Panini Football 81 – a Brighton watershed

Brighton fans may have initially balked at getting a sticker album with Crystal Palace’s Gerry Francis on the cover, but I’m sure they got over it!

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Besides, Palace’s season was a disaster. They even had four different managers during the course of the 1980/81 season, none that could arrest their slump. Even Ray Wilkins’ side, Manchester United, sacked theirs, ex-Albion player Dave Sexton, at the end of their own disappointing campaign.

And Brighton? It was a watershed season for us too. Potentially Albion’s strongest squad had flattered to deceive. Peter Suddaby had played a major role in 1979/80 but injury meant he never did play in the new all-blue Adidas kit. Mullery resigned at the end of the 1980/81 season, and the reliable John Gregory was another departure, to QPR. While he stayed, Graham Moseley was deeply unsettled, rocked by a loss of form, the signing of Perry Digweed as well, as Mullery’s stinging criticism of the erstwhile number one keeper at the Goldstone:

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Interesting to see Mark Lawrenson listed here as a midfielder. He had performed that role admirably in the second half of 1979/80. Would Albion fortunes have been different had he stayed there in 1980/81? He, alongside Ward and Horton, also departed the Goldstone not long after the publication of this album. We are also treated to a rare shot of Peter Sayer in our new fangled Adidas kit. Sayer was an unused sub on the opening day match against Wolves before leaving for Preston North End.

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Notable absences here are Perry Digweed, Gary Stevens and Andy Ritchie, all of whom made a significant number of appearances during the course of the season.

This album is notable for the first appearance of team groups being made up of two stickers rather than one. Looking through the album, there are some alignment issues with some team groups, but happily, the Brighton one looks fine.

Second Division clubs were also given the half and half treatment, and it’s possible to clearly see Ray Clarke at his new club, Newcastle United. Even Third Division clubs were covered by Panini at the time, albeit with a single sticker team photo. 15mm tall in Charlton’s team sticker was Mike Bailey. Little did Albion fans know it in 1980/81, he would be man to bring forth a new era to the Goldstone, and a whole lot of new player stickers to collect!

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