This week, the story playing out is of Oscar Garcia’s resignation as head coach. Back in the summer of 1981, the man quitting the Seagulls was manager Alan Mullery. Both very different men, with very different personalities and strengths, but both felt moved to quit the Albion. Here is how Steve Curry and Philip Osborn from the Daily Express reported things on 13th June 1981:
Brighton manager Alan Mullery walked out on the club yesterday over a point of principle.
The former Spurs, Fulham and England player severed his five-year relationship with Brighton after a stormy disagreement with his board of directors about the future running of the club.
And Mullery, who flies off to Malta today for a two-week holiday with his family, described his feelings about leaving the side he led from the Third Division to the First.
He said: “At the end it was a matter of principle regarding certain things at the club. The directors wanted something to happen that I was not prepared to accept.
“It was nothing to do with the terms of a new contract or anything financial. I don’t really believe there would be any purpose going into details about why we have split. I am not one for mind-slinging.
“I didn’t think it would come to this because I had five very happy years there. We have had some great times, memorable days that I shall remember for the rest of my career.
“I shan’t forget it was Brighton who gave me my chance in management when I decided to pack in as a player at Fulham. I think I have been good for them and they have been good for me. But maybe the time has come to move on.”
Bamber, who offered Mullery a new three-year contract five weeks ago, flew out for a golfing holiday in Spain after the meeting, unaware of his manager’s decision.
He said from Spain last night: “I am shocked and absolutely amazed to learn of this but I will not stand him his way if that is what he wants. I can only presume he had something on his mind. Perhaps someone has tapped him for another job, but I don’t know that.”
Mullery, whose sometimes abrasive manner does not hide a talent for management, is unlikely to be out of work for long. He would appear to be a natural successor at West Brom to the extrovert Ron Atkinson, who moved to Manchester United.
In his autobiography from 2006, Mullery described proposed changes to his backroom staff as a bone of contention with Bamber:
“At the end of the season, he called me in and told me to sack all my backroom staff, including Ken Craggs and George Aitken who had worked so hard for the club. He even wanted to get rid of the kitman Glen Wilson who had been at Brighton for years. The club meant the world to him. I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d fired these people. Bamber knew that; he was doing all he could to undermine me.”
There was also a disagreement over the sale of Mark Lawrenson. Although he accepted the need for a sale to raise money, Mullery had cut a deal with Ron Atkinson at Manchester United involving a player coming to Brighton from Old Trafford, whereas Bamber had done a cash-only deal with Liverpool.
With Mullery’s departure, it was a very sad and uncertain time for Seagulls’ fans.
Just like it is with Oscar Garcia in 2014, Alan Mullery felt that budget cuts at the club were undermining his ability to do his job in 1981. He also disliked how he was not able to get his voice heard and acted upon in the buying and selling of players. However, the Lawrenson deal apart, the axe in 1981 seemed to be falling more on the coaching staff rather than the players, although that may have been Bamber participating in mind games.
In their respective resignations, there are also parallels between Mullery’s thanking of the club for giving him his first opportunity in management and Garcia’s appreciation to Tony Bloom for his first chance in England. Lastly, it’s pure coincidence that upon leaving, both were tipped by some for the vacant position at West Bromwich Albion.
The fallout from Garcia’s resignation is still playing out. Now as the club ambassador, and as someone who has been through it all, I wonder what Alan Mullery makes of the situation today.
One of my big regrets is that United never signed Lawrenson, and that he went to them instead. That lad was tailor made for Old Trafford. Was it Nicholl or Grimes earmarked for the exchange?