspension was forecast and one First Division manager assured the ITV producer Bob Gardam, ‘Those two will never get another club.’ Bob. a good friend, was upset but I said, ‘We’ve done no wrong. So go back and tell the fellow we’ll have his job if he’s not careful.’ I could understand directors being wary and I could understand some of the Derby board stirring things up, but I objected to fellow managers putting in the boot while we were out of work. A couple of years later, that manager was sacked himself. We shed no tears for him.

I have a lot of time for Mike Bamber. He had heard the rumours but believed what I told him, ‘We have done nothing to prevent us taking any job in football. The gossip is rubbish.’ We met late on Saturday night at the Waldorf Hotel in London.

Brian and I had been in the ITV studios watching Derby draw against West Ham. while Mr. Bamber had been in Hereford seeing his team lose 4-0 and hearing more abuse from Brighton supporters. He arrived with the vice-chairman Harry Bloom; they meant business and we were impressed.

Brian, though, was set on a long break but I pushed him into accepting the offer. He agreed but his heart wasn’t in it – as events were to show. Yet he summoned up the old bounce on our first day at Brighton’s Goldstone Ground this was Brian at his most quotable: ‘It’s tougher here than at Hartlepools where they didn’t expect anything. Now we have a reputation, but there are no fairies at the bottom of Brighton pier.

‘There are only sixteen professionals here. Only one goalkeeper, one trainer, one secretary, one groundsman: in fact, one of everything. That puts Peter and me in the majority, for they have two managers.’

The fans could also produce bright remarks and I heard them saying, ‘Fetching Clough and Taylor to Brighton is like engaging McAlpines to decorate a roadside cafe.’ I saw what they meant when I met the team at a hotel in Lewes. They were casual, almost amateurish, joking about their plight instead of being concerned. Brian thrust his chin at them, challenging, ‘Go on, punch it! Show me you’re capable of positive action.’ I wanted to wade in, too, but decided that the best course was wholesale replacement.

Our outstanding result in November 1973 was at the disciplinary hearing. I attended with Brian and the Commission cleared him. We were free to work and I’ve rarely worked harder. I was away scouting while Brian’s hands were full trying to explain away some awful defeats. We lost 4-0 in an F.A. Cup replay to an amateur club, Walton and Hersham. We lost 8-2 at home in the League to Bristol Rovers. It wasn’t our team but that was no consolation. Brian tried to draw the blame on himself by saying, ‘The players seem petrified of me.
They put on a shirt, look at me and wonder if they’re doing it right. It’s got to change or we°ll go down.’

Brian. although his heart and home remained in Derby, wanted to win for Brighton. He yearned for success, as he always does. There’s a delightful story about that from John Vinicombe, who covers all Brighton matches for the Evening Argus. He inadvertently opened the dressing-room door at Walsall after the first away victory under our management and found Brian on his knees, untying the players’ boots.

Meanwhile, the cauldron still bubbled at Derby. The players signed another letter demanding our re-instatement, while threatening not to report for a match against Leeds United. I was too busy travelling to take much interest: one night I was standing in the crowd at Chester, the next night I was more than 200 miles away watching Norwich reserves. My job is: observation, decision, replacement. It wasn’t difficult at Brighton to see who to replace.

My first signing was the veteran goalkeeper Peter Grummitt from Sheffield Wednesday for only £7,000. Next, John Bond of Norwich City agreed a package deal of £65.000 for three of his reserves: Andy Rollings, Ian Mellor and Steve Govier. Rollings was still in the side when Brighton won promotion to the First Division in 1979. He was a defender, so was Govier. I paid Luton Town £20,000 for Ken Goodeve, another defender. We got it right at the back, so we stayed up in 1973-4 – and I was glad because I had fallen for Brighton. I loved the club, the people and the place, but Brian never took to the South Coast. We weren’t a unit at Brighton. His mind was elsewhere: he hankered after Derby for a long time. He had tasted championship football and couldn’t adjust to the Third Division.

Brighton, still fighting relegation in the New Year, went off to Cambridge for a match, while Brian flew to New York for the world heavyweight fight between Muhammad All and Joe Frazier. He met Ali who taunted, ‘Hey, you a football player in England? You wouldn’t last two minutes over here. You’re too small’ – which only goes to show that the champ had never heard of soccer. He thought the only kind of football was gridiron which, of course, is played by giants.

