Brighton rock ‘n’ roll

Here are Neil Smillie and Gordon Smith at the start of the 1983/84 season:


Before his Albion days, Smillie (known as ‘Specky’ to his team mates as he wore spectacles) spent eight seasons with Crystal Palace. He also had a loan period with Brentford as well as enjoying a spell in the United States. As he says in the Brighton v Manchester City programme in January 1983:

‘I played over in Memphis and we had a great time there. We lived just around the corner from Elvis Presley’s house, Gracelands. They call that road Elvis Presley Boulevard and across the street from the house you can see camper trucks and trailers from all over the States and Canada.’

Speaking of his partner Penny and himself he adds:

‘It’s strange to think that if Elvis had still been alive, we would probably have met him. He was always keen on sport and supported all the local teams. We’re not really Elvis fans, but you couldn’t help wishing you’d met him. Elvis is one of the biggest stars that ever lived.’

That’s not to say that Smillie didn’t enjoy listening to music. However, it was Dire Straits, Elton John, Christopher Cross and ‘some American West Coast bands’ that were more his bag.

As for Gordon Smith, he is described in the Brighton v Carlisle programme in September 1983 as ‘the music man!’:

“I’ve loved pop music since I was a little lad, back home in Scotland. I can remember hearing ‘Please please me’ by The Beatles on the radio and liking it a lot. When I got my first record player, I bought ‘She loves You’ and played it so many times I nearly wore the grooves.”

Apart from his cup final infamy, Smith also found fame through a friendship with Paul McCartney who he met at a Wings concert in Glasgow. Through this link, the Brighton player got a chance to play acoustic guitar to ‘Blackbird’ while at McCartney’s house near Rye.

With such music credentials, perhaps it is unsurprising that Gordon Smith had rock tastes that were respected by his peers. In his autobiography ‘And Smith Did Score,’ he recounts the time when his Albion days were reaching their end in November 1983:

I had made up my mind. Manchester City was a team I wanted to play for at that stage and I wanted them on my CV. The manager said, if that was the way I felt about it, I’d better go home.

For the bus journey to Derby [sic] for the game the previous Saturday I had brought a cassette tape I had recorded of different songs and the boys had asked me to play it over the bus sound system. As I was going out the door of Chris Cattlin’s office, he said a strange thing to me. ‘See that compilation tape you played on the bus on Saturday? It was good. Any chance you would make one up for me?’ I told him I would give him the tape I had with me on the bus and he said, ‘That would be great.’ Later on that day I got a call at home to go back in to the club.

In Chris Cattlin’s office he told me, ‘The deal’s done. You can go to Manchester City.’

‘What about the £5,000 Brighton owe me in signing-on fees?’ I asked.

‘No, you won’t get that,’ he said.

‘I’m owed that money and I want it before I leave.’ I replied.

He left the room to talk to the chairman about my demand and when he came back he said, ‘We’ll give you £3,000.’ I said, ‘No, I’m owed £5,000 and that’s what I want.’

‘Go away and think about it,’ he said. ‘That’s the most I can offer you.’

As I was going out the door, he asked if I’d brought the compilation cassette tape he had asked me for. I said I had and was about to hand it to him when I pulled it back from his outstretched hand.

‘I’ll give you the tape if I can get the full £5,000 you owe me,’ I said.

‘Alright then,’ he said. ‘You can have your money.’ So I got the other £2,000 they owed me for making up a compilation cassette tape. That must have beenthe dearest piece of music Brighton ever paid for. I suppose you could call it Brighton Rock ‘n’ Roll!

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