A bright, optimistic article from the Shoot! magazine archive in the summer of 1986:
Dean Saunders is the odd man out in the Welsh forward line.
lan Rush cost Juventus £3.2 million… Mark Hughes has gone to Barcelona for £2.5 million… Saunders joined Brighton on a free transfer!
Yet although the 22-year-old Saunders doesn’t match his illustrious Welsh team-mates in monetary terms, national manager Mike England believes he can be just as valuable to his country’s uropean Championship hopes.
“He was the star of our recent tour of Canada,” says England.
And with Hughes suspended for the opening two European Championship matches against Finland next season, he looks set to name a Rush-Saunders spearhead.
Saunders took both man of the match awards as he won his first two full caps on the Canada tour.
In the second game, he scored two of the three Welsh goals.
He recalls. “Swansea just gave me away – despite the fact that I was top scorer in a team coming apart. Cardiff City gave me a few games but always seemed to have reasons for not playing me consistently when I was on loan there.
“So I had every incentive to make the break from Welsh football and I joined Brighton.” “Brighton can go places. I was disappointed that we didn’t make the First Division first time around.
But all the lads are convinced that we will get there next season. I’ve been given a three-year contract so there are tremendous incentives to do better.”
Saunders was hardly a slouch last season. 19 first team goals and a breakthrough into the Wales team. “Now I’m looking for at least 20 goals in the League alone; a regular place in the Wales squad and at least a couple more caps before Mark Hughes is available again,” he stresses.
Mike England is convinced that this son of former Liverpool midfielder Roy Saunders cannot go wrong. “He goes past defenders with his tremendous pace and his finishing against Canada was a revelation,” says the Wales manager.
“The experience he gained at Brighton has done him the world of good. To finish top scorer in his first full season of Second Division football tells its own story.”
Dean adds: “The past 12 months have taught me so much about positioning and tactics.
“I had both cartilages out of my left knee at 18 and had both Swansea and Cardiff turn me down. I’ve had my share of the downs. From the moment I joined Brighton, my career has turned for the better.”