Brian returned from America only to start planning a cricket trip to the West Indies in February. Then he flew to Tehran in March to discuss an offer from the Shah of £20,000 a year tax-free for us as joint managers of the Iranian national team. He also left the team to canvass in the Midlands during the 1974 General Election. And he never discouraged the offers that poured in: from Ajax of Amsterdam, from Aston Villa, from Queens Park Rangers. I didn’t want to work in Iran or Holland or anywhere except Brighton because Mike Bamber, realizing the club’s potential, was prepared to back his judgement with cash. He wanted the best, he was ready to pay, and he was determined to enforce his five year contract with Brian – but I knew that a split was inevitable.

Brian’s absences began to draw adverse comments. He accused the team of selling the club short and received this tart reply from some of the players. ‘How does he know? We never see him’. One disillusioned fan described him as, ‘A publicity hunter who dashes from the TV studios to the dressing-room just in time to gee up the players.’

The break came through a sensational sacking. The F.A. fired Sir Alf Ramsey, England’s manager when they won the 1966 World Cup, They were hammered by the critics and public and, needing a famous replacement to quieten the storm, turned to Brian’s old adversary, Don Revie of Leeds United.

Then Manny Cussins, the Leeds chairman, decided (against the advice of Revie and the misgivings of some directors), on Brian as a replacement. Four of us, Brian, myself, Bamber and Cussins – met at Hove in July 1974 to thrash it out. Brian wanted to go; Bamber wanted £75,000 compensation; I leaned towards staying and reminded Brian. ‘Don’t forget that Brighton came for us when we were out of work and while everyone else was hedging. And that they have backed us all the way.’

Nothing had been pre-arranged between myself and the Brighton Board, as Brian believed, but I felt the job was only half done and that we owed loyalty to Bamber for signing us under the shadow of a disciplinary commission. Not only that, but he had kept his promises: cash for transfers, no interference, accommodation in the best hotels, a new Mercedes coach for team travel. Brighton treated us wonderfully and I wasn’t prepared to discard them even for the champions of England, but I could read Brian’s ambitious mind. He saw himself jumping straight from the Third Division into the management of a European Cup side; he saw himself leading out Leeds United at Wembley in the following month’s Charity Shield match against Liverpool.

He was bitter when I said, ‘Count me out.’ After nine years, the partnership was over. I stayed at Brighton, signing busily so many players it’s hard to remember all of them. There was Peter Ward. a striker, for £4,000 from Burton Albion. He progressed right through to Brighton’s First Division team, won a place in an England squad, and was valued at more than one hundred times his original fee. There was Brian Horton from Port Vale, a natural captain who skippered Brighton from the Third to the First Division. He cost only £27,000 – anyone could have bought him and his wages were rock-bottom. Football had given him a hard time. West Bromwich had cast him off as a kid: he had played non-League football for Hednesford in the Midlands: and yet, because of his determination and influence on other players, he ought to have been playing at the top level from the start.

I bought some good footballers for Brighton and Hove Albion but, as a manager on my own, I just failed them. In July 1976, two years after we split, I resigned and joined Brian at Nottingham Forest. I had stayed with Brighton for the right reasons and, in my opinion, I left them for the right reasons. A change is required at times, and I think both of us needed one.

Mike Bamber had been wonderful to me. I could have anything a new car. money for players, a salary increase. I took a long holiday in Majorca. then returned to resign. After keeping them clear of relegation in 1974-5 I had missed promotion in 1975-6 by losing an Easter match at Millwall; from that day, my doubts grew I told Bamber, ‘I’m going; I’m a failure.’ and he said. ‘If you call this failure, then I want more of it’ which was a nice note to leave on. Time has proved me right; Brighton, under my successor Alan Mullery, reached the First Division, while I, re-united with Brian. went on to greater triumphs: the League Championship, two League Cups, the European Cup.

The split showed us how we were both up against it without each other. Our strengths were divided. I dislike dealing with directors and sitting through long board meetings discussing plans for new stands: Brian does it like shelling peas. He is a genius on press relations, but he hasn’t my knack for assessing, buying and selling players. As it happened, though, he missed me more than I missed him during those ill-fated forty-four days at Elland Road.

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Here’s Taylor’s side that came so close to promotion from Division Three in 1975/76. They won just once in their last eight matches despite Peter Ward hitting six goals in that spell:

1975-76

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