With the 1980/81 season still full of promise, Brighton travelled to White Hart Lane and secured a televised 2-2 draw with Tottenham Hotspur. Here’s how Football Weekly News reported the match on 23rd August 1980, with Albion’s Scottish signing Gordon Smith in fine form:
But for the intervention of Brighton – and their £400,000 cheque – Gordon Smith might well have been parading his considerable talents at Parkhead in the thick of Saturday’s Celtic-Rangers confrontation.
Instead he was making a virtually unheralded first league appearance in London. And while his old mates in Glasgow were performing quite well without him, there was a sizeable proportion of the 40,000 crowd at White Hart Lane who must have wished him at least as far as Scotland! “Cheap at half the price,” was Alan Mullery’s overworked, and paradoxial, evaluation of his summer signing. Certainly the slim and elegant Scot’s arrival on the south coast has caused little morn than a ripple of interest beyond Brighton’s seafront.
Perhaps £400,000 is something like £1 million short of headline news in these zany days. And Brighton, too, are yet to be considered seriously as First Division competitors – an opinion to which Mullery makes it clear he does not subscribe.
He has never been short of cockney confidence – but after Saturday’s creditable and merited draw at Tottenham it positively oozed from his now more rounded frame.
It was the form of Smith, more than anything, that had given him so much pleasure. “We could have won it in the end,” he beamed. “Gordon scored twice, hit a post and could easily have had a couple more. At the start of the season I said I was expecting 12 goals from him this season. He’s got three in three games now so I think I’ll increase that target to 15.”
Certainly on a day, ! suspect, when most had come to eye the Spurs donble-act of Garth Crooks and Steve Archibald it was Smith who rather stole their thunder – despite another goal from Crooks.
And though Spurs ended the second Saturday of the season on top of the First Division they were very nearly upstaged by a Brighton side who will be nobody’s pushover this season.
Tottenham admittedly made it hard for themselves by not capitalising on a splendid first-half display in which Brighton appeared to be only making up the number.
“‘We were dreadful in the first-half, Played like a load of fairies,” was the rather acid interpretation of Mullery.
Keith Burkinshaw, offering the Spurs view, was almost as emphatic but in praise: “In the first-half we played as well as in any of the three matches so far.”
But he accurately qualified that statement by adding: “We had a lot of pressure but didn’t get in enough shots.”
And that was the trouble and eventually the intricate and often unneccesary patterns carved out were sucked into the defensive trap laid by the magnificent Mark Lawrenson and his able cohorts.
Burkinshaw overstated the severity of a point dropped or perhaps it was a hint to his true frustration, when he said: “It’s always disappointing to lose to a side like that who come to contain.”
Not an assessment which would have found too much favour with Mullery who had already opined: “I told my players at half-time that if you go at their back four you will score goals. We’ve got to believe in ourselves.”
There was no denying that Brighton did push players forward to a greater extent in the second-half and probably the gift of Smith’s goal on the stroke of half-time when Ardiles played him onside was the tonic they needed. They also had the character to recover from a disastrous second goal when Graham Moseley saw Glenn Hoddle’s shot slide through his hands. “My nipper could have saved it,” was Mullery’s verdict.
Tottenham’s commitment to attack will win them many friends this season and indeed with so many artists in their side attack has to be their policy. But manager Birkinshaw, though not wishing to stifle such entertainment, hopes that it might be tempered with just a little more caution.
“Their second equaliser started because we wanted to get forward too quickly. Then a pass from Ardiles to Archibald was intercepted and we were left open,” he said. Open, that is to a final thrust from Smith who scored superbly.
Spurs first three games have produced 13 goals (eight for, five against), which is to say the least well above the national average. At the end of the day, unfortunately, such attacking enthusiasm is seldom rewarded.
As Burkinshaw says: “We get into positions where we tear teams apart, get a goal or two ahead and then get over confident or something. It happened today and it happened at Crystal Palace, where we just held on. We have got to keep it going for 90 minutes.”
For football’s sake let us hope that Tottenham continue to rely on their attacking philosophies and improve on them in the manner prescribed by Burkinshaw… that’s entertainment.
ITV cameras were there to record Smith at the top of his game, with the unheralded Ray McHale getting an assist: