“My best asset was speed,” says Dave Busby. “I had a lot of natural pace. I had some good skills but my speed gave me time.”
Aged 17 at the time, the Paddington-born striker made history on 20th October 1973, becoming the first black player to appear for the first team of Brighton & Hove Albion.
In the dying days of the Pat Saward era, struggling Brighton beat Shrewsbury 2-0 thanks to goals from Ron Howell and Ken Beamish, to move up to 19th in Division Three. Busby came on as a substitute for loanee John Boyle on 78 minutes: “It was so good to come on and hearing the crowd cheering my name.”
His manager Saward missed it, though. He was in Crewe watching a transfer target, goalkeeper Bryan Parker.
Perhaps it was no coincidence that Busby got his chance with trainer Glen Wilson deputising. As Dave says: “Pat Saward was a good manager. As far as I was concerned, though, he just was not brave enough to put the youngsters in when we were hot. The first team should have been made up of both the young and the experienced and we would have been great.”
Having gone to school in Heathfield, Sussex, where Frank Bruno was a fellow pupil, Busby joined the Goldstone staff as an apprentice in 1973, having played as a junior for Heathfield United. When Brian Clough arrived at Brighton, Busby was one of the few to have encountered him before: “Not a lot of people know this. I played under Brian Clough at Derby County for three weeks as a trialist before I came to Brighton. He said to me then that I would stand a good chance in a lower league.”
Even so, following his debut, Dave did not see first team action under Clough, with Pat Hilton, Ken Beamish, Lammie Robertson and Barry Bridges higher up in the pecking order up front. This setback did not put him off from continuing to score regularly for the reserves. As a result, Busby eventually signed a contract as a professional in August 1974.
In the 1974/75 season, with Peter Taylor now a boss going solo, Busby was an unused substitute in the August matches against Reading (League Cup 1st Round Replay) and Chesterfield, before making his second appearance from the bench in the 3rd replay against Reading, with his side losing 3-2 at the Goldstone:
Dave ventures that Peter Taylor “was quite the opposite of Mr Clough. He did not shout as much. He was not as aggressive. He would talk to you a little more.”
In the match that followed the Reading cup marathon, on 7th September 1974, Dave got his big chance in making the starting line-up, against Blackburn Rovers at Ewood Park. He almost scored as well. Ronnie Welch found Busby with a peach of a first time ball from defence, but the attacker was denied by a foul from the Rovers keeper Roger Jones.
Dave then came on as a substitute at home to Port Vale later in the month, but that was his final Albion first team appearance. He was given a free transfer in May 1975. He then worked at a greengrocer’s, became a car mechanic, before spells with Worthing, Blackpool, Barrow, Gravesend & Northfleet, Tooting & Mitcham United and Littlehampton.
Having hung up his boots, he is justifiably proud of his accolade as a trailblazer: “Being Brighton first black player is just great. I just wish they had given me more of a chance and I would have been fine.”