In 1988/89, Shoot! magazine told the remarkable story of Brighton’s surprising renaissance under manager Barry Lloyd, a man who took over three months to record his first win as Seagulls boss:
Brighton manager Barry Lloyd currently has the chirpy air of someone who has cheated the gallows – and well he might, for a year ago he was on soccer’s Death Row.
Having taken over an already ailing club in January 1987, Lloyd had to wait 15 matches before The Seagulls finally gave him his first victory in charge – a run which left them firmly anchored at the bottom of Division Two.
By the end of the season, crowds had slumped to less than 6,000 and most of those who bothered to turn up did so only to call for Lloyd’s head as The Seagulls took a swallow-dive into the Third Division.
Yet, 12 months later, the condemned man was a local hero, with nearly 20,000 fans filling the Goldstone Ground as Albion won their last game of the season to claim promotion following a late run.
With hindsight, despite calls for Lloyd to be sacked, he probably had one of the safest jobs in the country in 1986/87. After Mullery was sacked, it appears that Barry Lloyd’s task to the end of the season was to decimate the side by replacing its high earners with reserve players and non-league signings, even if it meant relegation to Division Three, which it did. Hence the introduction of untried players such as Kevan Brown (Southampton), Robert Isaac (Chelsea), John Crumplin (Bognor Regis Town), Richard Tiltman (Maidstone) and Ian Chapman. Unsurprisingly, Albion finished bottom but having slashed the wage bill, Lloyd kept his job.
With Lloyd reflecting on Albion’s regaining of its Second Division status, the Shoot! article continues:
The former Fulham player says: “The Second Division is a tough League – but it should be an attractive one, with plenty of sides with recent First Division experience.”
Last term’s revival came after Lloyd had made major changes at Brighton and one of them proved to be an inspiration.
“Sometimes you get a little break, and Garry Nelson was one of them,” says Lloyd.
Nelson, who cost £70,000 from Plymouth before the season started, scored 32 goals and proved a revelation as a striker after years as a left-sided midfielder.
Former Southend goalkeeper John Keeley, playing his first full season back in the game after dropping out to combine taxi driving with playing for non-League Chelmsford, was another star performer.
And although Brighton are struggling to reproduce last season’s form, Nelson, Keeley and the experience of Alan Curbishley, Kevin Bremner and Steve Getting – who has signed a new contract – could well have The Seagulls crowing again.
Lloyd had much to smile about come May. Seen by many as certs for relegation, Brighton finished a creditable 19th position in the Second Division in 1988/89, even after a dismal start. Next campaign, with expectations still low, the Seagulls finished one place higher, with Sergei Gotsmanov’s brief spell cementing Lloyd’s reputation as a man with an eye for a bargain. Nobody, not even the most optimist fan with blue-tinted specs, could have predicted that Albion would mount a promotion push the season after, in 1990/91, but they did. In the Play-Off Final in the sunshine at Wembley against Notts County in June 1991, the club stood one game away from Division One. It was at this point that the Barry Lloyd success story ended. The game was lost and within twelve months, after an exodus of key players, the Seagulls were back to third tier football.