Port Vale ‘hard man’ Horton signs for Albion

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From the Evening Argus on 10th March 1976:

Brian Horton, Port Vale’s midfield general, signed for Albion today. A £30,000 fee was agreed between the clubs after manager Peter Taylor made his approach last night when Horton played in the 2-2 draw at Crystal Palace.

Horton, 27, visited the Goldstone this morning when formalities were completed. He will watch his new club against Shrewsbury Town tonight.

The signing is highly regarded as one of the hardest players in Division 3, and Taylor has never concealed his admiration of the player.

No doubt Taylor wants a harder approach away from home by his promotion-striking squad, and sees Horton as just the man to inject more power.

Captain Brian Horton, third from right in the middle row

Captain Brian Horton, third from right in the middle row

Captain of Port Vale, Horton has played over 250 games for the club, and joins another former Vale player at the Goldstone, striker Sammy Morgan. He cost £30,000 from Aston Villa.

When the transfer was completed 24 hours before the deadline, Taylor said: ‘I have always admired Brian. He has been very loyal to Vale, and he possesses the qualities I want in players.

“His age is right in terms of experience, and I am delighted he has agreed to come to the Albion.”

A final check was made on Horton last Saturday when Vale won 2-1 at Rotherham. He has been under close scrutiny for the past two months.

Port Vale earlier had inquiries about Horton from Hereford and Peterborough, but these were turned down. When Albion came in with their bid, there was no hesitation by Vale’s directors.

The move is the first in Horton’s career, although he began as an apprentice with Walsall. He has been at Port Vale six seasons and captain the last two.

“I knew Brighton were interested only last night. I had no doubts about coming in such a tremendous set-up. The support and potential is wonderful, and this is what attracted me.”

With Vale, Horton played a left-side, midfield role. Injury kept him out of the team when Albion drew 1-1 at Vale Park on September 6, and he has been injured recently.

There was a possibility of a second signing before the deadline, but Taylor said that he was now content to play a waiting game to get the player he wants.

Albion expect a 20,000 plus Goldstone gate tonight for the visit of promotion rivals Shrewsbury Town.

Injured winger Gerry Fell will enter hospital tomorrow for a knee operation.

Victory would give Albion a 15th straight home League win and close the gap between them and leaders Hereford United to two points.

A 15th consecutive home win proved beyond Brighton, as Shrewsbury took a shock 2-0 lead before half-time. However, Albion rallied to secure a 2-2 draw. Horton made his debut for Brighton in the following match, at Preston on 13th March 1976, and played for the remainder of the 1975/76 campaign. Even so, if Taylor had hoped for an immediate upturn in results away from home, he was to be disappointed. Brighton lost 1-0 at Deepdale and would not gain another away victory for the rest of the season. Three points short of Millwall in third place, this ultimately cost the side promotion to Division Two.

As for Port Vale, despite the need to balance the books, their supporters were understandably livid about the sale of their inspirational captain for such a low fee. From being eighth after Horton’s final match for Vale, it was unsurprising that Roy Sproson’s team’s form dipped. It took them until a 3-1 victory over Wrexham on 5th April 1976, with two goals from Terry Bailey and one from Colin Tartt, before they witnessed another win.

 Number 10, Peter Ward, on his home debut, extends a glad hand to Fred Binney who scored Albion's opener

Number 10, Peter Ward, on his home debut, extends a glad hand to Fred Binney who scored Albion’s opener

Five days later, Brighton rubbed salt into the wounds at the Goldstone, decisively winning 3-0 with goals from Binney, Mellor and Ward. By then, Brian Horton was the new Albion skipper, a role he held with great distinction for the next five full seasons.

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