Graham Winstanley as you’ve never seen him before

A myth seems to have grown around Peter Taylor’s time at Brighton being some kind of halcyon era-lite for Albion’s side that eventually won two promotions in two seasons in 1977 and 1979. That it was expertly and steadily pieced together from 1974 onwards. All that Alan Mullery had to do afterwards was to not cock things up, and it’s Division One, here we come.

The reality was that Taylor’s side played in fits and starts. Far from having a Midas touch, his dealings in the transfer market were hit and miss. While famous for capturing Horton, Binney and Ward, he also signed many players that did not set the Third Division alight. These included Allen Lewis, Steve Govier, Ricky Marlowe, Tommy Mason, Billy McEwan and Jim Walker. Even Ian Mellor only became a hit after Mullery took over, while skipper Ernie Machin spent much of the 1974/75 season out injured.

By 26th October 1974, Brighton were in 22nd position as the final whistle blew on Graham Winstanley’s debut for the side, a 2-1 defeat at Gillingham. Thankfully, things improved, in no small part to the new centre-back’s uncompromising performances. At the time, Andy Rollings was in his first year in the Albion starting line-up. The guidance that Winstanley gave to ‘Rollo’ helped the rookie defender’s game immeasurably.

With a curious emphasis on his wearing of glasses (yes, it’s definitely ‘of it’s time’!), here’s what John Vinicombe and Peter Fieldsend wrote about the man nicknamed ‘Tot’ in an article in the Evening Argus on 19th December 1974:

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These are the two faces of Graham Winstanley, Albion captain.

One shows him in working gear, the other is the man fans could be excused for passing in the street without so much as a second glance.

Professional footballers aren’t generally reckoned to wear spectacles, and Graham Winstanley is one of a band that relies on contact lenses. Without the little plastic discs that stick close as a skin to the eyeball, Graham, and others like him, would be unable to earn a living in their chosen profession.

Cushioned
Graham has worn glasses since he was 18 and that is nearly eight years ago. The moment he realised he needed glasses was the day of his first driving test as when asked to read the number plate of a car some distance away, he could not pick out the letters distinctly.

At the time, he was with Newcastle United, the club he joined straight from school and served for six years.

The shock of discovering defective eyesight was cushioned by using lenses, an like others in the game he has overcome the discomfort of wearing artificial aides to better seeing.

Graham knows what it feels like to get a ball in the eye from close range and stare at a mirror with one good one at a rapidly discolouring and bloodshot optic.

Promotion
He has lost lenses on the field, but his two previous clubs, Newcastle and Carlisle United, have picked up the £40 tab each time.

Since Graham joined Albion for a £20,000 fee from Carlisle last month after a loan period, the side have picked up.

His experience in the middle of the back four has rubbed off on to younger players, and for the first time in his career, Graham feels as though he is a vital link.

At St James’ Park he was by no means a first-team regular, with only five League games and two appearances as substitute.

When Newcastle sold him to Carlisle for £8,000 in 1969, he found himself with a club who run only one professional side. He had a total of 164 League outings but he was in and out last term when the club gained promotion to the First Division.

Interest
From the start, Graham was in but after the second game, when Carlisle crashed 6-1 at Luton, he was dropped and did not get back until 14 games later.

With only three points from the first six matches, it can readily be appreciated how well Carlisle pulled round to go up.

But Graham knew he did not figure in manager Alan Ashman’s plans.

This term, he played twice in the first team – in midfield against Colchester in the League Cup and at full-back when Spurs visited Brunton Park.

When Peter Taylor showed interest, Graham jumped at the chance to come to the Goldstone.

I am enjoying my football down here. It is a matter of settling in and concentrating on the job in hand. I don’t regard myself as being in the side purely as a sweeper. I get free as often as I can.

“It is important to know one’s strengths and to play to them.”

Considering Graham was short of match practice when he joined Albion, he has done remarkably well. Apart from those outings against Colchester and Spurs, he was on the sidelines in company with Eddie Spearritt who went to Carlisle on a free transfer in the summer.

Just a coincidence that Graham now lives in a house at Shoreham with his wife Joan only a stone’s throw from where Eddie had his home. Now more than 500 miles separate them.

Captained
How does Graham view the situation at the Goldstone? “We are in a false position according to the form of the last three or four games. We played great stuff at Halifax, of instance, but came away with nothing.

‘If we keep playing like that it has to come right. The side work hard and have skill. I haven’t seen anybody drop their heads and I don’t think I shall.’

Apart from schools’ soccer this is the first time Graham has captained a side.

Peter Taylor has high regard for his leadership qualities and ability to read a game. But ask Graham to reel off car numbers 75 yards away and he’d be sunk.

Brighton eventually finished 19th. Having promised promotion, Taylor was relieved to see his side stay in Division Three.

As reward for his leadership in strengthening the defence, Winstanley was appointed club captain in August 1975. However, he broke his nose and never again regained his place as a regular in the side. Dennis Burnett and Graham Cross were preferred as centre-back partners for Andy Rollings in the Third Division under Taylor and Mullery. Once the Seagulls hit the Second Division in 1977, it was Mark Lawrenson who took the number six shirt.

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Even so, Winstanley was described by Alan Mullery as the ‘perfect professional’ for his excellent attitude and solid performances. While he rarely made the headlines on the pitch, one of his rare goals was a volley for Albion’s second in a 3-1 victory over Spurs in April 1978. Had I been writing the headlines that day, they would have been something poor along the lines of ‘Tot finishes off Tottenham.’ OK, I won’t give up my day job.

After Brighton secured promotion to Division One, Winstanley eventually returned to Carlisle on a free transfer in July 1979.

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