In Shoot! Magazine in November 1982, the publication put Mike Bailey’s reign under the spotlight, as the club struggled to string together a run of good results in the First Division. Unbeaten at home in the League at the Goldstone, the side regularly suffered hammerings away from home, losing 0-5 at WBA, 0-4 at Nottingham Forest and 0-5 at Luton in the early months:
It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Mike Bailey, Brighton’s 11th manager since the War.
He gained a fine reputation as an attacking wing-half with Wolverhampton Wanderers, and before that Charlton Athletic. He was at his best at the time when English football was rich in midfield talent, a factor which prevented him from winning more than two full England caps to add to his five appearances for the Under-23s.
Bailey has found management a far harder proposition. He did well to steer Charlton to promotion from the Third Division in the 1980-81 season, a success story that persuaded Brighton chairman Mike Bamber that he was the man to replace Alan Mullery.
He inherited a bed of thorns when he breezed confidently into the Goldstone Ground in June 1981.
They narrowly escaped relegation from the First Division two months earlier and there was no reason to believe he would lead them into calmer waters the following season.
As it turned out, Brighton finished in a highly respectable mid-table position at the end of the 1981-82 season, unbeaten in 26 of their 42 League games.
Bailey, in common with other bosses of less wealthy First Division clubs, has had to summon all his reserves of energy and enterprise to consolidate Brighton as a First Division side.
Unfortunately, his 18-month reign has given him heartache and happiness in equal proportions. One moment Brighton send one of the mightier First Division clubs crashing in unexpected defeat – as they did in beating title-chasing Manchester United last month – the next, the manager has to wrestle with some crisis that threatens both his, and the club’s, future.
Mike Bailey’s enterprise in signing Mickey Thomas from Everton, Jimmy Case from Liverpool and Tony Grealish from Luton was warmly applauded by the Brighton fans.
Sadly, they did not always fulfil their manager’s vote of confidence. Thomas was transferred to Stoke after a short, unhappy stay and neither Case nor Grealish have turned on the power they did at their previous clubs.
The atmosphere at the club this season has not always been as happy as in the past. Stalwart first teamers Steve Foster and Michael Robinson both declared they want to leave before the start of the season, and they might well have gone if rival First Division clubs were not feeling the same economic pinch.
Fortunately for Brighton, they stayed. Foster to shore up a defence that ships water whenever he is out of the team, and Robinson to lead an attack that lacks punch if he is missing.
Brighton appear to have solved most of their problems and can look back on their start with some satisfaction. League victories over Arsenal, West Ham and Manchester United were marvellous tonic for Bailey, who smarted from crushing defats at West Bromwich Albion, Nottingham Forest, Luton and Stoke.
Peter Ward’s arrival from Forest, on loan unit February, also served to brighten the gloom shrouding the Goldstone. His first goal for the club could hardly have been better timed, a rising drive past a bewildered Gary Bailey to send United to defeat:
That pleased the Brighton boss, who roundly praised the players, especially Robinson, Steve Gatting “the most accomplished player we’ve got”, Grealish, Gordon Smith and midfield player Neil McNab, “a superb player when he plays two-touch and doesn’t go it alone.”
No manager works harder than Mike Bailey and no boss deserves to be given more time to establish the consistency Brighton need if they are not to continue worrying their fans to death.
Unfortunately for Bailey, he could not restore the club to health. Attendances continued to fall as Bailey struggled to shrug off the accusation that his side was ‘boring.’ Results also turned for the worse. The unbeaten home run in Division One fell at the end of November, with Albion going down 2-0. On 4th December 1982, the Brighton side slid to a fourth successive defeat, another 2-0 scoreline, this time at Coventry. Two days later, Bailey left the Goldstone by ‘mutual consent’, alongside coaches John Collins and Brian Eastick.
It was a sad end to the regime of the man who had taken Albion to its loftiest ever League placing the season before. It really was it for the Wisbech-born man. Bailey never managed a League club again, having once flown the Seagulls so high…