Shoot! magazine ran a fine article in the summer of 1981 over the comings and goings at the Goldstone Ground, where Alan Mullery sensationally quit, to be replaced by Charlton boss Mike Bailey:
In his eventful five-year spell as manager of Brighton, Alan Mullery managed to steer what had always been regarded as a typical Third Division club which did not always realise its true potential into the First Division for the first time in the club’s history.
Having inherited a side from Peter Taylor, who rejoined Brian Clough at Nottingham Forest after just failing to take Brighton into the Second Division, Mullery went one better in the first attempt.
And that was only the foretaste of what was to come as in the next season Brighton just missed out on promotion to the top flight.
They achieved this by beating Newcastle 3-1 at St James’ Park in the final League match of the 1978-79 season. But despite Mullery’s confident prediction that Brighton would come through their tremendous test, the last two seasons have been a constant struggle for survival.
Last season, speculation about Mullery’s future at the Goldstone started when he was closely linked with vacant managerial positiom at Crystal Palace and Chelsea.
His resignation last month stunned everybody connected with the club, but chairman Mike Bamber wasted no time in naming Bailey as his successor.
Within a week of Bailey’s appointment Mullery accepted an offer to take over at The Valley and so complete a remarkable managerial swap which took piece as follows.
May 2: Speculation about Mullery’s future as Brighton’s manager continues despite their 2-0 victory over Leeds which assured them of another season in the First Division. “I wouldn’t want to give all this up easily – I like being a First Division manager too much. I’ve got my plans for next season and if the players show the same commitment that they have shown in the last four matches we’ll be a very good side next season,” Mullery commented.
May 5: Mike Bsmber summons Mullery in for talks following – rumours of Mullery being linked with the vacant managerial job at Stamford Bridge. Mullery himself scotches this possibility and adds that if he felt he couldn’t do any more for Brighton he would walk out immediately.
May 6: After discussing details of Muilery’s new three-year contract (which Mullery had accepted) Bamber refuses to confirm a report that in cash terms it is worth £35,000 a year. “I make a firm point of never discussing wages and salaries. The important thing is that Alan has now agreed to stay which means that we can continue our partnership,” Bsmber commented.
For the next six weeks Mullery’s contract was in the hands of his solicitors, and it was not until the second week of June that there was any indication of the remarkable events which were to follow.
June 8: Four days before leaving for a family holiday in Malta, Mullery had further talks with Bamber and appears to be nearer to signing his contract. But with Brighton £500,000 in the red the talks also centre round a broad policy for next season.
June 12: On the day that Brighton’s fixtures are announced for next season, Alan Mullery ends his connection with the club in dramatic style. At a meeting attended by him, Bamber and two directors, Dudley Sizen and Tom Appleby, Mullery refuses to agree to cuts on his staff. After his departure Muilery stresses that the parting had been amicable.
“We hook hands-and there’s no going back on the decision although it’s a sad day for me and for Brighton. Some people will think i’m crazy, but on matter of principle it was something that had to be done. i’m not interested in slinging any mud about and nobody’s going to get me to say anything against the Brighton
chairman or directors.
It’s been a great chapter in my life and I’ve got some very happy memories. I shell never forget that it was Mike Bamber who gave me my first chance in management.
But what happened at the meeting this morning forced me to leave the club.
“I haven’t quit over a contract or over buying or selling players. The directors and I were together for two and a half hours and made it clear that i was putting myself under pressure by adopting my stance.
But I wouldn’t budge from certain proposals regarding members of the staff. I’m not worried about getting another job nor am I worried about not getting any compensation. All I want now is to get away and enjoy my holiday.” Before leaving for his holiday Mullery applied for the vacant manager’s job at West Bromwich Albion.
July 1st: Mullery finally loses patience with West Bromwlch Albion and accepts an offer from Charlton chairman Mike Gliksten which he describes as “one I would have found hard to refuse in normal circumstances. Now I can’t wait to get started at The Valley,” he added.
With a vacancy at Valley Parade, who better to fill it than the jobless Mullery? Meanwhile, Mike Bailey was settling into the job at hand at the Goldstone:
Although Brighton manager Mike Bailey has only seen his new club in action on the television end at reserve teem level, he needed no prompting to apply for the vacancy caused by Alan Mullery’s sudden departure from the Goldstone.
His track record – both as player end manager – also impressed Mike Bambor who made no secret that Bailey was the front runner from the 100 applications he received for the job.
“Mike may be relatively inexperienced as manager, but to my mind he proved himself by taking Chadton beck to the Second Division at first attempt last season.
“That and our policy of giving young managers a chance here is why he was first choice from the ten names from which we made the final choice,” Bamber explained.
Even before meeting his players for the first time, Bailey spoke enthusiastically about becoming Brighton’s 12th post-War manager.
‘Obviously coming to a First Division club was a big attraction, but I’ve felt for some time that Brighton is one of those clubs which has a bit of sparkle which made it all the more pleasing to know that they wanted me.
“You’ve only got to set foot in the club to see that it’s alive, and there’s so much potential here with players like Lawrenson, Robinson and Foster,” he said.
Bailey is also convinced that having survived two seasons in the top flight, Brighton will take a big step forward in helping achieve Bamber’s next aim of bringing European football to Sussex.
But he refuses to commit himself on whether he will employ the same tactics which saw Chariton win ten of their away games last season.
“I think Brighton have done tremendously well in the last five years. For any club to stay in the First Division after being promoted for the first time shows they must be learning what life is all about among the elite.
“It’s difficult to say what tactics I’ll use until I’ve seen the team play”, Bailey, continued, “at the moment I don’t know what their strengths and weaknesses are.
‘I was certainly an attacking player and enjoy that sort of game, which is why we’ll adopt that sort of policy if possible.”
In the end, Bailey can’t have thought much of Albion’s chances as an open, attacking team, and a tight defensive unit proved his way forward as Brighton bored their way up the table under his leadership! Still, it seemed to work for a time on the pitch during the 1981/82 as the Seagulls mounted a bid for a UEFA Cup place. However, poor form eventually cost Bailey his job in December 1982.
As for Mullery, he lasted a season at Charlton where an unlikely period in the upper echelons of the table also had supporters giddy. Indeed, Athletic stood in fifth place as late as 30th January 1982. An incredible achievement for a cash-strapped club. However, just as with Bailey at Brighton, the unexpected run of form also fizzled out and Mullery left for Crystal Palace.